The 30 Easiest Ways To Reduce Your Plastic Use
Did you make a New Year’s Resolution to reduce your plastic use? Or maybe you’re already letting your resolution fade away until next January? Or perhaps you never got around to actually making one? Well, don’t worry, we’ve got an easy one for you. Here are the 30 easiest ways to reduce your plastic use, which will make you feel awesome and will be overall better for the environment.
Technically, you’re supposed to swap your toothbrush every three months, for hygiene and stuff. So that leaves you with four toothbrushes per year and if you keep doing that for your whole life, that’s a few hundred plastic toothbrushes wasting away. Obviously, toothbrushes are necessities, but you can use more eco-friendly options.
One easy swap is the bamboo toothbrush. You can find it at CVS for just about the same price as your normal plastic toothbrush. However, if you feel like it doesn’t clean your teeth as well, you can switch to an electric toothbrush. The head still may be made of plastic, but it’s less than a full toothbrush and if you choose the right brand, you can actually save money by going electric.
2. Shopping bags
Some cities have already banned plastic bags or put a price on them because they are so terrible for the environment. But regardless of where you live, you can easily stop using plastic shopping bags and instead use reusable ones. Grocery stores sell reusable bags for a couple dollars, so you can pick a few up on your next trip.
Keep the bags in your car or get ones that fold up for your purse. That way, they’ll always be there for whenever you go shopping. You can buy tote bags of the cute and/or utilitarian persuasion if you’re not a fan of the grocery store’s. But remember, don’t use these bags only for groceries, use them for clothes, cosmetics, thrift, or any other kind of shopping you do.
3. Produce bags
While we’re on the topic of plastic bags, we need to address wasteful and unnecessary produce bags. First off, for most of your produce, you don’t need a bag. A bunch of bananas, a bell pepper, or a couple of potatoes don’t need to be put in a bag to go in your shopping cart, they can just go straight in, in all their naked glory!
For the produce that was just misted and is still wet (or if you’re against sticking a naked apple in your reusable bag), you can get reusable produce bags. Or, if you’re crafty, you can make your own reusable produce bags. Unfortunately, the mesh bags will not do much to keep your wet produce from getting water all over everything, but a cotton bag would work.
4. Hand soap
Unfortunately, your bathroom is probably full of plastic, on the counter and in the shower. All the plastic packaging on hand soap is pretty unnecessary since you can easily just buy a bar of soap instead. But make sure you buy one wrapped in paper or nothing instead of the plastic film.
However, if you really prefer liquid soap to a bar, there’s an eco-friendlier option for that too. Buy refill liquid soap so you can just pour it into your pump container, instead of repeatedly buying the small container. You can even buy a glass or ceramic pump container and refill that.
5. Ice cream
As a kid, your ice cream probably fell off the cone and flat on the sidewalk. You stared at it in horror as it melted into the ground. Since then, perhaps you’ve sworn off cones and exclusively get your ice cream in cups. Alas, the safety of the cup also includes the plastic spoon, since it’s generally looked down upon to just lick ice cream out of a dish.
Well, chances are you aren’t a little kid anymore. You can probably trust yourself to not drop your ice cream, do a little drip maintenance, and ditch the wasteful dish and spoon. You were born with a reusable utensil, your tongue, so just use that instead!
6. Plastic wrap
Plastic wrap is already a truly horrible and inconvenient product. As soon as you pull out a piece, it sticks to itself like two hot glued fingers. But luckily, there is a much easier, more convenient, and more dainty option for you: reusable wax paper. All you do is wrap up your sandwich or cover a salad bowl and then later wash the wrapping.
There are a variety of different companies that sell this, like Bees Wrap that has multiple options of cute patterns or Abeego which is a little more understated but has several sizes. Just make sure you wash it with cool water, not hot, and don’t use it for raw meat.
Plastic straws recently were making headlines like they had risen from hellfire to prey on marine animals. If that didn’t scare you away from using them, or if you’re drinking beverages that simply need them (like bubble tea), then you should think about getting a reusable set.
You can get metal, glass, or bamboo staws (or paper if you’re having a party). If you’re concerned about cleaning them, get a special straw cleaner and maybe clear ones so you can easily see the inside. The straw cleaners often come with the pack, though, so it may not be an extra charge.
8. Coffee (or tea) to-go mug
Sure single-use coffee cups are mostly made of paper, and sometimes even recycled materials, but they are often lined in plastic. Plus, their lids are plastic. So even as companies strive to make the cups out of some percentage of recycled materials, it’s still better for the environment to just bring your own reusable cup.
There are endless types and brands of reusable coffee (or tea) cups on the internet, in department stores, and even in the coffee shops. There are ceramic, metal, glass, and yes, even plastic options. Plus, cafes often give you a small discount for using a reusable cup.
9. Cold drink to-go mug
If you like your hot drinks and cold drinks in different kinds of cups, you should also invest in a reusable cold cup. Of course, there are cup options that work for both temperatures, but Starbucks has brainwashed some of us that they shouldn’t be in the same sort of container.
If you search “tumbler” it might get you what you want. Otherwise, you can check the same places you got your hot cup: cafes, grocery stores, and department stores. Honestly, you could probably just bring any old mason jar to the cafe and they’d fill it up with your favorite cold beverage.
10. Laundry detergent
Instead of buying a plastic jug of liquid laundry detergent, you can buy a box of powder detergent. Of course, don’t just throw out the detergent you currently have, but make the swap the next time you need to buy more.
If you’re a die-hard fan of liquid laundry detergent and you want to get it delivered, you can get Tide’s new Eco-Box. It has less plastic than their typical soap jugs and doesn’t have as much packaging as past version. However, it looks a bit like boxed wine, so if you have particularly dumb teenagers in your house, maybe don’t get this option.
11. Ziplock bags
Rather than continually buying and throwing away ziplock bags, you can just get glass containers. Glass is more expensive than the plastic tupperware, sure, but they hold up better in the microwave. So instead of sticking carrots in a plastic bag, you can easily bring them for lunch in a tupperware.
Plus, there are other reusable options to use instead of ziplock bags. If you got some of the Bees Wrap, you can use that to wrap up a sandwich for lunch. Or you can get some cloth reusable snack bags if you don’t want to carry around a heavy glass container.
12. Water bottle
If you’re still using single-use plastic water bottles, then come on over and join the rest of us in the 21st century. Get yourself a reusable water bottle to help the environment and your health. They hold so much more water, too; most people could benefit from drinking more water.
Like the coffee cups, there are endless options depending on what you prefer: stainless steel, reusable plastic, or glass. Plus, you can choose which kind of top you want, from just a plain screw off lid to a sip-top. You might want to avoid reusable bottles with straws or other small spaces, though, because they can get dirty without you noticing and are very hard to clean.
Sure, one guy on “Baggage” carried his own silverware with him to every restaurant he ate at and people were weirded out by it, but we’re not asking you to take it that far. But whenever you go to Chipotle or a food court, use your own reusable utensils instead of their plastic ones.
You can just grab a utensil set from your kitchen drawer or buy a neat little reusable kit that comes in a pouch, then leave it in your car or purse. Now, instead of using single-use plastic utensils, you’re armed with your own weapons of choice.
If you want to bring a little eco-friendliness into your shower, you can swap out your shampoo and conditioner bottles for package and plastic free bars. They work like bar hand soap: you get it wet, rub it on your hands, and then lather it into a foam before applying to your hair.
You could probably just rub the bar on your hair, too. You can get these “naked” shampoos and conditioners from Lush (and other companies), where they are completely package free. However, it’s probably a good idea to grab a little tin from them as well, to keep it in the shower and to travel with. Once you need a new bar, just bring the tin back with you.
15. Body wash
Now that you’re already making plastic free swaps in the shower, you may as well go full on and do your body wash and face wash, too. Again, Lush has several options for package free soap and facial cleansers alike. They even have a face wash with a cute little sleepy face on it.
But if you’re not into their products, there are several bar soaps you can use from mainstream and small brands alike. To avoid letting the bar get too gross and bacteria covered, try storing it in a dry place and rinsing it before you use it.
16. Bulk shopping
Out of the bathroom and back at the grocery store, there are plenty of other ways for you to reduce your plastic use. For example, to cut down on buying packaged goods, you can try out the bulk section. Not every grocery store has a large bulk section, but the health food oriented ones often do.
In the bulk section, you can get things like rice, oatmeal, nuts, and other grains. Of course, the aisles have plastic bags for you to use, but if you want to be very eco-friendly you can bring your own container. Grab a mason jar and either weigh it before you start shopping or bring an extra one to weigh at checkout, since bulk goods are priced by weight.
17. Milk and eggs
Perhaps one of the easiest things to do on this list is to just buy eggs in a different container. Some egg cartons are made of plastic or styrofoam, neither of which are good for the environment. So make a simple change and grab a cardboard container of eggs instead.
Plus, to be extra nice, you can buy cage-free eggs. You can do the same thing for milk: instead of the plastic jug, grab a cardboard carton. (To be extra environmentally friendly, you can opt for vegan options, since animal products produce a lot of greenhouse gases in the manufacturing process.)
Okay so we’ve already talked about produce bags and grocery bags, but some fruits and vegetables are already wrapped in plastic when you pick them up. Sure it may be convenient to buy a package of tomatoes or fun to indulge yourself in an individually wrapped cucumber, but there’s simply no reason to.
Just grab the naked produce and either carefully place it in your cart or in your reusable produce bag. There’s really no reason for that thin plastic film. But if you do find yourself with some of it, your grocery store might have a bin you can recycle it in.
If you actually floss your teeth, and we all know we should, then you might want to consider switching to a more eco-friendly, biodegradable brand. Floss comes packaged in plastic and is often made of plastic, so it’s a good idea to get a plastic-free version.
Life Without Plastic offers floss made of silk in a refillable glass jar, as well as a bunch of other plastic-free products. You can also get eco-friendly floss at Whole Foods and other similar stores that carry the brand Radius. Maybe buying plastic-free floss will make you actually floss your teeth. Just be sure to thank worms for the amazing byproduct that they produce for our dental health.
20. Trash bags
So it turns out there is no easy way to eliminate plastic in your trash bags. If you get compostable bags but send them to a landfill, they produce methane (a very potent greenhouse gas) in those conditions. Plus, some “biodegradable” ones just put tiny bits of plastic into the environment instead of large pieces of plastic.
Your best option is probably to use a brand that is made partly of recycled plastic, like Seventh Generation, because at least it isn’t completely new (aka virgin) plastic. However, if you do get any plastic bags from the grocery store or Walgreens or wherever, you can just reuse those.
When it comes to razors, you have a couple options to reduce your plastic use. If you use disposable razors, you can switch to a reusable one in which you only change the head. But this is really pricy. But if you want to go even more plastic-free, and cheaper, you can try a metal safety razor.
Safety razors were first made in the 1800s, but they’re making a comeback because they’re cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and with the right blade in place, they make for a closer shave. There are a variety of options and they work for both men and women, although a closed comb, long-handled razor is recommended for women. Plus, you probably won’t cut yourself with it!
22. Chewing gum
Chewing gum may be the currency of classrooms, but it seems few adults actually use it. Unfortunately, gum is actually made of plastic and it often comes packaged in plastic, too. You can just stop using it, if you haven’t already, or you can use plastic-free versions.
Glee and Chewsy are both made of chicle, a tree sap from Central America that actually helps conserve rainforests. Both come in a few flavors and have sugar free options to keep your teeth healthy. This way you can happily chew knowing that you’re keeping plastic out of the environment and saving rainforests with one pack of gum.
Since you’ve already changed your toothbrush and floss to be more eco-friendly, you may as well top off your oral health and swap out your toothpaste, too. You can start using Davids Natural Toothpaste, which is packaged in a metal tube and a recycled paper box, as opposed to plastic.
Plus, its carton was made with renewable wind energy rather than fossil fuel energy. So using the toothpaste reduces both plastic pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. If you’re not a fan of that one, you could try toothpaste tabs, like the ones from Lush that are packaged in recycled bottles.
24. Tea bag
You might not have thought of it, but plenty of tea bags actually have plastic in them. Some of the ones marketed as “silky” or “mesh” are really just made out of plastic. But even the pressed paper bags often have some plastic in them. It is unclear whether or not this is dangerous for your health, but it isn’t great for the environment.
So instead, you can buy tea bags that aren’t made of plastic, like from Numi. Or, you can buy loose leaf tea and steep it in reusable tea steeper or cotton tea bag. Plus, if you do it that way, the tea steeper is good for a second cup, whereas a tea bag may not be able to give you another steep.
25. Disposable plates/utensils
While it’s always better to just use your regular ceramic plates, metal silverware, and glass cups, there are some instances where it’s just overly inconvenient. Perhaps you’re having a large party or you’re going on a picnic, but you don’t want to use plastic plates, utensils, and cups. Well, there is a solution!
You can get compostable plates and other dinnerware made from wheat stalks and sugarcane fiber. They aren’t made from trees, so they are more sustainable than regular paper plates. Even if you throw them away and they produce methane in the landfill, their environmental impact is less than plastic plates.
26. Makeup remover wipes
So, it turns out that makeup remover wipes are often made of plastic and also some cotton balls and pads aren’t pure cotton, but partly synthetic. They won’t break down in the environment, so you’ll want to use another option. There are some makeup wipes that are biodegradable, like Klorane.
If you don’t need your wipes to come with makeup remover already on them, you can also find biodegradable cotton pads or even reusable cotton pads. Or you can just put your makeup remover on a cloth and use that, washing it by hand or in the washing machine once you’re done.
Alright, so plastic is just about everywhere in our lives. It’s in all kinds of products that most of us wouldn’t even think twice about, like bandages that you casually use to cover up small cuts and injuries. If you’re running out of bandages and need to buy a new pack, consider getting eco-friendly ones.
Patch and Everyday Good offer a few different types of biodegradable bandages that are partly made of recycled materials. Grove collaborative actually sells the Patch bandages and allows you to order most of your home necessities from brands that are health and eco-conscious, while still affordable.
Most people probably wish babies could just come into this world potty trained, but alas, that is not the case. So we have to resort to using diapers to keep everything contained. Well unfortunately, diapers are pretty wasteful when you use the plastic disposable ones, so instead, you can use cloth diapers. Don’t be afraid of them.
Cloth diapers are made a lot more user-friendly these days, with snaps and waterproof banding. If you wash them yourself, they’ll cost less than disposable diapers. Otherwise, you can use a diaper laundry service that will cost about the same as disposable diapers, but is more eco-friendly.
29. Menstrual care
No one likes it, but sadly menstruation is just a part of nature. But our methods of dealing with it have become decidedly unnatural. Most pads and tampons are packaged in plastic, or sometimes made with plastic, and then thrown out after one use. Luckily, there are a few ways to make that time of the month more eco-friendly.
If you’re not ready to completely change your habits, you can get a reusable tampon applicator and plastic free tampons and pads. A few plastic free companies are Natracare and DAME. You can also switch to reusable period underwear or reusable menstrual cups, depending on your preferences.
30. Mind your purchases
When it all comes down to it, we live in a plastic-filled world. Most things we use contain plastic or are packaged in plastic and it’s pretty hard to get around it. Luckily, it’s not an all or nothing sort of game. You can try to go full-zero waste or you can make a few swaps to just use less plastic in your daily life.
Just pay attention when you buy things, because plastic is often right under your nose without you noticing. You might be able to choose a plastic-free option, but it might be a little more difficult than just grabbing a different thing off the shelf. Fortunately, some mainstream companies are already taking steps toward eco-conscious products.