One of the best ways of how to reduce a carbon footprint, is to start a plastic free life. Saying goodbye to plastic is easier than what you think. I have been making a conscious effort to reduce the amount of plastic that I use and have come across several eco friendly, reusable options.
Getting the best reusable produce bags, will be part of the journey of starting my plastic free life, and one of the ways of how to reduce a carbon footprint that I leave behind.
Easy ways to reduce waste is to refuse single use plastic, bring your own reusable produce bags and shopping bags, use a reusable coffee cup and water bottles, use reusable cutlery when you are out, grow your own food and swap and upcycle clothes.
But before we look at the steps on how to reduce a carbon footprint and start my plastic free life, let’s have a look at some key terms associated with sustainable and eco friendly living.
Key Terms of Ecology
With more consumers becoming aware of how important it is that we must look after our environment, it has led to some key terms that are being used when it comes to ecology. Our language has been enriched with a lot of strange words that have become commonplace.
From green to ecological, sustainable and eco friendly, recyclable and compostable, are all words that we hear and use every day, but what do they mean? Do you really know them all?
So let’s have a look at some of these strange words, some of which you might know. We’ll start with the easy ones.
- Recycling – this is the process of converting waste materials, such as plastic, paper, glass or even clothes, into reusable materials. So instead of being destroyed, which is adding to pollution, or sent to landfill, it is reused for other purposes. Recycling plastic means that clothes, shoes or other products can be made from it.
- Recyclable – a product or substance that is able to be recycled.
- Related post: What is recycled plastic used for?
- Sustainable – Sustainability is quite a broad term, but it basically boils down to safeguarding our environmental resources. Without using too many resources and causing pollution, sustainability places the emphasis on the future. It is maintaining a certain rate or level and also conserving an ecological balance, by avoiding depletion of our natural resources. The adjective is used to indicate all those foods or products where the production does not harm the environment and is therefore “sustainable” and therefore pollutes little.
- Biodegradable – This indicates the ability of a material to be degraded into simpler substances (water, methane, etc.) through the enzymatic action of small bacteria or other microorganisms. Everything is degradable over time, so in reality the fundamental point is not to establish whether the object is degradable, but to what extent it is biodegradable. The European standard for a material to be called “biodegradable”, means that at least 90% of the material must be able to be “nibbled” by bacteria, within six months.
- Compostable – This is similar to the concept of biodegradable, but it represents the ability of a material to turn into compost, a natural fertilizer, within three months. There is a subtle difference, but enough to differentiate, so much so that, compostable shopping bags must be disposed of in the organic bucket, while the biodegradable ones must be thrown into the plastic bin. More about compostable plastic below.
- Environmental impact – These are the changes and transformations that is happening in the environment, because of what humans are doing. A leather factory, for example, has a high environmental impact because of the chemicals that are used and the amount of water pollution associated with it. In addition to consuming resources for the operation, chemicals are harmful to the workers. And machinery and processes used, also pollute the air a lot.
- Green and green economy – The meaning of the word green no longer just refers to the color green, it is now a reference to everything that is related to the environment. And it covers many different sectors. It is that kind of economic model which, in addition to the aspect of “gain” (investments, resources, productivity, etc.) also takes into account the environmental impact. So as an example, how much will the production and processing of a given product or material, pollute the environment? In practice a “green” economy is interested in favoring and using the most sustainable production processes possible.
- Ecology and ecological – ecology refers to the relationship between organisms and their environment, and the balances between these relationships. An ecological disaster is something that affects organisms and how they relate to each other and the environment. Plastic pollution poses a serious threat to the ecological balance of our oceans. Unfortunately it is often ecological events and disasters like an oil spill, that would draw the attention to the importance of looking after our planet.
- Eco friendly or environmentally friendly – Instead of the adjective “sustainable”, a nice and widely used English form, is eco friendly or environmentally friendly. Here we are talking about something that will not harm the environment. So it is pro-environment and is something that is friendly to the environment. The concept is not as wide as “green”.
- Renewable – A material or energy is renewable when it can regenerate in a short time. Oil is not a renewable product because it takes thousands of years to create new oil. Solar energy or wind energy, on the other hand, are almost inexhaustible energy sources.
- Greenwashing – when a person or company is trying to make people believe that they are doing more to protect the environment, than what they are actually doing. It is an attempt to make a business seem interested in protecting the natural environment, when in reality they are not doing it.
What is Compostable Plastics?
Compostable plastic is usually created from vegetable matter such as corn, and although it is a positive step, it is not enough. There are an increasing amount of alternatives to replace plastic. Businesses and consumers must both make the commitment to use ecological materials for the packaging of their products.
Compostable plastic, when it can no longer be used, can become a fertilizer because of the vegetable origin of the eco friendly plastic. This is a great way of how to reduce a carbon footprint.
Related post: What is Compostable Plastics?
How do you Spot Greenwashing?
Greenwashing can be very confusing. Greenwashing is when deceptive marketing techniques are used to convince consumers that a company’s vision and products are environmentally friendly.
Many companies have been accused of greenwashing. This is because they appear to be aligning themselves with pro environmental causes, while violating environment standards at the same time.
So what is the difference between sustainable and ecological? Sustainability has much higher standards than just being green or ecological. Green does not necessarily mean sustainable, while sustainability includes eco compatible activities and ecological products.
Steps towards My Plastic Free Life and Sustainable Living
A few swaps can make your home more sustainable. The first step towards sustainable living is to believe that you can make a difference. So here are some steps that you can include. The list is not meant to be overwhelming and you do not have to do it all at once. Just get started and choose a few that seem doable to you.
Plastic bags contribute to pollution and disposal is also harmful to the environment. There are now so many reusable and recyclable options available, that there is no longer any excuse for us to be using plastic.
- Carry reusable produce bags when you go shopping to avoid the single use plastic bags that shops provide. The best reusable produce bags should be made from cotton or natural fibers and not be made from plastic like nylon or polyester. Unless it specifically says it is made from recycled plastic.
- Carry reusable shopping bags with you and these should be made from cotton or another natural fiber like hemp or jute, not plastic like nylon or polyester. A reusable shopping bag can avoid a massive amount of plastic pollution. They can be used over and over again and are strong and look attractive.
- A reusable glass jar can make a huge difference.
- Carry a reusable water bottle when you are out and about. A refillable or reusable water bottle can save millions of marine animals.
- Say no to bottled water that are in plastic bottles. If you really want to buy bottled water, then choose a brand that uses glass.
- Reusable keep cups can be used for your take away coffee or drinks.
- Take you own containers for take away food and left overs (doggy bags) at restaurants.
- Say no to disposable plastic razors. Instead use an eco-friendly, plastic-free razor that is made with the mission to save our oceans.
Related post: Guide to Stainless Steel Food Storage Container.
- Use you own containers when you buy meat and prepared foods.
- Look for products that are made from recycled plastic, that will help clean our waterways and oceans. Monarch is producing a duffle backpack, made with 50 recycled plastic bottles. It is also a certified plastic negative product.
- A bamboo toothbrush can help to improve environmental safety.
- Beeswax food wraps can replace plastic cling film.
- Choose milk in a returnable glass bottle.
- Cut out juices and beverages that are sold in plastic containers.
- Buy fresh bread that comes in a paper bag or no bag. Reusable bread bags are also available.
- Avoid buying frozen convenience food that is packaged in plastic.
- If you have a local farmers market, shop there where you can buy loose fruit and vegetables.
- Return containers for small and soft produce, like berries and cherry tomatoes, to the market or greengrocer.
- Take your own containers to the supermarket and transfer the small berries and tomatoes to your own container, and leave the plastic behind. If enough of us do that, the shop owner will take note and use eco friendly alternatives like cardboard.
Related post: Ultimate Guide to the Best Food Storage containers.
I am sure there are many more ways of how to reduce a carbon footprint. So if you have any suggestions that I can include in my plastic free life, please leave them in the comments below.
Related post: Best Glass Food Containers with lids.
So start your plastic free journey today and get reusable eco friendly produce bags, shopping bags and much more.
- If you are in the USA, click on this link to get the best reusable produce bags on Amazon here.
- If you are in the UK or EU, use this link to get your cotton reusable produce bags and shopping bags.
You can Make a Difference
If consumption of water in plastic bottles do not diminish rapidly, then by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. It is estimated that 80% of marine pollution comes from plastic and 49% of plastic waste comes from single use plastic. More and more people are using eco friendly reusable alternatives to plastic water bottles.
Replacing traditional petrochemical plastic with less polluting materials is possible. We can all change our bad habits, learn how to reduce a carbon footprint and help support the environment.
Only by changing our consumption and habits, is it possible to protect the environment and improve the quality of life. One step towards a greener and more sustainable future, and a sure part of my plastic free life, is to swap your plastic bags and bottles for reusable alternatives, like water bottles and reusable produce bags.
We live in a disposable culture, so before you throw anything in the trash can, ask yourself the question: could I have used it more or can I recycle it?
If you have any questions or suggestions about my plastic free life and starting yours, then please leave them below and I will get back to you.