When you mention the word sustainability to someone, single-use plastics almost always come up in the conversation. For a few years, single-use plastics like straws and water bottles were a hot-button issue, mainly because they’re so prevalent in our everyday lives. But knowing that single-use plastics aren't good for the environment doesn’t actually help you use less.
Rather than worrying about counting the number of water bottles in the Pacific garbage heap, learn how to use less plastic. Ready to get started? We’ve got 15 ways to reduce your plastic use with minimal effort.
Save Your Takeout Containers
It’s impossible to avoid single-use plastics your whole life. But there are a few that — with some thought — can be turned into multi-use products. Once you’ve finished your leftovers, rinse out those plastic containers and add them to your shelf instead of throwing them in the trash. Whether it’s for your own dinner leftovers or to carry your work lunch out the door, takeout containers can last for more than one meal.
Keep Bamboo Utensils On-Hand for Takeout Nights
You just got off of work, you’re exhausted, and cooking dinner is the last thing on your mind. Come prepared to grab your takeout with reusable utensils instead of using the frankly flimsy packets that come standard with a pickup order.
Keep the disposable utensils from coming home with you by specifying in your order notes or on the phone that you don’t want any plastic utensils included. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but think of it as a great teaching moment for others to see sustainability in action.
Bring Reusable Grocery Bags to the Store
One of the ways to reduce how much plastic you use is bringing reusable grocery bags to the store. Every week or so, you have to grab groceries for yourself and/or your family, and the grocery bag pile just grows and grows. Limit just how much plastic you bring home by keeping reusable bags on hand.
After emptying the bags at home, take them right back out to the car or place them next to the front door so you never forget them.
Don't Forget Your Reusable Produce Bags
While you’re packing up your reusable grocery bags, don’t forget to add a produce bag. When you’re buying a lot of fresh produce and you’ve got reusable grocery bags, it can be hard to find places to store it to keep it from getting smushed or from rolling out. This is where produce-specific reusable bags come in. You can find so many cute ones online; or if you’re feeling crafty, try crocheting your own.
Craft With the Plastic Bags You Already Have
From holiday wreaths to making ‘plarn’ (aka plastic yarn), there are so many unique ways you can put your matryoshka dolls of a plastic bag pile to good use. So, when it’s time to do a little culling on your infinite bag collection, turn to these cool ideas to repurpose your plastic bags.
Buy Whole Fruits Instead of Pre-Cut Ones
If you’re on the go and you hear the tummy grumbles calling for snack time, avoid picking out pre-cut fruit. We’re all about picking out healthy snack options, but pre-cut fruit is almost always packaged in plastic containers.
So the quickest way to satisfy your cravings without contributing to the plastic problem is picking up whole fresh fruit and cutting it yourself. Is the extra step a hassle sometimes (looking at you pineapple or watermelon)? Yes. But is it worth knowing we just kept more plastic out of the landfill? Totally.
Organize Your Clothes With Metal/Wood Hangers
If you’re moving house, heading to college, or redecorating your closet, you’ve got a great opportunity to make a plastic-free choice. When you’re browsing the store for new clothing hangers, don’t pick up the cheap plastic ones. Instead, buy the wood or metal kinds.
Switch to Loose-Leaf Tea
In America, people buy prepacked tea bags without a second thought. But even if you buy ones without individual plastic wrapping, the packaging is usually still cling wrapped. Instead, try your favorite blend in a loose leaf. The brewing process is incredibly similar, except the only extra tool you need is a strainer. But tea strainers are really cheap and easy to find.
Give Eco-Friendly Writing Utensils a Try
When you think of eco-friendly utensils, spoons, forks, and knives probably come to mind. But what you might not think about is writing utensils. Almost every pen or pencil today is made with some piece of plastic on it. Think twice about going mechanical with your no. 2s, and try out eco-friendly versions like these made from cork and wheat straw.
Stock up on Bar Shampoo & Conditioner
There’s not a traditional shampoo or conditioner you can buy at the drugstore that comes packaged in something other than plastic. And while you don’t run out of shampoo or conditioner that frequently, it’s still a plastic consumption you can cut.
Rather than using plastic bottled shampoo and conditioners, give a shampoo/conditioner bar a try. There’s no need for plastic bottles because the ingredients are pressed into something that’ll fit in the palm of your hand.
Use Cleaning Tablets Instead of Prepackaged Liquids
When you’re cleaning, the only thing that matters is having a cleaning product that gets the job done. Prepackaged cleaners aren’t better than cleaning tablets. They just use far more plastic. So, when it's time to top off your household cleaners, order some dissolvable cleaning tablets instead.
Make the Switch to Glass Containers
In terms of style, everything comes back around. The iconic vintage candy containers from old sweet shops have made a huge comeback with minimalism lovers. But you don’t have to be infatuated with open concept homes and all things beige to fill your countertops with glass containers.
You can fill glass containers will all sorts of stuff: ingredients, spare change, cleaning supplies, and even leftovers. Instead of using plastic products to store your stuff, give glass a try.
Ditch Plastic and Go for Aluminum or Glass Water Bottles
When the war on plastics first came to a head some time ago, plastic water bottles were one of the single-use plastics that everyone’s eyes turned to. Thankfully, there’s a quick fix! Stick with a reusable water bottle instead.
Now, you could use a hard plastic bottle, but if you’re really trying to cut out as much plastic as possible, try to find aluminum or glass.
Instead of Racking Up Trash Bags, Compost
Plastic trash bags are one of those inescapable items in today’s world. But you can help each trash bag last longer before getting filled to the brim by giving composting a try. There are a ton of ingredients and organic materials you can toss in a compost pile. And if you tend a garden, then it’s a great way to get free fertilizer.
Your Sustainability Efforts Matter
The worst thing anyone interested in living more sustainably can do is listen to the pessimistic outlook that one person’s actions can’t save the world. While you might not be able to make a huge dent in the massive environmental crises we’re currently experiencing, you won’t be adding to it. And that matters. So, flaunt your beeswax wraps, glass containers, and aluminum bottles with pride.