15 Simple Ways to go Plastic-Free (for your health & the health of Mother Nature!)

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simple ways to go plastic free || Plastic pollution is a growing environmental and public health threat. But the plastic-free movement is growing! Here are 20 simple ways to go plastic-free

Plastic pollution is a growing environmental threat. Just as troubling: most plastics are made with unhealthy chemicals that interfere with our hormones. So it’s no wonder the plastic-free movement is gaining momentum! Here are 15 super simple ways to go plastic-free…

It’s a plastic world and we’re all just living in it.

No, but really.

Plastic use and pollution has increased tremendously in recent years. In fact, over the last 10 years alone, we’ve produced more plastic than during the entire last century. And enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth 4 times. Yes, 4 times!

And where does most of this plastic go?

Well it’s nice to think that we all throw it in the recycling can and then the garbage (wo)man takes it off to some recycling center where it’s given a new life and transformed it into something brand spankin’ new.

But we currently only recover 5% of the plastics we produce. So most plastic ends up in landfills — where it takes hundreds of years for it to degrade — as well as the ocean — where there’s an estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile (woah), which causes the death of 1 million marine birds and 100,000 marine animals each year.

But plastic isn’t just an environmental threat. It’s a public health issue, too.

Most plastics are made with unhealthy, endocrine disrupting chemicals — in other words, chemicals that interfere with our hormones. According to The World Health Organization, these chemicals have been linked to hormone related cancers including breast cancer, infertility, neurodevelopmental delays in children, suppressed immune function, and obesity.

And even though we’re most likely not aware of it, we’re regularly ingesting them and inhaling them, since they leach into foods and drinks, and are off-gassed into the air.

So how can you start reducing your plastic use and slowly move towards plastic-free?

It’s a lot more simple than it sounds!

15 Simple Ways to go Plastic-Free

1) Quit the bottled water addiction

I’m going to give it to you straight: bottled water is really stupid. Almost 50% of it is really just tap water that’s been bottled, and those bottles leach unhealthy chemicals into the water! It’s a complete and total waste of money, not the best option for your health, and a huge source of plastic pollution.

Instead, opt for a high-quality (plastic-free) water filter and glass water bottle. My suggestions:

2) Bring your own cup to the cafe

Get yourself a nice reusable, stainless steel coffee cup. It’s as simple as that! And nowadays, most cafes will give you a small discount for doing so.

3) Invest in a set of reusable straws

In the UK and the USA alone, 550 million plastic straws are thrown away every day. That’s an INSANE amount of straws! And really very silly when you consider for how long we use them — just a few minutes or hours.

So if you’re a habitual straw-user or have kiddos, invest in some reusable straws instead!

I have and love them both! Stainless steel is a great option if you think you or your kids may drop them, but I like that I can see if the glass straws are in need of some cleaning.

4) Don’t forget your reusable grocery bags

“Paper or plastic?” Well how about neither?

Invest in a few high-quality reusable grocery bags for your trips to the market and the mall. Baggu bags have been my favorite for years — I’ve had some of mine for over a decade and they still look great!

5) … or your reusable produce bags!

Compared to reusable grocery bags, I see far fewer of these at the grocery store. Let’s change that 🙂

A set of reusable produce bags will last you years if not decades. And they’re so light, you don’t have to worry about the weight affecting produce cost.

6) Opt for compostable trash bags

Almost without fail, every time I talk about making the switch to reusable shopping bags someone asks, “But then what will I use to line my trash bags?”

The answer is simple: compostable trash bags.

7) Swap the plastic baggies for reusable silicone bags

Ah this is one of my favorite tips! I’m obsessed with Stasher bags — they’re made with non-toxic silicone AND are totally leak-proof. Oh and they look pretty sleek too. They come in snack, sandwich, and half-gallon sizes.

8) Ditch the K-Cups

According to The Atlantic:

In 2014, enough K-Cups were sold that if placed end-to-end, they would circle the globe 10.5 times. Almost all of them ended up in landfills. They are not recyclable. Using them is extremely wasteful and irresponsible; they are a stupid way to make coffee that simply cannot be sustained.

Yup, I totally second that sentiment! Plus, the hot water passing through these little plastic cups causes the chemicals to leach more readily, meaning they end up in your final cup of coffee.

Instead, brew coffee the old fashioned way in a coffee maker or French Press. If you’re especially attached to your Keurig, get yourself one of these reusable stainless steel cups which you fill with ground coffee and use in the machine just as you would a K-cup.

9) Cut packaging waste by buying in bulk with your own containers

You can buy pre-packaged nuts, seeds, granola, plantain chips, chocolate-covered anything, etc etc OR you can buy these items from the bulk section and use your own containers, totally forgoing the plastic packaging! Just be sure to weigh your jars or bags so they can deduct it from the total weight when you’re checking out.

10) Opt for bar soap over bottled body wash

Again, such a simple swap. Just be sure to choose a bar soap sold in a cardboard box or wrapped in paper rather than in a plastic wrap.

My favorite is this Out of Africa Pure Shea Butter bar soap, which leaves skin so moisturized.

11) Make the switch to bar shampoo and conditioner

Yes, this is a thing!

I’ve tried quite a few different brands and so far my favorite is Ethique:

12) Switch to powdered dishwasher detergent in a cardboard box

Another super simple swap!

I love this Ecover powdered dishwasher detergent. It works really well and no plastic packaging!

13) Choose glass and stainless steel food storage containers

Besides reducing waste, glass food storage containers also keep leftovers fresher for longer and minimize exposure to unhealthy plasticizers.

I have this glass and silicone Pyrex food storage set, which is especially awesome because the lids are air-tight and leak-proof.

For kids, consider a stainless steel lunch box.

14) … and don’t be afraid to bring them with you to restaurants!

I know I know. No one wants to be that kid with the weird lunch at school.

But guess what? No one really cares. And if they do well… they’re strangers and you’ll probably never see them again!

15) … or to the deli and butcher!

Most delis and butchers weigh your meats and cheeses in wax paper and then put them in a plastic bag. By bringing your own containers, you can forego the plastic. And this is a far less wasteful option than buying prepackaged meats and cheeses from the refrigerator section.

Let’s add to this list! How else have you cut down on your plastic use?

Do you have any tips or tricks? Please share with us in the comments below!


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  1. I agree this is a great list and a great cause. However, the plastic straw bans are a massive injustice to the original market for them: people in hospitals and with disabilities. I learned about this from Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, who has a great video about it on YouTube. All the reusable straw options out there, including the two you mentioned, are not adequate replacements for the people who actually *need* straws in order to hydrate without the risk of aspirating liquid and choking, or otherwise risking injury in this basic necessary process. Anyway… Plastic straws make up a tiny fraction of a percent of the trash in the oceans. I agree that single-use plastic is an issue, but for many many people there is an actual need for it. Almost HALF of the plastic in the garbage patches is fishing nets, which definitely do more damage to wildlife and could easily have been made with tracking devices that could help keep fishing companies accountable for their gear. If we all pushed for THAT with the same energy that has been poured toward plastic straws, we could make a real dent in plastic pollution rates. Anyway… I would love to see maybe a note at the end of these kinds of posts about who to contact and how in order to put pressure on the big corporations that are responsible for the bulk of environmental degradation and public health crises – it’s a big ask, but as you said, it’s a big issue for us all. As much as these individual consumer options are great choices to be made by those who are able, and not everyone who scrolls through a list is going to even consider writing to their representatives at the end of it, THAT would be the more holistic approach to this problem of plastic pollution. Thank you for what you do, Nadia. You inspire many of us. <3

  2. One of my biggest issues as a mom of 5 kids is all the plastic toys being marketed to children. I totally ignore the toy aisle at most stores because they are almost ALL plastic and easily broken. We buy most of our toys from thrift stores. So I guess that is one way to “recycle” plastic toys. When buying new, I try to stick to a few brands like Melissa and Doug line, the original Thomas the Train with the wooden track and cars, or the original Lincoln Logs. Beyond that, the best option is to send the kids outside to “make” their own toys with sticks, rocks, leaves and grass. Thanks for this post. I really learned a lot.

  3. This is a great list – thank you!! I’m planning introducing your 15 ideas to my kids when we start this next school year. I homeschool them and plan on having an eco-focused year to do our part for the environment. This will be a wonderful plan to start with.

  4. Thank you for this, Lindsay! That sounds like a fascinating job! I’ve actually always been really interested sustainable supply chain management and have even considered going back to grad school for it.

    I had no idea about the compostable bags! I’ll have to clarify the language on that one or find a replacement tip. And yes, I completely agree about the mug — one of the biggest problems we have these days is that everything is such cheap quality and so quickly disposed of. It’s so important to make investments in quality products that will really last!

  5. Hi Nadia, this is a great list, and I’m happy to say that I’m already doing most of these. However, as a former packaging engineer (someone who designs packaging to make it less wasteful, and to better protect the food inside it so food doesn’t go to waste), I’d like to set the record straight on a couple things:
    1. Compostable garbage bags: these sound like a great idea, but in reality, if you’re putting your garbage in it, they are going into a landfill and are not being composted. In fact, although they may degrade faster than traditional plastics, they still degrade slowly in a landfill and actually produce methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) that a conventional plastic garbage bag would not produce. I don’t recommend using these, other than for food scraps going to a commercial compost facility (speaking from experience, they don’t break down readily in a home composter either.)
    2. Using stainless steel or glass coffee mugs/water bottles: I agree that these are an excellent alternative to plastic drink ware, but it’s worth noting that they take waaaay more energy to produce than plastic containers do. So make sure you buy a very sturdy one and use it for years and years and years. If you’re getting a cute new mug or bottle every 6-12 months, then from an environmental standpoint, you’re doing more harm than if you were using disposable water bottles and cups.

  6. YES! Such a good one for the ladies! (Also, isn’t it just so much more convenient? I love my cup!) Thank you for this tip, Deanne! 🙂

  7. Love all your ways to live plastic and chemical free. Another area is with a menstral cup.