A focus of Aquaria Water is that we aim to educate and raise awareness of the unprecedented spike in endangered species due to human activity. Deforestation destroys habitats of plant and animal species, sunscreen washes into oceans killing the coral reef, and pesticides pose major health risks to a wide range of species including humans–just to name a few. One major issue we’re especially passionate about is plastic pollution in particular single use waterbottles.
Plastic can take 500 years or more to photo-degrade, becoming micro-plastics that continue to pollute the Earth and releasing toxic chemicals into the Earth. Plastic pollution is littering the oceans and shores, causing the deaths of wildlife that ingest plastic materials inadvertently. At current rates, plastic is expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050.
Australia is now putting in strict regulatory laws to ban plastics… Great job! We decided to do our own trial of attempting to going plastic-free for the past few weeks and boy, was it difficult. Through this plastic-free challenge, we’ve come to realize exactly how much waste we produce on a daily basis.
At the start of this challenge, we really didn’t know what we’d be getting into. Seriously. We expressed how simple it would be to not use plastic cutlery we originally had in our break room and use silverware instead, or how we wouldn’t use plastic straws anymore and used the stainless steel ones we all had tucked away in our desks. Although those are great ways to reduce our environmental footprint, we had no idea how much more there is out there–in packaging, in our kitchens at home, in our grocery shopping, in our bathrooms–yikes! Plastic is EVERYWHERE. It actually made me ANXIOUS!
Perhaps we did know how much there was or could acknowledge the amount of plastic waste we produce, but we were blinded by the convenience or so used to seeing and using certain items that we just didn’t notice it anymore. Everyone in the office was asked to log their plastic waste in a journal. We found that through logging each piece of plastic waste, we became more conscious of our decisions to buy certain things or to refuse others.
#1 Plastic Cups and Plastic Bottles
This was an obvious one for us. Yes, we actually do use our reusable bottles using Aquaria Water instead of single use bottled everywhere we go. Hydration is key! But, we’re constantly seeing plastic cups and plastic water bottles at parties and social events, or even when travelling.
However, I’ve personally had an experience with helping to plan a party and the issue of hydration came about. The simple answer was to buy a case of mini water bottles. My response–please, no. The solution wasn’t the easiest, but it definitely reduced plastic bottle and cup waste. We purchased two large water dispensers (yes, these were plastic, but we figured potentially less than the 100 pack of plastic water bottles we would’ve purchased instead) and we got paper cups instead of plastic. It was actually a relief to not have half-consumed bottles of water lying around everywhere unclaimed, and not having to fish out empty plastic water bottles from the trash to put into recycling. It actually made cleanup EASIER and more green. It’s getting hotter so great way to resolve water issues at your next event.
#2 Plastic Cutlery
As mentioned before, plastic cutlery was one of the easier ways to minimize our plastic waste. We used silverware from home, and some of us ordered nifty silverware for travel on Amazon. It even became more acceptable to lend utensils to our peers if they forgot theirs.
#3 Drinks to-go
Remembering to bring straws or reusable tumblers was difficult but we got the hang of it. We did get some weird looks from baristas but we took the opportunity to tell them about the plastic-free challenge and most people were understanding and accommodating! Some even had paper cups for their hot drinks that you can request instead of using plastic cups. There are now services which some cafes use of borrow cups in case you forget your reusable cup. Simply return it next time you go for your coffee fix.
When it comes to food, take out can sometimes be more convenient than dining in, but at what cost? A few of us went to a restaurant to get lunch one day and they didn’t have any seating, so we had to get take out. The amount of waste we received that day was unsightly. If we weren’t doing this challenge, it wouldn’t phase us because it’s so normal, but having to document this, we were frankly embarrassed. We even refused plastic cutlery here.
We even noticed that ordering certain foods, we’d naturally get more plastic–anything that has a sauce accompaniment would come in a plastic sauce container, all wrapped in a giant plastic bag, with plastic utensils thrown in, sometimes in excess. The solution? Try to dine in whenever possible.
#5 Food packaging
Part of the struggle here was we all love snacking so much, and most packaged food is riddled with plastic packaging, which by the way, you can’t even recycle. I headed my way to the local grocery and in the produce section which, thankfully, had packaging-free veggies that I could pick up. This one grocery trip really made me realize that we are surrounded by plastic and made me much more conscious about where I should go buy my food. Some stores are now trialling sustainable packing options such as Woolies. We suggest trying to find your local that has this alternative. It’s no extra cost for a more sustainable package.
Having a look in the pantry you will find various food and condiments… all wrapped in plastic. Literally more than half the pantry and fridge are packaged this way all the way down to your tea bags. Easy tea fix, switch to loose-leaf and purchase stainless steel tea diffusers.
#6 Beauty products
Another one that seems unavoidable to some is beauty or personal care products. Beauty and personal care packaging are most commonly made of plastic that requires special care to recycle or isn’t recyclable at all.
Becoming more aware during this challenge made us question alternatives or solutions for recycling products like these. Through quick Google searches, we were able to find out that companies like L’occitane have recycling programs for beauty packaging (from any brand!) and some other brands like MAC offer recycling programs for their own packaging.
#7 Shipping packaging
Ordering things online at our convenience has become so normal that we rarely think about the environmental impact. As we realized after a couple of online orders that the bubble wrap lined paper envelopes are not recyclable, we tried to combine our Amazon orders to reduce waste or wait until we had a few things in the cart instead of shipping one thing at a time to reduce waste.
Aquaria Water only use a carbon neutral delivery service.
#8 Food storage
Learning to avoid using plastic cling wrap or zip bags for snacks and loose food items was a big one for this challenge, especially at home. The remedy for this, although not as convenient, was to use reusable food containers, Stasher bags, mason jars, or purchasing products in glass jars when available. If your local grocery stores have a bulk section, bring your containers with you to fill up instead of using a plastic bag. We like to bring an expo marker to write the code and date of purchase on the lids to keep everything extra organized.
The challenge helped us become more conscious of the plastic in our lives. Truly, once you start seeing it, you won’t be able to unsee it. Now, we invite you to do your own plastic-free challenge. Just remember, it’s not about doing anything perfectly–in fact, we sure as hell didn’t! But small changes can be the push you need to live a more sustainable plastic-free lifestyle.
Depending on your lifestyle, you might want to pick up a few things to help you along on your journey. Here’s a checklist of products we mentioned (and some we didn’t) that you might want to invest in to get you on your way! Keep in mind, you don’t need everything on this list. If you see plastic items in your daily life that can be swapped with an item or two below, you probably should get it; if not, don’t! It’s that simple.
Build your own eco-kit:
- Reusable water bottle
- Stainless steel straw
- Reusable cutlery
- Silicone storage bags
- Mason Jars
- Reusable food wraps
- Glass food containers
- Reusable shopping bag
We encourage you to do a plastic-free challenge of your own. Before you get started check out EarthDay.org’s Plastic Pollution Calculator to help you gauge how much plastic you’re currently using and how much you can commit to cutting out for the rest of the year.