In my last article I spoke of a plastic pandemic that threatens the earth and all its creatures (including humans). Since plastic is ubiquitous nowadays, it would be utopian to wish for all people to stop using plastic as of now.
And yet each and every one of us can do a lot to reduce the amount of plastic. It may be challenging at the beginning, but it is surely worth it. Zero-waste expert Sarah Gould shares more than 40 simple tips on how to avoid plastic in your everyday life – the perfect starting point for those who have little experience with plastic-free swaps.
|By Sarah Gould|
My journey to living a low impact lifestyle started when I was at the grocery store picking up some produce and thinking to myself “There must be a better alternative to these plastic produce bags”. This thought led to my deep-dive into reducing my plastic use and other ways of reducing waste in my life.
I have a lot of tips on how to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives, it can be a bit overwhelming, so remember to take this one step at a time. I’ve heard it can take up to a year to transition into a low impact lifestyle. Some tips may not be feasible for everyone – just do what you can, every bit helps. If you have more tips, please let me know in the comments.
In your home
- Bar soap for shampoo, conditioner, and body. Bar body soap is pretty easy to find without plastic packaging at most health food stores. Lush sells a variety of shampoo, conditioner bars and other plastic free beauty products. If you have a bulk store with liquid soaps, you can refill your bottles there.
- Switch to a safety razor for your shaving needs.
- Use stasher bags for freezing your food, packing snacks and much more.
- Use bees or soy wax based reusable food wraps.
- Use reusable baking sheet liners instead of parchment paper or aluminum.
- If you have the spare time, make your own nut milk, here’s a video that includes hot to do that and other kitchen tips.
- Make your own cleaning products or refill bottles at your local bulk store. Zero Waste Cleaning Tips Video
- Instead of buying new books, try renting books from your local library, use an e-reader, or purchase used books.
- When you need to replace an item in your home anything from clothing to furniture, try to purchase the item second hand from a thrift store or online. You’ll save some money and will avoid the extra packaging these items can come with.
- Switch from a sponge or plastic dish brush to a bamboo brush.
- If feasible, switch to a toilet paper that is not wrapped in plastic. Who Gives a Crap is a great example. Before purchasing, make sure this works in your household. Homes running on city water is generally ok, but this toilet paper may not work for septic systems and other sensitive systems.
- There are many tutorials for making your own mouthwash, toothpaste, etc. I’d recommend checking with your doctor before making a switch like this.
- You can make your own laundry soap or use eco nuts instead of detergents in plastic packaging.
- Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones. I have a set for my keyboard, I’ve had them for a little over a year and they’re great!
- If you’re in the market for a new phone case, Pela sells compostable ones that last a long time.
- Make your own air fresheners.
- Make the switch to cloth napkins and tissues. These are available on Amazon.
- If you drink coffee and have Keurig, switch to a reusable k-cup. If you would like to invest in a coffee grinder, you can buy coffee beans in bulk and grind them yourself. Store in a jar with a tight lid to keep your coffee fresh. If that’s not a feasible option, buy ground coffee in a bag. So far, I’ve only seen coffee beans available in bulk sections, I have not seen ground coffee available in bulk.
- Use cloth towels instead of paper for everyday cleaning. You can cut up old t-shirts or towels to reuse them as cleaning cloths.
- Make your own reusable make-up pads. Video Tutorial
- Replace disposable pads or tampons with either a diva cup, reusable pads, or period underwear. Take your time to find a solution that works best for you, most will use a combination of these items.
- If feasible, shop at bulk stores or bulk sections. Bring jars and cloth bags instead of the provided plastic bags.
- If bulk stores are not an option you can buy non-perishable items in bulk like spices on Amazon, this will not eliminate packaging, but this option helps reduce your packaging consumption and will save you some money.
- Use reusable grocery bags to carry your items, reusable cloth produce bags for produce and bread (if you have a local bakery near you that will allow this), and jars if necessary. You can reuse pasta jars or find jars at a thrift store.
- Avoid pre-cut produce when possible.
- Eat less meat – it’ll help avoid the packaging and choosing more plant-based meals will help the environment in many other aspects.
- If you like beer or wine, try to find a local brewery or winery that you love and see if they offer the option to refill bottles of your favorite drinks.
Travel / On the go
- Bring a straw or drink your beverage without one.
- Bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated and refill as needed.
- Bring your own coffee thermos for hot beverages when you visit a coffee shop.
- Use e-tickets whenever possible (apple wallet for plane tickets is 1 good example)
- If you’re going out to eat, bring your own to-go container in case you have leftovers
- Try to avoid restaurants that only serve in paper, plastic and/r styrofoam packaging. Restaurants that serve compostable packaging are good, but avoiding any kind of single-use item is better.
- Avoid drinks that are in plastic bottles.
- If you’re at a conference or a fair, avoid free items that you would not use. These tend to be made of plastic.
- Use a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one.
- If you own a car, when it comes time to change your air filters, switch to a reusable option and make sure to clean them once a year.
- If you normally buy cars, keep your car as long as possible. The longer you keep a car, the less of a demand there will be for car companies to make more cars. Creating cars requires a lot of materials including plastic.
- Ride a bike or walk when feasible.
- If you’re in the market to buy a car, try to find a used one instead of buying new. Creating new cars wastes a lot of energy, it’s best to not create a demand for new cars and use what we have for as long as possible. Finding a fuel efficient one is a bonus. When I had to buy a new car I bought a gently used hybrid.
In the Office
- Bring your own cups for water and hot beverages. Personally, I use a spare mug for tea and thermos for water. This will cut down on the use of the plastic and paper cups that are provided in the office.
- Bring your own lunches, silverware, napkins, and dishcloth. I bought my silverware set and a set of cloth napkins on Amazon. The dishcloth is only necessary if you wash your utensils in the office. Another option for silverware is to bring a spare fork or spoon in with your lunch. I personally take some time on Sunday to cook my lunches for the week, that way I don’t have to worry about it during the week.
- If you go through pens on a regular basis try to purchase ones made of recycled materials. Onyx and Green is a great example.
- If you enjoy tea – bring your own loose leaf tea with a reusable steeper. If you cannot find loose leaf tea in a bulk section or store near you, you can purchase loose leaf tea online or sometimes in a box in stores. This is still a much better option than individual tea bags.
A big thank you goes out to Sarah for compiling this impressive list and for sharing her recommendations with us. If you need more inspiration and tips for going plastic-free, please check out the Greenpeace’ 9 Ways to reduce your plastic use and Plastic Ocean’s 9 Things You Can Do to Reduce Plastic Pollution.