recycling sustainable living

Challenge: Reduce, Reuse or Recycle – Swapping out plastic for reusable grocery bags

Do you have a unique strategy for saving the environment while also saving money? Share your tips with us below or in the comments section. We want to hear from all of you!

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bags every hour.

That’s about 1 trillion plastic bags per year, which according to the EPA is enough to cover the entire state of Texas in two feet of plastic bag waste (EPA). Plastic grocery bags are also one of the most common man-made items found on beaches and in waterways around the world (EarthTalk). They can take up to 1,000 years or more to decompose (EPA)…and they never really do. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade; it merely breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics that persist forever in our environment.

We have a choice: either we continue using disposable plastic grocery bags for convenience or we find a better solution that’s also cheaper.

One of the easiest ways to reduce plastic bag pollution is simply by not accepting plastic bags at grocery stores. Many major retailers are now charging customers five cents per bag, which can add up fast if you forget your own reusable bags!

There are many advantages to using reusable bags over disposable plastic ones. For one, they’re sturdier and take up less room in your car. Plus, you can use them for all kinds of things—even around the house! No more needing to remember which grocery bag is for bringing produce home and which is for carrying trash out to the curb.

Another way to reduce the amount of plastic you produce is to buy in bulk. Many stores, including Target, have begun offering products sold in bulk bins .

Purchasing foodstuffs in bulk is an excellent way to cut down on packaging waste while saving money overall. You can also ask your local grocer if they’ll give you a discount for bringing reusable bags.

Recycling plastic waste is another way to reduce pollution. Try to find a recycling facility near you that accepts items like plastic film , which is often used for wrapping food or preserving dry goods. Otherwise, most grocery stores will now accept #1–7 plastics in their recycling bins. Know your numbers!

Finally, there’s always the option to reuse old plastic bags.

They can be ideal for picking up pet waste or even carrying dirty shoes into your home when you get back from the beach. Once they’re properly used, why not recycle them at your local grocery store?

Whatever you do, remember: reducing and reusing are always the best first step to take.

Repeat this process for other plastic items found around your house!

Did you know? Americans throw away enough single-use paper cups every year to circle the Earth 436 times (Mother Nature Network)! Many paper products are not recyclable at all, so putting them in recycling bins will only lead to them being sent to a landfill. Here are some great ways to reduce your use of single-use paper products, starting with coffee cups:

Bring your own travel mug

Take advantage of cafés that offer discounts for bringing reusable tumblers or mugs

Brew your coffee at home and carry it in an insulated container instead of using disposable cups

Reuse paper coffee filters by rinsing them out and drying them with a paper towel

Use washable paint pens to write on coffee cups instead of buying disposable drink sleeves

Recycle online! Some recycling centers will not accept paper products over the phone, but they may be able to recycle it via their website. Check with your local recycling center to see if this is an option.

You can also challenge yourself to reduce, reuse or recycle single-use paper towels in the bathroom!

Make easy DIY face masks out of old paper towel tubes

Use washable paint pens to write on paper towel rolls instead of buying disposable facial tissues

Create reusable paper towels by cutting up old t-shirts

Recycle online! Most recycling centers have an email option for paper towel tubes, facial tissue, and t-shirts. Check with your local recycling center to see if this is an option.

Unsure of where to recycle single-use plastic items in your area?

Check out Earth911’s recycling guide or visit Plastic Film Recycling Guide to learn more.

Repeat this process for other plastic items found in your home (detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, etc)!

Keep up the good work! Be sure to share tips and tricks when it comes to reducing, reusing and recycling with us below. Also share your knowledge with the world by blogging about it!

Please share your experience of how you did this challenge. What was the outcome? What did you learn from it? Where does your waste go when you recycle, etc.? We want to hear from all of you!

Here are some other relevant articles to save the environment while saving money:

Eco-Frugality – Part I : Bulk Bins and Bulk Buys

Eco-Frugality – Part II : Beating Food Waste at the Source

Eco-Frugality – Part III

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