It’s easy to feel daunted by the environmental challenges in the news every day. It can seem like these industrial-size issues are more than individuals can tackle. But the truth is, individuals are the key to changing the headlines from bad to good. The trick is acting in unison, which becomes a lot easier when we share information with each other ‒ like on the JYBE app platform.
I sympathize with everyone who has resolved to be better about the waste of single-use plastic, or their carbon footprint or buying organic produce ‒ and then struggled to keep up with it. I do too.
Here at JYBE Labs ‒ our affectionate name for the back-of-the-house experiment center and back-of-the-napkin calculator we use ‒ we’ve been researching people’s to-go habits to tabulate some impacts.
How can individuals reduce plastic pollution?
Pre-COVID marketing surveys showed that 60% of American adults ordered take-out or delivery once a week. That worked out to 7.24 billion food orders per year! We also know that companies like UberEats doubled their deliveries during home isolation, while other delivery apps saw sales rise in the 40-50% range. If we want to adjust for the spike during stay-at-home, we’d say it’s more like 10.9 billion to-go meals in 2020 – an average 50% increase that seems to have some staying power.
Based on that 10.9 billion total, Americans are probably throwing away about 1,021,875 tons of food containers ‒ 9 pounds per adult, most of which is single-use plastic that got used for an hour before heading to the trash where it will spend 1,000 years disintegrating.
Consider that humanity dumps 11 million tons of plastic waste into our oceans every year. U.S. meal delivery discards make up about 10% of that total. Everyone’s 9 pounds of to-go trash equals 10% of the problem!
If everyone took a few extra seconds to choose a restaurant that uses Earth-friendly packaging, we could immediately cut 10% of the plastic waste our kids will inherit in their oceans. That seems to me like an awful lot of individual power.
My suggestion is not to wait until you see your friends or neighbors doing it before you step-up. My suggestion is to be the leader you want to see tackling this problem. You can set the pace for everyone else. When they see you doing something, they are more likely to do it too.