There are so many things we can all be doing at home to live more sustainably & create less waste. I’ve started this Eco-Friendly Living Series here on my blog to share my personal journey to a more sustainable & minimal-waste life. My outlook is that no matter what our personal situation is, we can all find balance & make genuine efforts to live with significantly less waste. And I really hope you’ll join me on this journey, and inspire your loved ones to do the same.
The goal of today’s post is to help you eliminate/minimize your personal use of PLASTIC. I want you to imagine what the world would be like if everyone used even just 50% less plastic. it would have a tremendous positive impact on our world’s oceans!
It’s not too late to start. It takes effort, patience, & time to get into habits. But it’s so important that we all make the effort.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” - Tao Te Ching
**In case you don’t know, the reason why plastics are so devastating for the Earth is because plastic doesn’t biodegrade/break down. It stays for hundreds of years… releasing toxic chemicals, hurting wildlife in our oceans, etc. I recently read a stat that there are over five trillion pieces of plastic currently floating in our oceans. Five TRILLION. It’s heartbreaking.
This is a long one. so grab a coffee, get comfortable & let’s get to work on saving the world, one plastic bottle at a time.
***This is a lot of information & a lot of products. Please don’t feel like you need to go and do/buy every single one of them at once. Instead, I recommend working one or two things at a time into your routine; then once you feel good about it, move onto another. Bookmark this post to refer back to later as you move along!
So here are five basic plastic items that we are going to work toward eliminating/minimizing in our lives. I’ll go over more detail on each one below. These are all relatively easy to eliminate by either buying reusable replacements, or simply changing your habits:
1. Plastic Bags
This is a big one guys, & it’s really not that hard. It’s ALL about the reusable bags! Put them absolutely everywhere so you always have one when you need it. They cost less than a dollar each, there’s no excuse for all of us to own a bunch. Swap out your Starbucks this week for 5 reusable bags, & put them around your home & in your bag.
I always keep a couple reusable bags folded up in my handbag, & a few more in my car. I also have a bunch stored by the door that are easy to see & grab on my way out to the grocery store. The best place to get them for a dollar is at the store in the checkout lines. But Amazon is great too: I love these & these & these
If you forget your reusable bags: It happens.. we’re human. A lot of grocery stores now offer paper bags, so use them whenever available. TIP- some stores have paper bags but will only give you plastic unless you specifically ask for paper (Publix is a major one). So always ask for paper.
PRO TIP: When I’m out shopping & I’ve forgotten my reusable bags, then my “punishment” is making myself buy more reusable bags from the checkout line. When I started doing this, I started forgetting my reusable bags a LOT less often (plus you build up a little stock of bags!) Try it out for yourself & stick to it no matter what!!
Fruit & Veggie Bags
To replace those little plastic bags in the produce section at the grocery store, use these bags instead. I just put my produce right into those bags as I’m shopping; I use one for fruits & one for veggies. Then I put the filled bags straight onto the conveyor belt at checkout. Every single checkout clerk compliments the bags & asks where I got them & says they wish more people would use them. Some other produce bags I love are these and these
General Shopping Bags (at clothing stores, etc.)
Politely decline plastic bags at the checkout counters & use your own. You can carry the same bag around with you while you’re shopping & keep adding your items from multiple stores into the same reusable bag. All these items in the photo to the right can fit in one or two reusable bags instead of getting plastic bags at each store.
TIP: if you’ve bought just a few items, carry them out the door yourself without a bag. Or even throw them right into your purse if they fit. If it’s too much to carry, & you’ve forgotten your reusable bag, buy one at the store as your punishment for forgetting :-)
Politely request no plastic bags on your way out & carry the food containers yourself, or put the food containers into your own reusable bag if you brought one. Also for takeaway, kindly decline their plastic flatware & use your own at home.
2. Plastic Straws
If you’re not yet motivated to eliminate plastic straws, do a google search for “turtles plastic straws,” and those photos should do the trick.
I personally started the journey to completely eliminate plastic straws from my life in 2018. I’m not 100% there yet, but I’m pretty damn close. It’s really not that hard. It just takes a bit of patience.
First, get into the habit of politely declining straws at restaurants, coffee shops & bars. You can drink out of your glass without a straw, trust me, you’ll survive. (You quickly get used to having your drinks without straws & eventually you don’t even notice a difference.)
And of course, get yourself some reusable straws. Use them in your home, & carry them around with you always. There are a lot of different types on the market, so get what works best into your life. Here are some of the ones that I have:
Silicone (for general home use)
Stainless Steel (for home, & I also carry these with me in my bag)
Collapsable (for trips/travel when space is minimal)
Smoothie (wide straws for smoothies)
** I also recently started carrying this set of bamboo cutlery around in my bag to replace the plastic ones they give you at restaurants. The set also comes with a straw! I love it!
3. Plastic Bottles
Find a reusable bottle you like & carry it with you absolutely EVERYWHERE (this is another thing that just becomes habit with time & patience.) There are water fountains everywhere that you can refill your bottle with.
Instead of buying bottled drinks when you’re out for lunch, bring your reusable bottle & fill it up at the drink dispenser. If they don’t have one, they will fill up your bottle with ice/water for you with behind the counter, all you have to do is ask.
If you forget your reusable bottle, buy a fountain drink (with no straw or plastic lid) instead of buying a drink in a plastic bottle, and make sure to recycle the cup when you’re finished.
Oh, and stop using vending machines.
And finally, if you do use a plastic bottle, make sure to recycle it responsibly. Even if that means carrying the empty bottle in your bag for a while until you find a recycling bin. (Only like 8% of plastic bottles get recycled, it’s really sad.)
I personally love carrying a well-insulated bottle during the summer so my ice stays cold all day long even through several refills. I also carry one filled with coffee over the winter that stays hot for 8+ hours, and that saves me $$ because it cuts out an afternoon Starbucks run.
Here are my favorite bottles:
4. Kitchen basics
The key to eliminating plastic in your kitchen is to invest in items that are reusable, & use them in place of your single-use items like cling wrap, ziploc bags, etc. It’s a few extra bucks up front, but it actually saves you money in the long run, because you don’t have to keep re-buying those single-use items. I still have cling wrap & ziploc baggies for the occasional convenience, but I hardly ever use them, and therefore I hardly ever buy them. The idea is to drastically reduce the single-use items (if you can replace them entirely, thats amazing!)
Here are some simple items in your kitchen that can be easily replaced by reusable items:
This reusable bee’s wrap is great for blocks of cheese and to cover bowls.
Use this nonstick baking mat in the oven instead of foil or parchment paper. Super easy!
An easy fix is to replace your plastic tupperware with a glass set. We use these glass ones from Ikea.
Mason jars are also a great swap for tupperware, that’s what I use most of the time!
***Side note on mason jars… get them! I seriously use them for SO MUCH in my kitchen (and all around my home.) And I’m constantly finding new uses for them. I have a drawer full of dozens of them in different sizes that’s I’ve collected over the years (mostly from Walmart or Target). Here is an awesome variety set on Amazon to get you started!
Finally, when you’re grocery shopping, try to buy your items plastic free - either bare, or in glass or cardboard packaging whenever possible. For example, you can buy the same exact asparagus plastic-free, instead buying it in a plastic bag (see photo.) But sometimes it’s just not feasible, or it’s just too expensive, but just commit to doing your best. Every little bit makes a difference!
5. Chewing Gum
Did you know most chewing gum contains plastic. Um… EW.
It’s what gives it it’s “gummy” base. Worst part is, manufacturers don’t have to disclose on the package what exactly they use so there’s no way to tell exactly what you’re ingesting.
Gum doesn’t break down, just like plastic doesn’t. So who knows where it all goes.
If you’re a big gum chewer, do your research & find plastic-free brands. It’s not easy to find in stores the US (but hopefully that changes soon!)
I found one that’s popular over in Europe, you can buy it on Amazon here.
No more gum for me. I’ll survive.
Final note: I’m always researching & discovering new ways I can personally lessen my family’s impact on the Earth. In some areas (plastic bags, for example), we are strict and don’t use them. Then in other areas (like, baby diapers), we don’t. Find what works for your family, and do your absolute best. Nobody is perfect, but it’s important that we all try.