Anti-plastic sentiment reached a peak in 2018 when California became the first U.S. state to restrict plastic straws in restaurants. But plastic is still widely available, and often hard to replace. But in many cases, it's easier than you might think.
Last week, someone in the check-out line at my favorite grocery store asked for a plastic bag. “So you want to pay 10 cents for a plastic bag instead of using a FREE paper bag?” the cashier asked, an eyebrow raised. “Well…” the customer thought a moment, “now that you put it that way, I’ll take paper.”
When it was my turn in line, the cashier whispered, “technically, I’m supposed to charge for paper, too. But this is my little way of protesting plastic bags in our store.”
You might be thinking we can’t all be stealthy environmental vigilantes like this employee. But we can. Here are some easy swaps and changes to help you live plastic-free. (Bonus: most of these will save you money, too!)
1. Use What You’ve Got
There are a ton of fantastic products on the market to help you achieve a zero-waste lifestyle. But before you start filling up your shopping cart, take a look around: you’d be surprised at how many of the things lying around your house can do the same job for free.
Try these swaps:
- Instead of buying glass bottles, use old plastic containers for bulk items like dishwashing liquid. Repurpose the plastic you already have, and if the plastic police come for you, just remind them: it’s “reduce, REUSE, recycle.”
- Use an old sriracha or honey bottle to store ACV wash or any product that requires a small nozzle (a tip from this awesome Youtuber).
- If you make your own dry shampoo, store it in an old salt shaker.
- Use mason jars. For like… everything. These nifty containers come in a variety of sizes for multiple storing purposes, from bulk items, to homemade lotions, to your morning coffee. If you’ve somehow managed not to accumulate a variety of these little guys over the years, old pasta and jam jars work just as well. But if you really dig that mason aesthetic, Amazon has a great selection.
There are a thousand other creative ways to reuse things from your home or office. Once you start thinking with plastic reduction in mind, they’ll become easier to spot!
2. Bulk up (your groceries, that is)
Did you know that 52 percent of the plastics thrown away each year are packaging for things like household cleaners, toiletries, and food? One of the simplest things you can do to put a huge dent in that figure is to buy bulk as much as possible. Most natural food stores, and many conventional grocery chains, provide the basics — grains and pulses, dried fruits, cereals, tea.
Remember to bring your own bags! In addition to large shopping bags, it’s best to have some cotton and mesh ones in a variety of sizes, like these.
3. Get a zero-waste dining kit
Invest in a quality, lightweight utensil kit to carry in your bag for impromptu meals out when silverware isn’t available. Your kit should have these basics: a fork, spoon, butter knife, straw, chopsticks, and reusable napkin. Make your own by bringing utensils from home and rolling them tightly in a kitchen cloth or handkerchief.
4. Make your own products to nix packaging
Some products are definitely easier to DIY than others. To get you started, here are two recipes that are so simple, you’ll wonder why you didn’t try them earlier. By the end of 2019, you might even be bottling your own lotions to give out as stocking stuffers!
Mix 1 teaspoon of honey and 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into 8 ounces of freshly brewed chamomile tea. Allow to cool, and store in a reusable bottle.
Despite the overwhelming variety of brands on the market, toner is actually a deceptively simple product. In this recipe, apple cider vinegar balances your skin’s pH levels, while honey and chamomile moisturize and soothe inflammation. Need an anti-aging boost? Try green tea instead of chamomile.
In a large spray bottle, mix one part water with one part white vinegar. Add the juice from half a lemon and a few drops of lemon or orange essential oil for scent.
White vinegar is a great deodorizer and stain remover, while the strong acids in lemon fight bacteria.
TIP: If you’ll be cleaning a lot of natural stone or brass-plated fixtures, leave the lemon juice out as it could cause damage.