Movement readers, I’m super excited to start the Plastic Free Challenge this Thursday, and I’m hoping many of you will join me. But we all know that reducing plastic isn’t always easy, so I’ve put together a few tips to help us avoid plastic as much as possible.
1. Buy in bulk where possible. Last year, while I had great success remembering to use my reusable bags, once I got home with all my purchases I noticed that many of them came in plastic containers. This year, instead of buying single-use or “to go” containers (of yogurt for example), I’m going to buy a bigger tub and make my own daily servings, perhaps adding some granola or fresh (locally grown) fruit (see #3 below).
2. Opt for cartons or glass. When there’s a choice, purchase products packaged in biodegradable or reusable materials instead of plastic. With roughly 9 million tons of plastic bombarding our oceans every year, it just makes sense to reduce the amount we allow into our homes.
3. Buy local. You can reduce unnecessary plastic packaging by going to the local farmer’s market for healthy, delicious produce. (This is also a great way to support your local economy.) Don’t forget to bring your reusable produce bags!
4. Line trash cans with repurposed materials. Or even not at all. This article by Less Stuff author Lindsay Miles has some great tips.
5. “Treat the planet as you treat yourself.” Summertime offers great opportunities to both enjoy sweet treats and to be kind to the planet. For example, you can order your ice cream in a cone and avoid the cup and plastic spoon. And don’t forget your reusable stainless steel or silicone straw when you partake of that smoothie, shake or slushie.
6. Party responsibly. Summertime celebrations often involve balloons and other single-use plastic decorations, but consider creatively swapping these for more sustainable alternatives, such as lanterns, fresh flowers, etc. You can even borrow party decorations from community members (see idea #7).
7. Extend the life of items you have (whether plastic or not) when you start or join a Buy Nothing Group. The idea is to divert materials from landfills and oceans while forming meaningful connections with other community members as you share your stuff.
8. Avoid microplastics. While microbeads have been banned from personal care products in many countries, some—like certain toothpastes—may still contain tiny plastic pieces. Look for personal care products that, in addition to being free from harmful chemicals, are free from plastic also.
9. Chews wisely. (Sorry I couldn’t help the pun). You may have known this, but it was news to me: It turns out that almost all chewing gum is made from plastic. Chemicals like vinyl acetate may cause tumors in lab rats, and because chewing gum is nonbiodegradable it’s also bad for the environment.
10. Got junk mail? You can put it to good use as padding for packages instead of relying on plastic bubble wrap or petroleum-based polystyrene peanuts. For additional cushioning, old clothing, towels and linens also work nicely.
While going plastic free may be challenging, I know it will be worth it. If you join me, I encourage you to involve your family too. When you make it fun to go plastic free, your kids will naturally carry the idea forward into the future.
Use reusable water bottles, produce & shopping bags.
Great suggestions, Margaret!
Make your own coffee at home or bring your reusable mug to the restaurant and ask them to use that instead of disposables.
If you have a baby or toddler use cloth diapers and training pants as much as possible.
If you are pregnant consider breast feeding and or glass bottles instead of plastic, especially the ones with disposable inserts.
Buy wood or metal toys instead of plastic
Buy used plastic toys in good condition even as gifts.
Buy lunch meats from the deli wrapped in paper not plastic boxes.
Get eggs from local farmers and return the cartons for a refill.
Thanks Laura! Such good ideas!
I reuse plastic shopping bags to stuff boxes when wrapping Christmas gifts! My mother in law and I have a shirt box collection that passes between the two of us at the holidays as well. We also save boxes that can be reused for gift wrapping. I have tinsel that is 36 yrs old! I also reuse my plastic shopping bags in smaller trash cans throughout the house, any that are not reusable will be recycled to make new bags at the local market!! I have currently started putting all recyclables out for trash pick up without being bagged! It feels good to make more of a difference.
Luella, thanks for sharing these excellent tips—we love that you’ve been reusing your tinsel for decades!
We live on an Island. We buy in bulk (use reusable containers for storage). We are farmers and raise our own meat (wrap in butcher paper/not plastic), grow our own veggies (freeze in reusable containers or bags). Always have my reusable mug, cup, utensils and shopping bags. I invest in newer environmentally safe products as they are invented and I can afford. I reuse, recycle and only ever have a small handful of ‘real’ garbage a month. I LOVE all the new products being invented to help reuse and recycle what is already available to cut back on raw materials being mined and stripping our beautiful earth further.
love buying my bulk products like flour, sugar spices from the bulk barn and using my glass containers there. so easy to know how much i need to fill the container when i can take it to the store.