Hopefully by now we’ve all heard about the dangers of plastic pollution and the detrimental effects it has on our environment. But just to refresh your memory, here are some fast facts about plastic pollution (thanks National Geographic):
- About 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flow into the oceans each year.
- 40% of plastic waste is simply produced from packaging, which is used once and then thrown out.
- Each American uses an average of 365 plastic bags per year.
- Almost half of all plastic ever made was made after the year 2000.
- Less than 20% of all plastic is recycled around the world.
- Almost a million plastic drink bottles are purchased every minute around the world.
This is a serious issue caused completely by us. But luckily, there is so much we can do to prevent it and reverse the damage that’s already been done. So why aren’t we doing anything? Well mainly I think it’s because almost no one else is either! So who’s going to start the ripple effect? Who’s willing to make a change? If this might be you, and you’re wondering how to do it, stay tuned for a long list of ideas to get you started.
1. Bring Your Own Cup
This is probably one of the easiest ways to reduce plastic waste. Reusable cups are sold pretty much everywhere, so go pick one up if you don’t have one already! Most coffee shops and drink places are more than willing to fill a cup, especially since it saves them money!
2. Use Cloth Bags at the Grocery Store
This is another crazy easy solution to an unbelievably damaging problem. Plus, you can find reusable bags at places like T.J.Maxx or Aldi’s or practically any other store. My favorite part about these bags is that you can pick really cute ones that match your personality! It’s much more fun than the boring white bags they give you at the store. And much better for the environment! To make this even better, you could bring jars or other reusable containers to the grocery store or farmer’s market refilling stations, for things like cereal, pasta, rice, or nuts.
3. Use a Reusable Water Bottle
In all honesty, when I see people still using single-use plastic water bottles, I think, come on, how have you not jumped on this bandwagon yet?! Drinking from reusable water bottles is something that so many people already do, which is wonderful! But for those of you who still use the single-use ones, give this a try!
4. Switch From Ziploc Bags to Tupperware
In the past, I’ve used Ziploc bags for just about everything. But when I realized how much of an impact that could have on the environment, I started to think of alternatives. Using tupperware, jars, or glass containers to hold your snacks and meals can save a lot of plastic, since they can be used over and over. Along with this, ditch the plastic wrap. If you are looking for alternatives, use aluminum foil (easier to recycle) or beeswax-coated food wraps.
5. Carry Reusable Utensils & Straw
A few years ago, I never would’ve even considered carrying around metal utensils and a reusable straw. But after learning a lot about what these small pieces of plastic do to the environment, I’ve changed my mind. Unfortunately, even if we try to recycle these little guys, they are too small for most recycling machinery, and end up slipping through the cracks. So basically, all of these single-use utensils and straws are made and then just sit in landfills or end up in our oceans! Luckily, with raised awareness of plastic pollution, there are a lot of companies who are designed products for this purpose. This reusable straw is one of them! And they even come with different colored cases!
6. Choose Cardboard, Glass, Aluminum, or Paper Over Plastic When Possible
While these may also be single-use products at times, cardboard, glass, and aluminum are much easier to reuse and recycle than plastic. So if you can use aluminum foil rather than plastic wrap, do it. And definitely reuse or recycle it afterwards.
7. Bring Your Own Take-Out Container When You Know You’ll be Going Out to Eat
Usually you know if you’re going to be eating out before you leave the house. So a simple hack to prevent plastic or styrofoam waste is to bring your own tupperware for leftovers. It’s super easy and saves tons of single-use containers.
8. Take a Second Look at Your Consumer Products
Believe it or not, things like face wash and toothpaste can often have little pieces of plastic in them. This is usually to enhance the product’s performance. Face wash will sometimes have small plastic beads to exfoliate the skin. Toothpaste will use plastic for added texture when removing plaque. But at the expense of our environment. Look for products that do not contain plastic. They work just as well!
9. Rethink Your Period Products
To be honest, this is one that I was very skeptical of at first. But after doing some research, and seeing some of the new products out there, I really want to give it a try. We waste so much plastic with pads and tampons, and it’s just not a sustainable way of doing things. Hopefully, reusable period products will continue to grow in popularity, and those who are skeptical will consider trying them out.
10. Switch Razors
Rather than using little plastic disposable razors that have to be thrown out every few weeks, buy a razor that comes with replaceable blades. This way, you’re able to use that plastic for longer and prevent waste.
11. Shop in Bulk to Reduce Excess Plastic Packaging
This is where your Costco or Sam’s Club memberships will come in handy. It’s so sad when we have to keep going back to the store to get more of something, and it comes in a ton of wasteful packaging each time. To cut back, buy things that come in bulk, which will usually have less total packaging.
12. Reuse “Disposable” Containers for as Long as You Can
When we go to the prepared food section of the grocery store, there’s always a ton of plastic containers to put salad or chicken or other various food in. But then we take it home and use it once. Instead, it makes more sense to keep using it as a tupperware container, rather than tossing it. Not only is it useful, but it’s good for the planet!
13. Consider Reusable Diapers
This one is for you extreme earth-lovers out there. I still don’t even know if I’d be up to doing this when I have kids. But honestly, it’s so so much better than using disposable diapers. There is so much waste involved, and using cloth diapers is such a good decision if you’re looking to cut back on the amount of waste you produce.
14. Use Matches Instead of Cheap Plastic Lighters
This is probably one of the more minor ways that you can cut back on plastic. Unless you have a reason for using a flame multiple times a day, you probably don’t go through that many lighters. But if, for some reason, you use lighters all the time and find yourself throwing them out often, you may want to consider switching to matches, since they don’t involve plastic.
15. Limit Frozen Foods, or Freeze Them Yourself
When doing research for this post, I was surprised to find that buying frozen foods actually uses a lot of plastic. It turns out that most plastic packaging is doubled up to insulate the contents. But because of this, you are using double the plastic that you think you are. Instead, I would recommend trying to freeze your own stuff, buy frozen things in bulk, or just trying to limit how many frozen goods you purchase.
16. Buy Loose Fruits & Vegetables, Rather Than Packaged
When you walk into the produce section of a grocery store, it’s not uncommon to see half of the produce wrapped up in tons of plastic. Try to avoid buying these. Instead, buy the loose F&Vs and bring your own bags to put them in. (Don’t use those tiny little plastic bags they offer at the store.) If you’re having a hard time finding loose produce, check out your local farmer’s market.
17. Try Paper Bags or Biodegradable Bags In Place of Plastic Trash Bags
This is another hack that I had never thought of before writing this post. Not only do we throw away tons of plastic, but we also use plastic to throw it away! How crazy is that?! A great alternative to this is using paper bags. There are even biodegradable trash bags on the market now! We’ve come a long way folks.
18. Ditch the Single-Use Coffee Pods
Single-use coffee pods are probably the easiest fix ever. And the alternative is way cheaper! There are so many reusable coffee pods out nowadays, and you can fill it with whatever coffee grounds you like! No more paying $2 for one measly homemade cup of coffee.
19. Give up the Gum Habit
This is honestly a hard one for me to come to terms with. I’m a huge gum-lover. But if you really think about it, mints serve pretty much the same purpose, without leaving plastic remnants around. So let’s lose the gum and give mints a chance!
20. Look for Clothing Made Without Plastic
I never really thought about how my clothes could have plastic in them. And I have a lot of clothes, so this is really something I should pay attention to. Names like polyester, acrylic, lycra, spandex, and nylon are made with plastic fibers. When you’re shopping, look for clothing made with natural fibers, which are better because they don’t release plastic when being washed.
21. Switch to Paper Tape
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. And it’s such an easy swap. Just do it already.
22. Be Less Frivolous About Tossing Old Electronics & Other Items
We live in the age of extreme consumerism, in which we purchase new products excessively and throw out perfectly good, older ones. Let’s stop this trend. Rather than always trying to get our hands on the newest gadgets, we should try our best to reuse the things that we have in order to prevent waste.
23. Try a Different Type of Toothbrush
Something I’ve recently realized is that our disposable plastic toothbrushes contribute to a big portion of plastic pollution. Because these are such small pieces of plastic, making them difficult to recycle, they tend to end up in the ocean. Their shape makes them likely to end up in the noses and mouths of sea creatures. Bamboo is a great alternative because it’s completely biodegradable. Though you may not be able to find these at your local Walmart just yet, they’re easily available online!
24. Replace Air Fresheners with Candles or Incense
Even though this is something you wouldn’t really expect to have an effect on the environment, it definitely does. We produce tons of household products with thick plastic packaging when there are other, more natural alternatives. Who doesn’t love a good-smelling candle?
25. Choose Cone Over Cup
Who would’ve thought that my addiction to waffle cones wasn’t in vain? It’s not! When you think about it, eating the “container” that your food comes in prevents waste of a cup that could’ve been used. It’s a win-win!
26. Buy Things Secondhand
I absolutely love buying things secondhand. Usually they’re higher quality and much cheaper than new things at other stores. Plus, you can always find the timeless, never-go-out-of-style items at secondhand shops. It’s truly a shopper’s paradise.
27. Support Companies That Make an Effort to Use Less Plastic
Going against the grain is HARD. So we need to really give some extra love to the companies that are making changes to use less plastic. Hopefully, little to no plastic-using companies will be the new norm one day, but until then, we really have to seek them out! Not only are there companies that try to use less plastic, but there are tons that also work to pick up plastic that’s already polluting our oceans. So rather than continuing to support companies that use tons of plastic and facilitate waste, let’s take the time to look into plastic-free companies and do our best to support them!
When all else fails and you find yourself using single-use plastic, recycle it! This may not be as good as not using it in the first place, but it’s a heck of a lot better than tossing it in the trash!
Well, if you didn’t know where to start on your journey to using less plastic, then you should be good to go now. These 28 tips should keep you on your toes and make you feel a lot better as a consumer. There’s always more you can do too, so keep doing research and look for even more ways to eliminate plastic pollution! Good luck!