Tips and Tricks
Cutting back on plastic may feel overwhelming, so the best way to start is one small step at a time. With a little bit of planning and effort you'll help divert pounds of plastic from our landfills every year. Here are some ideas and jumping off points to help you start reducing your plastic footprint.
10 simple plastic-reducing habits to begin today:
1. Use a refillable water bottle. You don't even need a fancy bottle to start this habit up! You can continue to reuse any plastic bottles you have from your last purchase or you can use a recycled jar or jug.
2. Skip the straw. Get in the habit of asking for no straw when you order drinks.
3. Bring your own bags. If you forget your bags, opt for a box or a paper bag if you can, if all else fails, carry your items in your arms. A bonus upgrade once you remember your shopping bags is to bring reusable produce bags to make an even greater impact.
4. Use sturdy food storage containers instead of ziplocs or plastic cling film. Bonus points for metal and glass containers, as plastic ones do eventually crack and become unusable. To keep costs down you can also use dishes you already have and switch over to reusable, washable bees wax wraps or plain ol' plates over bowls to cover food.
5. Bring your own utensils to avoid plastic cutlery. You can buy a great little to go ware set or you can even wrap up a fork, spoon and knife that you already own.
6. Bring your own travel mug to coffee shops. You can also go lidless to reduce your footprint or give yourself a moment to sit down and enjoy your beverage in a mug.
7. Avoid polystyrene and plastic takeaway containers. Keep a clean reusable food container in your vehicle or take one with you when you know you'll be dining out.
8. Buy bulk. If you have access to a grocery store with bulk bins, you can bring your own reusable cloth bags or you can bring jars to weigh and fill. You can also buy spices in bulk, using paper tea bags is a perfect way to avoid plastic bags for spices, or you can bring your glass jar to fill.
9. Buy local. Not only does buying local reduce your carbon footprint and give you access to fresher, more nutritious food, you can bring your own bags and containers. If that doesn't seem do-able, you can ask your local farmers if they accept cleaned packaging items back.
10. Avoid overly packaged food items. It may seem simple, but if it's a question of buying a bundle of pasta in a plastic bag vs in a paperboard box with a small plastic window, pick the option with less plastic. It all adds up!
10 tips to avoid plastic in the home:
1. Use natural fiber, biodegradable sponges or cloths. Most sponges are made of plastic and are changed out often, but luckily biodegradable sponges are available. You can also opt for a wooden dish scrub brush with natural bristles or a stainless steel chain mail scrubber.
2. Use "dry" soaps like bar soap or powdered detergent. Not only does this save money (you aren't paying for water) it also helps the environment because dry soaps are often packaged in paperboard. Also consider refilling soap bottles from the bulk section, if you have access to one.
3. Use natural cleaning supplies like baking soda and vinegar. Vinegar is admittedly pungent but it works just as well as bleach for disinfecting! It can be bought in glass or if you are lucky, you'll have some in your local grocery's bulk section.
4. Buy toilet paper wrapped in paper instead of plastic. Or better yet- invest in a bidet attachment!
5. Use a wooden toilet bowl brush or a pumice stone. Plastic toilet scrub brushes tend to shed plastic bristles toward the end of their lives, which then get flushed directly down the drain! Pumice is also an excellent way to remove bowl stains without scratching the porcelain.
6. Compost food scraps or freeze them to use for stock. By composting you eliminate food waste in our landfills and reduce the number of plastic bags of trash you throw out every year.
7. Consolidate trash cans. Save plastic trash bags by consolidating all the trash in your home into one bag. Bonus points if that bag is reused or reusable, like a large pet feed bag.
8. Skip plastic lighters. Opt for matches or refillable metal lighters instead.
9. Invest in refillable pens. When buying pens, check out the section of the office store where they have pen cartridges. They may also be plastic but it reduces the amount of plastic that is thrown out when the pen is empty. Bonus points if you can get a pen with a metal "body" that can be refilled.
10. Avoid new plastic toys. If it's not possible to get wooden or cloth toys, buy plastic toys second hand or organize toy swaps in your neighborhood. "Buy nothing" facebook groups can also be helpful to exchange or donate unwanted toys.
10 personal care tips to avoid plastic:
1. If you shave, consider switching to a non disposable razor. Try using a razor with replaceable heads, or better yet, try out a plastic free safety razor that you can buy metal replacement blades for.
2. If you menstruate, try out plastic free alternatives. If you use tampons, consider switching to cardboard applicators or go applicator free. There are some great brands making cloth pads and liners or you can try out a menstrual cup.
3. Experiment with tooth powder or tooth tabs. Tooth powder or tabs often come in paperboard or glass and will help you avoid plastic toothpaste tubes.
4. Switch over to a toothbrush with less plastic. There are many plastic alternative toothbrushes out there, some with handles made from wood or post consumer plastic. If these options don't work for you consider switching to a brush with replaceable heads.
5. Try out biodegradable floss. Most floss is plastic, but there are some great alternatives out there made from silk, cotton or bamboo. Often these will come in cardboard or glass.
6. Consider using shampoo bars. Shampoo bars are a great way to avoid plastic soap bottles. You can also refill soap bottles you already have in the bulk section.
7. If you have a baby, try out cloth diapers. Cloth diapers mean more laundry and more of an investment upfront, but they will save thousands of plastic diapers from the landfill. Facebook "buy nothing" groups are a great way to get second hand cloth diapers to help reduce the cost. If cloth doesn't work for you, consider using biodegradable diapers.
8. Explore new plastic free makeup brands. There are quite a few beauty brands out there that are switching to more sustainable products and packaging. Check out this link for some brands or consider doing some research and making your own products.
9. Avoid products with microbeads. Unless the product specifies that the microbeads are made from natural materials, they are likely plastic. These tiny beads easily enter waterways and become micropollutants.
10. When buying clothes opt for natural fibers. Synthetic garments shed fibers as you wash them. These tiny fibers travel right into our waterways, becoming a pollutant that is impossible to clean up. If you do need to wear synthetic, consider buying second hand to avoid the creation of new synthetic garments. If you already own synthetics, try washing them in a guppy bag to prevent wayward fibers from entering our waterways.
Have more ideas/thoughts/questions? Send them my way!