So … you’re thinking about going plastic-free. Awesome! Maybe you’ve been inspired by Trash is for Tossers, you sometimes get freaked out by how much plastic you throw out or how much plastic stuff you use daily. Maybe you’ve even perused Gimme the Good Stuff or Life Without Plastic. But … plastic is everywhere and it can be overwhelming to figure out how to banish the nasties from your life.
Start with these simple, easy steps!
- Refuse plastic (and paper!) bags at the store. Every store.
Challenge yourself to be diligent about this for a month, a week. Or even just one trip! You might have piles of reusable bags in your house or car but if they don’t make it into the store, they’re not doing anyone any favors. If you’re tired, busy, rushing or have kids in tow, it may seem ridiculous and impossible to go back to your car for your bags. That’s why I always carry a small compact/foldable bag in my purse. I have and love this one by Baggu* and I like chico bag*. Reusable bags may expensive but they last a really long time and wash well. Even on bigger trips to the grocery store, I’ll cram everything I can into the emergency reusable bag and then just carry what can’t be stuffed in. You only have to awkwardly carry 7 items and your overflowing ’emergency’ bag out of the store once and magically you’ll remember your bigger bags. This rule goes for any kind of store, not just the supermarket. Refuse bags everywhere – whether you’re buying gifts at a boutique, makeup and skincare at Ulta or batteries and a screwdriver at Home Depot. It’s easy to pop any shopping haul in your reusable tote. It’s cuter, too.
- Refuse plastic straws
This might take some courage at first but just let your bartender or server know when you order that you’d prefer your water/soda/cocktail/iced tea without a straw. Bars and restaurants contribute a huge amount of plastic waste with just disposable straws. Drink right out of the cup, it’s grand! Or if you’re a true straw lover like me, pick up a reusable straw* and bring it with you.
- Save every glass jar that passes through your kitchen.
At least for a little while, and then you can keep recycling them. Honey, pasta sauce, salsa, ghee… lots of things come in nice glass jars – mostly with metal lids. Remove the labels, or don’t: it’s personal preference. Any jar can be cleaned up easily. Rinse jars with distilled white vinegar and a bit of dish soap to get rid of any lingering smells. If you don’t want the label, soak in hot water and dish soap. Apply a paste of olive oil and baking soda to stubborn labels and they’ll come right off. Use these jars to hold anything you want. Practice “forgetting” what you know about what is supposed to go in a disposable ziploc plastic bag. You can definitely store anything in a jar that you’d normally put in a bag. Rarely do I find I really need something larger than a pasta sauce jar to hold whatever food or leftovers I need to save. Something too big/awkward for a jar? Invest in a few larger stainless or glass plastic-free storage containers.
- Bring a cup/glass/bottle everywhere.
Yup …everywhere. Again, challenge yourself to do this for a short time. There’s no need to throw out a cup every time you get coffee out. Ask your barista to fill up your cup/bottle – they probably won’t blink an eye. There are filtered water stations everywhere these days. There’s really no need to buy a plastic bottle of water, ever. I highly recommend liberty bottleworks* (made in usa, super durable),hydroflask* (we have two and they are in heavy rotation and spill-proof!) and I like glass or ceramic coffee mugs with silicone and/or ceramic and silicone lids. If you’re not the kind of person who regularly gets iced or hot coffee in a disposable cup, think about other daily or weekly habits you may have that result in unnecessary plastic trash.
- Lastly: When you really need to replace something, try to find a plastic-free option.
Take it slow – when something breaks or needs to be replaced, find a plastic-free version. Pretty much anything you need in your home or life has a plastic-free alternative. Do research online or keep your eyes peeled out at local stores. I even found a really high quality dustpan set (metal pan, wooden/natural bristle brush) at my local HomeGoods! If you can’t find what you need, speak up – many stores like to hear what customers are looking for. Who knows, they may be inspired by your question to consider stocking plastic-free options.
Challenge yourself to be diligent about a few things for a few months and it will become second nature more quickly than you might anticipate. If you’re on this journey alone and your husband, wife, roommates, housemates or family isn’t really on board, that’s okay. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Hopefully others will see that your changes aren’t drastic and are really quite easy to achieve. They may even start to adopt similar habits themselves. Encourage small positive steps that you and your family take, and try not to get too worked up or upset when inevitable mistakes happen – or when your roommate walks in with 15 plastic bags from a grocery haul.
Other great resources:
Are you curious about going plastic-free? What areas or products are you most concerned about? Share in the comments!