I was recently reminded of how we love disposable products and the convenience they afford. It began with a conversation about environmentally friendly cleaning products and how using a reusable clothe towel when vanquishing dirt and grime instead of a single-use wipe would be most “green.” That conversation soon evolved into a mini-personal experiment where I began to examine all the disposable products I consume while a reusable alternative went untouched.
What was my most commonly consumed single-use item you ask? None other than the inglorious paper towel. If you put a roll of paper towels within an arm’s reach, I’ll devour them like a hippy and a bag of granola. They’re just too convenient. The next item on my list was disposable tableware like plates, cups and forks from restaurants. There are a lot of places that only offer “to-go” table and silverware even when you eat on-site. You know who I’m talking about…eh-hm…Starbucks. Last on my list was plastic bags. Many times I would get caught without my reusable tote and default to a plastic bag. Guilt would soon follow.
When I started assessing my lifestyle, I really noticed how often we’re offered single-use products. It happens every day in one form or another, and this is the result:
Annually, the US population discards:
- 16,000,000,000 diapers,
- 1,600,000,000 pens,
- 22,000,000,000 plastic water bottles,
- 100,000,000,000 plastic bags,
- 2,000,000,000 razor blades,
- 220,000,000 car tires,
- 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam coffee cups,
- And Enough aluminum to rebuild the US commercial air fleet four times over
The U.S. is the #1 trash-producing country in the world at 1,609 pounds per person per year. This means that 5% of the world’s people generate 40% of the world’s waste. Apparently, it’s not always good to be # 1.
Now, more than ever, is the time to consume less and reuse more. It’s the only way we’re going to go from trash-producing champion to sustainable leader.