Plastic has become one of the most harmful materials to our environment. From polluting oceans and harming wildlife, to filling up landfills for decades without properly decomposing, this material is having devastating effects on our planet. The main culprits are the companies producing these products. Plastic is extremely cheap and easy to mold, so it’s no wonder its use is so rampant.
If living with less plastic was easy, everyone would do so. Most people agree that plastic is harming the environment, but it is so convenient that replacing it can sometimes be tough. Some people may think it is expensive to replace plastic with other materials, but it really isn’t. Sometimes it takes even no money. Other times, you may need to spend a bit upfront to buy reusable products that can save you money in the long run.
The whole world is gradually going plastic-free and we can start with ourselves. To give you some inspiration, here are some ideas to encourage you to take your first steps right away:
1. Refillable water bottles
This is the easiest step. If you already have a plastic water bottle at home, forgotten in the cabinets of your kitchen, then here is the solution: take it out, wash it, and replenish it every time you need to take water with you.
On the other hand, if you do not already have a bottle, buy a stainless-steel one. Not only is it reusable, but it also maintains the water temperature for a longer time. Remember that a large portion of the money you pay for a plastic water bottle is actually for the bottle itself.
2. Reusable bags
Plastic grocery bags, though easy-to-use, are very polluting. Instead of accepting them at the point of sale, bring a reusable bag. If you already do not have a reusable bag, you can buy one at pretty much every store. Just make sure the materials of the reusable bag are not harmful to the environment. Or even better, you can also make them yourself from materials you already have at home if you consider yourself crafty.
The key to success with reusable bags is to always keep them accessible and visible, so you never forget to take them with you. For example, you can put them in your car or even your purse.
3. Sustainable cutlery
It is very common to receive your takeout with plastic cutlery. Most of us have a drawer full of useless, unnecessary plastic utensils. Also, it is very convenient to have plastic cutlery when hosting a party or having a picnic.
Like other types of plastic products, plastic cutlery is also non-recyclable and it’s generating tonnes of plastic pollution every day. Harming the wild animals’ life is just one among many of the threats plastic materials impose on nature and wildlife, and plastic cutlery is of no difference.
The easiest solution in this case is to exclude plastic cutlery from your order. Some delivery apps include the option to do so and if not, you can send your request as a note and they will not send you any plastic cutlery with your order.
For bigger gatherings or outdoor picnics, disposable cutlery can be tempting because of its convenience. But, always keep in mind their long-lasting impacts on our fragile ecosystems. Luckily, there are sustainable alternatives currently available that use renewable materials such as bamboo or bagasse, which is a by-product of sugar cane processing. Or better yet, use what you already have at home as much as you can, even when having guests over!
4. Stainless-steel razors
It is estimated that a disposable razor cartridge is used for almost 6 to 9 times before disposal. In other words, you will trash your disposable, non-recyclable razor after 2 to 3 weeks. For this reason, we encourage you to buy a more durable razor, such as a stainless-steel razor. This way, you would only have to buy the replacement blades.
5. Plastic-free straws
Did you know that straws have existed since over 5,000 years ago? In fact, the paper straw was only invented during the industrial revolution in the 1800s. It was replaced in the 1900s by the plastic straw without knowing about the environmental impacts at that time.
Now we see waterways flooded with plastic straws, endangering the wildlife greatly. We don’t really need straws to be in plastic form. So, like with most of the sustainable alternatives, let’s go back in time and look at what our ancestors used.
Disposable paper straws, or even better, reusable bamboo and stainless-steel straws are great, eco-friendly, inexpensive alternatives you can adapt to in no time.
6. Soap bars
Unless you are buying your liquid hand soap from the stores that refill your plastic containers, you should consider buying soap bars. They usually come with very little paper packaging or no packaging at all, while liquid soap usually comes with plastic containers.
7. Beeswax wraps
Both cling film and aluminum foil have been highly convenient for many decades as a quick, easy method to preserve food. You usually see fruits, veggies, and leftovers wrapped in these materials.
Now, we have new sustainable alternatives like beeswax wraps. They are eco-friendly wraps that keep food fresh for a longer time and seal bowls and plates. You can simply clean them with cold water, let them dry, and reuse them multiple times. The best part is that you can compost the beeswax wraps at the end of their life if they are made of natural fibers.
8. Home-made meals
It is very convenient to order takeout when you do not have enough time to cook, or just want to try something new. However, most of the restaurants use black, non-recyclable containers for takeout.
The best idea to avoid takeout is to cook in batches. You can store different kinds of food in different containers to eat every day. Also, you can cook large portions of food and freeze them in reusable bags. This way, you can preserve the food for a long time and will prepare it in just a few minutes.
Furthermore, if you are eating out, you can bring a reusable storage bag to keep those yummy leftovers for later.
9. Plastic-free coffee pods
Though not in the market for a long time, disposable coffee pods are making a major plastic waste problem. As a matter of fact, the K-Cup creator, John Sylvan, regrets inventing the Keurig coffee pod system because of the huge amount of unnecessary plastic waste it creates.
Even if you are enrolled in a program that collects the used capsules, you are still adding a big environmental footprint, as it still requires transportation back to the disposal facilities and additional processing to separate the plastic/metal container from the organic waste. If you already have a single-serve coffee machine using capsules, you can buy reusable pods instead of the disposable ones.
10. Laundry strips
With more than 30 billion loads of laundry done annually in North America alone, it is estimated that 1 billion plastic laundry jugs are left at the same time in the environment. That is while we only need these jugs to keep the detergents for a roughly short period of time.
We should really stop this. Currently, there are many less harmful, plastic-free options in the market. TruEarth Laundry Strips are the newest solution for plastic-free laundry with less mess, less hassle, and less environmental footprint. These plastic-free, lightweight strips take up less space than traditional laundry detergents and come pre-measured meaning there’s no chance of spillage or waste.
You can also use one of your current plastic jugs as a permanent container for your detergent, and refill it every time you need at your closest zero waste refillery store.
The bottom line
The impact of human activity on nature is changing life on earth as we know it. One million species are currently facing extinction due to human activity. The COVID-19 crisis is also a reminder that we must reset our relationship with nature. We need to change the way we eat, live, grow, build, and power our lives to achieve a carbon-neutral, nature-positive economy, and halt biodiversity loss over the next decades.
Now that you have read these 10 ideas to go plastic-free you can see that it’s really not that hard. Besides, you are not alone on this road; many people are trying to get used to a plastic-free life and they love to share their ideas on social media. Public awareness is soaring, and it is joyful to see more people are interested in using eco-friendly alternatives to plastic, now is your turn!
If you have any other great ideas on how to reuse, recycle and reduce waste that you would like to share, please post them below!