Plastic is a problem in a lot of ways: The fossil fuel-based material generates greenhouse gas emissions throughout its lifecycle; is rarely recycled; contributes to ocean pollution; and even accumulates in the human body. But plastic is so ubiquitous, you can’t just wake up one morning and decide to live plastic-free. Plastic-free living is hard and must be pursued incrementally. The first step is figuring out where you are by conducting a plastics inventory.
To honor 52 years of action inspired by Earth Day, Earth911 presents 52 Actions for the Earth. Each week from Earth Day 2022 to Earth Day 2023, we will share an action you can take to invest in the Earth and make your own life more sustainable.
This week, you can invest in the Earth by calculating your plastic use.
Action: Complete a Plastics Inventory
Completely eliminating all plastic may not be possible for individuals in today’s world – after all, most electronics and even home appliances are made with some plastic parts. Most children’s toys are made from plastic, too. But one area that individuals can control – and make a meaningful impact – is single-use and disposable plastics. From product packaging to water bottles and toothbrushes, our daily lives are filled with plastic items that are designed to be disposed of after one or only a few uses. Most people working towards plastic-free living try to eliminate single-use plastics one product type at a time. Maybe you already know you have a zip-top bag problem. But then again, you might be surprised to see where your plastic use piles up. Where do you start?
EarthDay.org has developed a plastic calculator to help you figure out how much plastic you use and dispose of every year and to set your goals for improvement. This week, set aside some time to fill out the two charts in the calculator. The first chart examines single-use items like cling wrap and cotton swabs, while the second calculates items that are used less often or last a bit longer, like cleaning containers and period products. The tool will calculate your yearly consumption of each product type.
Once you figure out how much plastic you go through, you can identify which of your habits to change to make the most difference in your personal plastic footprint. When you’re ready to take the next step, Earth911 is full of ideas to help you replace disposable plastics. You might decide to buy a reusable water bottle, keep cloth shopping bags in your car, or carry a reusable straw and utensils when you go out. If you’re ready for even more action, EarthDay.org has an online toolkit for eliminating plastic pollution.