Going Plastic-Free: 5 Places in Your Life to Ditch Plastic
We all know plastic isn’t good for the environment. Every time you grab a water bottle at the convenience store, or load your groceries into single-use plastic bags, you’re contributing to a global problem that is destroying our oceans, harming wildlife and threatening human health. And the more you learn about this scourge, the more you realize how pervasive the material is in your everyday life. Plastic is in your clothes, your skincare routine, your morning cup of coffee — even the food you eat may have microplastics in it.
So, what can you do to help? While real change is needed at the policy level, reducing your reliance on plastic — and on single-use plastic in particular — is a great place to start.
Here are five areas in your life to say goodbye to plastic for good:
1. Beauty Routine
From our go-to shampoo and conditioner to our favorite tube of mascara, our beauty products often leave a trail of plastic waste in their wake. Here are a few easy ways to ditch plastic from your beauty routine:
- Ditch disposable cotton balls. Most cotton balls are actually made from synthetic fibers, which are forms of plastic. Swap them out for reusable cotton rounds you can pop in the wash and reuse hundreds of times before composting them at the end of their lifecycle.
- Choose a plastic-free deodorant. Traditional deodorants are made with several types of plastic, which makes them notoriously difficult to recycle. To avoid unnecessary waste, opt for an all-natural deodorant made with plastic-free packaging.
- Replace bottled shampoo with solid shampoo bars. Who doesn’t love a good shampoo bar? These highly-concentrated bars are jam-packed with plant-based ingredients intended to gently cleanse the scalp and nourish dull, dehydrated tresses. Not only do shampoo bars work just as well as liquid shampoo, but each bar can also divert two to three plastic bottles!
2. Food and Groceries
Does it seem like you often come home from the grocery store with more plastic than food? We’ve all been there before. Start kicking plastic out of food shopping with these simple, but impactful, swaps:
- Shop with reusable bags. You don’t need to wait around for your city to implement a plastic bag ban to start grocery shopping sustainably. Bring your own reusable cotton bags and mesh produce bags to the grocery store and start shopping plastic-free.
- Choose naked produce. Those pre-cut vegetables may be convenient, but they’re a huge waste due to their unnecessary packaging. Instead, choose naked produce and take the time to cut them up yourself.
- Store your food in glass containers. Glass is far more sustainable and looks much nicer in your kitchen pantry!
- Skip the straw. According to the Ocean Conservancy, plastic straws are one of the most commonly collected items during their International Coastal Cleanup. Sadly, many of these straws often make their way into oceans, where they harm marine wildlife. If you love to sip through a straw, choose a reusable option made from stainless steel or silicone.
If you’re a big fan of spandex leggings and cotton-polyester blend shirts, just know you’re wearing plastic. Polyester, nylon and acrylic are just a few examples of fabrics made from synthetic fibers, a form of plastic responsible for 35 percent of all microplastics in the ocean.
- Choose clothing made from natural fibers. If you need to buy new clothes, choose garments made from natural fibers, such as organic hemp, cotton, linen and wool.
- Wash your clothes with care. Did you know your clothes shed microfibers in the laundry? To minimize microfiber pollution, wash your clothes in a laundry bag designed to catch microfibers and avoid washing your clothes more than necessary.
- Buy athleisure wear second-hand. Workout and athleisure clothing is typically made from elastane (aka, Lycra), a synthetic fiber derived from petroleum. To help lower the demand for elastane and other synthetic fibers, try to get your leggings and stretchy workout tops from second-hand stores.
4. Holidays and Celebrations
As much as we all love celebrations, there’s no denying they can be on the wasteful side. Just think of the plastic plates, utensils, banners and balloons you see at your typical birthday party. Whether you’re gearing up for the holidays or celebrating important milestones, here are some ideas on how to celebrate plastic-free:
- Choose reusable tableware and utensils. Instead of throwing out heaps of one-use plates, cups and cutlery after your celebration, choose reusable tableware you can use time and time again.
- Go green with your gifts. Already getting ready to do some holiday shopping? Skip the plastic toys and consider giving eco-friendly gifts this year. Whether it’s a cast iron skillet, a yummy-smelling soy candle or tickets to a concert, everyone on your list is sure to enjoy a “green” gift.
- Embrace DIY party decorations. Feeling up for a craft project? From popcorn garlands to Insta-worthy photo backdrops, there are tons of DIY party decoration ideas that can help you reduce plastic dependance, while also earning you some serious bragging rights.
Between the plastic pens, water bottles and eating utensils, there’s no doubt the office can be a wasteful place. The good news is plastic doesn’t need to be part of your workday. Check out these ideas on how to go plastic-free at the office:
- Drink from the tap. Drinking tap water is easy on your wallet and the environment. Bring a reusable water bottle with you to work so you don’t have to get up every time you need a drink.
- Get your coworkers on board. Let your coworkers know about your desire to go plastic-free and encourage them to join. You might be pleasantly surprised at how many takers you get!
- Bring a set of reusable utensils. Grabbing takeout with a colleague? Avoid plastic cutlery by bringing along your own set of reusable bamboo utensils.
- Pack your own snacks and meals. Preparing your own food from scratch is healthier, cheaper and better for the planet.
Small Changes Go A Long Way
Plastic may be a convenience, but ditching it doesn’t have to be a major lifestyle change! In fact, smaller changes are often easier to keep up with in the long term. Pick one place at a time to go plastic-free and add in another change when you feel ready. Most of these changes can save you money over time, and you’ll get to feel good about your contributions to the environment!
Author Bio: Emelia DiBello is the Co-founder and Creative Director for The Earthling Co. Emelia oversees all things creative and product related. She’s passionate about creating a harmonious relationship between business and environmentalism. The Earthling Co. is based in Reno, NV. On the weekends, you can find her hiking in the Sierras, petting all the dogs, or planning excursions to new, culturally-rich locations.