Protecting our Planet and Eliminating Plastic Waste: JAKWellness12 Week 13

We are into the fourth month of JAKWellness12 challenges and this month’s theme is Earth. What does the Earth have to do with wellness? The better question is, what doesn’t it have to do with wellness. Spending the majority of my childhood outside exploring gave me a deep sense of appreciation for nature and our planet. The reality is, the planet needs our help in a drastic way. When I first read this article in New York magazine last summer I was pretty distraught. Chances are you’ve probably heard about it, but if you haven’t read the article I encourage you to do so. Climate change is so much more than sea levels rising, and there is no doubt, we are contributing to the problem. No need to feel hopeless though, because there are so many things we can do and changes we can make in our daily lives to protect the future of our planet. So am I a hypocrite? Trust me, as I said in my Earth Day newsletter, the fact that I make a living off of consumerism is not lost on me. I am striving to be a more thoughtful and conscious consumer, to focus on quality over quantity and reducing my impact in a variety of ways, which leads me to this week’s challenge. I am hoping that these challenges will not only inspire you to create changes for a week, but maybe also some habits that stick around for good. Don’t forget to comment every Monday that there’s a new challenge and you’ll be automatically entered to win my monthly and year-end giveaway. 

Maybe you saw this news about the whale that died in Southern Thailand found with 17 lbs of plastic waste in it’s stomach. Our use of plastic, particularly single use plastics is not only staggering it is choking wildlife and our planet. Believe it or not, over 90% of plastic containers are not recycled, and most plastics do not biodegrade, which means it can last for hundreds and even thousands of years. Many cities, towns and countries are taking matters into their own hands and banning single use plastics like straws, bags, and cutlery, but this alone is not nearly enough. My challenge for all of us this week is to eliminate as many single use plastics as possible. Here are some suggestions (and facts) to help you get started:

Jess Ann Kirby tries to minimize single use plastic use with glass or paper straws instead of plastic ones

-Bring your own bags. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen me joke about how I feel like I’m saving the planet when I remember my re-usable bags at the grocery store. It took me a while to consistently remember, but once I made it a habit, it was just a part of my normal routine. You’ve probably seen by now the prediction that by 2050 there will be more plastic waste in the ocean than fish, that is TERRIFYING. In Newport, plastic bags have been banned, but only to be replaced with paper. Think that’s a good option? Think again. Paper bags produce double the atmospheric waste as plastic bags, so they are not really a better option for the environment. I love baggu bags and keep a few stashed in the car and at the house. Lots of stores now use tote bags instead of shopping bags when you make a purchase so I always save those to use for grocery shopping. Wash your bags regularly because they collect bacteria over time.

-No more plastic straws. In the US alone, 500 million straws are used every day. What’s worse, most plastic straws are not and can not be recycled, and it can take up to 200 years for them to decompose. So next time you get your coffee or drink, skip the straw. I have these glass straws we use at home.

-Bring your own coffee cup or make it at home. I used to buy a coffee pretty much everyday when I worked in the city, sometimes twice in one day, it was part of my routine (and a desperate attempt to get out of the office even for 5 minutes). But coffee cups are incredibly wasteful. I’m not just talking about plastic here but also paper cups (and styrofoam which is hands down the worst offender). Some fun facts: 6.5 million trees are cut down every year to make paper cups and it takes 4 billion gallons of water to make them. Bring your own mug to your coffee shop (many also offer discounts when you do this). You can also save yourself some money and make it at home, this iced coffee recipe is still a favorite.

-Skip the plastic water bottle. Americans purchase 50 billion plastic water bottles a year, the majority of which are not recycled. Skip the plastic and use something like a S’well bottle or glass BKR.


Have other suggestions and ideas for eliminating single use plastics? Let me know in the comments. Looking forward to hearing how everyone does with this week’s challenge next Monday!

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Malissa wrote:

    Yes…this topic needs so much attention right now! Also, plastic is super bad for our bodies! Micro plastics are being found in all types of food right now, especially fish. When we consume them, our body cannot process so they basically accumulate inside of us. People need to start educating themselves. The convenient choice is rarely the best choice when it comes to plastic.

    6.4.18 | Reply
  2. Shelby wrote:

    I am committed to no plastic straws for the month of June! I love straws so much so it will be hard but i have a plan. I’ve always used silicone and dishwasher safe straws at home but now i keep them in my purse, car and office. I also got some paper straws that I’m keeping stashed everywhere for if all my silicone ones are dirty. Still figuring out the best way to transport them without them getting gross but I’m trying!

    6.4.18 | Reply
    • Stephanie Miller wrote:

      You might like Final Straw for taking with you on the go! It’s a collapsible, stainless steel, reusable straw you can carry on your key chain.

      Here is their website and a video of
      how the straw works. You can also order here if you are interested!

      6.5.18 | Reply
  3. My husband and I drink bottled water. I hate all the plastic, but I can not stand the water out of the tap. Does anyone know a good water fiter or something. I hate using all that plastic.

    6.4.18 | Reply
    • Brianna Rooney wrote:

      You can get a PUR water filter that goes right onto your sink and there’s a little flap you switch whether you’re washing dishes or want it to become filtered water. Takes up a lot less space than a Brita.

      6.4.18 | Reply
    • Maddie Hall wrote:

      They also make reusable bottles with filters in them that would be a great option! I think cutting out plastic bottles is a great excuse to buy a fun new reusable one!

      6.4.18 | Reply
  4. Molly wrote:

    I like using mesh produce bags when buying fruits and veggies, using bee’s wrap in leau of plastic wrap and using stainless steel drinking straws.

    6.4.18 | Reply
  5. Brianna Rooney wrote:

    Love how conscious you’re being, I have really been trying as well! I got reusable ziplock bags (come in the cutest prints) so now my lunch box is filled with those and tupperwear and when I have a zero waste day of lunch/ snacks, I really feel so proud.

    I also got wool balls instead of dryer sheets. They’re really hard on the environment as well. Let’s all keep holding each other accountable!

    6.4.18 | Reply
  6. Virginia Wilson wrote:

    Thanks for this post about such an important topic! I have begun to implement the things you listed and am starting to buy glass when I need something, like food storage, etc.

    I read that every single straw that anyone used, who is currently living, is still on our planet..that is so crazy to think about…it makes sense though, since, as you stated, it takes at least 200 years for one to decompose.

    We all have to do better! ?

    6.4.18 | Reply
  7. Molly wrote:

    I like using mesh produce bags when shopping for fruits and veggies, using bees wrap in leau of plastic wrap and using stainless steel straws.

    6.4.18 | Reply
  8. Maria wrote:

    I’m so glad you wrote about this! Grocery bags! I always keep 3-5 reusable bags in my car. I have also started using my owns bags for produce instead of the tiny plastic bags they have all over the produce section. They’re kind of like delicates bags for the laundry but they’re for grocery shopping haha.

    6.4.18 | Reply
    • Brianna Rooney wrote:

      I don’t even use bags for produce anymore and cashiers don’t seem to care, especially at whole foods! I do know there’s bags specific but figure why bother as long as they stay safe.

      6.4.18 | Reply
  9. Amanda G wrote:

    This post came at a very appropriate time for me! I just spent the weekend with my sister and she always helps me be more aware of the unnecessary waste I am creating.

    My sister has started a community organization in Jacksonville Beach, FL ( ) with the focus of cleaning the beaches, especially after events and holidays. But she always talks about how much more people can do to prevent all the waste.

    This month’s challenges will definitely help me be more conscious and hopefully create a routine, I look forward to them!

    6.4.18 | Reply
  10. Melissa wrote:

    If you haven’t already, check out I heard her on the Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette podcast a couple years ago, and it really opened my eyes. Highly recommend checking it out!

    6.4.18 | Reply
  11. Renee wrote:

    Two years ago I got really serious about my waste- we began composting, If I forget my reusable bags my rule is I have to buy new ones during that trip…. so now it’s automatic! I also feel strongly about straws but love using them, so I keep a reusable straw (mine are stainless steel) in a Muslim bag in my purse. I just wash and replace when I get home from coffee or restaurants. Also, my hometown (a small island in Florida) recently banned plastic straws on the entire island. I was so proud! Here’s a link about the ban 🙂

    I realized I made a lot of excuses when most of these changes don’t effect my life at all, they just require me to be thoughtful (putting the compost in the right bin, bringing the bags, etc). Thanks for a great post.

    6.4.18 | Reply
  12. Renee wrote:

    Two years ago I got really serious about my waste- we began composting, If I forget my reusable bags my rule is I have to buy new ones during that trip…. so now it’s automatic! I also feel strongly about straws but love using them, so I keep a reusable straw (mine are stainless steel) in a Muslim bag in my purse. I just wash and replace when I get home from coffee or restaurants. I also bring a reusable water bottle wherever I go. I kept track and only bought 4 single use plastic water bottles last year. Also, my hometown (a small island in Florida) recently banned plastic straws on the entire island. I was so proud! Here’s a link about the ban 🙂

    I realized I made a lot of excuses when most of these changes don’t effect my life at all, they just require me to be thoughtful (putting the compost in the right bin, keeping a water bottle/straw with me, bringing the bags, etc). Thanks for a great post.

    6.4.18 | Reply
  13. Maddie Hall wrote:

    I made my Earth day resolution this year to actively start refusing straws at restaurants and shops and carry a reusable bamboo one in my purse!! I really want to start bringing my own mug whenever I stop into a coffee shop, so that and remembering my reusable bags is definitely high on the list for me! Thanks for the tip about washing reusable bags! I hadn’t even thought about that!

    6.4.18 | Reply
  14. Heather wrote:

    Thank you for bringing awareness to this subject. I don’t think many people think about plastic straws and bags and what it is doing to the environment.

    6.4.18 | Reply
  15. Jessica Camerata wrote:

    I can’t even think about how much we’re destroying this earth bc it’ll ruin my entire week. I now recycle my plastic bags at Target, not sure if all stores have that option, but it’s a great alternative if you forget your reusable bag!

    xo Jessica
    My Style Vita

    6.4.18 | Reply
  16. The kick starter company, Final Straw, created a collapsible, stainless steel, reusable straw you can carry on your key chain. For those that like straws but want to eliminate their use of single use plastic straws, this is a great option!

    Here is their website and a short video of
    how the straw works!

    6.4.18 | Reply
  17. Allie wrote:

    I’ve been trying really hard to eliminate plastic from our trash and slowly but surely we’re getting better! On top of what you said, I also try to avoid single use food packaging, and instead decant larger containers into glass Tupperware.
    Thank you for the tips! xAllie

    6.4.18 | Reply
  18. adrianna wrote:

    Love this post! I’m an ocean lover and am starting to do more to help the environment after reading some horrifying things. I bought a Hydroflask reusable water bottle and coffee travel mug and use them both all day every day. I got rid of my plastic straws and am buying glass ones to use at home and at the office. Next step is to remember to take my reusable grocery bag with me every time I food shop! Baby steps but I think every bit helps, especially if everyone took the same steps.

    6.4.18 | Reply
  19. Seattle outlawed plastic bags at stores as well but I had no idea paper bags were that bad too!!! Another big offender of single use plastics is food. I wonder how we can make food packaging differently so that so much waste is not created.

    6.4.18 | Reply
  20. Kayla wrote:

    Taking care of our planet is numero uno on my list. I try my hardest to reduce plastic and paper waste as much as possible. I’ve eliminated all plastic storage containers and strictly only use glass now. I also only use my hydro flask and NEVER purchase plastic water bottles unless absolutely needed. I always have my Yeti on me as well for coffee or tea. I tend to always forget my reusable grocery bags when I go to the store so that will be my challenge this month. Most importantly I recycle just about everything and have a compost pile to eliminate waste.

    6.4.18 | Reply
  21. Sarah wrote:

    I’ve definitely started to reduce the single-use plastic I use. I only use tote bags for our grocery store trips, and I’ve been skipping the plastic straws and forks, knives, etc. I realized recently that I was still grabbing the little plastic bags in the produce section at the grocery store for small items/herbs/kale, so I’m going to pick up small cloth/mesh bags to use instead! Just taking a moment to be more conscientious about my choices.

    6.4.18 | Reply
  22. Laleh wrote:

    A few cities in Canada have officially banned plastic bag use such as Montréal, which is a start, however I just read an article on Huffington post stating:
    Canadians use between nine and 15 billion plastic bags a year, enough to circle the Earth more than 55 times, according to the Greener Footprints website. (U.S. citizens use about 100 billion a year!) which is Nuts!! It almost seems impossible, but if every person was to do just even a little bit of going green, it would make a big difference.

    6.4.18 | Reply
  23. Katie H wrote:

    Thanks for this! I saw someone else mentioned micro-plastics. I recently decided to skip my flossers (plastic floss pick). Little changes can help if we all make them…

    6.4.18 | Reply
  24. Charisse Young wrote:

    I was so sad hearing about that whale (amongst the other marine animals being hurt or killed by single use plastics). My three kids (5,7 and 8) have really been trying to do our part helping the environment and in the past couple months, we have eliminated our plastic straws and gotten the stainless steel straws, we have been doing Meatless Monday’s, we live in a California so we have already been participating by bringing our own reusable bags but just today, I forgot them and opted for paying for the paper bags instead of the plastic bags and we are going camping this weekend and have made sure to get reusable plates and bowls as well utensils. We are trying our best to do what we 5 year old says he’s doing it for the Polar Bears, my son for the turtles (both their favorite animals) and my 8 year says she’s doing it for Mother Earth. I’m hoping more people get more involved and does what they can to save this beautiful planet of ours!

    6.4.18 | Reply
  25. Sam wrote:

    This is something that I’m constantly working on. I bring my Rtic/Yeti everywhere with me since it’s perfect for hot or cold bevrages, you can also buy reusable straws from them.

    As for bags, I always bring my reusable ones to the grocery store. I don’t always leave them in my car so if I’m just going to pick up a few things at any kind of store, I always stay no bag and carry out everything in my hands or shove it into my purse.

    I don’t use any single use plastic anymore (no zip lock bags, plastic wrap, wax paper, aluminum foil). I do still use plastic containers mainly because I have a toddler and don’t trust her with glass containers for her lunch…any suggestions?

    6.5.18 | Reply
  26. Christina wrote:

    This is such a smart topic to include in the wellness challenge! I have stainless steel straws at home and one at my office, but I do notice it’s really tough when you’re out. I overheard a girl decline a straw at a coffee shop on Saturday morning and was so impressed that it seems like people are really thinking about this stuff.

    I also have a bunch of Trader Joe’s reusable grocery bags that I love. I need to get the mesh vegetable bags for the farmer’s market though – that is next!

    6.5.18 | Reply
  27. Taylor wrote:

    I committed last month to completely do away with disposable bottles in our house and it’s been a shockingly easy switch! We got a water filter system for our faucet, and honestly haven’t looked back. We also switched to paper straws (for the rare occasion we use them).

    One of my next goals is to start donating old clothes that can’t be thrifted or donated to stores that have recycling programs. I need to do a MAJOR closet cleanout and hope to donate a lot of stuff, but some of it is just not in condition to donate or sell. I’ve heard of some fast fashion brands taking donations (H&M and Madewell come to mind) but if you know of any others I am all ears!

    6.5.18 | Reply
  28. Anissa Kneese wrote:

    Thank you Jess, love this post! Reducing the waste I produce has been at the forefront of my thoughts these last few months. I have been using my own grocery bags for years, but I recently purchased reusable cotton rounds and a reusable straw. Next on the list are reusable bags for produce!

    6.5.18 | Reply
  29. Stephanie Miller wrote:

    I’m looking into getting reusable veggie produce bags. I almost purchased the mesh bags, but worried about micro plastics when washing them. I’m looking into purchasing these reusable, biodegradable cotton ones instead. There are several other cotton options as well. If you have any other ideas/options, let me know!

    I’m also looking into these options for laundry to help catch micro plastics in the wash.

    6.5.18 | Reply
  30. Hannah wrote:

    I love that you’re focusing on this! Eliminating single use plastics is something that I’ve recently become passionate about. I stumbled upon stasher bags on Instagram as a replacement for ziploc bags and I would highly recommend them! They’re an investment, but I’ll use them for years and I believe the future of our earth is worth investing in.

    6.20.18 | Reply
  31. Robert wrote:

    Very Helpful and Informative post.

    9.12.20 | Reply

Most Popular

The Latest: