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.