In the past few months, I’ve learned a lot about how our waste impacts the planet. 220 million tons of waste is generated in the United States each year. About 55% of it will end up in one of the over 3,500 landfills. Such shocking data made me think—how many disposable cups and plastic bags are ending up in landfills? Between the morning coffee and fast food lunch, how much are we wasting? There must be something we can do to be more waste-conscious.
Although it’s easy to fall into the mindset that one person can’t make a difference, I beg to differ. Here are a few things I never leave the house without. With this small list of items, you can drastically reduce the amount of garbage you produce.
1. Bamboo Cutlery
This is my #1 sustainability tool I always have in my bag. I got my bamboo fork, spoon, and knife set from Amazon, and it has saved me countless amounts of plasticware. It gets most of its use when I’m at work or university, and I never get old of saying “I don’t need utensils” when I grab a quick bite to eat.
2. Shopping Tote
My shopper barely takes up any space. It folds into a small square in the bottom of my bag, and more often than not, I forget it’s even there. This shopper comes in handy way more than I expect it to, and was something I already had lying around. I use it at a quick stop into the local CVS, a stop at the store, or a trip to the mall. I don’t tend to pick up more than one or two items when I go out for something, and the bag can easily accommodate any purchases I make. I’ve also never gotten any weird comments when I’ve asked to use my own bag (which I definitely thought would happen). In fact, most cashiers seem more than happy about it!
3. Water Bottle/Travel Mug
I’ve been using a re-usable water bottle for year now. Buying bottled water is expensive! More recently, I’ve invested in a water bottle that isn’t made of any plastic. Whether you chose to grab a new aluminum travel mug—or better yet, a glass water bottle, you’ll be saving hundreds of water bottles and Styrofoam cups a year from ending up polluting our earth. I always have mine on me, and fill it up at the gym, university, even at home. Also, most coffee chains like Starbucks offer a small discount if you bring your own container for your drink. How about that for a win-win?
4. Grocery Bags
For me, grocery shopping was my biggest offense when it came to the amount of plastic I was throwing out. I would unpack my groceries every week and toss the bags right into the trash. Just using my re-usable shopping bags have kept me from wasting over twenty plastic bags in the last month, and I got all of mine right in my local grocery store for less than a dollar apiece. Although this breaks my rule as things I carry around in my bag, I always have these in my car in case of surprise grocery trips.
With my grocery bags, I have a small collection of white produce bags. Having these on me in the grocery store save me from using those flimsy plastic bags I used to throw my peppers and avocados into. The mesh bags never wear out and synch closed for easy storage in my fridge. They’ve been a real lifesaver in the produce department, and leave me feeling good about my shopping choices.
A list like this could seem like a lot, but I found the transition from using everyday, disposable items to more sustainable alternatives relatively painless. I felt good using my own cutlery instead of using a plastic fork once before tossing to in the trash. Overnight, I went from being a plastic hog in the grocery store to being relatively plastic-free when I went out to purchase things. Everything you need to make a difference can be right there in your bag.