San Francisco is now among the latest cities to enforce legislation against plastic pollution. Earlier this month, the Plastic, Litter, and Toxics Reduction Law went into effect, banning the sale and distribution of disposable single-use plastic utensils like straws and stirrers. The law also states that by 2020 retailers and food vendors must offer compostable alternatives that are certified biodegradable.
A 2011 study on Bay Area street litter found that 67% of the trash collected was food and beverage packaging. Almost half the trash with identifiable branding came from fast food chains.
It’s hard to break old wasteful habits, but making changes slowly can help them stick. A big part of being sustainable is using what you already have, meaning you don’t have to run out and buy up bamboo straws to save the planet.
Here are three things you can do to start cutting plastic today.
You might remember learning the three R’s of sustainability in elementary school: reduce, reuse, recycle. In my attempt to go green, I’ve added a new “R” to the mix: Refuse. Refusing can feel inconvenient, so start small. For example, if a friend offers you both a fork and spoon for that tasty bowl of ramen, can’t you make do with one?
2. BYO – Bring Your Own!
If you’re thirsty, carry a reusable water bottle. Use glass containers for your lunch instead of Ziplock bags or plastic wrap. When you go out to eat, bring a set of washable utensils in your bag. If you think you’ll have leftovers, supply your own container instead of asking for one. Remember: 30% of the landfill is useless styrofoam that won’t ever break down and can’t be recycled. When you go shopping, bring cloth bags to the store — there are lots of cute ones these days.
3. Buy Packageless.
Who wants a recycling bin crammed with used plastic containers? To avoid that mess, buy in bulk! Lots of food staples like rice and beans come this way, and you only have to take what you need, so you’ll actually save money in the long run.
To avoid plastic bottles, choose bar soaps over liquids. You can buy bars for everything from dish soap to shampoo. Places like Lush carry a lot of affordable beauty products from body wash to lotion. They actually last longer and won’t hurt the environment.
For more ways you can reduce your plastic use, check out our tips for de-trashifying your beauty routine.
This story was originally published on July 12, 2019.