according to an estimate by envirowise, 80% of the products we use are discarded after a single use. though it's true that disposables can definitely make our lives easier, it's also true that our landfills are overflowing and the toxins from these disposables are effecting our environment. everywhere we look there are disposable items: razors, cups, plates, utensils, all sorts of packaging, grocery bags, cloths, mop heads and more. most of these products (especially the plastic ones) can take hundreds or thousands of years to biodegrade. so what can we do? limit our use of disposable goods and switch to sustainable alternatives. here's a list of the disposables that can most easily be replaced:
- disposable grocery bags. we use over a trillion of them a year. most are trashed and end up in a landfill where they take over a thousand years to biodegrade. 80% of the plastic trash in the U.S. comes from bags and packaging. switch to reusable cloth bags to save thousands over your lifetime. some stores will even credit you a few cents per bag that you bring of your own! if you do ever have to use a plastic bag, take it back to the store where they can be recycled.
- disposable cups for coffee and water. simply invest in a good reusable water bottle for cold drinks and a ceramic or stainless steel mug for hot drinks. keep them with you at all times!
- disposable chopsticks. trees cut for these one time use products have decimated forests in asia and caused widespread environmental devastation there. simply buy a washable pair and carry them with you.
- disposable batteries: batteries are a leading source of heavy metal contamination in our landfills. lead and cadmium eventually make it in to our groundwater as well. rechargeable batteries are an easy and convenient choice.
- paper towels and napkins: simply make (or purchase) a handful of cloth napkins and 'cleaning rags'. skip the paper towels and napkins at the store and use the cloth ones at home that can be laundered instead.
just by having a small shift in our mindset we can start paying attention to our purchase decisions and always ask ourselves: is there a more sustainable way?
photo by: the variety store