How to Lower your plastic waste in 3 Easy Steps

by | Save our planet

This image earlier in the year of a sea turtle with a straw stuck up its’ nose was the defining moment I knew I had to make a more concerted effort to reduce my plastic waste.

Ironically, as I was sitting at my computer writing this post, I went to search for the image, only to find an email from AFAR magazine on precisely this topic.


It’s been almost 15 years since I started bringing my own bags to the grocery store, yet there are still many who do not. It’s been commonplace in much of Europe for as many years as I can remember. I have memories as a child shopping with my grandparents and taking our own bags even then.

It was just something you did.

Did you know most countries charge a small fee for every single plastic bag they give you, whether at the grocery store or the mall? Why are we so behind the times here? How many plastic bags does your grocery store give away each day?

I dread to think.

By now, we should all be toting around our reusable bags like it’s second nature.

How many of us are not?

Here are five inexpensive items you should be using to lower your consumption of single-use plastic:

1 & 2. Stainless steel or silicone straws.

Starbucks recently announced that it is going to eliminate single-use plastic straws by the year 2020, on the heels of many large corporations and cruise lines such as Ikea, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, American Airlines and many others. One- time use plastic straws have long been seen as pollutants in our oceans and harmful to our marine life. On a recent family trip to Florida, every restaurant we dined at had paper straws, I don’t think I saw a plastic straw the entire trip (except Starbucks).

According to ecocycle, approximately 500 hundred million straws are used every single day.

Let me repeat that.

500 million straws used.

Every. Single. Day.

That is a LOT of straws! Despite most straws actually being recyclable, the majority either get thrown away, or they miss the filtering process at the recycling plant and end up as trash anyway.

If you like to use a straw, particularly with your Starbucks frappuccino (as I do), or your pina colada, there are re-usable, sustainable alternatives you can buy and keep at home, in your car, or even in your carry-on bag should you be in need of one during your layover or while on vacation. Here are a couple of options:

1.Stainless Steel Straws

Stainless steel straws

2. Silicone Straws

Silicone Straws

I prefer the stainless steel type for smoothies and milkshakes – those with thicker consistencies – while the silicone straws are great for juices and water.

3 & 4. Reusable sandwich and snack bags

As a mom of 2 school age kids, I have packed my share of lunches. I notice there is a lot of plastic waste at this meal – probably you do as well – particularly if you have ever visited your childs’ or grandchilds’ school during the lunch period. Once a year, my daughter’s elementary school has a “trash free lunch” day. Quite frankly, we should be promoting this every day, not just once a year.

Here are a couple of ways you can reduce the waste, not only for school lunches, but snacks in the car to and from after-school activities, picnics, days out and even road trips. Using these recyclable bags and wraps will go a long way to reduce your carbon footprint and save you some money along the road too.

3. Reusable sandwich wrap

Reusable sandwich wrap
These wraps come with fun designs for your kids to make unwrapping their lunch fun, but also – who doesn’t love a cute owl? Perfect for yourself if you pack your own lunch for work, or even for that road trip you have planned next weekend!

4. Reusable storage bags

Rezip reusable storage bags
Perfect for cookies, crackers, fruit, any kind of snack.

Also convenient for air travel as well when the TSA asks for those small pesky containers to be visible in clear plastic bags. Hand washable, lead-free, BPA free, freezer and food safe.

5. Bamboo utensils

Speaking of traveling. How often do you order- in lunch or need a meal at the airport. Perhaps you get your favorite Chinese take-out or a salad from the hip new restaurant down the block from work? What do you need to eat it with?  Cutlery.

Plastic Cutlery.

Why not try bamboo cutlery?

Compact and easy to carry in your purse or leave in the car until you need it.

5. Bamboo Utensils

Bamboo Travel Utensils from To-go Ware

There you have it!

5 easy substitutions you can make now to eliminate single-use plastics in your home and on the road. It won’t take long to get used to, I guarantee it.  If you’ve already mastered the grocery bags and the water bottle, this will be a breeze!

Additional resources

Some further reading to help you understand the impact of plastics on our environment and how you can help protect our oceans and wildlife.  Including an article by AFAR magazine about who in the travel industry is taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint, and a video of the straw being removed from that poor sea turtle in Costa Rica.  Thankfully, it had a happy ending.

The Last Straw:  How the Travel Industry is Phasing Out Plastic

How did Sea Turtle Get a Straw up its Nose?

Starbucks to Eliminate Plastic Straws Globally by 2020

For more reading on what you can do to help:

Ocean Conservancy

Until next time,

Explore. Discover. Learn

Full disclosure: Some of these items are affiliate links – I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase through that link. I also use all of these products personally and would never recommend something I have not tried and tested.