The use of a “footprint” has been a valuable manner in which to quantify and visualize our individual resource use. A water footprint helps us understand how much freshwater is used to grow our food, manufacture our goods, and run our households. A carbon footprint can tell us how much carbon is released by our diet, our personal consumption habits, and our transportation choices. Now, what about the impact that your plastic use has on the environment?

It is becoming more and more apparent that the manufacturing, use, recycling, and disposal of plastic materials has a major impact on the planet. And all of these actions come down to individual choices made on a personal level around when to use plastic, how much to use, and how to dispose of it. Now more than ever it’s becoming important to look at our plastic footprint and ask ourselves where improvements can and should be made.

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Plastic is pretty much one of the worst things to happen to our environment. Seriously. The impact on wildlife is astounding and the manner in which it litters natural landscapes is just embarrassing. Fresh and marine water settings are becoming toxic cocktails as the result of plastic, and its even turning up in the human body.  It has created a royal mess in our oceans, both chemically as well as in the way it injures, entangles, sickens and kills marine animals. On land, it’s no better, littering natural places, threatening animals, and clogging up our fresh water supplies.

The throwaway lifestyle that we’ve become accustomed to with plastic is really starting to rear its ugly head. Our plastic footprints are growing to a point where the environment can’t sustain itself with the sheer number of plastic bottles, bags, personal care items, microbeads, toys, fishing gear and countless other items we toss out each day. We truly are walking all over Mother Nature with this massive plastic footprint, and change is desperately needed. Here are five things you can do TODAY: 

1. Shopping Bags

What’s So Bad About Plastic Bags?Edinburgh Greens/Flickr

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Everyone has to eat and everyone has to get their food from somewhere. If you shop at a conventional grocery store on a regular basis, plastic bags are most likely the go-to option for sending your purchases home in. Keeping reusable bags in your car, purse, or backpack to use during your regular shopping trips is a fantastic way to cut your plastic footprint. You can keep over 350-500 plastic bags out of the oceans annually just by switching to reusable ones!

2. Drink Containers

Water, juice, sports drinks, soda – what else do you drink on a daily basis that might come out of a plastic bottle? It’s understandable that people want their beverages to be portable to match an active lifestyle, but using plastic on a regular basis to keep you hydrated is not very gentle on the planet. Consider investing in some reusable plastic-free water bottles and travel mugs to cut the number of individual plastic bottles you use. Get water from the tap and make your own sports drinks or juices at home and nix those plastic bottles from the store altogether.

3. Buy Smart

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masonjarsChlot’s Run/Flickr

 

Plastic shopping bags at the checkout line aren’t the only way you may be tempted by plastic at the grocery store. So many products you choose come in plastic wrap, containers, and packaging. Find out where you can opt for more sustainable options and reduce your plastic footprint. When you shop for nuts, dried goods or coffee beans in the grocery store, bring along a mason jar or cloth bag to store them. Avoid the pre-packaged bundles of fruits or veggies and buy loose produce (be sure to bring along a reusable produce bag as well!) Just by making this simple switch of bringing along reusable produce bags, you can keep over 200 plastic bags out of the oceans every year!

4. Turn Plastics Into Local Food

Despite your best efforts, you may not be able to avoid plastics everywhere in your shopping. If you find yourself with plastic milk jugs or yogurt containers, put them to good use and start a garden! These containers make great seed starters and in no time at all you might be picking your salad and herbs for pasta sauce on your patio. You can turn that nasty plastic into a weapon against food from far-off places, and have your own local food supply growing 10 feet from your kitchen.

5.  Straws and Plasticware

Dare to Stand Out From the Crowd! How to Start Ditching Single-Use ItemsFlickr

 

You’re likely to encounter these helpful little tools while eating out. And while you may have a hard time drinking out of a cup without a straw or eating a plate of teriyaki without a fork, you don’t have to settle on plastics for helping you out. Opt for a cup without a lid to get by without a straw, or keep a reusable one on you to use while you’re eating out. You can also keep a set of bamboo or silverware eating utensils to use in place of those plastic ones too.

Lead Image Source: woodleywonderworks/ Flickr