In Trinidad & Tobago, we are no stranger to the effects of pollution on our twin island. Illegal dumping, poor waste management and unmonitored industrial practices have led to our rivers overflowing with plastics, garbage strewn along our roads and toxic water sources.
Whilst we do have several recycling and waste management organisations, this barely makes a dent in the amount of waste generated by each household. Our increasingly consumeristic lifestyle means that we continuously desire material things and often buy what we do not need, which encourages resource depletion and waste build-up.
The simplest way to combat the rise in pollution is to reduce the output of waste. Less waste = less garbage in the landfills, rivers and roads. Studies predict that by 2025 there will be 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish in the ocean. If this doesn’t feel like a wake-up call, I don’t know what will!
If you would like to reduce your waste and don’t know where to start, try to incorporate these 10 easy, inexpensive habits into your daily life:
SKIP THE STRAW:
A single plastic straw takes up to 200 years to decompose yet sits in your drink for less than 30 minutes. The next time you’re enjoying after work drinks, ask for no straw with yours. If you want to keep the lipstick intact, invest in the trendy metal or glass reusable straws (they are inexpensive and available online on Amazon).
WALK WITH YOUR MUG:
For all my fellow coffee-lovers out there, you may be surprised to hear that our takeaway coffee cups won’t decompose for 30 years!
If you’re in need of your caffeine fix on the go, bring your own reusable mug to your favourite coffee shop. It saves our earth and your wallet, as coffee chains like Rituals and Starbucks offer discounts to customers who bring their own clean, reusable cup. If you must get your coffee to go, at least choose to go ‘topless’ and refuse the plastic coffee lid.
SIT BACK AND RELAX:
We Trinbagonians are always hustling from one place to the next and meals on the go are a norm. This means large amounts of Styrofoam (which never decomposes!) and plastic takeaway containers are discarded daily. Instead of grabbing your next office lunch or coffee to go, take the extra 10 minutes to sit back and enjoy your meal on a real plate, or even better – pack food from home and take full advantage of your lunch hour.
KEEP YOUR CUTLERY CLOSE:
Store some basic cutlery (including your new reusable straw) at your office desk, in your purse or car to avoid using the single-use plastic cutlery when eating outside the comfort of your home.
GRAB THE GLASS:
When buying sauces and other items in the grocery, opt for the glass items instead of plastic. Glass jars can be reused in many ways – to store leftovers, take snacks on the go, drinking jars, candle holders and more. I painted several jam jars and use them to store makeup brushes, loose change and fresh-cut flowers.
REFUSE PLASTIC BAGS:
After one big trip to the grocery, you end up with 20 plastic bags under your sink, each which take 10-500 years to break down. These bags often end up in our oceans and are mistaken for food by the marine life. Several Caribbean islands have taken the necessary steps to ban plastic bags or charge consumers per bag and I am hoping we will soon follow suit. Instead of plastic bags, keep a basket or reusable bags in your car/purse for your next trip to the grocery, mall or drugstore. The same goes for produce – skip the plastic produce bags and buy (or make) bags for your fruits and vegetables. Better yet, just forgo a bag if you only need a few items.
SWAP THE PLASTIC WRAP:
Wrap your sandwiches in cloth towels or beeswax paper instead of plastic sandwich bags or wrap. Store your leftovers in containers or simply cover your dish with a plate over the top instead of plastic wrap.
MAKE A VISIT TO THE MARKET:
With an abundance of markets throughout the country, it is easy to take a Saturday morning trip to stock up on all the seasonal produce and fresh fish. Small farmers produce less environmental waste and are less likely to use harsh farming practices and fossil fuels. Support the small man and learn about his farm while you shop (with your reusable bag of course).
HOLD THE MEAT, PLEASE:
It is a proven fact that the animal rearing industry is a large contributor to resource waste and climate change, emitting 14.5% of global greenhouse gases and causing deforestation, species extinction and air & water pollution. By consuming less animal meat and by-products, you can reduce your carbon footprint, save water supplies and prevent good crops from being served to livestock instead of humans. As a start, try to give up meat & animal products for one day per week or one meal per day.
Before buying new items like clothing, furniture or books, seek out second-hand items in garage sales or thrift stores. Comb garage sales and use your Pinterest board inspiration to upcycle a piece of furniture into something new. Get your girlfriends together for a clothes swap – everyone can bring items that they never wore or no longer wear. You can come away with a new outfit that doesn’t cost a cent!
Our everyday choices do have the power to make an impact on the environment for the better. I hope you can use these tips in your daily activities to reduce your waste in our landfills!
By Gabriella Garcia