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Courses

Day 2: Break Up With Plastic

Helpful ways to break up with plastic for good.

Hi Green14 Challengers!

At the onset of this challenge, I want to address the biggest elephant in the room and that’s the larger-than-life issue of shopping and packaging waste. Consumer packaging waste is a very persistent and icky problem, as most items we buy in stores either for day-to-day use or for gifts are excessively wrapped in tons of single-use plastic. As of now 91% of packaging waste is sent to landfills.

Opting for paper, cardboard, and aluminum packaged items is significantly better for the environment. And when it comes to special occasions and gift giving, think about wrapping items in cloth, paper and reusable cardboard gift boxes to create a culture of reducing more waste even when celebrating. Plus it’s even more special and eye-catching. 

For this day of the Green14 challenge, take inventory of all the items you have in your house that are made from plastic and single-use materials (think dish soap, detergents, makeup products, food containers and more) and then check out this video on greener alternatives that will help reduce all this packaging waste and save you money too! 

Another game-changer are package-free shops. Look into whether there’s a zero-waste or refill shop in your area. These are starting to pop up everywhere, and they are extremely useful! They allow you to buy items like laundry detergent, hand soap, body wash, snacks and so many more daily necessities in large quantities and allows you to refill your own containers. 

There are countless solutions to the insidious plastic problem. Check out this video for easy, doable swaps for food shopping, your home and personal care items that are small changes that have a big impact.  

When your options are limited and you do have to opt for packaged goods, look for items packaged in paper or aluminum as these are far more recyclable than plastic. There are also initiatives like Loop that has partnered with many major brands to make your favorite foods and products available to run in reusable, no-waste containers, delivered straight to your home.  Think of it like the milkman model where they drop off products in reusable stainless steel containers and once you’re finished they “loop” back around, collect your empties, refill them and drop off the replenished products. It’s genius! 

No matter what reusables you buy, the goal should ultimately be to cut down the overall items you are buying and consuming. So ideally, you’ll buy one reusable (i.e. a reusable cotton swab, facial rounds or safety razor) to replace hundreds to thousands of plastic, single use items you could use over your lifetime. The one-time investment of a reusable, long-term item will save you money and is so much better for the planet. Think of plastic bags – with bags now costing around 15 cents per bag and the average American family using 1,500 bags per year, by investing in a reusable, you can save an estimated $225/year. And that’s just one small example.