There is no denying that plastic pollution poses a serious threat to the health of our planet.
Not only is plastic believed to be found in over 90% of all birds and fish, but accumulations of plastic waste in developing countries contributes to flooding that spreads disease. The list of problems caused by plastic pollution goes on and on.
At the heart of the problem is the fact that it’s hard to avoid plastic. Plastic is everywhere, and the thought of how to possibly eliminate this ubiquitous material is daunting. However, there are many ways you can cut plastic out of your life. Some ideas might seem a little extreme, but part of saying goodbye to plastic is creating new habits that will help sustain our planet’s resources.
If you are new to plastic free-living, the following changes are the best place to start:
The most common shift people make to use less plastic is to buy reusable grocery bags, or totes. That also goes for the thin plastic produce bags that you pick up throughout the store. These can be replaced with cotton mesh alternatives that you can wash and reuse again and again.
The hard part is remembering to bring them in with you to the store. Try setting a reminder in your phone or put the bags in an obvious location that you can’t miss. If you still forget them, which will happen from time to time, ask the cashier for paper bags instead.
The production of paper bags has its own negative effects on the environment, but their biodegradability makes them less of a culprit. The best possible thing you can do is to make your own reusable bags out of scrap fabric or old t-shirts. Have a craft night and invite people over to fight the harms of single use plastic together.
Reusable Drink Containers
Buying a reusable water bottle or coffee thermos is probably the easiest resolution you can make to decrease your plastic consumption. Don’t be afraid to splurge a little on a good quality tumbler that will last you for years to come
If you are someone that must drink out of a straw, you can make a big difference by saying no to disposable ones. Reusable straws are affordable, washable, and classy. According to National Geographic: “500 million straws are used every single day and as many as 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches.”
Straws are a luxury, not a necessity.
Moving and Storage
Bubble wrap is great for wrapping and protecting your items when moving to a new home or into self-storage. Unfortunately it is hard to recycle. Instead, you could use Ready Roll from Ranpak, a protective cushioning wrap made from paper that is completely biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable.
Challenging But Effective
Now that you’ve made some simple lifestyle changes, take your environmental efforts to the next level. It’s easy to get in the habit of switching from single use items like grocery bags or water bottles to the reusable environmentally friendly versions.
But what about all of the plastic that contains your snacks, take-out food, and body care items like shampoo/conditioner? It might seem impossible to avoid, but actually, a small amount of research will lead you to some creative solutions on how to further eliminate the absurd amount of plastic material we use in our daily lives.
Bulk Snack Bags
An easy way to stop purchasing snacks encased in plastic is to buy from the bulk section of your grocery store. Of course, most grocery stores provide you with one choice of container to fill—a plastic bag. Don’t worry, there are better options, like these reusable bags by Kootsac, available in nylon ripstop and biodegradable silk.
If you have a hoard of plastic bags like most folks, you can reuse those until you purchase washable, more durable bags. Most grocery stores collect plastic bags so be sure to drop them off for recycling when you are done with them.
If you do not live near a grocery store with a bulk section, or if you like to cook, you can also make your own snacks, like these seedy oat crackers from Bon Appetit.
Plastic-Free Take Out
Perhaps one of the biggest culprits to unnecessary plastic waste is to-go food containers. Dining in instead of opting for takeout is a wise and eco-friendly choice. When you do get a hankering for your favorite take out, bring meal-sized glass containers when you order and kindly ask if they will use them to package up your order. Don’t assume that you will be a nuisance; to-go containers are not cheap for restaurants to purchase, so you are actually saving them money.
Spoil Your Teeth
If you are used to buying disposable toothbrushes, it’s time to switch! Electronic toothbrushes are a good choice since you only have to replace the head. And due to the higher quality of electric toothbrushes, you won’t have to replace it as often as a disposable toothbrush. Plus, they do a better job of cleaning your teeth. Here is a list of the 10 best electronic toothbrushes for 2020.
If you don’t like the vibration of electronic toothbrushes, try a bamboo toothbrush.
DIY Home and Body products
Pretty much all of our household items like shampoo, conditioner, detergents, or cleaners are packaged in plastic. Either make your own cleaners and body products, or find a store that has bulk soaps where you can fill up your own containers. There are countless recipes online, but with a little trial and error you can find what works for you:
- For shampoo, check out these how to videos recommended by Cosmopolitan.
- For laundry detergent, simply grate a bar of Castile soap and mix with one cup of baking soda and one cup of washing soda. Add a few drops of essential oil and there you have it. For more detailed instructions, check out this recipe by Zero Waste Nerd.
- For all purpose cleaner, you probably already have the ingredients lying around. Mix 1/2 cup distilled vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and a few drops of anti bacterial/fungal essential oil like tea tree or peppermint and you’ve just created a great all purpose cleaner that is also non toxic. Check out these other recipes provided by Good Housekeeping. Reuse an empty spray bottle, or purchase some good quality ones that you can use over and over.
- If you really don’t want to make your own products, buy products that are package free and made sustainably. Check out Zero Waste Store for package free, natural products.
- The plastic stick used to make ear swabs can’t be recycled and often end up as plastic pollution. Consider LastSwab, a reusable ear swab made of rubber that can be used 1,000 times.
It may seem like a lot of work to eliminate plastic, and frankly, it’s not a walk in the park. Once you change one habit, it becomes easier to change others. Try to keep in mind the disastrous effects plastic has on our planet. You may not be able or willing to go completely plastic free, but every little bit helps.