The statistics around plastic pollution speak for themselves and are impossible to ignore. 500 billion plastic bags used annually, 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans, one million sea birds killed annually from plastic ingestion or entanglement.
The problem is real, but where do we start looking for solutions? Ourselves. It's easy to forget the power we actually all hold in this world, and that's the power to make a difference, be it small or mighty. Humans have a domino effect on one another. When one takes action, the next one follows suit, and it's this domino effect that needs to be used for positive change. Try out these small but significant ways to reduce your plastic footprint and watch the domino fall.
1. Say no to straws
One of the biggest culprits in both landfill and on the ocean surface is the plastic straw. A small, seemingly harmless product that can actually have devastating effects for marine life who mistake it for food.
Make the swap: When you're ordering drinks at the bar, just say no to those tempting little straws conveniently located within reach, or else ask your waiter to deliver your drink without a straw. Can't live without one? Invest in a stainless steel or glass alternative.
2. Invest in a reusable bag
Such a simple solution, but one that could have such an incredible impact. On average, a plastic bag is used for just 12 minutes. However, it takes a staggering 940 years to decompose. Is it really worth it?
Make the swap: Pop your reusable bag inside your handbag, on the back seat of your car, next to your front door — anywhere to remind you not to leave it behind, and take it with you when you hit the shops. Want to get real crafty? Make your own from recycled materials.
3. Choose glass over plastic
Why? Because glass can be re-used time and time again. A huge number of food products can be bought in jars, so whenever the option is there, take it. You can wash out and re-use your jars as many times as you like, and for more purposes than you might think. From storing food to displaying flowers, glass jars are a mere canvas for your creativity.
Make the swap: Reuse your old jam jars or stock up on mason jars that wouldn't look out of place in a hipster cafe.
4. Avoid using travel-sized products
Sure, they are convenient, but how many of us are guilty of possessing drawers full of little plastic bottled toiletries nicked from vacations? When will you get around to using all of them? This excess is uncalled for.
Make the swap: Instead of buying yet more plastic, why not invest in travel-sized containers that are reusable? Just decant your favourite products before you go on your travels, then wash them out when you get back so they're clean and ready for the next time. Muji stocks plenty of options.
5. Watch out for BPA
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a compound added to plastics to help them harden, and is commonly found in everyday plastic items like water bottles, plastic containers and plastic linings on packaged foods. Scarier still, BPA exposure has been linked to health effects including obesity, hormone imbalance, reproduction issues and even various cancers.
Make the swap: Look out for a 3, 7 or PC sign on plastic — these are the most toxic types of plastic so avoid them where you can. Also avoid heating up food in plastic containers. If there's an alternative to go plastic free, go for it.
Just how much plastic features in your life? Measure up your own plastic footprint here.
About The TreadRight Foundation
Created as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation's family of brands, the TreadRight Foundation is a not-for-profit working to ensure the environment and communities we visit remain vibrant for generations to come. To date, TreadRight has helped support more than 35 sustainable tourism projects worldwide. The foundation's guiding principle is to encourage sustainable tourism development through conservation, leadership and support for communities. TreadRight's past project partners include WWF, Conservation International and The National Trust in the UK. Current initiatives include sponsoring the National Geographic Society's inaugural "World Legacy Awards," helping to combat wildlife crime with WildAid, and empowering individuals with the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise. To learn more about our past and current work at TreadRight, please visit us at www.treadright.org