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Wednesday, 20 October 2010 17:59

Plastic At Home, Really?

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One of my biggest hot buttons when it comes to human consumption and the environment is our indiscriminate use of plastic water bottles. Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. Sixty million water bottles are thrown away every day in the U.S. That's crazy. I won't lie‚ I used to buy the cases of bottled water from Costco. It was pretty convenient to just grab a bottle of water and head out the door. It was an adjustment to switch to using a reusable bottle, but now I don't even think twice about it. It is better for the environment and better for my health. There have been many studies which express concerns about the plastic leaching into the water. This is in addition to the questionable quality of the water that is found in these bottles. Opt instead for a stainless steel or aluminum water bottle, get a filter at home, and fill up! At the very least, if you are going to use plastic bottles, recycle them. And, when you are at home or in the office, drink out of a glass and save on the bottles. I cringe every time I see my sister drink bottled water at home and in the office. It may be slightly more convenient, but the impact it has on the environment is worth the extra time and effort to forgo the plastic bottle as often as you can.

Of course, reducing our waste goes well beyond plastic bottles. On average, each of us creates 4.5 pounds of trash every day. This equates to 90,000 pounds of trash for each of us over the course of our lives. Below are a few ways you can reduce your consumption and resulting waste.
  • When you are eating at home, use cloth napkins instead of paper. When you eat out, only take the napkins you need. On average, Americans consume an average of over 2,000 napkins a year (about 6 per day). If everyone in the U.S. used one less napkin every day, more than a billion pounds of napkins could be saved from landfills annually! If you don't want to try cloth, how about reusing your paper napkin? My husband gets about five meals out of each paper napkin.
  • Be creative with gift wrap. Most wrapping paper and ribbon is bought, used once, and then tossed. Try using newspapers, old calendars, or reusable scarves to wrap presents and forgo the ribbon. If you must use gift wrap, at the very least, try to reuse paper, ribbons, and gift bags and choose wrapping paper with recycled content.
  • Set your printer to print on both sides of the paper if that is an option and use "fast draft" to save on ink for when you don't need best quality. (On my computer which has MS Word 2008 for Mac, I find the double-sided printing in MS Word at File/Print/Layout/Two-Sided. On my husband's computer which has MS 2002 for PC, the double-sided printing in MS Word is at File/Print/Properties/Features/Two Sided Printing. Turn two-sided printing from the default "off" to "on"). If you can do this at work or school, you can save even more trees.
  • Refill your ink cartridges rather than buying new ones. I take my ink cartridges to Costco for a refill. I pay under $10 for an ink refill, saving 30-70% off buying new. Eighty five percent of ink cartridges are thrown away every year which means 350 million end up in landfill every year in the U.S. If you are not a member of Costco, try to find another place to refill your ink cartridges.
  • Bring your own bags when you shop for clothes, groceries, pet food, and office supplies. I leave three reusable bags in the trunk of my car so that they are always with me. At the very least, opt for paper over plastic for bagging. U.S. households dispose of nearly 100 billion plastic bags every year. Millions of these end up littering the environment and harming wildlife. Plastic bags and other plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as one million sea creatures every year.
  • Did you know that you can get books, CDs, and DVDs for free? Just head to your local public library! At some libraries, you can even reserve online and the library will let you know when your item is available. My library even puts the book on a special shelf with my name on it so I can just run in and get it. Approximately 3 billion new books are sold every year, requiring 400,000 trees to be chopped down. That's reason enough to make some changes in your reading habits.
Starting today, I will try to get three uses out of each paper napkin. What change can you make today to reduce your impact on the environment?

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