By Mariza Halliday

Disposable plastic items are so common that it is easy not to notice them, but they are everywhere. Plastic is the leading cause of ocean pollution, harming wildlife and wreaking havoc on the environment. It is no wonder that more and more people are demanding plastic alternatives and refuse to participate in the grotesque plastic waste that is filling our planet’s landfills.

If we don’t make some drastic lifestyle changes soon, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish
by 2050! The question for most people wanting to lead a plastic-free lifestyle is this: Where do I start? Here are some easy tips to help you reduce your plastic footprint:

Plastic bags are generally used for a matter of minutes before being discarded, and then take hundreds of years to break down. About 160,000 plastic bags are used every second worldwide and only 1-3% of them are recycled. When it comes to reusable bags, it isn’t so much about “choosing” as “using”. It’s about remembering to bring them with us because let’s face it… we all have reusable bags. They are most effective when we take them with us! Remembering to bring a reusable bag is a habit we can train ourselves to do. In the beginning, we need reminding. Place reusables in places where you’ll notice them as you leave the house. Place them in strategic locations: where you keep your purse, in the car, in the bicycle
basket. Pop a reminder on the back of the front door.

Plastic water bottles are another of the top 10 items found in beach clean-ups. Plenty of research has highlighted that as well as being less eco-friendly, bottled water is less healthy than tap water. Having a reusable water bottle stops us from
buying water when we’re on the go.

Many people do not realise that takeaway coffee cups are lined with a thin layer of plastic. That’s what makes them watertight. It also makes them almost impossible to recycle. The best solution is to carry your own travel mug / reusable cup with you. Many coffee shops even offer a discount for bringing a reusable cup! Even without a discount, the environment is winning.

We use straws for just a few minutes and then toss them away, but they stay on our planet for centuries, harming marine life as well as our fellow beings on land. Try to always refuse a plastic straw. If you really need to use a straw then use a metal, paper or bamboo one.

Using shampoo and soap bars can radically reduce the amount of plastic household waste we throw out each year. Choosing eco-friendly or vegan soaps will also help avoid water and soil pollution.

We all brush our teeth, and we tend to change our toothbrush every few months. We replace them because the bristles wear out, yet the handle is often perfectly fine. But the whole thing needs to be replaced and tends to end up in the bin. One alternative is to switch to a bamboo toothbrush. With bamboo toothbrushes, once the bristles have worn out, they can be removed, and the handle can be composted. If they somehow end up in the ocean, the
wooden handle will biodegrade naturally.

It is in all our best interest to make good choices. You can do your bit to save the planet while there is a planet left to save.