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30 Creative Ways to Use Less Plastic and Go Green!
Plastic. It’s everywhere. It’s cheap to make and sometimes so convenient it seems as if modern day life could not continue without it. Our food comes in plastic bags, we take it home from the supermarket in plastic bags, we put our refuse in plastic bags (much of which consists of, you guessed it, plastic). We drink from plastic containers or pour beverages into plastic cups and glasses, we use plastic to store our leftover food or use plastic wrap to cover it. And we’ve only scratched the surface here!
It’s true, plastic is cheap and convenient but it’s hurting us and hurting the environment. No matter how much you might want to think that most plastic gets recycled, the truth of the matter is, it doesn’t. The majority of it ends up in landfills or our oceans. This is destructive to every single living thing on earth. Keep in mind that there is no “away”. When you throw something “away”, it doesn’t magically disappear; it just goes “away” someplace else. We need to start thinking about how wasteful it is to use something for 15 minutes, or even a few days, just to toss it in the trash.
According to Plastic Oceans:
- 35 Billion Plastic bottles are thrown away every single year just in the US.
- 500 Billion Plastic bags are used every year, worldwide.
- More than 250 species are known to have eaten or have become entangled in some form of plastic. This is species not single animals.
- Plastic makes up about 8 percent of the world’s oil production.
Plastic has become such a way of life that trying to go plastic free is more difficult than you think, but, step by step, little by little, it can be done. If you want to go more green and cut back on plastic use, here are 30 ways you can cut down or cut back on the amounts of plastic you use in your day to day life.
1. Avoid convenience foods when shopping.
Highly processed foods are bad for your health so why eat them anyway? If you stick to the outside sections of the store, you will generally find the healthier foods such as bakery, meat, and produce.
2. Can your own foods in glass bottles.
This means you don’t have to buy canned foods that are lined with plastic or foods in plastic containers. Mason jars are reusable too!
3. Freeze food in reused flour or cloth bags instead of those plastic freezer bags.
4. Make your own laundry soap
Reuse those huge liquid soap containers or try making granulated soap that comes in cardboard boxes.
5. Commit to not buy personal care products in plastic containers
This means things like shampoo, lotion, soap, or deodorants. If you can’t’ find these items in other containers, then make your own. There are tons of recipes online.
6. Switch to using menstrual cups
Instead of buying tampons with plastic applicators or individually wrapped pads, buy menstrual cups of non-applicator type of tampons.
7. Don’t use disposable travel-sized items
Bring your own from home! You don’t need to buy those extra travel sized toiletry items when you probably have them right in your own bathroom, just pack them when you go.
8. Simplify your life
Before you buy something that is made of plastic or packaged in plastic, ask yourself if there isn’t some other option or if you even really need this item at all.
9. Buy in bulk
Sometimes we can’t avoid plastic but we can limit the amount we use. Buy in bulk as much as possible and avoid those individual serving type of packaging. If you live or work near one of those warehouse stores try buying things in bulk such as rice, grains, oil, flour, herbs and spices, nuts, beans, seeds, coffee, and pasta. Find out why 80 percent of packaging is toxic waste.
10. Reuse any plastic that you already have in your home
Buy large, supersize containers of things like dish soap and sugar and then put them into smaller containers that you already have for easier handling.
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11. Think reusable
Buy stainless steel water bottles for everyone in your home and take a coffee thermos to work so you can avoid those individual water bottles or plastic coffee cups.
12. Make your own condiments then store them in glass jars or reuse plastic containers
13. Invest in a water filtration system for your home
14. Always carry reusable cloth shopping bags.
Keep a stash in your car always. Some are even small enough and can fold up to be smaller than a sandwich. Keep one in your purse so no matter where you go, you have at least one handy for shopping or unexpected purchases.
15. Shop at Farmer’s Markets
Bring your own bags and save some big bucks. Read more about a new type of store in Germany.
16. Pack your own lunch
Use steel lunchboxes or reusable glass containers and put your lunch items in reused plastic bags or other types of containers.
17. Bake your own bread
When you break your own bread you not only avoid all those unwanted chemicals and preservatives, you avoid the plastic bag most bread comes in. Or you could always hit up the bakery directly and buy bread minus the plastic bag. Store it in a repurposed plastic container or cloth bags.
18. Bring your own container to the deli or butcher when you buy meat or cheese
19. Make your own cleansers for the home and put them in repurposed containers
20. Pack your own to-go containers when you eat out
This way you can take left overs home without using a disposable container. If you have enough containers, you might even be able to stop by that Chinese take-out and have your to-go dinner placed in your own containers!
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21. Keep a small set of silverware with you at work or in the car so you can avoid plastic utensils
22. Replace items in your kitchen
If you have a collection of various plastic items in your kitchen, replace them a piece at a time with glass or stainless steel when they break or wear out.
23. Make your own snacks
Instead of buying those individual snacks or even small bags, why not make your own and then store them in reusable or repurposed containers. Or, buy in bulk and then place them in individual containers for lunches or snacks.
No matter how small your home, you can make a compost bin. Add food and paper scraps instead of throwing them into plastic garbage bags. The few plastic garbage bags you can use, the better. If this doesn’t appeal to you, try to find an alternative to plastic bags. Some people reuse empty dog food, cat food, and cat litter bags for trash bags.
25. Wash and reuse
Don’t throw out those zip lock bags after just one use! Save money, save the environment, and reuse them. Unless whatever is in there is just too yucky to consider reusing, for most food items, even if they get on the inside of the bag, they can be washed. Hand wash them with a sponge or rag in hot water and rinse well. Set them in a sunny windowsill or someplace warm where they can dry easily. Placing them upside down will help. Once they are completely dry, they are good to go.
26. Say “No Thanks” to plastic straws
Paper straws are ok but you don’t find many of them anymore. Plastic straws are now one of the top 10 pieces of plastic that is found on our beaches. Straws are nice but not really necessary. If you must have a straw, try to find one that you can reuse or reuse that plastic one until it falls to pieces.
27. Say “Yes, please!” to natural fibers
Wear clothes that are made from natural fibers such as cotton and wool. Polyester and other types of fabrics often contain tiny bits of plastic and many of these pieces end up in our oceans, and inside marine animals.
28. Don’t throw away your old electronics’
Try your best to upgrade the ones you have, rather than buy the latest and newest gadget. Try selling your old ones online or take them to the proper recycling facility.
29. Think Sharing!
If you haven’t yet tried them, Craigslist, Freecycle, and Yerdie, are the place to either look for something used ( rather than buy new) or to offer your plastic items to those in need. You can either sell your item or give it away free, but either way, sharing your unwanted plastic items means someone isn’t going to buy new plastic. Many people love to use the barter system where you trade things you don’t want for things you do want. Somewhere out there, there is a match for you and your unwanted plastics.
30. Rethink gift wrap
Yes, those little cutie plastic baby bottles you tie on the ribbon of your baby shower gift are super cute, but are they really necessary? You know it’s going to be admired for a day or two and then tossed in the trash. Experiment with reusable wraps or get creative and try wrapping from the newspaper comics, and add a drawing of a baby that your two year old made and attach that to the package instead. Be creative and avoid using more plastic!
Although you can’t avoid all plastic in this world, you can limit how much you buy as well as how much you use and throw out. Be green and ditch the plastic habit.