What is a “Plastic Footprint” and Easy Ways to Reduce It

A lot of plastic makes its way into the trash. Every day, the average American throws away approximately half of a pound of plastic, totalling 185 pounds a year. To put things in perspective, the average adult weighs less than 185 pounds. Multiply that times 300 million Americans, and well, that’s a lot of waste!

So where does all of this plastic waste go?

Most plastic winds up in landfills…

plastic waste in landfill

…or dumped into the ocean.

plastic and trash in the ocean

When it comes to throwing away plastic e-waste, American companies have often been guilty of shipping it off to foreign shores.

plastic footprint trash

What is a Plastic Footprint?

You’ve probably already heard of a carbon footprint: the way to measure how much your lifestyle contributes directly or indirectly to greenhouse gases that lead to climate change. The plastic footprint is a similar metric, only it’s used to judge how much plastic your lifestyle will contribute to the worldwide trash pile.

If you’re serious about reducing your carbon footprint, then the best place to start is by reducing your plastic footprint.

Producing plastic creates carbon dioxide. Using five plastic bags at the grocery store adds 1 kilogram of CO2 to your carbon footprint.

But plastic’s contribution to your carbon footprint is just the beginning. Scientists estimate that it takes more than 500 years for plastic to degrade. Remember that plastic soda bottle you threw away this morning? It’s going to be around to see the day cars fly—and probably much after that. Your plastic footprint will outlive you by hundreds of years!

You can make a difference.

Sometimes problems are so huge that our small efforts seem like only drops in the ocean. That may be true, but every time you choose to say no to single-use plastic you’re keeping our earth a little greener and the ocean a little cleaner.

Removing single-use plastic is easy.

Trading in single-use plastics for sustainable products is the first step towards reducing your plastic footprint. Here are some quick tips and some great products to replace the most common single-use plastics:

 Switch to Stainless Steel Straws.

Every year, more than 500 million single-use plastic straws wind up in the trash. It may seem inconsequential, but it all adds up, contributing to the plastic pollution problem. Instead of a plastic straw, use a stainless steel straw.

Straight Stainless Steel Straws

Dip & Sip stainless steel straws are rustproof and durable. They come in four different styles so you can have the right metal straw for your drink and glass. The packaging is fun too – these stainless straws make for a great gift!

Bring Your Bag.

Plastic bags are a big contributor to our global plastic problem. Finding an alternative to plastic bags is a quick and easy way to reduce your plastic footprint. Keep a few cloth bags in the trunk of your car or near your front door at home. This makes it easy to grab and go when it’s time for a trip to the store.

1 (1) Baggu is a great choice. These reusable bags come in many different colors and kitschy patterns. Baby Baggus are perfect for carrying your lunch or a few small items. Standard Baggu bags carry about two bags’ worth of groceries whereas Big Baggu is great for a load of laundry. Bags are made from 100% ripstop nylon that is machine washable.
Prices: $5.50-14.00

Bring Your Mug.

Like to get coffee on the go? When you do, it’s not always easy to find a recycle bin for that paper cup, so chances are it’s going to wind up taking up space in a landfill. But it’s not just the cups; sleeves, plastic lids and stirrers contribute to the 500 year trash pile.

Carrying your own cup is a simple way to reduce waste and it’s catching on. According to the Starbucks website “in 2013 customers brought their own tumblers into [their] stores 46.9 million times, up from 35.8 million in 2012.”

2 KeepCup is an interesting reusable coffee tumbler that comes in five sizes: 4oz, 6oz, 8oz, 12oz, and 16oz. KeepCup travel mugs come in many different colors. You even have the option to create your own color combo.
Prices: $9-24

Keep a Water Bottle Handy.

Carrying a water bottle from home will not only reduce the size of your plastic footprint, it will also do your wallet some good. Instead of paying $1 or more for 12 ounces of water, you can fill up your water bottle for free.

Nalgene water bottles Nalgene is one of the most popular brands for reusable water bottles. They come in a variety of shapes, styles, and material options.
Prices: $4.99-25.99

Use a Biodegradable Toothbrush.

The toothbrush is the only item on our list that isn’t actually a singe-use plastic. Most people use the same toothbrush for 1-3 months, and they aren’t filling as much landfill space as plastic bags or coffee cups, but when an alternative is available, then might as well switch! Choosing a more eco-friendly toothbrush is easy and surprisingly, doesn’t cost a lot.

eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush

Brush with Bamboo sells plant-based toothbrushes that are a USDA Certified Biobased Product by the United States Government’s Biopreferred Program. You can buy in 4, 12 or 36 packs. You can also enroll in a monthly subscription program to get your brushes delivered right to your door every month. Brush with Bamboo offers kid and adult sizes.
Prices: Brushes are $3.50-6 each, depending on the quantity you purchase

Choose Reusable Drinkware.

Whether you prefer your backyard or the beach, summer means being outdoors, and with that often comes those infamous red cups. You know the ones. This summer skip the single-use cups and get reusable drinkware.

red and white wine

TaZa unbreakable wineglasses are perfect for picnics, patios, boating and even water fights. Use these glasses indoors or outdoors. Perfect for water, wine, beer, cocktails, and just about every other summer drink. When you choose TaZa you’ll never break another glass or fill the trash can with single-use cups again.
Price: $24.99

Smarter Plastic, Greener Earth.

Reducing your plastic footprint is much easier than you might have previously thought!

By swapping out a few everyday, single-use plastics for reusable options, you will significantly shrink your plastic footprint. The more people who join in, the greener the earth will stay.

Increase your impact by encouraging your friends to choose sustainable items–share this article! Have other tips to reduce plastic waste? Share them by leaving a comment on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.