BE THE CHANGE- On Reducing Plastics – Just Keep on Doing Your Best

ROWAN & BRIANA AIRD

In this instalment of Be The Change, we answer a common question that many readers in Old Ottawa East can relate to, especially during these COVID times.

Q. I made a New Year’s resolution to go plastics-free, but in practice, it seems almost impossible. How do I stay motivated? Forgot my reusable bags AGAIN.

A. A cold-turkey declaration can be compelling, but unless you’re strongly motivated by absolutes, we suggest you use a modified version of the Pareto principle -it takes about 20% of the effort to reduce your plastics use by 80%, but it’s four times as hard to go 100% plastics free.

Image by Vivianne LeMay

Image by Vivianne LeMay

Here are some strategies you can use to have a bigger impact without exhausting yourself:
• Focus on reducing single-use items and excessive packaging, rather than plastics specifically. Simply substituting biodegradable but carbon alternatives like glass, cloth, or paper can do as much harm as good.

• Avoid cheaper impulse-buys that might not last long or see much use;

• Buy in larger quantities when possible. For example, if you normally get mini yogourt cups, instead buy regular-sized tubs and use a reusable lunch container to portion out single servings – larger containers normally have a better packaging to contents ratio. Better yet, you can buy in bulk using reusable containers, like at our local Nu Grocer;

• Squeeze more uses out of single-use items – if you forget your reusable totes, get the plastic shopping bags, but re-use them as bathroom garbage bags.

Most of all, don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon once in a while – just keep on doing your best. Reducing waste is a vital part of the work towards a livable future, but it’s important not to exhaust yourself in one area when every part of our lives must be re-examined with the lens of sustainability. And ultimately, what you buy is more important than what packaging is used.

Want to eat local, but still love California avocados? You sort your recycling, but don’t know what to do with pesky plastic bags? Eager to reduce your ecological footprint, but feeling overwhelmed? Send your sustainability conundrums to sloe@ottawaeast.ca and we’ll help you figure out the facts and the actions you can take to be the change.

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