Eco-Friendly Gifts Blog: How To Reduce Your Plastic Footprint In 2020
With the evidence piling up that recycling plastic doesn't work effectively, more focus is rightfully being put on reducing the amount of plastic in our lives on a daily basis.
There are a few simple, quick ways to reduce your plastic footprint, that don't require any major, expensive changes to the way we do things.
In terms of how we are reducing our plastic footprint, we're going to give a case study with our 'Gifts For Students' collection.
We're also going to go over a few reasons why reducing the amount of plastic is important, and the environmental effects plastic pollution is creating.
1) Use Reusable Carrier Bags
It's one of the most talked about points of recent years, and such a simple fix.
Since the 5p charge was introduced on plastic bags from supermarkets, single use carrier bag sales have decreased a huge 86%! This shows how effective the collective thought process can be, and how positive outcomes can be created by everyone doing a little bit.
One of the main problems is simply forgetting to pack your reusable bag when you're halfway to the shop - we get this too!
Our suggestion is try and keep a reusable bag in places like your handbag, or car, or bike basket. This way, next time you're halfway to the shop, you won't have to worry about remembering your bag - it will already be with you!
Carrier bags made from conventional plastic are not biodegradable. This means they could potentially stay present in the natural environment for hundreds of years.
With over 300 million tonnes of plastic produced every year, half of which is single use, there is an ever increasing amount of single use plastic items entering our oceans.
Plastic debris in the oceans is a very real and active threat for the marine community.
Marine animals such as turtles and seabirds are at risk of being seriously injured, or dying from ingesting plastic waste. Turtles have a 22% chance of dying from coming into contact from just one peice of plastic debris in the ocean.
The reason for this attraction towards plastic debris from turtles and other marine predators is due to its smell. It was recently discovered that plastic debris provides the perfect environment for algae to breed.
Algae produce DMS as a natural process of surviving in the ocean. Dimethyl sulfide, or DMS, gives of a very strong and pungent odor. Krill hunt algae, and marine predators such as turtles hunt krill.
Because of the smell released by algae through DMS, turtles have learned that this strong smell means krill will be present, as they are feeding off algae.
Unfortunately, turtles mistake plastic debris for their prey, as they rely hugely on smell to hunt. This results in them ingesting the plastic debris, which can be fatal.
2) Use Reusable Bottles
Plastic bottles are our second main talking point of the last few years when it comes to plastic pollution.
For a plastic bottle to decompose, it takes roughly 450 years! Even when it does break down, it breaks down into microplastics rather than biodegrading, which is extremely damaging to the natural environment.
There are lots of fantastic reusable bottles out there, for both cold and hot drinks. However, there are some times when you will be without your reusable bottle for whatever reason.
The sun is beating down, the sweat is pouring and you are craving an oh-so-cold refreshing fizzy drink to quench your thirst. So what do you do if you don't have a reusable bottle with you?
3) Choose A Can Instead
Cans are primarily made from aluminium. Although they aren't perfect, the recycling rate for aluminium is so much higher than for plastic.
Plastic, in general terms, can only be recycled a maximum of three times, and that's assuming the plastic can be recycled at all.
This is because every time plastic is recycled, the quality of the polymer (the string of molecules forming the plastic) decreases. Aluminium does not have this problem, so it can be recycled many times over compared to plastic.
Only 9% of all plastics have ever been recycled. This shows how the plastic recycling system is not working, and never really has done efficiently.
One of the reasons for this poor rate of recycling is due to recycling contamination. Contamination occurs when a type of plastic is incorrectly mixed with another sort of plastic. Let's use PVC and PET as an example.
PET, a plastic commonly used to make bottles with, is sometimes wrongly mixed in with PVC.
PET requires high temperatures to soften and mould it into recyclable content. At these same high temperatures, PVC starts to break down into hydrochloric acid.
As a result, the batch of PET dips below the quality required to recycle it. This means the whole batch of PET and PVC outlier will be sent to landfill or incinerated.
3) Shop Locally
With some supermarkets now introducing products free of plastic packaging, the intent is definitely in the right direction.
A great initiative, and one that shows supermarkets are starting to listen to what the consumer wants when it comes to plastic usage. As well as this, it's spreading huge awareness for the people that aren't aware of the plastic pollution crisis we are facing.
There is one step better though - farmers markets!
Coming from your own area, the food will have travelled far shorter distances to get where it is.
This means a decrease in carbon emissions as a result of transporting the food.
And it's supporting your own local industries, which can only be a good thing. Oh, and we forgot there's actually one MORE step better:
4) Grow Your Own Food
With some things like meat, sweets and chocolate aside (we yearn for the day that easy to grow homegrown chocolate exists), you can actually grow many vegetables really easily.
Take a look at this list of fantastic veggies you can grow in your own back garden, or allotment. As well as decreasing the distance the food travels to get to you (the walk from your garden to inside your house), it is a massive cost saver. Here's a great vid we found giving a few tips.
Eco-Friendly Gifts Case Study: Gifts For Students
There's nothing worse than hypocrisy, so we are going to talk specifically about how we are reducing our plastic footprint.
Our Gifts For Students are designed to help your first year student settle into Uni, whilst minimizing the plastic footprint of the gift.
Gifts For Students should be able to help your student academically, as well as socially. Our range of Gifts For Students includes our Settling Into Uni Kit, as well as our Desk Accessories kit.
Using sustainable materials in both products and packaging, the range shows sustainability can go hand in hand with value to the giftee.
5) Use Plastic Free Tea Bags
Living in the UK, tea means everything to us. Without it, there is no hope, happiness or energy. The whole economy would be in tatters by now if we had to go without tea for a couple of weeks. (This might be exaggerating, but it's how we feel).
One of the unknown things about tea bags is that they contain plastic - sneaky! It's really not that well known, but it's something that can be easily fixed. There are many brands of plastic free tea bags out there, and you can check them out here.
6) Get Rid Of The Gum, Or Start Chewing Plastic Free
This one really surprised us when we learned about it a few years ago - we had no idea chewing gum had plastic in it!
Apparently neither did 85% of people in this study.
Many brands of chewing gum contain plastics including Polyethylene - this is the stuff that plastic bags are made out of.
The idea of chewing on a plastic bag is not an appealing one. This unknown fact created a gap in the market for plastic free chewing gum.
It's a common sight; the pavements of the UK are littered with chewing gum, and it's pretty grim. So as well as working out your jaw on some plastic free chewing gum, we think it should be disposed of properly as well. Here's a great video from the Beeb going over some of the common ingredients in chewing gum - we were a bit freaked out!
7) Use Eco-Friendly Shaving Equipment
When the stubble is growing from your your legs, your armpits and...well we won't go down there, but you get the picture - it's maybe time for a shave.
Millions of razors are thrown away every year, and they are contributing hugely to landfill mass.
Even though they are so small compared to larger items, the sheer amount of them thrown every year makes up for the size. There are so many brands out there we couldn't pick our favourite, but have a google of 'plastic free razors' and see what takes your fancy.
Even in the year 1990 (29 years ago from the time of writing) the EPA estimated that two billion razors were thrown away in America alone. With the population increasing all the time, it is surely much higher than that figure now.
8) Use Matches
Matches are great. They can set the mood for a relaxing bath with some scented candles. They can save you if you've had a power cut and can't find the torch. Or they can light things that you breathe in and make you feel funny.
Whatever the use, matches are a much better alternative to plastic lighters. Plastic lighters are another item that is thrown away many millions of times every year.
If you really don't like the idea of matches, try a reusable metal lighter. Disposable plastic lighters are cheaper at first, but when you start going through them, your wallet will start to feel it.
9) Forget The Straws (Or Use Plastic Free Ones)
Do you really need a straw? Then this one is a really easy fix.
Or if you are really set on having a straw, check out our fully compostable, biodegradable and plastic free ones.
10) Use Compostable Cups Instead Of Plastic Ones
If you are having a party, or you're going to a festival, disposable cups are a great way of getting your drink on. But plastic disposable cups are not the way forward!
For all the reasons mentioned in this blog, and others, disposable plastic should be minimized, if not cut out completely.
The Cups we use in several of our gift sets including our Eco-Friendly Festival Survival Kit are made from PLA.
PLA is a bioplastic, which is both produced from renewable resources (cornstarch) and biodegradable.
Just because PLA is biodegradable, however, does not mean it will break down in the natural environment within a reasonable time frame. This is because in order to biodegrade, the necessary microorganisms need to be present. In the ocean, this presence of microorganisms is not guaranteed.
This is also the same in landfills. Because landfills are so densely crammed with waste, there is no guarantee that oxygen or microorganisms will be present. Landfill sites without oxygen present are known as anaerobic landfills. In these landfill sites, PLA will remain inert and just occupy space.
In a situation where oxygen is present in landfill, PLA will biodegrade at a similar rate to other waste around it. This is not a quick process, so we recommend using our developed compostable postal scheme, LFHP Zero.
In order to guarantee biodegradation, use LFHP Zero to compost them fully. Any compostable waste from any of our gift sets sent back to us using LFHP Zero will be fully composted. This means zero waste goes to landfill, as well as having zero chance of ending up in the natural environment.
We hope you've enjoyed reading this blog on our top tips for reducing your plastic footprint. We've also given the science behind several of the tips, and why it's important to reduce the amount of plastic we all use on a daily basis.
Gifts For Eco Warriors
The motivation behind starting our shop selling gifts for eco warriors was, and is, to reduce plastic waste entering landfill.
Plastic pollution, both in the natural environment on land and in our oceans, is taking a huge toll on the world around us. Our eco-friendly gifts are designed around using sustainable materials, and creating zero to landfill schemes through LFHP Zero.
If you would like to read more about reducing your plastic footprint, as well as everything else environmentally friendly, feel free to subscribe to our email list at the bottom of the page.