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Reduce Reuse Replace

Commonly used wasteful products and they can be easily replaced

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While more and more people are starting to become environmentally conscious by going vegetarian or vegan, using public transportation and even cutting back on paper usage, there are still many things that can be done. Every day there is a way to cut back on waste and help the planet grow in such a consumerist society. The global climate continues to grow alongside the human footprint on the earth.

The United States alone, which is only 4 percent of the world population, produces 246 million tons of waste in a year. The effects of global climate change have started to show with the three major hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, as well as droughts and flooding throughout the globe. Making simple conscious changes when you go into a coffee shop or grocery store can have a huge impact on the globe.

Here’s a list of the most wasteful products used in everyday life and ways you can replace them, on a budget, of course.

 

 

The Problem:

Straws are a super simple way to cut back on waste for a tiny price. The United States use 500 million straws a day, and all 500 million of these items end up in the oceans and beaches, since straws can’t be recycled. You can replace straws super easily with greener and cleaner options. And don’t be hesitant to carry around a reusable straw, just know every straw not thrown in the trash can keep an ocean critter alive.

The Replacement:

Bamboo straws are on the pricey side, but you can get a pack of 10 for $10. Cheaper but not quite as eco friendly alternatives are paper straws for $8 or biodegradable straws for $10. If you want to be even greener, invest in steel or glass reusable straws for $5. For no straw waste at all, ask for no straw.

 


The Problem:

Plastic bags are another big ticket item in the increase of global temperatures and the polluting of oceans. They’re frequently used in grocery store produce aisles and clothing stores. It is estimated that 160,000 plastic bags are used each second, and each plastic bag takes 1,000 years to degrade. Chicago and other cities and states in the United States have helped cut down on the use of plastic bags by charging a disposable bag tax.

The Replacement:

For a dollar per bag, it is crazy easy to purchase a few reusable bags and carry them around with you. Reusable produce bags can be bought in a pack of $9 for four bags, and Target and Whole Foods offer 5-10 cents back for using reusable bags. If you forget, which we all do, ask for a paper bag that can be recycled.

 


The Problem:

Another plastic item that creates issues for the globe is plastic water bottles. It takes 17 million barrels of oil in the United States alone to make plastic water bottles, which is three times more water to produce the bottle than the water actually in it. Although you can recycle these bottles, only one in five bottles are recycled. The other four of five bottles end up landfills and take at least 400 years to decompose.

The Replacement:

Reusable water bottle are available for as low as $7. Fancier stainless-steel and temperature-controlled can go up to $30, but they last a long time. There are all sorts of funky bottles in different shapes and sizes, and you can even give your water bottle an individualized touch by covering it with stickers.

 


The Problem:

Keurigs are so convenient and one of those amazing inventions that can help you get out of bed in the morning. With one pod and two minutes, you have a fresh, hot cup of coffee for your morning, afternoon and night classes. But those  K-Cups are also one of those really wasteful everyday products. “In 2013, the coffee maker, Green Mountain, produced 8.3 billion single brew coffee pods … that’s enough to circle the earth 10.5 times,” Kate Good said on onegreenplanet.org.  Those are all plastic pods that can take hundreds of years to decompose. There are always alternative ways to get your coffee fix, though.

The Replacement:

It might be a little more work, but you can purchase a pack of four reusable single-brew coffee pods for $10 and use your own coffee grounds. Although it might add to the coffee brewing time in the morning, at least you would be saving the planet.

 


The Problem:

Going along with the coffee trend, a wasteful yet necessary industry for the college life, single-use coffee or tea cups also fill up landfills. If you buy one cup of coffee or tea a day for a year, you produce 23 pounds of waste that could easily be avoided. Starbucks even offers you a small discount if you bring your own cup and as a college student living in a city, every discount matters.

The Replacement:

The best way to get away from those wasteful cups they hand you at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts is to bring your own and have them fill it up. So purchase a $10 reusable coffee cup from almost anywhere, and carry it around for the next time you need a caffeine fix.

 


The Problem:

Cooking and cleaning in a kitchen can sometimes require too many paper towels. Every spill or splash may seem to require another sheet of Bounty, but that does not always have to be the case. Paper is the third largest industry that contributes to global warming, and paper towels themselves create 254 million tons of trash a year. There are other ways to clean up, however.

The Replacement:

Instead of using paper towels to clean up waste, invest in reusable washcloths to clean up spills or to use after washing your hands. And when in public, use hand dryers or simply air dry your hands.

 


The Problem:

The paper lunch bag. The classic middle school lunch pail or The Ranch’s go-to to-go bag. Even though these bags are paper and thought to be decomposable, they still create 28 pounds of waste a week. Many of them end up in the trash since they have food contamination, thus making them not recyclable. They’re the most convenient way to transport food, though, so a more sustainable solution is necessary.

The Replacement:

To avoid this waste, buy a lunch box for the next time you take your lunch somewhere. If you enjoy the paper bag aesthetic, they sell reusable and insulated paper-bag designed lunch boxes, so you can alway relive your pre-college days and save the planet at the same time.

 


The Problem:

You know those plastic forks, spoons and knives they have out at parties or that come with to-go food? That plastic cutlery is a luxury we can all easily cut back on. They even have plastic cutlery that looks like stainless steel, which still contributes to climate change, but, hey, at least you look classy at your family dinner. Single-use plastic cutlery accounts for 6 million tons of waste a year since they end up in garbage cans, but stainless steel forks almost never end up in the trash.

The Replacement:

To cut back on this waste, you can purchase biodegradable, single-use cutlery for only $10. The best way, however, is just to use the stainless steel silverware you use at home. If you’re feeling extra eco-friendly, you can even carry around a fork and a spoon with you.

 

Graphics by Victoria Williamson

 

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