Being a nature and outdoor lover to the max, I’ve always had a very healthy attitude towards the environment, valuing and respecting every natural space that offered me beauty to admire, and peace of mind to come away with. But like many of us, other than reusing plastic bags and half-heartedly recycling, I’ve rarely thought much about how I could lessen my footprint. Somewhat recently, I’ve started to consider the trace I’m leaving more and more. The effect we’re having on our environment is no secret; new details on how devastating our impact has been, and continues to be, are finding their way onto our social media feeds constantly. Unfortunately, I’m not about to lay out a saving plan that will help endangered species or re-grow our empty forests. But I do feel that on a individual level, it’s time to take it up a notch. Will you join me?
Reusable coffee cups and tea cups
I was shocked to recently (yes, recently!) learn that take-away coffee cups are not recyclable in my city. Though I’ve had a reusable coffee cup for a while now, it hasn’t always accompanied me to the local cafe. Until now. I’ve decided to grant myself permission to order a takeaway drink only if I have my reusable cup with me - no excuses. So far so good, with thanks to the barista who let me run back to the car to get my reusable cup!
This reusable coffee cup originated in coffee-obsessed Melbourne but it's now slowly making its way around the world. They're made of soda lime glass and sustainably sourced cork. I've been using one for a few years and love the feel of it in my hand, and my tea tastes just like it would out of a standard mug. Check out their website to see all the colour options, or even design your own combination.
Another Australian start-up, Joco cups have a slightly different yet still slick design than their Victorian competitors. They come in a heap of different colours and several sizes corresponding to standard coffee cup sizes. It'll change the way you enjoy your cuppa.
Reusable water bottles
Seriously, are people in first world countries still buying plastic water bottles in bulk? There are so many neat looking reusable water bottles out there! Not to mention tabletop and faucet filter options. I dare you to (gently-ish if it's not your usual style) call out your family member, friend, or colleague when you spot them with a plastic water bottle. But remember, they can always return the favour.
I was gifted one of these glass water bottles by my boss in Australia a few years back and I love it. It’s been on so many trips and hikes with me. Although having a glass bottle means you’re carrying some extra weight, there’s nothing that feels better for the environment, and retains the pure taste of water, than a glass bottle. If you're still more interested in a stainless steel, this brand also sells a stainless steel drinking bottle.
Looking for the classic look and want to support a Toronto entrepreneur? Check out this tap water bottle.
Another Canadian-designed option is this triple insulated stainless steel bottle. They come in 3 sizes and you guessed it....a whole heap of colours.
Of course, S'well water bottles come in an endless array of patterns and colours, but there's also lesser known brands like thinksport and Pura Sport.
Reusable, plastic-free shopping bags
We seem to have regressed a bit on this one, at least where I live. Shoppers in Toronto were being charged for plastic bags at all stores a few years ago and now it’s up to individual businesses to decide whether they want to charge for the plastic or not. Granted, I still get caught on this, forgetting my non-plastic bags way too often. Meanwhile, my apartment is overflowing with the reusable bags. Throw a few in the trunk of your car, keep a folded one (or two) in your purse, or buy another one while you’re in line with your groceries when you realize you’ve forgotten yours. It really isn’t that difficult, right?
Check your closets, under your sinks and in your kitchen drawers!
There has been some recent debate about whether plastic straws are actually that big of a problem and cities around the world are holding off on banning them. But the truth is, they are part of the plastic problem, and they’re an easy item for us to eliminate from our day to day use. Because of their small size and weight, they are often not recycled, and they easily make it out of garbage bins and into our storm drains and oceans. They are also one of the most common items found in beach clean-ups around the world. And when they’re mistaken for food by marine life, the results are often deadly. The most popular alternatives are glass and stainless steel.
I purchased a set of reusable travel cutlery prior to my last overseas trip. This is the first non-plastic set (it’s made of bamboo) I’ve owned and it’s fabulous - it even comes with chopsticks. The set is very light and comes in a neat little pouch - hence it’s very travel-able. I find it useful to have a set on hand whenever I’m on the road because I can decline the plastic cutlery offered at food joints worldwide, limiting waste along the way. And there's no reason I can't use it while eating out at home as well. There are also a stainless steel cutlery sets that are compact and ideal for travel.
Plastic-free food wrap
Glass tupperware is great but sometimes I just want to keep my leftovers in the bowl I served them in. In the past this meant reaching for that handy dandy plastic wrap (aka saran wrap) to seal in the freshness. I now reach for my beeswax food wraps instead. Apparently these aren’t too difficult to make yourself but there are also some good options available for purchase. I went with the Canadian brand Abeego, settling on their variety pack. I have also seen this reusable food wrap option from a non-Canadian brand.
Shame on you if you don’t replace your toothbrush every 3 months! Can I also say shame on you if you do, as you’re adding more plastic to the landfills? I made the switch earlier this year to a plastic-free toothbrush and I’m definitely not looking back. Be sure to look for a toothbrush that’s made from sustainably sourced material (not all bamboo is, for instance) and contains biodegradable or recyclable bristles. And since we should all also floss our teeth, it would be wrong to ignore our typical non-biodegradable floss and the plastic containers it comes in. Slowly there are more options in the biodegradable floss category
Plastic-free hair brushes and combs
Perhaps we don’t often hear that we need to replace our combs or brushes the same way we do our toothbrushes, but they are still a source of plastic in our lives. And they just happen to be one of those items that gets easily lost or misplaced so we definitely do end up having a few of these in our lifetimes. I’ve always been a comb person (bonus fun fact!) and switching to a plastic-free comb has been a breeze. I bought a wooden comb from the Canadian brand Living Libations. With three bristle sizes to choose from, you can pick the one that best matches the thickness of your hair. And if you fall into the brush camp, they also have a natural hair brush available.
In what ways are you reducing plastic in your life? Let me know in the comments below.
Looking for ways to be a less wasteful traveller? Check out this post:
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