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.
- 13-gallon compostable trash bags (perfect for the kitchen trash can)
- 3-gallon compostable trash cans (perfect for bathroom trashcans)
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!