Saving plastic by avoiding packaging where it is possible is probably one of the easier ways of having a positive impact on the environment. It is estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, which according to Ocean Conservancy, is like dumping a truck-full of garbage into the ocean every minute of every day. To me, it’s unbelievable that we still haven’t come further in terms of how much plastic we use and misuse.
Ocean Conservancy’s Annual Coastal Cleanup is coming up tomorrow (Saturday September 19) and while you could still go out and collect trash on your local beach, it might be better to stay in and aim to reduce plastic waste in your own home instead due to Covid-19. Besides, this is something you can strive toward doing every day of the year and not just on one specific day. I have created this post to inspire you to try to reduce your plastic waste in ways that will be fun and will also save you some money!
While some of these tips are easy to incorporate into your life, others might be harder to fit into the hectic kind of lifestyle many of us are living. I would recommend you start with the ones that are easier, and once you’ve got those down you can challenge yourself with a few more. This will help to keep up your motivation and will be more beneficial for you, your wallet and your planet in the long run.
10 easy tips for reducing your plastic waste
1. Keep a tote bag handy for shopping: If you always have a reusable bag handy, you will never need to use plastic bags again. You just need to remember to bring it with you, so keep it someplace where you won’t forget. Maybe in the purse/bag you’re always bringing anyway?
2. Bake your own bread: This is one of the tips that will take a bit more time and effort to incorporate into your life, but it’ll save you a great deal of money as well as plastic. Baking your own bread is a super cheap and super delicious way to reduce your plastic waste.
3. Re-purpose your old plastic containers: Sometimes, it might be impossible for you to recycle plastic and in those cases, re-purposing your old plastic containers could be a solution. Even if you do recycle plastic, you could still reuse some containers and avoid buying a new one later.
4. Bring your own take away-cup when you go to a café: It might be difficult to remember this at first, but if you get into the habit of bringing your own cup, it’ll be natural. I felt weird handing over my own cup at first, but most of the time the barista will gladly fill it up. It saves the café money too.
5. Try to purchase items for long-term use in more environment-friendly materials: If you’re looking to buy something that you’re intending on using for a long time, have a look around and see if you can avoid purchasing this product in plastic. Maybe you can find a hairbrush similar to the one you wanted in wood instead of plastic? It’s most likely more expensive, but hopefully that item will last you longer and will be even more fun for you to use so that you end up saving money in the end. And (even though it’s very vain of me) your home will look a lot more appealing and less cluttered without so much plastic.
6. Buy refill-products where possible: Soap is a product for which you can find refill-bags. The refill bags are made out of plastic as well but at least you’re reducing the amount since they can hold a lot more soap and you don’t need to buy a new soap dispenser every time.
7. Buy package-less from time to time and try DIY: Even better than purchasing a refill could be to just avoid the packaging altogether. Bar soaps and bar shampoos are two examples of items you can easily find without the plastic packaging. One brand of bar soaps that I love are the Savon du Midi soaps pictured below. They come without packaging and smell heavenly!
You can also try to make your own products. I’ve made my own dishwasher tablets (in an ice cube-tray) and I frequently make my own deodorant based on this recipe and it is really worth a try!
8. Avoid plastic bags for fruit and veg when grocery shopping: You don’t actually need to put loose apples, onions and carrots in plastic bags. It works perfectly well to to just put them in your cart or basket the way they are. You’re going to wash them when you get home anyway. If you really want to put them inside something to keep them from rolling around, then just use an extra bag that you’ve brought from home, whether it be a fabric bag or old paper bag. You can even buy mesh-bags specifically for this, although I know from experience that they can be quite pricey and you don’t need them since it works just as well without.
9. Get your fruit and veggies from a local farmers market: It’s not always the cheapest option to buy non-packaged foods at the store but if you go to a farmers market, you’ll get fresh produce that isn’t already wrapped in plastic. Just bring containers and reusable bags from home and you’re all set. Farmers markets also tend to be pretty affordable.
10. Go for plastic-free skincare: As mentioned in my previous post about plastic in the beauty and skincare industry, it can be hard to reduce the waste created by packaging. But what you can easily do is read the ingredient list of your product to see if it contains plastics such as polyethelene or microbeads (common in some scrubs) that are damaging to the environment and to animals. If anything plastic is on the ingredient list: don’t buy it again. There are so many good products out there that don’t use plastic in the formula.
The above are just a few tips from me and if you’re interested in knowing more, please check out some other resources about this topic. I can recommend this post about plastic on National Geographic’s website, as well as the tips from Treehugger on how to reduce your plastic waste where you’ll find a couple of tips I haven’t mentioned here.
I’m planning on going into more detail on some of these tips, for example on different ways to re-purpose your old plastic containers in a later blog post. Until then, let me know in the comments if you have other tips that you want to share!