Change begins with initiative at the individual level. Everyday choices lead to the snowball effect in the world. Companies and politicians base their decisions off of consumer habits and public opinion. Similar sentiments are shared amongst voters. Often, people enter a scenario with the mindset that "I'm just one person, my choices won't make a difference" which only takes away the power you truly have. 

Tragedy of the Commons 

This refers to the mentality where individuals act according to their own self-interests, upon the assumption that "just the one won't hurt the environment". This behavior is directly contradicts the common good by depleting or spoiling the resource in question through collective action, or many individuals acting this way. This mindset goes with the idea of "I'm just one person" and has negative outcomes in environmental scenarios. Littering, using single-use plastics or consuming them irresponsibly is commonly misconstrued as a tiny addition to an insurmountable problem. When millions of individuals share this mindset, the impact is amplified to an unmanageable level.

Zero Waste Choices

If you are looking to reduce your personal plastic consumption, here is a great list of ways to start. Zero Waste living is a transition. If you try and remove all plastic from your diet and shopping habits cold turkey, you are likely to get fed up and quit. Some great, unconventional first switches include: 

  • Purchase a reusable coffee mug and keep it in your backpack, purse, or car. Keep it with you or near you at all times! You never know when you will need a quick pick me up, and you don't want to be caught without it. Most places offer a discount for bringing your own mug. 

  • Keep a set of reusable utensils with you as well. If you grab a takeout lunch--you could save hundreds of single-use forks, spoons, or knives just with this simple switch. 

  • Skip the produce bags at the grocery store! Bring cloth produce bags, or skip them altogether. You were going to wash that fruit or vegetables anyway. 

  • Try buying essentials in bulk. Rice, flour, sugar, nuts, granolas, etc. are easily accessible at many grocery stores in the bulk section. While these may be purchased in a plastic bag, you are saving the packaging associated with pre-packaged and pre-weighed good. This will also save you money.

  • Invest in reusable cotton rounds, a microfiber makeup remover cloth, or reusable napkins. These are available on Amazon, or you can make them yourself for cheaper with old clothing. 

  • Refuse the items you don't want/ need such as pamphlets, complimentary snacks or drinks, freebie giveaways, etc. If you were going to throw it away at home anyway--just say no! 

Power to the People

Wanting to take your commitment to the environment past your individual contributions? Send messages to companies or political leaders to act in favor of the health of the environment and therefore the health of the people. These demonstrations have proven successful repeatedly through history. From the first Earth Day leading to the Clean Water and Clean Air act, to in more recent times, the plastic straw bans happening in coastal communities around the globe. Just in the past year, several major restaurant chains no longer offer straws. You have the power to initiate global change and work toward a better future.