You regularly hear that change is hard. Well, it can be but it can also be easier than you think.
Over the past few years, I’ve made a simple habit change that resulted in big wins for me and the planet. That made it a simple and joyful change — a double win!
Most of us have come to acknowledge that many of our well-intentioned, learned habits are having a measurable and negative impact on our planet. As our lives have become increasingly busier, we have adopted habits that appeal to our desire for convenience and personalization, without considering the dark side of the new habit.
Take, for example, bottled water. Access to good drinking water is an important issue. The low cost and portability of PET bottled water is the reason bottled water consumption has grown from 50 billion bottles per year in 2003 to more than 480 billion bottles sold in 2016.
It’s anticipated single use plastic water bottle consumption will grow another 20% in 2021.
Okay, makes sense, right, since most of us are choosing to drink water over a carbonated, sugary beverage. Water is a much better beverage choice and single-use bottled water is easy, inexpensive, and portable. What’s the problem?
Once the spring, mineral, purified, or distilled water is consumed, where does the single-use plastic bottle go? Most of our plastic water bottles end up in our landfills and oceans. We are learning now, too, that micro-plastic from our PET water bottles are ending up in our bodies. Are we becoming walking, talking water bottles?
This leads to my joyful habit change: replaced single-use plastic bottles with reusable bottles.
My family and I love boating and lake life. We have owned a lake cabin and boat for 20 years and spend as many weekends as possible out on the lake. Like most families, we’d stop at the grocery store and pick up a 24-pack or two of bottled water to last us through the weekend. At the end of each boating day, we’d gather all of the spent and barely used plastic water bottles (those that didn’t accidentally fly overboard into the lake) and throw them away. Overtime, as we learned more about plastic pollution and its impact on climate change, we got better at separating the plastic water bottles from the rest of the trash and bagged them for recycling. We felt good about that change. But seeing the volume of our plastic trash did make us feel a bit guilty.
A couple of years ago, we purchased eight reusable and insulated water bottles that matched the colors of our boat — a nice addition.
Each weekend, instead of buying 24-48 single-use plastic bottles of water, we fill our insulated bottles with filtered water from our kitchen and enjoy them on the boat. We bring extra water in a gallon container to refill the bottles, if needed. The water tastes good and stays cold. No more wasting money on bottles of water barely consumed or trying to figure out whose water is whose. The amount of trash to remove from the boat has significantly decreased and we no longer haul a bunch of plastic trash to our city home for recycling.
I estimate that we consumed 1,000 to 1,200 PET plastic bottles of water each boating season. When you multiply that by 20 years, it totals as much as 24,000 plastic water bottles!
As a result of this simple and joyful habit change, we have reduced our contribution to plastic pollution by 3,600 single-use plastic bottles over the past three summers alone and we are only one family. Also, as a mother I have lowered my frustration level over wasted money, barely consumed water bottles, and wrangling trash pick up after a long day of boating.
Simple changes by each of us can make a big difference especially when added together with others making the same change.
If 10 more families made the switch to reusable bottles, we’d use 36,000 less single-use plastic bottles. If 100 did the same, it would total 360,000. If 1,000 families made the habit change, the reduction would total 3.6 million less plastic water bottles consumed.
What habit will you change to make a difference for you and the planet?