The new year is upon us and with it our resolutions for personal growth. Last year, I resolved to sleep more regularly. Did that happen? No, not really. As a double major in college and lover of The Great British Baking Show, I haven’t really set myself up for success in that department. It’s what one would call a work in progress.
But another resolution of mine was to reduce my use of plastic. And that did happen, thanks to an eye-opening summer in Greece.
This past summer, I worked with a non-governmental organization (NGO) to study and protect sea turtles and their habitats on the island of Lipsi, Greece. (Also spelled Leipsoi, which I use whenever I feel like being particularly authentic.) The island is small and most tourists there have been vacationing on the island for 5+ years. I even spoke to some who had been traveling there for over 20 years. Lipsi is truly a beloved island, but it struggles with pollution.
If the weather was such that my fellow interns and I couldn’t get out on the water to collect data, we cleaned up beaches. Never in my life had I picked up more trash. We would thoroughly clean a beach one week and find it just as polluted the next week. It didn’t take long to realize that what we saw on land was just a fraction of what’s in the sea.
Plastic is dangerous no matter where it is, but it poses a great threat to marine species. Animals may eat it, thinking it’s food. They may also suffer as plastic decays and releases chemicals into the water. (If you’re interested in reading more about the issues surrounding plastic, try this article by The Independent.) With this knowledge in hand and the sight of trash filled beaches burned into my memory, I quickly came to the realization that I needed to change as a consumer.
So here’s what I did:
1. Chucked my Keurig.
Using plastic coffee pods every day (and more than once a day during the joyous season that is known as finals) seriously drove up my plastic consumption. “In 2014, enough K-Cups were sold that if placed end-to-end, they would circle the globe 10.5 times. Almost all of them ended up in landfills.” 
As of 2018, 50% of K-Cups are recyclable and Keurig plans to make all pods recyclable by 2020.  This is great, but recyclable does not equal sustainable, nor does it mean that said item will be recycled. The consumer must take that step and it is one that can easily be missed.
So I broke up with my Keurig and got myself a french press. It’s a beauty and makes great coffee. My only waste from the press are coffee grounds and they’re compostable.
2. Got a new toothbrush.
When I came home from Greece, I needed to replace my toothbrush, so I saw it as a great opportunity to make a switch! I swapped my plastic toothbrush for one that is made of bamboo and is biodegradable. There are lots of great brands out there that sell these kinds of brushes, but I decided to go with Mother’s Vault based on the size and bristle quality. I am not sponsored by Mother’s Vault, but here’s the Amazon link if you want to check them out.
According to the American Dental Association, we’re supposed to switch out our toothbrushes every 3-4 months. Mother’s Vault has a pack of 4 brushes, meaning I’m set for the year. So not only am I eliminating toothbrushes that would have previously gone in the trash, I’m keeping my carbon footprint low by requiring only one toothbrush delivery per year. (I do a little happy dance every time I brush my teeth now.)
3. Wrapped up my Saran wrap use.
I no longer own Saran wrap and I rarely use plastic bags. Why? Because I have helper bees! I purchased Bee’s Wrap’s assorted 3-pack (again no sponsorship to be seen here).
By using the warmth of my hands, I can make the beeswax of the wrap ever-so-slightly sticky, allowing it to cling to any container or envelope any food item. Once I’m done, I can rinse off the wrap and reuse it again the next day. As a result, my consumption of plastic wrap and bags has been reduced to almost nothing.
I hope that some of these ideas will work for you. They’re little steps that can make a big dent in the plastic problem. My next step? Finding the perfect reusable straw!
Have a happy New Year!
 Hamblin, J. (2015, March 2). A Brewing Problem; What’s the healthiest way to keep everyone caffeinated? Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/03/the-abominable-k-cup-coffee-pod-environment-problem/386501/
 Gelles, D. (2016, April 15). Keurig’s New K-Cup Coffee Is Recyclable, but Hardly Green. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/17/business/energy-environment/keurigs-new-k-cup-coffee-is-recyclable-but-hardly-green.html