Eight million metric tons of trash in one year is a serious problem.  

That’s the amount of plastic trash entering the oceans in 2010, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — trash that clogs the waters and hurts the animals and birds living there. 

It might surprise you to learn you have the power to help end water pollution by making a few simple changes in the way you live. It’s a serious issue, with millions of tons of non-biodegradable trash littering the waters at sea, inland, and overflowing landfills across the nation. Major pollutants include disposable water bottles, plastic bags, and disposable food containers. 

You can start fixing the problem today by making some simple changes at home. Here are five easy, low-cost things you can start doing now to live sustainably, save some money, and help protect Mother Earth. 

Some Alarming Statistics:

• The last  U.S. census reports over a hundred million households in America. All of them generate trash in one form or another.

•  According to data gathered by Simmons National Consumer Survey (NHCS), families across the nation used over 210 million disposable sandwich bags in 2019.

The trash from a hundred million families adds up quickly to fill landfills, pollute the environment and the waters. Below are some ideas for safe, reusable alternatives to disposable bags and environmentally friendly containers, convenient to use and easy to clean.  

One: Practice Green Shopping

Your first step towards saving the waters is sustainable living and reducing the plastic and food waste generated from your kitchen. After using up and properly disposing of the packaging on hand, think about what you are replacing all those tossed away containers with.

Buy more fresh foods and foods sold in glass or metal containers. Replacing prepackaged, processed foods with fresh fruits, vegetables, and natural snacks reduces harmful trash and makes your family healthier. Wash the jars and save them for storage containers. Used glass jars are ideal for safely storing a wide range of foods, including dry beans, rice, and healthy snacks. 

Two: Reduce Waste and Store Food Wisely

Leftovers often end up sitting ignored in the back of the refrigerator. Slowly spoiling inside of zip-lock bags or easily tossed plastic containers, the food gets wasted, and the container goes into the trash can. Practice portion control, and you will save food and money and reduce the plastic trash going out your door. 

Before cooking, think about portion size per person to see how many servings a dish will make.  Then you only need to adjust the amount you cook to meet your needs. The remaining meat, vegetables, or other entrées can go into a reusable freezer container for a later dish. This simple step saves lost food, saves money, and helps save the waters from plastic trash pollution. 

Three: Choose Reusable Sandwich Bags and Containers  

Lunches for working people, school children, and food packed for family outings usually means loading sandwiches and snacks into zip-lock bags or plastic storage containers. Toss in some juice boxes and bottled water, and you’re packed and ready. Wrong. There is a better way.

Try washable, zipper-closing food storage bags for the lunch box or picnic basket. These handy silicone or cloth reusable bags are freezer safe, machine washable, and microwave safe. They work great for keeping sandwiches, fruit, or other foods safe until it’s time to eat. Affordably priced and long-lasting bags are available in a range of different sizes to meet any storage need. Look for them in your favorite big box store, online, or on Amazon.

Glass or stainless steel containers with resealable lids are ideal for storing food in the fridge, pantry, or your dinosaur lunch box. Available in a range of sizes, these are dishwasher safe and last a long time. The pyrex heavy-duty containers are break-resistant, free of dangerous chemical additives often used in plastics, and affordably priced. Sometimes buying sets of glass or metal containers gets them at a lower price per piece. Now, many retail big box stores and online sellers are adding a greater selection of affordably priced, reusable storage options, and other options for more sustainable life at home. 

Four: Choose Sustainable Alternatives for Clean Water

Here’s a sobering number for you. Sixty Million… That is the number of plastic water bottles the Container Recycling Institute reports Americans throw away every day. Many end up in landfills, streams, and oceans. American families spend around $10 billion per year on bottled water. 

Here are two inexpensive alternatives you can try, so your family can ditch bottled water for good. Filter pitchers and water filtration systems produce clean drinking water using tap water. Once the water is pure, there are many affordable individual beverage containers, both online and in your favorite retail outlet. 

Water Filter systems

There are several options for filtering your tap water and your family’s needs, and the quality of your water will influence your choice. The Centers for Disease Control provide a free, downloadable pdf guide to choosing water filtration devices. You can find a link to it on the CDC website page, entitled Choosing Home Water Filters & Other Water Treatment Systems.  

Before buying, learn what kind of water you have. Get your tap water tested, especially if you use well water. 

Easy to use, at-home test kits are available at your local DIY big box or hardware store for as little as $10. Testing reveals the level of contaminants in your water and empowers you to buy only the filtration devices you need.  

For municipal tap water, look at your water company’s water Consumer Confidence Report. You can request your copy directly from your local water provider or download it from the Environmental Protection Agency website. 

Types of Water Filter Systems:

Water filter pitchers remove chlorine and some contaminants from tap water. For better protection, choose a pitcher with National Science Foundation certified filters designed to remove all contaminants, including lead and other metals, from the water. The best of these pitcher systems won’t break your budget, with many coming in under $50. However, filter pitchers may be slow to fill and take up space on the counter.  

Under-sink water filters are another affordably priced option to consider. These multi-stage filter systems are simple to install under the kitchen sink, filter water for immediate use as it leaves the tap, and are easy to maintain. Effective under-sink filter systems cost anywhere from $100 to $150.  

Reverse osmosis filtration is the most effective for problem water, but this is also the most expensive and may require professional installation. They can cost from $250 to over $500. As a plus, reverse osmosis filtration systems clean all your home’s water and can remove fluoride from tap water.  

You can learn more about water filtration by visiting the EPA website, Ground Water & Drinking Water, to download their free pdf presentation, Water Health Series Filtration Facts.  

Five: Use Individual Drinking Bottles 

Portable drinking containers eliminate the need for disposable bottles. Look for yours online or in your local big-box retail outlet. Available in a range of styles, colors, and price points, finding the best value for your money can be a task. Verified customer reviews are a good resource to help narrow down your selections.

For fun and educational purposes, try tracking how much money sustainable shopping choices saves your family over the course of a year. It might surprise you to see how much you saved.

Sustainable living offers many rewards. Taking these steps to reduce plastic waste helps address the pollution problem and helps your family live a healthier, more prosperous life. Not buying disposable bags and containers saves money. Eliminating food waste saves both food and money. There is a bit of work and expense to make the change, but the rewards are real and long-lasting.