I have a feeling everyone knows about all the plastic floating around in our oceans by now, and the impact it has on surrounding ecosystems and wildlife species.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to decrease the amount of plastic used on the daily!!!! Woohoo!!!! And don’t stress about being perfectly plastic free – especially if you’re just starting out – but just thinking about the way the things you use and buy every day impact the environment is enough to start that ball rolling. 🙂
So, here are some easy peasy ways to decrease your plastic use and increase mother earth’s happiness.
PURCHASE ITEMS IN LARGER SIZES
More product in one package means less multiple smaller packages you’d have to purchase to get the same amount of product. If you know you’re going to use it anyway, why not just buy a ton for less plastic packaging? It’s usually cheaper, too.
SHOP IN THE BULK FOOD SECTION AT SUPERMARKETS OR THE FARMER’S MARKET
Whole foods has an awesome bulk foods section, and there are often local health stores that do, as well. Even the Safeway near my house has a bulk section now! I’d suggest also trying to find a local store if you can, because it’s great to support small businesses. Also, I’ve found that the one close to me has lots of extra deals and things that Whole Foods usually wouldn’t.
It may seem intimidating at first, but just bring your own jar/bag (weigh it first, or have the customer section of the store weigh it for you and record that on the jar as the “tare” weight, so the cashier subtracts that from the total weight; most cloth bags you can purchase have a little tab on the side with the weight written on it) and fill it up with the items you want!
If it’s your first time at that store, you may want to double check with them and let them know you brought your own bags. The workers are usually really nice about it, and very encouraging, even intrigued, once you explain that you’re doing it to help the environment. You can find almost anything that typically has packaging, such as beans, rice, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, and much more!
REUSE YO SHIT
[Some of my zero waste essentials that I (try to) carry around in my bag every day; I forgot to include my metal straw, but that comes with me, as well!]
It’ll save you money in the long run AND decrease your footprint! Here is a list of commonly used items that have an easily reusable counterpart:
–Water bottle (this is a link to the one I have, but there are so many options)
-Shopping bags (to put groceries or other shopping purchases in, you can usually find these in almost any store for like $3; try to buy cotton if you can)
–Ziploc bags (I don’t use these, but they look awesome!)
–Straws (I just got these and I love them!! They come with a little cleaning brush)
–Dryer balls (instead of one time use dryer sheets; to be honest, I just don’t use anything when I dry my clothes, and am totally fine with it)
–GLASS tupperware or mason jars (I still have a few plastic ones, but glass is definitely better); you can also clean out old nut butter jars (or anything that comes in a glass jar, really) and reuse it! I’ve found that smaller ones are especially great for salad dressings etc.
–Razors (I just got one and they’re surprisingly easy to use, even though they look super intimidating).
-Also those plastic bags we use for fruits/veggies (at least in the states) in the grocery store drive me NUTS. I usually don’t even use them but the checkout people look at me like I’m crazy/get annoyed with me/maybe that’s not very sanitary? You can get these to counteract that. Whole Foods also sells them for like a dollar or two. Or, if you really would rather use the plastic, just reuse them!
I’m sure I forgot some things, so if anyone has any other thoughts please add!
It may seem like these things are expensive, but they really do save you money in the long run!
For more reusable products (and ideas of where to buy them) check out Trash is for Tossers’ list of Zero Waste Alternatives, the Life Without Plastic Store, or the Package Free Shop.
LADIES: GET YOSELF A MENSTRUAL CUP
[By OrangeD [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons]
Or even that reusable underwear. Saves you soooo much money not buying pads/tampons all the time and decreases trash since you’re not constantly tossing all that packaging. Also, the menstrual cup and reusable underwear are both a lot less toxic than non-organic pads and tampons sold on store shelves.
So empowering, too – I really felt more in charge and comfortable with my own body in a weird way. I have the Lunette now, but I first used the Diva Cup – I liked them both! Only reason I switched to Lunette was because I lost my Diva Cup and Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers highly recommend the Lunette. Both are good options, though!
Make sure you get the right model – the model 1’s are usually for women that haven’t had kids, whereas the model 2 is for you if you’ve had kiddos. I accidentally bought the model 2 Diva Cup at first, and it was fine for me, though!
BYO CONTAINERS FOR DINNERS OUT
If you know you’ll be taking some home (although I feel like this only applies in the US maybe haha, I tried to ask for a to go container in the UK/Europe and they looked at me like I was crazy). I’ve started implementing this into my routine (but sometimes I still forget – working on always keeping a small tupperware in car/bag just in case!). Yeah, it may be a little odd at the moment when you sneak into your purse and bust out a container, but I think soon it’ll become something more and more people do.
[I got this toothbrush from a random company that was offering a deal on bamboo toothbrushes; they can be a little pricey so I ain’t no stranger to cheap stuff; usually I use Brush with Bamboo]
They’re biodegradeable! A little pricey, but just THINK of all those plastic toothbrushes that go into the landfill every week – ugh probably more like every day. *shudder* And you can reuse them to clean other things in your house! Like, I use my old one to clean hard-to-reach places in my juicer.
THE FARMERS MARKET IS LIFE
Usually, produce is sold without the plastic wrapping that it sometimes can come in in grocery stores (like what the hell Trader Joe’s – ily, but why are all your fruits and veggies wrapped in plastic???). Plus, it’s local so it didn’t have to drive across country in a truck to get there. Yay for less fuel emissions!
I’ve also been using Imperfect Produce lately, and have tried Farm Fresh To You in the past. Imperfect Produce sends you produce that would normally get thrown away (due to imperfections or surplus, but it’s not always local), while Farm Fresh To You delivers produce from local farmers.
Still not totally sure which is the BEST in terms of environmental friendliness, so if anyone has any thoughts let a girl know! I’ve heard joining a CSA is good, too (not really sure what the difference is between that and Farm Fresh To You – I think both are good).
LEARN TO MAKE YOUR OWN PRODUCTS
[L-R: Dry shampoo, toothbrush, lotion, deodorant (even though it’s in a Primal Pit Paste case I make my own, and just reuse the jar), toothpaste, razor]
Moisturizer, deodorant, toothpaste, face wash, cleaning products, etc. can easily be made! Making your own products means you can buy the ingredients to make them in bulk, and reuse the same containers over and over, decreasing the amount of plastic used. Unfortunately, most of the materials I buy end up coming in plastic containers, which is a bummer. I haven’t found a bulk section for any oils or butters, so those end up coming in containers for now.
It is also so much safer since you know exactly what’s going into them – since, you know, you made them and all – and they won’t be filled with all those toxic chemical ingredients. All natural baby.
SHOP AT THRIFT STORES
[This is a shitty photo, but this whole outfit was thrifted (except the jewelry), even my bag and shoes!]
Items sold there don’t come with plastic packaging, and reusing, rather than purchasing something new, is always a good thing. And maybe just buying less in general.
When I was younger, I was obsessed with buying new things, even if I didn’t really need it. There was just a rush I got from buying something. Now, I feel better when I purchase items with a longer shelf life. This way I’m not constantly wasting my money and negatively impacting the environment with things I’ll end up throwing out/giving away in the next couple years.
However, I do break down every now and then to buy something new (especially with shoes and pants – so hard to find ones I want in my size!! I do my best to make sure it’s a sustainable company, and if not, a very rare occurrence).
BUT, for thrifted things, I usually go to Crossroads and Goodwill in person; online, I’ve been using Poshmark.
So so so important!! But remember – just because you recycle it, doesn’t mean it’s gone. Eventually, plastic won’t be able to be recycled any longer and will end up in the landfill. I admit again, I’m not perfect, and still purchase things in plastic from time to time – but I try to find a non-plastic alternative when I can. Buy glass if you can, because it’s completely recyclable.
For lots more info check out the blog Trash is for Tossers. The girl who writes it is pretty badass and can fit all her trash in the last 5 years in one mason jar due to living a zero waste life. S’cool.
There are also SO many awesome zero waste channels on YouTube! My favorites are Trash is for Tossers, RogueGoneVogue, and Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson.
I hope you don’t feel like you have to change everything overnight – just do what you can! I’ve been learning about this lifestyle for a few years now, and I’m still definitely not perfect. But, I try to make informed decisions and do what I can.
I’m currently in the process of adopting a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, and hope to share more as I go along. Mother Earth for the win!