Over the past 80 years plastic has become a hot commodity and is used in nearly everything, from packaging of goods to the good itself. Plastic is hard to avoid. As a college student it can be especially difficult to limit plastic use because of time and budget restrictions. Plastic is the main packaging for foods, drinks, cleaning supplies, and hygiene products.
Plastic is extremely harmful to our environment, as it is made from petroleum oil and never fully breaks down. Plastic waste fills landfills, taking up land and producing methane, which is a greenhouse gas that contributes heavily to the warming of our earth.
Plastic is also flooding our oceans. A lot of the plastic thrown away unfortunately ends up in waterways, instead of in recycling and trash bins, and eventually makes it into the ocean. Plastic in our oceans hurts marine life and ecosystems. Floating plastics often gets consumed and fills marine creatures’ stomachs with harmful products that cannot be broken down. Many animals get wrapped in plastic which can hinder their ability to move, breath, and grow correctly. There is so much plastic in the oceans that it often blocks the sun, preventing marine plants from photosynthesizing, which kills them and reduces food sources for other organisms.
It may seem like there is nothing we can do about these problems. Especially as a college student, looking for the cheapest and easiest option is often ideal. However, there are several easy and inexpensive switches we can all make to limit the amount of plastic we are using and throwing away every day.
It can be difficult to find essential items that are not made of or packaged in plastic. However, there are tons of easy replacements we can use instead. The worst plastics are single use plastics because they have reached the end of their cycles and cannot be reused or recycled. Some of these single use plastics are grocery bags, produce bags, sandwich bags, and plastic wrap.
We can use reusable items to prevent the use of single use plastics. Reusable grocery and produce bags are low cost items that can prevent the waste of thousands of plastic bags that go straight to landfills. Also, instead of buying plastic sandwich bags invest in some mason jars and glass food containers to hold snacks and meals. This switch will not only help the environment, it will help you save money because you will not have to keep buying the disposable products every time you go shopping. Finally, there are several replacements - including beeswax food wraps - to plastic wrap that can be found on shopping websites like Amazon. Investing in beeswax food wraps or other alternatives can save you from constantly buying and throwing away plastic wrap that cannot be reused.
Along with single use plastic items, plastic packaging is also very difficult to avoid. In personal hygiene products most items either come in plastic bottles or are made out of plastic. However, there are plenty of alternatives.
Here are some low-cost waste-free items that I recommend as good starting points:
Bamboo Toothbrush (4 pack)- $6
Bar Body Wash- $2
Shampoo Bar - $11
Conditioner Bar- $12
Steel Safety Razor- $20
Stick Up Natural deodorant- $15
Moisturizer- Dr. Bronner’s Coconut Oil- $15
Along with these items there are plenty of recipes online to make homemade toothpastes, shampoos, conditioners, and other soaps. There are also easy recipes for homemade cleaning products that are waste free and chemical free. You can find a lot of these recipes of platforms such as Facebook or Pinterest.
In conclusion, being cautious of the amount of plastic waste you produce is extremely important in helping our environment. Being aware of the number of plastic items around you and trying to limit use of single use plastic is crucial. Eventually all the plastic you use will end up in either a landfill or the ocean. Be aware of all the plastic around you, ask for no straw, carry a water bottle, invest in reusable products and limit use of items packaged in plastic. By doing this you can save money and the earth.
~Written by Emily Hogan~