Ways To Reduce Your Plastic Use
We are beginning to see more and more media coverage on the impact of plastics on the environment. And once you begin to look around, there seems to be plastic everywhere you look: your bathroom, your grocery store, your favorite restaurant.
It can be overwhelming to try to think of a plastic free world.
However, there are many steps you can take to start to reduce your plastic use in many areas. This is a list of 25 different ways you can reduce plastic use in your everyday life.
Glass, Ceramic, and Other Alternative Materials
- Use a reusable water bottle. In the United States alone, Americans used 50 billion plastic water bottles. The demand for plastic water bottles in the US requires about 17 million barrels of oil and enough energy to power 190,000 homes. There are numerous benefits to using a reusable water bottle, instead of purchasing a disposable one every time.
- Invest in a reusable shopping bag. There are many options out there for reusable bags, so it’s easy to find one that suits your needs. Using a reusable shopping bag made of cotton, jute, linen, or even durable plastic eliminates the need for disposable plastic bags at the grocery store, at your favorite retailer, and even when eating out.
- Use reusable a coffee cup. While many coffee cups seem to be made out of paper, they are actually lined in plastic in order to properly hold that frothy cappuccino. Start bringing your own coffee cup to your favorite coffee shop on the way to work, or request a ceramic cup if dining in, to reduce the amount of to-go coffee cups making their way to the landfill each day.
- Use mesh produce bags. Its seems like it’s nearly impossible to avoid plastic in the produce aisle. Fruits and veggies are actually coming pre-cut and pre-packaged these days! An easy way to reduce your plastic use on your next grocery trip is to buy whole fruits and vegetables and carry them in a reusable mesh produce bag.
- Line small trash bins with paper bags. Instead of small plastic bags, use paper grocery bags to line your bins if you happen to have them.
- Use matches or refillable lighters. Disposable plastic lighters are a major source of unnecessary waste that ends up in landfills, on beaches, and hardly ever recycled. Start using matches instead, or invest in a refillable lighter to avoid throwing away your next dud Bic.
At the Grocery Store
- Return plastic packages back to grocer. When it comes to berries, tomatoes, and other certain fruits and veggies, they’re almost always packaged in small plastic containers. Ask your local grocer if it’s possible to return these packages so they can be recycled or reused.
- Buy dried goods in bulk. Another way to reduce your plastic use in the grocery store is to buy dried goods in the bulk section. The bulk section is not only more eco-friendly, but also cheaper. Instead of buying rice, nuts, and cereal in plastic, bring your own reusable container to the bulk section and save some money while your at it!
- Buy eggs in cardboard containers, not Styrofoam. Eggs are now being sold in Styrofoam cartons instead of cardboard. If you have the choice between the two, always choose cardboard. Styrofoam is not biodegradable and stays in the environment for up to one million years.
- Avoid chewing gum. Chewing gum is actually made of synthetic rubber, which is a fancy word for plastic. While chewing gum used to be made from a certain tree sap, it’s now made with fillers, emulsifiers, and polyvinyl acetate, a thermoplastic. Ditch the gum for a mint or other alternatives to avoid chewing on plastic next time!
- Buy fresh, not frozen. Buying frozen foods and produce uses a lot of unnecessary plastic packaging. Even the frozen pizza boxes that seem to be made of cardboard are actually lined with plastic. By avoiding the frozen foods section and buying fresh, you are cutting out the plastic packaging used to preserve such options.
- Buy local. Always buy local when possible. Start shopping at your local farmers market, soap shop, or grocer. Not only are you directly supporting those in your community, you are more often than not avoiding unnecessary plastic packaging with their products and reducing the transportation cost of goods.
Take Out, Dining Out, and Storing Food
- Bring your own container. Going out to eat? Bring your own container with you to store possible leftovers. Over 120,000 of plastic and foam take out containers combined were found in beach cleanups last year. Prepare beforehand and bring your own next time you go out to eat.
- Avoid plastic cutlery when eating out. If you know you are heading straight home with your carry out, decline the option for plastic cutlery and use your own. Or, if you eat on the go frequently, invest in reusable cutlery to carry with you.
- Stop using plastic straws. A simple and easy way to reduce your plastic use is to say no to plastic straws when dining out. Many companies are beginning to make this transition themselves, including Starbucks and McDonalds. If you’re one to hesitate to give up that sweet satisfaction of sipping up that delicious drink, consider investing in a metal or durable plastic straw that is reusable.
- Use glass food storage containers. We all know it’s easy to get carried away with plastic Tupperware (and somehow you can never find the proper fitting lid to any of them!) So next time you are looking to purchase storage containers for your leftovers, try buying glass containers. They’re both better for your health (BPA free) and better for the environment.
Home Goods, Cleaners, and Toiletries
- Buy boxes, not bottles. Many household items, like detergent and cleaning products are offered in both plastic bottles and cardboard boxes. Choose the boxed option! Or, if you’d like to transition to more eco-friendly products overall, start making your own! Other eco-friendly options include shampoo bars and plastic-free toothpaste.
- Seek out refill stations. It is becoming more and more common to find refill stations for common household products and soaps. Try to find a refill station near you for soap, detergent, and other hygiene products and skip the next plastic bottle purchase.
- Avoid plastic clothes hangers and hampers. Another item we don’t normally think about is the plastic hanger. Try using wire hangers or even wooden hangers next time you run out. You can also find hampers made of various other materials including metal, cotton, wood, and wicker.
- Avoid clothing made of synthetic materials. While we’re on the topic of wardrobe options, try to avoid clothing made of synthetic fibers. Material such as lycra, polyester, nylon, and spandex actually contain polymers (plastic) and chemicals that eventually enter the environment and ocean when discarded. Look for clothing made of natural materials instead, such as cotton, linen, and wool.
- Stop using disposable razors. The EPA has estimated that 2 billion disposable razors are bought and used each year. Instead of disposable razors, purchase reusable razors with disposable heads, or a safety razor.
- Buy sustainable toothbrushes. Another bathroom product people usually glance over is their toothbrush. Most common use toothbrushes are made of plastic and thrown away. Try to recycle your plastic toothbrushes and purchase a more eco-friendly alternative, such as wooden or bamboo toothbrushes.
- Use cloth diapers. Instead of using disposable diapers, which contribute to 5. millions tons of waste each year, try using cloth diapers.
- Use sustainable menstrual products. Conventional pads and tampons are now commonly made with plastic and synthetic fibers, instead of the cotton they used to be made with. This is not only harmful for the environment, but also uncomfortable and toxic for the body. There are many natural options out there for women that are both eco-friendly and better for your body, including silicone menstrual cups and organic cotton pads and tampons.
- Avoid microbeads. Microbeads are actually just small (less than 1 millimeter) pieces of plastic that are added to common hygiene products. While many countries are in the process of banning them due to their easy access to lakes, rivers, and oceans, it is best to avoid those that continue to linger.
This list is a comprehensive list meant to provide a variety of options to easily eliminate unnecessary plastics from your life. There are also many books available that provide a more in-depth look at how you can create a plastic-free lifestyle. Some great options include Life Without Plastic by Chantal Plamondon and Jay Sinha, Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, and Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too by Beth Terry.
Regardless of if you find two or three of these achievable this year, all of these, or kick start your research into a plastic free life, realize that reducing your plastic use is not only achievable, but can be easy in manageable steps. Once you begin to eliminate plastics from your life, you’ll begin to see other ways to reduce your impact on the environment; slowly lifting the burden of plastic pollution one item at a time.