I’m Reducing My Single Use Plastic Consumption – Here’s How Much It Actually Costs

Sustainable LivingI’m Reducing My Single Use Plastic Consumption – Here’s How Much It Actually Costs

I’m Reducing My Single Use Plastic Consumption – Here’s How Much It Actually Costs

money saving environmentally friendly items

“Eco-friendly products are way too expensive”

“I want to be more environmentally responsible but I just can’t afford it” 

“Ok, but the regular [plastic] brand is half the price!”

These are all the things I’ve heard my friends say when justifying their plastic purchases. I’ve even caught myself saying some of these things!

Whether you’re a student, a new grad (like me!), or raising a young family, budgets can be tricky business. Sometimes our internal conflict between being an eco-friendly consumer and living within our budgets doesn’t go the way we’d hope. Or is that just the sticker shock talking?

By now, we all know the harmful effects single-use plastics have on our bodies and our planet. Between the greenhouse gas emissions from plastic production, and microplastics that live on forever to release toxins into our soil and water, the need to ban plastic is clearly a no-brainer!

The thing about plastics is that for all the harm they do to our planet, they’re not too nasty to our budget. But are you really saving as much as you think? Check out these simple, everyday changes you can make to help save the planet and your money!

  1. Water Bottles

So if you’re not already on the reusable water bottle train, it’s about time to grab your ticket. We’ve done a pretty good job of kicking plastic water bottles to the curb (in a blue bin of course), but they’re not gone yet! If you’ve yet to join the reusable water bottle movement because they’re not in your price range, let’s break it down.

A single case of 24x500mL plastic water bottles costs $4.47.

Purchasing just one of these cases each month brings you to a grand total of $53.64 a year, and this doesn’t even allow for 1 bottle each day.

…ooooorrrrrr, you could foot the bill for a one-time-cost of a reusable water bottle for just $39.99.

Total annual cost of plastic water bottles: $53.64

Total annual cost of reusable water bottle: $39.99

Total annual savings: $13.65

  1. Grocery Bags

Despite the world’s war on plastic, it’s estimated that Canadians are still using about 15 billion plastic bags each year. With a population of around 37 million, that works out to about 405 plastic bags per person each year.

I know that sounds like a lot, but that’s really only 8 bags per week. Think about it, you’re probably using 2-3 bags for weekly groceries (a bit more during the holidays). Going to the mall? At least 2 plastic bags there. Take-out for dinner? Another plastic bag. And of course you’ve run out of conditioner, deodorant, and soap all at once! Count another plastic bag for that quick trip to the drug store. It adds up pretty quickly.

Plastic bags seem pretty affordable at just $0.05/bag, but with an average of 8 bags a week, the total cost of your plastic bag consumption for the year reaches $20.80 – and that’s just per person! This cost can reach $83.20 for a family of 4.

Or you could swap that plastic for a one-time purchase of a reusable bag for just $12.99

Total annual cost of plastic grocery bags: $20.80

Total annual cost of reusable grocery bag: $12.99

Total annual savings: $7.26

  1. Sandwich Bags

It’s a snack holder, a pencil case, your necessary travel companion, and it keeps you from losing all your hair ties! Let’s be honest, these little baggies are literally an organizational dream, but they’re an environmental nightmare.

Although these bags nearly got me through University all on their own, I always felt really guilty about what kind of impact I was having on the environment. Those reusable bags were just way out of my price range.

But were they really? A pack of 30 plastic sandwich bags costs $3.18. Say you’re using 1 bag every day (think about it: packed lunches, and commuter snacks…it happens). At this rate, you’ll be well into your 13th pack by the end of the year. That’s an annual cost of $41.34!

On the other hand, a 5-pack of reusable sandwich bags will only cost you $26.99 – something my student-self wishes she learned 4 years ago!

Total annual cost of plastic sandwich bags: $41.34

Total annual cost of reusable sandwich bags: $26.99

Total annual savings: $14.35

  1. Dryer Balls

Is there really anything better than putting on a sweater fresh out of the dryer? The warm embrace of a spring-smelling hoodie…*sigh* it’s magic. Especially since dryer sheets are so cheap, right?

Wrong! Despite being made of synthetic materials that aren’t the Earth’s best friend, these dryer sheets will end up costing you in the long run.

The average Canadian family does approximately 7 loads of laundry each week. Using 1 sheet per load means almost 2 full packs of dryer sheets throughout the year, or $19.94.

The cost of a set of cute, reusable Cactus Dryer Buddies is only $10.29, and the environment will love your clean and cozy sweater just as much as you do.

Total annual cost of dryer sheets: $19.94

Total annual cost of dryer balls: $10.29

Total annual savings: $9.65

  1. Diva Cup


Sadly, they’re not. But what’s the real breakdown of how much we’re spending?

On average, people with periods use about 20 tampons per cycle (changing tampons every 6 hours for 5 days). With 12 cycles a year, that’s about 240 tampons per year. If you’re buying a standard 36-pack box of tampons, you’re buying on average 7 boxes a year. At an average cost of $8.50 per box, that works out to be an average of $59.50 spent annually on tampons.

And then there’s pads too! On average, people with periods use about 5 liners per cycle – that’s 60 every year. If you’re buying a standard pack of 36, you’re buying 2 packs each year. Now these packages are more expensive at about $10.50 per pack, meaning this expense is easily $21 per year.

With tampons and pads that’s a whole $80.50 every year!

Whereas a reusable Diva Cup will set you back only $39.99 a year. It’s not free, but it’s a start.

Total annual cost of tampons and pads: $80.50 (*cries*)

Total annual cost of a Diva Cup: $39.99

Total annual savings: $40.51

Now that we’ve covered the costs, is anyone else a little sad about how much money they’ve been spending on plastic? What are some of your plastic-free, money-saving hacks?

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