America loves fast food. The world loves fast food. But fast food creates a lot of packaging, especially when it’s taken “to go.” While huge fast food chains such as McDonalds and Starbucks are making efforts to switch to recycled, sustainable, or at least recyclable packaging, the overall effect of these changes is not likely to have much impact unless our habits change.
Recycling food packaging is a nice idea, but the fact is, only a small fraction of it is actually recycled. A 2015 report by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explains that Americans recycle less than 14 percent of its plastic food packaging. That same single-use food packaging is one of the primary sources of the almost 270 tons of plastic waste in the world’s oceans.
The problem of minimal recycling has only gotten worse since 2015. According to the EPA, in 2017, only 13 percent of all plastic containers were recycled in the U.S., and almost 70 percent went to the landfill.
If we’re not recycling even the recyclable stuff, a better solution is to cut out the packaging altogether. Fast food, or take-out from any restaurant, is a good place to start.
For this week’s challenge, if you eat out, try to leave the restaurant without needing packaging. Some fast food restaurants, such as Mad Greens, make this easy by using real (not disposable) dishware and utensils for dining-in orders. If you really can’t take a few extra minutes to dine in, choose fast food joints that have made a commitment to minimal packaging that is recyclable or, better yet, made with 100% recycled materials. Then recycle it!
Liquid soap isn’t the first thing most people think of when it comes to reducing their environmental impact. But surprisingly, liquid soap has a large impact with its packaging and energy use. Luckily, there are easy alternatives that you can make yourself or buy for not a lot of money.
According to Conservation Magazine, “liquid soaps require five times more energy for raw material production and nearly 20 times more energy for packaging production than bar soaps do” (Tyler 1) . In addition, on average, people use over six times less soap in a single use when they use bar soaps. This means that bar soap lasts much longer than liquid soap, so it’s also an economical choice.
Liquid soaps typically contain more chemicals than bar soaps, and these chemicals go through the water system and end up in the ocean and the Great Lakes. This harms the flora and fauna in the water.
Unfortunately, bar soaps do have their drawbacks. They contain more natural ingredients, which requires land to produce. This makes the land impact of liquid soap less than that of bar soap.
For the next two weeks, use bar soap instead of liquid soap. This will lessen your impact with packaging, chemicals, and soap use.
There are many eco-friendly soaps that are very inexpensive. Any bar soap will require less plastic and will last longer than a liquid soap. You can get bar soap from most stores. If you’re the DIY type, you can easily make your own soap with a custom blend of ingredients.
Johnson, Donna. “What Are the Ingredients of Liquid Soap?” Healthfully, 24 Dec. 2019, healthfully.com/what-are-the-ingredients-of-liquid-soap-4998848.html.
O'Brien, Brendan. “Consider The Environmental Impact Of Soap.” CleanLink, 19 Mar. 2015, www.cleanlink.com/cp/article/Consider-The-Environmental-Impact-Of-Soap--18045.
Tyler, David. “Bar Soap vs. Liquid Soap.” Conservation, University of Washington, 25 July 2013, www.conservationmagazine.org/2013/05/bar-soap-vs-liquid-soap/.
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