50 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life ! Give it a TRY
Do you think it’s possible to live life without plastic?
Wondering how to do it or at least get started?
You’ve come to the right place.
- Carry reusable shopping bags.
Carry whatever works for you. Some people like reusable canvas totes. Others prefer to put their purchases into a backpack or messenger bag. If you have a car, keep your grocery bags in it and remember to bring them into the store with you! And one more thing: reusable bags are not just for groceries! Carry them for all your purchases, from electronics to clothing.
- Give up bottled water.
Not only does it come in a plastic bottle, but tremendous resources are used to extract, bottle, and ship it. And many brands of bottled water are simply filtered tap water. Get a reusable bottle from The SeaCleaners or a stainless steel travel mug, fill it up with tap water before leaving the house, and refill it wherever you happen to be. We don’t recommend reusable plastic or aluminum bottles. Plastic may leach chemicals into the water and aluminum bottles are lined with an epoxy resin, some of which has also found to leach into water depending on the brand.
- Carry your own containers for take-out food and leftovers.
Request takeout places use your container instead of their disposable one. The 3-in-1 eco-lunch-boxes can be purchased here.
- Carry a stainless steel travel mug or water bottle at all times for coffee and other drinks while out in the world.
Besides the plastic lid and plastic straw, paper cups are lined with a plastic coating.
- Carry reusable utensils and glass drinking straws.
A To-Go-Ware bamboo utensil set is good and a couple of GlassDharma drinking straws too.
- Cut out sodas, juices, and other plastic-bottled beverages.
A good alternative Soda Stream Penguin soda maker. The soda maker itself is plastic, but the carafes are glass, and the soda maker replaces hundreds of disposable bottles. What’s more, the reusable CO2 cartridges are returned to the manufacturer for refilling. Juices can be made by just buying a juice squeezer and it’s done. This is the healthiest version of all as well.
- Let go of frozen convenience foods.
This is a hard one. They all use plastic. Even frozen food trays that seem to be made of cardboard are lined with plastic. The more we limit our consumption of frozen convenience foods, the less plastic waste we’ll generate and the healthier we’ll be!
- Say no to plastic produce bags.
They are generally unnecessary. What are we worried about? That our apples won’t get along with our broccoli during the trip home? Or is it that the produce will get dirty? Hey, it grew in the dirt, and we’re going to wash it anyway, right? At the grocery store, put most produce directly into your cart and then into your reusable bag.
- Shop your local farmers market.
Farmers markets are a great way to buy fresh, local produce without plastic, as long as you remember to bring your own bags. Normally, the fruits and vegetables at farmers markets don’t even have those little plastic stickers on them. And for small fruits like berries and cherry tomatoes, use your own container or bag and hand the vendor’s plastic container back to reuse. Read more about farmers markets going plastic-free.
- Return containers for berries, cherry tomatoes, and other small fruits and vegetables to the farmers market to be reused.
Buy them at the farmer’s market in the green plastic basket and then return it to the farmer each week for a refill, so you never have to take new ones. Don’t have a farmers market nearby? Ask your local grocer to take them back. Or empty your berries into your own container before leaving the store and leave the plastic basket behind. If enough of us do this, perhaps merchants will take note.
- Buy fresh bread that comes in either paper bags or no bags.
At the farmers market or natural food stores, you can buy bread that comes in only paper. At the bakery down the street, you can have your bread placed in your own cloth bag and avoid all packaging. Bread keeps fresh when stored in the cloth bag inside an airtight tin. Often, thrift stores have more of these tins than they know what to do with. Fresh bread is a bit more expensive than its plastic-packaged cousins, but it’s worth it. And since you buy so few new things, you can afford to spend more for quality, plastic-free food.
- Choose milk in returnable glass bottles.
Many areas have local dairies that provide milk in returnable glass bottles rather than plastic or plastic-coated cardboard (yes, all cardboard milk containers are coated inside and out with plastic, not wax.)
- Buy large wheels of unwrapped cheese.
They can be hard to find, but when you do come across plastic-free cheese, buy the whole thing :-). Going in on it with friends can make it more affordable. Or just ask to wrap it up in eco-friendly paper, but no plastic. It’s all bout the little things.
- Choose wine bottled in glass with natural cork stoppers.
This is kind of a trial and error project since you can’t see the stopper until you open the bottle. There’s a mobile website called Corkwatch you can use to see what kind of stopper–plastic or natural cork–is in a particular wine bottle before you purchase it.
- Choose plastic-free chewing gum.
Did you know almost all chewing gum is made of plastic? That’s right. When you’re chewing gum, you’re chewing on plastic. But plastic-free chewing gum options do exist.
- Clean with vinegar and water.
Use a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water as an all-purpose spray cleaner (storing it in a reused spray bottle) and produce wash.
- Use powdered dishwasher detergent in a cardboard box or simply soap + brush.
- Use natural cleaning cloths and scrubbers instead of plastic scrubbers and synthetic sponges.
Compressed natural cellulose sponges are often sold without any plastic packaging because they don’t need to be kept moist; they expand when wet.
Natural fiber brushes are great for cleaning water bottles and scrubbing dirty dishes.
Skoy cloths are made from cotton and cellulose, work like a cloth, absorb like a sponge, and can take the place of 15 rolls of paper towels.
And of course, good old rags made from old clothing and towels are free and probably the greenest option of all.
- Wash clothes with homemade laundry soap and stain removers.
Look for soap nuts in plastic-free packaging.
Borax and Washing Soda come in cardboard boxes.
- If you already own a Swiffer mop, try switching to a reusable pad.
If you don’t know what a Swiffer is, don’t worry about it. It’s plastic and you don’t need one. But if you already own a Swiffer mop, check out the reusable Swiffer cloths.
- Check labels of personal care products!
Did you know some facial scrubs and other personal care products contain tiny plastic beads? Avoid anything with “polyethylene” listed as an ingredient.
- Switch to bar soap instead of liquid soap.
People sometimes worry that sharing a bar of soap is less sanitary than sharing a bottle of liquid soap. But think about it: the bar soap gets rinsed off every time you use it. The plastic pump? Not so much. Where do you think the most germs are accumulating?
- Choose lotions and lip balms in plastic-free containers.
Organic Essence packages its body lotions in compostable cardboard jars and its lip balms in ingenious cardboard tubes that squeeze from the end. There are also lotion bars and lip balms and glosses that come in glass or metal containers.
- Choose toilet paper that’s not wrapped in plastic.
- Look into plastic-free sunscreen options.
- Keep your own reusable foodware at the office.
- Try natural beeswax coated cloth wraps instead of plastic cling film.
- Choose a glass blender.
- Spin salad without plastic.
- Learn to preserve foods without plastic.
- Choose stainless steel ice cube trays and Popsicle molds.
- Don’t buy water filter cartridges unless necessary.
- Repair things when they break.
- Avoid disposable plastic pens.
Use pencils as much as possible and for times when a pen is necessary.
- Compost food waste to avoid plastic garbage bags (and keep organics out of the landfill.)
- Choose pet toys and furniture made from natural materials instead of plastic.
- Avoid feeding pets from plastic bowls.
Did you know plastic food/water bowls cause pet acne?
- Buy secondhand pet supplies instead of new.
- When traveling, bring your own water bottle, even on the plane!
Many people don’t know it’s actually fine to bring your own water on a plane. You just can’t bring water through airport security. So what do you do? Bring an empty water bottle (reusable) through security and fill it up at the drinking fountain on the other side. It’s really okay.
- Bring your own snacks on the plane, too.
Avoid plastic-packaged food. Bring your own sandwiches or containers of fruit, cut veggies, trail mix, or other snacks. But avoid liquid or semi-solid foods when flying.
- Bring your own utensils on the road and in the air.
Why should traveling be any different than staying at home? If you’re remembering to bring your own utensils while at home, don’t forget them when you go away.
- Bring your own travel mug.
- Don’t forget your headphones.
When flying, bring your own headphones. Most planes will offer you new headphones in plastic packaging, but you won’t need those if you come prepared with your own.
- Avoid buying new plastic clothing.
So much new clothing these days is made from synthetic materials with names like: polyester, acrylic, lycra, spandex, nylon. In other words, plastic fabric. And all synthetic fabrics create microfiber pollution when laundered. When buying new clothes, look for organic cotton, hemp, ethically-raised wool, and other natural fibers. Avoid conventional cotton because of pesticides used to grow it. Sometimes the best place to find these materials is online.
- Re-think your Christmas tree.
Most artificial trees are made from toxic PVC. Opt for a real, sustainably-grown and harvested tree, a live tree that can be planted, or an artificial tree made from natural materials. There are “trees” made from recycled cardboard, wood, or even recycled glass bottles.
- Look for second-hand electronics, games, and toys first.
There are so many useful products already in existence that have been gently used and need a good home.
- Take care of what you already have.
Often we can avoid buying new stuff by keeping the stuff we do have in good condition.
- Avoid buying new CDs and DVDs.
They are made of polycarbonate plastic, after all. Instead, download and stream music and movies and borrow DVDs from the library.
- Buy plastic free shoes.
- Offer plastic free presents.
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