Inside the Reusable Philosophy: Plastic-Free Edition
Recycling plastic is one of the main tenets of living green. To reduce landfill waste and prevent environmental degradation, eco-warriors and casual recyclers alike have adopted creative ways to recycle plastic. In many places around the world, it’s required by law.
But there’s a new outlook on the horizon—one that gets to the root of our current global plastic consumption crisis: reusability. While recycling preserves resources and saves items from the landfill, reusability seeks to readdress the idea of ‘trash’ in the first place.
So, what is reuse and how does it apply to plastic-free living? Reuse emphasizes products that are designed for multiple or unlimited usage. It isn’t only a way to rehash our relationship to plastic and the environment, but the economy and the concept of living green.
After all, nature reuses all the time. Here are five handy ways that we can do the same.
Reusing is a practice, as well as a philosophy. When we recycle, we reduce the quantity of trash in landfills and sea garbage patches. However, the core issue is our consumption of plastic. Recycling is a reactive solution to waste; though recycling is great, it still requires time, energy, and resources. [D / resources spent on recycling]
Reusing is cheaper in terms of labor and requires fewer resources, meaning we consume less and save more. Two great examples are aluminum water bottles and cloth napkins. As an earth-friendly material, aluminum requires minimal resources to produce. From there, bottles can be reused again and again. In terms of cloth napkins, not only are they easy to wash, but they also come in a variety of earth-friendly textiles, such as bamboo, Tencel, and linen.
From a reusability perspective, quality purchases are important, as products are expected to last a long time. Once again, reusability challenges our beliefs about consumption. We don’t need to buy more often but instead buy smarter. [D / money saved by reuse]
Higher-quality items last longer and also tend to be kinder to the earth. For example, skincare products can be bought cheaply at almost any location. However, skincare is one of the ‘dirtiest’ industries in terms of plastic consumption, long-distance transportation, and pollution at the manufacturing level.
Opting for higher quality hygiene products reduces these impacts—and not necessarily with a higher price tag. As always, be sure to keep a lookout for local producers.
Buy Food in Bulk
Most often, we make purchases because they’re convenient and cheap. However, one of the easiest ways to adopt a reuse lifestyle is to buy groceries in bulk. Though not very common, it’s one of the most robust reusability solutions.
Wholesale directly minimizes plastic packaging and transportation, as it eliminates ‘the middle man’. By bringing products directly to consumers, prices are lower. Additionally, retailers that sell groceries in bulk let people bring their own containers, which minimizes packaging at the retail level. [D / plastic packaging]
Shoppers can use reusable materials like glass, paper, aluminum, stainless steel, bamboo, and beechwood to store and purchase products like grains, fruits, veggies, as well as liquid products like laundry detergent and dishwashing soap.
Get To Know Your Brands
Adopting a reusability-based lifestyle asks consumers to rethink their buying habits, such as buying food in bulk. It also asks them to look a bit closer at the companies they purchase from. Some brands go to painstaking lengths to prioritize green living at every step, from production to transportation to packaging materials.
So, what should consumers look for in a company before buying a reusable product? First, look for visibility within a supply chain, which should prioritize sustainable materials and renewable energy at all levels. Second, look for the duration of use; how long will a product last? Remember, reusability emphasizes multiple, if not unlimited, usage. Lastly, seek out transparency, as companies that emphasize reuse are proud of it.
So far, we’ve covered the philosophy behind reusability, as well as a few applications in day-to-day life. But how can we get a bit more granular when it comes to reusability—especially in the home? It’s a lot easier than most think.
Here are five examples you can start using today:
- Bring your own glass or silicone containers to restaurants to take home leftovers
- Choose woven baskets as storage containers (over large plastic tubs)
- Brew your morning coffee at home using a pour-over dripper (stainless steel is a great reusable option)
- Opt for microfiber cloths for dusting, mopping, and shining (there are even microfiber options for makeup removal)
- Switch out cotton Q-tips for reusable silicone Q-tips