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It’s no secret that plastic is bad for the environment. Many single-use plastic products take between 20-500 years to fully break down. Plastic is made from oil, a nonrenewable resource and fossil fuel. Switching from oil-based plastic to eco-friendly plastic alternatives would move our whole planet in a much more balanced direction andit’s simpler than we think to stop plastic from destroying the planet

Although many of us alive today have always had plastic in our lives, we didn’t have widespread use of plastic until the 1960s. Humanity survived all that time without it: the Zhou dynasty, the Inca Empire, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, world wars… widespread single-use plastics just weren’t a thing, and the world kept on turning. People were still able to eat and drink, transport their leftovers, and survive. 

Of course, plastics are convenient. They are cheap. But at what cost? Single-use plastic waste adds up to about 150 million tons every year. Plastic pollution kills over one million seabirds every year. Human bodies ingest an estimated 40 pounds of plastic in their lifetime.  Some microplastics make their way into human tissue, and we don’t know the long-term consequence of that for our species. For our health and the health of the planet, it’s time to be aware of plastic-free alternatives for items needed for everyday use and special events.

1. Disposable Plastic Plates

It’s very convenient to have disposable plates for weddings, birthday parties, office parties, or any large group event. Or even if you’re just eating at home by yourself and don’t feel like doing the dishes again.  But if you’re going to use a single-use disposable plate or bowl it needs to be compostable plates and biodegradable plates. Plastic plates are so damaging to the environment and use so many resources both in the creation and the elimination of the waste. 

Disposable Plastic Plates

 

Plastic plates can often be flimsy, cheap looking, and can break easily in addition to being terrible for Earth. We've got an alternative that is so much better.

Eco Alternative Palm leaf plates

There are no disposable plates more sustainable than palm leaf plates. They are made entirely from a naturally fallen leaf using only water to clean and a heat press to form it.  Because they are made from a leaf they 100% vegan, compostable, and biodegradable. The palm leaves fall to the ground, are cleaned, dried, and molded into plates - no chemicals or dyes needed, and no deforestation involved. The plates are sturdy and durable, able to hold a large sandwich or a hearty helping of potato salad. They can withstand the microwave or the use of a big steak knife. Since each plate is made from a different palm leaf, they are all unique in texture and design.  These have become incredibly popular in recent years for wedding and other large events because people are becoming more conscious of the environment and palm leaf plates look elegant while protecting the planet.

2. Plastic Water Bottles

The sad truth about the plastic water bottles we see in every grocery store is that they take about 450 years to decompose and are an environmental disaster. In that time, thy will end as pollution in our lakes, streams, and oceans. It’s not just the water bottles themselves that cause harm to the environment: the caps are ingested by sea birds, leading them to believe they are falsely full, and starving them to death.

Plastic Water Bottles

 

The rings around the caps get stuck on animals’ feet and shells. Turtle shells, for example, are forced to grow around plastic rings, leading them to be permanently misshapen. 

Eco Alternative : Reusable Water Bottles

Stainless steel is a more sustainable material for reusable water bottles. With proper cleaning, stainless steel bottles will last many years. They can be recycled in a scrap metal yard. There’s no need for single-use plastic water bottles when you think about it, but if you do need them, consider water packaged in aluminum cans.

3. Disposable Plastic Trays

Trays are a great way to serve charcuterie, appetizers, or desserts to guests at a party or event, breakfast to a loved one in bed, or snacks for yourself in the bath. Unfortunately, many people use disposable plastic trays to do this and this is having a toxic effect on the planet. These disposable trays create a significant amount of waste that won't biodegrade and ultimately destroy our planet.

Disposable Plastic Trays

 

The alarming fact is that 50% of all plastic produced is intended for single-use. There are so many eco friendly options available to us now that we don't need to use conventional disposable serving trays any longer. 

Eco Alternative Palm Leaf Trays

Palm leaf trays look much more elegant than plastic serveware, and they won’t break the bank either. Like palm leaf plates, the trays are 100% Biobased Certified by the USDA. Their round, rectangular, and oval shapes are perfect for everything from fruit kebabs to charcuterie boards. See our entire collection of palm leaf platters.

4. Plastic Cups (Especially Coffee Cups)

Whether at a party, or at your favorite coffee drive-through - plastic cups seem to be everywhere. The world goes through about half a trillion plastic cups each year and an estimated 16 billion coffee cups. While you will find disposable paper cups as an option for coffee cups, these are also not eco friendly as this is one of the causes of deforestation. 

Plastic Cups

 

With coffee cups, come plastic lids and plastic stirrers… the use of disposable plastic never stops unless you make a conscious effort to end its use. 

Eco Alternative : Reusable Mugs

Bring a reusable ceramic mug with you to go get coffee. If you’re dining at a coffee shop, be sure to tell the cashier “for here” so you’re given a glass for your drink, and not a plastic cup unnecessarily. And be sure to use compostable paper cups when at parties and events as an eco-friendly alternative.  

5. Disposable Plastic Bowls

2019 study found that plastics we use in our daily lives contain potentially toxic chemicals - the safety of which is still being studied. Dr. Jane Muncke,an environmental toxicologist and chief scientific officer for Food Packaging Forum, states, “we are still using known hazardous chemicals to make plastic packaging that leach into food.”

Disposable Plastic Bowls

 

But it’s absolutely essential to have a disposable bowl option, whether to make Thanksgiving cleanup easier or just to have on hand in a pinch. So what can safely hold our soups, dips, sauces, and salads?

Eco Alternative Palm Leaf Bowls

Disposable palm leaf bowls are 100% natural, compostable, and biodegradable with no chemicals or glues. Their durable yet timeless aesthetic is equally fit for upscale and casual settings. Small, medium and large square bowls have a low carbon footprint, as they are handmade from naturally fallen leaves. 

6. Plastic Shopping Bags

It’s illegal to even use these in eight states and counting: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, Oregon, and New York! Even more cities have banned single use plastic bags, or charge a fee for using them. Whales and sea turtles ingest plastic bags (either because they mistake them for fish floating in the water, or just as a result of the sheer amount of plastic pollution in the ocean). 

Plastic Shopping Bags

 

Ingesting plastic bags leads the animals to believe they are falsely full, and they end up starving to death. It’s entirely preventable.

Eco Alternative : Eco-friendly Canvas Bags 

These are widely available at most grocery or home goods stores for purchase - and usually cost between $1 and $5. They can be reused a significant number of times so you won't have to worry about replacing them. Be sure to store them in your car so you don’t forget them - there’s nothing worse than realizing you’re in the grocery store parking lot without your reusable bags. (Or if you walk to the store, keep them by the door with your house keys.) Plus, sturdy canvas bags made from organic cotton, linen, or hemp can be used for more than just groceries. 

7. Plastic Cutlery

Disposable cutlery is helpful for parties and events to lighten the cleanup afterward. And on-the-go cutlery is needed for road trips, picnics, and those days when fast food is all you have time for.

Plastic Cutlery

 

Sure, you could keep a set of traditional dinnerware utensils in your car, at the risk of forgetting about them and leaving dirty utensils in the car. Or you could use…

Eco Alternative : Sustainable Cutlery

Eating utensils made from renewable materials such knives, forks, and spoons made from birchwood: they can pierce, cut, hold, and ladle hot and cold foods without breaking or splintering. They look like high-end dinnerware - you’d never know they are disposable, compostable, and biodegradable. Guilt-free cutlery! They often come in packages with plates that look like disposable bamboo plates

8. Plastic Balloons

Balloons are so fun, but they are deadly to land and sea animals when ingested by mistake. When released into the air, on purpose or by accident, they are pretty and poetic as they float away... but eventually they will pop, and the remains will float back down to earth or into a body of water, and entangle wildlife in their ribbons.

Plastic balloons environment

 

Additionally, helium is better used in life-saving equipment like MRI scanners.  

Eco Alternative : Biodegradable crepe paper streamers

Be careful when purchasing “biodegradable” balloons. They might not actually biodegrade. So to celebrate baby showers, graduations, birthdays, and other events, consider instead biodegradable crepe paper streamers hung up with biodegradable paper tape or bamboo pushpins. Or hand make a banner using recycled paper and eco-friendly paint. 

9. Plastic Containers

To transport food and prevent food waste, food containers are necessary. But sometimes the doggie bag provided by the restaurant is single-use hard plastic or styrofoam.

Plastic Containers

 

And sometimes, the paper ones that look eco-friendly are lined with plastic, and therefore not recyclable. So what do to?

Eco Alternative : Palm Leaf Disposable Containers & Lids.

Keep a few in the car so you’ll always have some in a pinch at a restaurant. Like other Chic Leaf products, they are durable, microwavable, sustainable, biodegradable, and of course, chic. If you’ve got a large group with a bunch of containers to keep track of, you can write initials on them, too. 

10. Plastic Straws

Plastic straws are most known for posing a danger to already endangered sea turtles. On the whole, they cannot be recycled due to their chemical makeup.

Plastic Straws

 

Many cities, states, and entire countries have banned plastic straws, including New York City, Hawaii, and Taiwan.

Eco Alternative : Bamboo, Stainless Steel, and Paper Straws.

If you’re looking for an eco-friendly disposable option, compostable paper straws are the way to go. For the reusable bamboo and stainless steel straws, you’ll need to purchase a cleaner thin enough to fit through them to clean them. Rest assured that you won’t accidentally ingest microplastics. When no longer needed, stainless steel goes in the scrap metal yard and bamboo can be composted.

 

Final Thoughts

Palm Leaf Plates

You’ll notice that a lot of these single-use plastic items are containers for food and beverages. Plastic does leach into food and drinks, and we don’t yet know the health consequences. So if you have these plastic items at home and want to get rid of them, check to see if your curbside recycling accepts them. If it has a #1 or #2 on it, you should be able to put it in curbside recycling in the U.S. For other plastic items that perhaps have more life in them than single-use, consider donating them. Or repurpose them into DIY projects, like plant holders or storage containers.

Plastic comes in many forms - nylon, polyester, linoleum, vinyl, etc. - and it’s in everything from soap to underwear to baby bottles. It’s difficult to escape, but not impossible. You can always find an eco-friendly alternative. 

In the kitchen, palm plates are the best eco-friendly alternative to single-use plastic dishware even compared to bamboo plates. For everything else, there are many sustainable materials made without synthetic additives - like bamboo, palm leaves, clay, glass, stainless steel, aluminum, and recycled paper - many of which can also be recycled and reused. 

We survived as a species without plastic for the vast majority of our evolution. If we just think outside the box a little, we can find plenty of eco-friendly alternatives for single-use plastics in our daily lives.


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