By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, according to an article by the Washington Post. Guiltily, I once thought my plastic waste was not contributing to this issue-it was other countries not properly disposing and recycling their waste. But as I’ve become more educated on the topic, it’s clear that everyone is contributing to the problem. Our plastic waste is not being recycled and while we need to put pressure on large companies to change their plastic waste problem, we can also make individual choices to reduce our plastic waste.
These are a few of the easy changes I have made to reduce my plastic waste.
BYO Water Bottle
One of the easiest ways to reduce your plastic waste is simply to use those reusable, refillable water bottles that most of us have taking up a cupboard in our kitchen. I have made it a habit since high school to carry around a refillable water bottle. Not only does it help me stay hydrated, but it also stops me from stopping in a convenience store to buy water in a single use water bottle.
Use Reusable Bags
Another easy swap is to use reusable shopping bags when grocery shopping (or when buying anything else). I keep mine hanging next to the door so I remember them when I’m headed to the grocery store. I also always have one reusable bag in my purse for smaller or unplanned shopping trips.
Switch to a Bamboo Toothbrush
Every plastic toothbrush ever produced still exists, so why not switch to one with a bamboo handle that can be composted? Unfortunately, plastic is still the best material for the bristles. Simply pull them out with pliers and dispose accordingly.
Use Reusable Storage Bags
There are so many reusable alternative to traditional one use ziplock and sandwich bags. You can use reusable containers, a mason jar or a bowl with a reusable lid. If you are really committed to something resembling a bag, then upgrade to reusable storage bags that can be washed and used over and over again.
Switch to Bar Soap
Bar soap not only eliminates plastic packaging, but it can also save money. I switched to a package free bar soap from Whole Foods that costs $7 for 3 bars of soap and lasts months.
Switch to plastic free laundry and dish soap
There are a lot of small companies making laundry and dish soaps in plastic free packaging. My favorites are Dropps for laundry detergent pods that come in a simple cardboard packaging and Blueland for dishwasher detergent and soaps in compostable packaging. I am skeptical of other companies offering liquid soaps in cartons, since these often contain multiple materials that need to be separated (and often cannot be) to be recycled. But, I encourage you to do your own research and see what local recycling rules are in your area.
Use Homemade Cleaners
Natural cleaners are much easier to find in stores, but are still often in disposable, plastic packaging. Instead of buying new cleaners in packaging, I have taken to refilling these (clean) plastic bottles with homemade cleaners. So far I’ve made an all purpose orange peel vinegar cleaner that works well on most surfaces, and next I plan on making my own dusting spray for wood furniture.
Buy unpackaged foods or foods in paper packaging
Eliminating food packaging can be challenging depending on where you live (and your budget), but when possible try to buy as little packaged foods as possible. Bulk fruits and vegetables are great zero waste options (I just pop mine into reusable produce bags). Aluminum has a higher recycling rate than plastic, so canned foods like beans are also good zero waste options. When possible avoid individually packaged foods that cause more packaging waste.
Use package free shampoo
Did you know shampoo and conditioner also come in solid, plastic free, bars? Switching to a bar shampoo/conditioner can save money and packaging waste. I’m still looking for an option that works on my long, fine hair, but in the meantime I have switched to Plaine Products, which offers refillable shampoo and conditioner in aluminum bottles. Simply mail them back the empty bottles and they will clean and reuse them!
The easiest sustainable change that everyone can make is just to buy fewer things. Not only will this save you money, but it will also eliminate waste from buying things that are unnecessary. Try repairing, mending or repurposing items you already have before buying new and when that fails try shopping second hand.