Plastic is everywhere, and we've all seen the headlines about how the vast majority of it ends up in landfills or oceans. We know it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start, and it can feel like individual action is hopeless.
But we're here to remind you that every action, no matter how small, makes a difference. We find comfort in reminding ourselves that our ancestors faced tremendous odds and didn't give up. Their individual actions made a difference in giving us a better life.
Let's tap into our ancestral resilience to take a few small steps every day.
If you're feeling overwhelmed about where to start, focus on keeping the first steps simple. You're more likely to create a habit if it's easy. Thankfully, there are many easy, affordable swaps to start reducing single-use plastic waste.
Here are 4 easy ways you can get started:
1. Swap paper napkins for reusable napkins
Did you know paper towels and napkins are not recyclable? They are used once and thrown away, where they end up in landfills and produce harmful greenhouse gases. This is even more concerning when you consider that the US consumes significantly more paper towels and tissue products per capita than European and Latin American countries.
One of the first things we did on our low-waste journey was to ditch paper napkins in favor of cloth napkin rolls and cloth lunchbox napkins. We have a set for daily use and save our nicer woven napkins for hosting guests.
The best part is that we no longer have to run to the store when we're running low on napkins; we just wash them (we like to throw them in with towel laundry) and they're ready for re-use. We've had our set for over a year and they're still in great condition -- they've even gotten more absorbent over time!
2. Carry your own reusable utensils
Plastic cutlery is not recyclable and ends up in landfills and oceans. Ocean Conservancy called out plastic utensils as some of the most deadly plastic pollution for marine life.
By opting for reusable utensils, we can make a difference in saving the turtles and cutting back on landfill waste. We researched many different reusable utensils and fell in love with this 7-piece stainless steel kit.
First, we loved the cotton zipper pouch. It's a statement piece and the compact sizing makes it very easy to fit anywhere. Second, we liked how much easier it is to clean these compared to bamboo utensils. This also makes them more hygienic because they're easier to clean thoroughly. Third, the fork and knife actually work, which is more than we could say about a lot of bamboo options we tried.
We like to keep one in our bags and another at our desk so we can say no gracias! to plastic cutlery all day long.
3. Use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets
Have you ever thought about all the single-use plastic in your laundry routine? Dryer sheets are not recyclable and also contain toxic chemicals that can harm human health.
Wool dryer balls are a simple, cost-effective and safe swap for dryer sheets. We love this set of 6 dryer balls made from 100% premium wool. Since wool is a natural material, they can biodegrade at end of life rather than end up in a landfill. These dryer balls do not contain toxic chemicals and can be used for up to 1000 loads. They also speed up the drying process, which saves you money and time.
Pro tip: Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil onto each ball to give your laundry a light scent. To improve static reduction, you can also fill a spray bottle with 2 cups of white vinegar, add 15 drops of your favorite essential oil, and spray onto your wet laundry. Dry with all 6 wool balls.
4. Bring your own bag (BYOB)
Bringing our own bag is nothing new to us: our abuelita always carried her mercado bag to the store and our parents taught us to store and re-use plastic bags for everything. So this is an easy step because it's so instinctive from our childhoods.
Even better, it is now much easier to find plastic grocery bag alternatives. You probably have a drawer full of cloth bags, just like our parents did with plastic bags growing up.
We also carry their large, organic cotton mesh bag, which is great for carrying avocados, tomatoes, chiles and any other produce you need for the carne asada.
That wraps up our 4 easy tips to get started on your low-waste journey. Remember to be kind to yourself and that perfection isn't the goal. Poco a poco un poquito se convierte en mucho. Little by little, a little turns into a lot.
A + M