Sara Klimek

As an environmental studies student, I sometimes wonder if people can sense my pain when I see someone throwing a recyclable milk jug into a garbage can.  Often, we can’t see the environmental impacts of our consumption choices; rather, they place unequal burdens on vulnerable populations that have to deal with our waste.  Just because we can’t see the impacts of our single-use society on the planet doesn’t mean we’re powerless in solving problems concerning waste pollution.


Purchase But First Coffee mug here!

When plastic was first introduced, it was regarded as a technological miracle.  We could practically wrap anything in Saran wrap, keep our food fresh, and support a ‘fast-food’ culture.  At the time, we couldn’t foresee the plastic pollution in our oceans, filling landfills, and the environmental injustices that occur when marginalized groups are forced to live around plastic-polluted areas.

Our time has come to take action and deviate from single-use plastics. Our planet depends on us. Below are 11 (of the hundreds of ways) to reduce single-use plastic in your life.

1) Stop using plastic straws.

Instead, opt to sip your drink, or purchase a bamboo straw.  Americans use 500 MILLION plastic straws every day.  That equates to every person using about 1.6 straws per day.  Those straws end up in landfills and in our oceans, where they leach pollutants into the environment.  Is it really that hard for you to sip your drink without a straw?

2) Purchase a fold-up, reusable shopping bag.  

Fold it up and shove it in your purse so you never really ‘forget’ about it.

3) Put an empty mug/tumbler in your car.

Most multinational coffee companies (I mean, if you’re still okay with corporate coffee, that is) offer discounts for using your own mug.  They also keep your drink more thermally regulated than a cheap, wasteful plastic cup.

4) Stop purchasing cosmetic products with microplastics.  

Microplastics are just what they sound like: tiny nuggets of plastic particles that we can’t see with our own eyes.  Cosmetic companies will often put them in toothpaste, face washes, and beauty products to give you a ‘cleansing boost’ when actually, they have no impact on quality.  You can also find microplastics in your fleeces; they accumulate in your washer and then are released when the washer empties.  Because microplastics are so tiny, they cannot be filtered out at water-treatment plants. They will dump out with the rest of the water into the ocean and streams, causing immense accumulation in fish and marine life.  When you purchase a new beauty product, be sure to read the label. The microbeads/microplastics are often under the following classifications: Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and Nylon (PA). You can also purchase a Cora Ball, a microfiber catching device for your washer.

5) Invest in a reusable spork.  

Do people still think sporks aren’t cool?  Find one that fits your lifestyle here. Sporks reduce your dependence on single-use plastic utensils and are easy to carry around and use.

6) Nalgenes/Hydro-flasks/etc. are everyone’s best friend.  

Why would you want to have a boring plastic water bottle when you could decorate a long-lasting Nalgene with your favorite RedBubble stickers?

7) Purchase bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic ones.

Most American landfills cannot recycle plastic toothbrushes.  Bamboo products are biodegradable and more sustainable than plastic.

8) Return berry containers and egg cartons to your local farmers market (or find creative ways to repurpose them).  

Pinterest is key.

9) Buy tampons with paper-inserters, rather than plastic inserters. 

The average woman will use 9,600 tampons in her lifetime.  Since tampon applicators are considered sanitary waste, they cannot be recycled.  Minimize your impact on landfills by using biodegradable paper applicators.

10) Contact your municipal waste and recycling services to learn about what can and can’t be recycled.  

Not all recycling centers are created equal.  This provides a somewhat comprehensive list of what can and can’t be recycled at most centers, but it’s always important to ask your local provider to see what they take.  Biggest pointers: rinse your jars/bottles before putting them in a blue bin and separate what you know is recyclable from what may or may not be.

11) Opt to thrift your plastic tubberware and household products.  

What’s better than spending $2 on a complete tupperware set at GoodWill and saving the planet?  You can get killer deals and help out local thrift stores by donating or purchasing thrifted goods.


Sara is a freshman at the University of Vermont majoring in Environmental Studies. She’s planning to go to law school for Natural Resource Law and Environmental Policy. Sara is an editorial intern at BSmart and loves sharing her ideas with others.

Comments (1)

  1. Angelina Eimannsberger

#4 is such a good point!!


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