While we brace for colder months ahead, we welcome another really informative article, Why We Need to Toss Out Throwaway Culture, by Rose Morrison. This thought-provoking article is perfect for cozy couch reading and for considering new behavioral practices for how we use and reuse items, not just for practical purposes but also to benefit our environment.
Please be sure to read Rose’s bio below and follow the link to her other articles on Slipcovers for Your Walls.
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Once upon a time, the creation of single-use items seemed like a blessing. Instead of buying things in heavy tins or storing them in bulky Tupperware, people could simply purchase and put items away in paper or plastic. However, this need for simplicity is doing great harm to the environment. Plastic is an immense source of pollution in landfills and oceans, while increased paper usage requires cutting down more trees.
Being able to toss something when you’re done with it may be convenient, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best solution for everyone. The whole world could benefit from everyone using more reusable products. Here is why we need to toss out “throwaway” culture.
The Psychology of the Throwaway, Wasteful Mindset
Everyone’s ability to throw away so much stuff creates tons of waste, literally and figuratively. Humans produce 2.01 billion tons of garbage each year. Why aren’t they using reusable products when repeatedly buying single-use items is more expensive? There are a few psychological barriers causing the population to continue their wasteful ways.
The most prominent is people don’t want to spend more money on an item. Sustainable products often have more intensive production — including ethically sourcing materials and using organic components — so they usually cost more. Unfortunately, this often makes them unaffordable to some communities. However, many people simply do not wish to spend extra money when they could buy something single-use for much cheaper.
Humans are also incredibly habitual creatures. In fact, one doctor found that 43% of a person’s behavior is made up of habits. Changing a routine would involve a significant amount of effort many don’t feel like expending energy on. When you get home from work, isn’t it easier to order takeout than cook? Do you really feel like walking back to get the reusable bags you forgot in the car?
Because people love habits, it also makes them less trusting of change. Humans have a risk-mitigation mindset that makes them see something different as a potential threat. A new product won’t trigger a full-blown fight-or-flight response, but there’s an innate instinct to stick to what you know instead of risking doing something new. It’s challenging to jump into a lifestyle when change can feel so scary and untrustworthy when the routine is safe.
You might think the fear of climate change would make more people adjust their ways, but many don’t feel the need to. One survey found that 46% of the population doesn’t think they need to change their lifestyle to help the environment. A lot of people become complacent when they hear how climate change could affect them but don’t see the consequences. Therefore, they don’t feel the urgency to make more eco-friendly choices.
Throwaway culture is still so prevalent because it’s easy. Some habits might be wasteful, but they’re much simpler than what’s better for the planet. However, the constant use of single-use items is costing the Earth much more than people realize.
The State of Pollution and Deforestation
As you likely know, pollution is a significant problem facing the world today. It’s estimated that 11 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans each year. Many people have been paying greater attention to their trash and recycling habits, but many others still don’t seem to understand the importance of cleaning the ocean.
The chemicals in plastic also leak into the water and dirt as they break down, which are often toxic. A 2020 study — potentially the first on this subject — investigated how these microplastics affected soil biodiversity. They found the number of bugs that keep dirt fertile decreased in areas with high levels of microplastics. Such a reduction could go on to harm crop and wild-greenery growth.
On the other hand, loggers chop down around 14 billion trees annually to create enough paper bags to cover everyone’s usage. It takes four times as much energy to make a paper bag as a plastic one. The latter is a byproduct of oil refinement, so this reason could be why. As more states and jurisdictions ban plastic bags, they must look at the impacts of paper versions as well.
In addition to the high cost of gathering materials for paper, their production releases 50% more water pollutants and 70% more air pollution than plastic. Likely, it’s because they take so much electricity to produce. Paper has a long process until it becomes a final product, which means it uses more power. They do have the benefit of biodegradability, but adding more trash to landfills is not the solution.[each Casart Sea Life reusable wallcovering design gives funds to 4Oceans’s efforts for plastic cleanup in the world’s oceans.]
How Reusable Products and Better Practices Can Make a Difference
Reducing the amount of trash you create is a fantastic way to help the environment and helps change the throwaway mindset. Here are a few ways to switch to reusable products or less-wasteful practices and why doing so is crucial.
1. Food Prep
People throw away about 1.3 billion tons of food annually, with 35% coming from grocery stores and households. Most of these items are still completely fine to eat. However, many people don’t want to cook after a long day’s work and prefer to toss these items instead of using them up.
Making dinner every day can feel like a challenge. To minimize your food waste, consider starting to meal prep. This lets you have ready-made meals throughout the week and ensures what you buy has a use before it goes bad.
2. Reusable Bags
As you can assume, using more reusable bags reduces the amount of litter or pollution you could produce. They’re also often made from sustainable products, meaning you can worry less about their carbon footprint. Some reports say you would need to use one of these bags hundreds of times to offset plastic, but any reduction is helpful.
Consider keeping them in the back of your car or the passenger seat so you don’t forget them when shopping. Many stores are now charging customers for using paper or plastic, so a reusable bag could help you save a bit of cash when you go shopping.
3. Metal Water Bottles
Like bags, single-use water bottles are a large environmental problem. Many still contain Bisphenol A — you might know it better as BPA — which can harm human health. They can be recycled, but plastic will degrade eventually. However, metal water bottles are more durable and have better recycling opportunities. While they still have an environmental cost to create, it is much less than plastic disposable or reusable bottles.
It also costs more to keep buying single-use water bottles than reusable ones. However, this instance is where people might initially have difficulty paying for a metal bottle over a plastic one. However, over time, a single-use bottle will cost more than one you can refill repeatedly. You could also use the metal one for various other drinks, which gives it a much higher practical value.
4. Reusable Wallcoverings
Wallpaper has made many strides to become more eco-friendly in recent years, but a problem lies in people throwing them away. Instead of tossing a removable wallpaper as other companies suggest, Casart has products you can repurpose many times. The wallcoverings can also go on stair risers, closets, cabinets or anything you can imagine decorating in your house. Instead of buying decor for single use, finding some with multiple purposes is much more beneficial.
Casart is dedicated to creating an eco-friendly product. In addition to being reusable in many areas of the home, the wallcoverings are made of vinyl instead of paper. Salt, natural gas and chlorine make up this material, which are all natural elements. Vinyl is greener than paper because it does not require precious trees to create while still being recyclable in many areas. It’s also much more sturdy, giving Casart’s wallcoverings the unique quality of durability combined with reusability — making them incredibly sustainable and no need to throwaway.
Most of Casart’s competitors’ wallpaper products are single-use. Sustainability makes Casart Coverings unique, but it’s also a matter of retraining one’s mindset about waste. This is sometimes hard when it is so easy and convenient to simply toss and throwaway. However, it’s just as easy to reuse Casart wallcovering by re-rolling it onto itself with the backing sheet, storing and reusing.
Designing with luxury means investing in beautiful, long-lasting decor — and Casart has you covered. [as with Nature Noticed versatile, vertical removable wallpaper panels, seen below.
Toss Out Throwaway Culture and Switch to Reusables
The world’s extensive use of throwaway products needs a serious overhaul. Single-use items might be easier, but they have devastating effects on the planet. Consider using more reusable items to help the land and ocean.
[Click on these previous educational posts that discuss the practical benefits or reusability]
Additional posts & resources:
“…And the energy required for manufacturing vinyl wallcoverings is only half as much as the amount needed to produce the same amount of paper wallcoverings…”
Many thanks to Rose for this article with lots of helpful ways to enjoy nature and bird-watching, and even from the comfort of inside our homes.
About the author:
Rose Morrison is a home improvement and design writer.