To start off my year of plastic free living, I created three plastic free preparedness kits to get me started off on the right foot. These kits made up of alternatives to single use plastics are easy to create and a cost efficient way to shop and eat.
Bringing your own mug to your local coffee shop and a bag to your grocer can save you between five and 15 cents each time. I did the math of potential savings for one person’s use of coffee cups and plastic bags (see table below) and over a lifetime those savings add up – up to $1,850. The more staggering numbers are the total cups and bags saved – 12,000 and 13,000 respectively. Imagine what that would look like if your whole family went plastic free, or even your whole community.
Potential Plastic Free Savings for One Person
|Takeout Coffee Cup Five cups a week||Plastic Bags Five bags a week|
|Savings||Cups Saved||Savings||Bags Saved|
|After 1 week||$0.50||5||$0.25||5|
|After 1 year||$24.00||240||$13.00||260|
|After 50 years||$1,200.00||12,000||$650.00||13,000|
Plastic free kits last a lifetime and they are easy to transport and store in your desk, purse, backpack, car, or pannier. Here are three kits I’ve created to help live plastic free:
Grocery Shopping Kit:
Items to include: Reusable cloth bags, bulk and produce bags, and paper bags for dry goods (e.g. bulk tea, spices, or mushrooms).
Some grocers prefer bulk and produce bags that are transparent – this is where mesh bags comes in handy. Though mesh is polyester (plastic based) material, the bags can be washed and reused for years. You can also buy or make your own cotton bulk bags.
Dining Out and Coffee/Tea Kit:
Dining Out – Items to include: Fork, spoon or “spork,” napkin, metal straw, and glass container (optional).
Coffee/Tea – Travel mug or a glass jar and cozy.
“But what do I do when I forget my kit?” It happens to the best of us, forgetting your grocery bag or mug when you head to the store or coffee shop, whether you had made plans to go or not. Here are some quick tips to run through in those moments.
- Find a grocery store that uses paper bags instead of plastic.
- Evaluate whether the items you are thinking to buy are items you need right at that moment.
- Could your items fit in a purse, backpack or carrier you currently have on you?
- Make a last minute shopping bag out of your hoodie or scarf.
Eating-Out and Coffee/Tea:
- Look for food vendors with compostable containers and utensils.
- Have it “for here.”
- Ask yourself, “Do I really need a coffee?” or “Can I wait until I have a reusable cup?”
January had many learning curves in store for me. Here is an image of my plastic count for that month – about 10 items I wasn’t able to substitute. My goal for February and March is to find alternatives to these items.
While a plastic bag, lid or straw might be useful for all of three minutes, the life cycle of that item extends beyond production and consumption, living the rest of its 1,000 year life in landfills and oceans.
Want to spread the word on single use plastics and shoreline litter? Register today for Vancouver Aquarium and WWF’s Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Limited, and make an impact on a shoreline in your community.
Tanya Otero is the volunteer engagement coordinator for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup at the Vancouver Aquarium. Over a series of blog posts, Tanya will share her journey towards living a plastic free life including tips and ideas on how we can all work towards reducing our plastic consumption.