Earth Day is a time to reflect on how we treat the planet. This year’s theme of “Protect Our Species” gives us an opportunity to think about how we affect Earth’s other inhabitants.

Plastics have a significant impact on the fragile environment of our planet . Whether it’s crustaceans absorbing microplastics or birds ingesting plastic litter, it’s clear people can be more responsible about our use of plastics.

UL’s Catherine Sheehy, business development manager for UL Environment, explains several ways people can use plastics in a responsible manner. She suggests reducing use of single-use plastics, recycling properly, and being a conscientious consumer.

Be sustainable, not trashy

Single-use plastics that are only used for a short time, such as plastic shopping bags, straws, take-out containers and disposable water bottles, should be avoided when possible. Alternatives exist, such as reusable bags and bottles, but the important thing is remembering to use them.

“For me, I keep a reusable bag in the bag I travel with,” Sheehy said. “That’s a strategy to help me remember and not use plastic bags. Be attentive and conscious about what you’re in control of in terms of purchasing decisions.”

Know the rules

Another way to reduce waste is to recycle properly. Every municipality has its own rules regarding what can and cannot be recycled. Find guidance about your local area’s recycling rules through local government websites and look for the keyword environment.

If you can’t find this information, check Earth911.com, a resource to find recycling facilities near you. It may even help you locate a recycling center that takes typically difficult to recycle products, such as used mattresses or broken concrete.

Use your purchasing power

Being a smart consumer leads to reduced waste. Avoid purchasing items that can create plastic leakage, such as fleece acrylics. Bits and pieces get into water streams and become microplastics, which can be absorbed into living creatures. Instead of using plastic-based products, look for those made of biodegradable materials. For example, when doing home crafts, instead of buying just any glitter, which is usually made of plastic, look for a cellulose glitter to help give your art project some extra flair.

Purchasing sustainable products not only makes you a smart consumer, but it also rewards the companies that are doing the right thing and encourages them to continue doing so.

Every bit counts

Sheehy said when you’re looking at starting to lead a sustainable life to not bite off more than you can chew. Choose product categories in which you know you can reduce your use of plastics and start there.

So, this Earth Day, take the initiative and do your part to save the planet and everything that lives here.

SafeBee Top Three

1. Avoid single-use plastics.

2. Know where and what you can recycle.

3. Don’t purchase items that cause plastic leakage.