Thinking of ways to reduce plastic usage seems like a hard battle to begin. After all, plastic is so convenient – there for us whenever we need a bottle of water at the gym or when we don’t have time to wash a coffee cup or lunch plate.
And so many things come in it which we can simply unwrap and enjoy. Plus, it’s made itself an integral part of so many of our daily errands – from carrying our groceries home in it to wrapping up our trash with it.
Plastic is everywhere. So much so that it’s hard to imagine a world without plastic and all its inherent ease of use.
But when you stop and think about it, you quickly realize that plastic – as convenient as it is – is more foe than friend.
And once you get to know a few breathtaking facts – like how plastic takes up to 1000 years to decompose or that it is estimated that by mid-century, the amount of plastics in our ocean, which is already astronomical, will outweigh fish, ton for ton – it’s hard to go back to the flippant daily use of all things plastic.
And of course, once you really go down the plastic rabbit hole, you discover the whole array of our dysfunctional relationship with plastic. Like how of the 8.3 metric tons of plastic produced each year, 6.3 metric tons of it becomes waste – and of that, a mere 9% gets recycled.
And this is in addition to plastic being a petroleum product that needs to be mined from the earth, and which contains many toxic chemicals which can cause everything from early onset puberty in boys and girls, to weight gain and cancer for all of us.
Before you know it, you hit a point where everything good and decent in you finally screams: no more. No more plastic – even if that means I’ll be making some dreaded changes.
22 Painless Ways to Reduce Plastic Usage
The good news is that a lot of these changes needn’t be so dreaded after all. If you’ve finally hit that point of no-going-back-to-mindless-plastic-consumption, we say welcome to the club!
And here’s 22 easier-than-you-expected ways to reduce your daily plastic consumption!
Toss the Bottled Water
Seriously, this is the first thing that’s got to go.
To produce the approximately 50 billion disposable plastic water bottles sold in the US last year, it took about 17 billion barrels of crude oil, which is about enough to power 1.3 million cars for an entire year.
That alone is reason enough to re-think your use of disposable plastic water bottles, and by filtering your own water and re-using a glass or metal (preferably stainless steel) water bottle, you can to your part in reducing these alarming statistics.
And you know what? This is actually a lovely first step because this is the time you get to gift yourself a gorgeous water bottle you’ll love a lot more than that Dasani piece of plastic crap you were using.
The natural next step is to BYOB – or Bring Your Own Bag when you shop.
Most stores now offer reusable grocery bags for purchase at a nominal price, and you can also bring along the same grocery bags the store provided you on your last trip there.
Keep in mind too that many stores now charge you for disposable bags, while offering you a small discount for bringing your own, so not only can you help the environment, you can save money as well.
Own Your Coffee Mug
While many coffee shops now offer paper cups, the caps placed on them are another story.
By making a small investment in a thermal cup which can be reused, not only can you do your part in reducing plastic consumption, personal cups are also typically safer due to screw-on lids and less flimsy materials, and can also save you money.
Since most coffee shops offer discounts for those who bring their own, and also charge you only for a small coffee, no matter how large your reusable cup is, you can see noticeable savings over the course of time (plus you get more coffee that way!).
Vote with Your Dollars
The loudest message you can send to companies is loss of sales, and by avoiding mail order companies who use bubble wrap or plastic packing peanuts, you can do just that.
With many starch peanut and paper packing materials available for companies to use, there is no reason for anyone to settle for anything less. Let them know.
Not All Food Comes in Plastic
Look for companies who do not use plastic as part of their packaging, such as bread companies who use paper, or drink companies who sell their products in glass.
Not only does using these materials lighten the environmental and health impacts of using plastic, they are also typically more recyclable – and in many cases, reusable – as well.
Bring Your Own Lunch to Work
Sure, the lunch counter is convenient, and getting something to go is a great way to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. But considering how much plastic is disposed of every time you enjoy lunch and a drink, don’t you think it may be time to start bringing your own?
Plus, by using tempered glass (or other material) containers, you are avoiding the BPA’s and other toxins which plastics contain—not to mention saving a few dollars in food costs along the way.
Not only can using tempered glass containers to store leftovers save plastic, they are also less expensive in the long-run, and more convenient as well.
Not only you are not throwing cellophane away – which costs you money – but leftovers can be easily re-heated in the container they were stored in. Win win!
Bulk Bins are the Way to Go
Most cereals, grains, legumes, sweeteners and candy are available in bulk in most stores, which can not only save plastic, but are also less expensive.
Plus, you won’t be stuck having to purchase a huge package of something you only need a little of that way.
Don’t Throw That Away!
Have you ever considered how much plastic can be washed and reused? Close to all of it, and in some cases, such as in disposable plastic silverware, there is no reason not to simply clean and reuse it. As they say, every bit counts!
Do You Really Need That Straw?
When you order a drink in a restaurant or café, do you really need a straw—or even a lid – to go along with it? Request it without one, and you will never miss it.
Reusable Produce Bags
All those plastic produce bags which the store provides you are filling the environment, choking waterways, and killing wildlife.
By either investing in reusable produce bags, or at the very least cleaning and reusing the ones you got on your last trip to the store, you can do your part to avoid adding to what is one of the worst environmental atrocities there are.
Returnable Bottles Rock
Plastic milk jugs are every bit as harmful as disposable plastic water bottles, so why not look for companies who use glass?
In fact, many yogurt, milk and drink companies are now doing what used to be done all the time, which is to charge a refundable deposit on the container they sell you product in.
This also helps them cut costs, which helps keep you from having to pay extra for their packaging—win-win!
Candy? Who Needs It!
So, you have a sweet tooth? Many of us do! However, all the cellophane and other plastic wrapping which candy is often sold in adds up, and the pain to the environment can be every bit as bad as the pain from the toothache you get from eating too much sugar.
Consider avoiding individually wrapped candy, and either opting for what is in the bulk bins – or better yet, enjoying some healthy fruit. Your waistline and your wallet will benefit!
Picnics are Better Without Plastic
You carry the ice chest home with you after your picnic, why not the plates and silverware as well?
Even if you do need to rely on disposable plates and silverware, there are compostable and eco-friendly options on the market, so no need to continue throwing plastic in the landfill.
Bring Your Own Utensils
If you really want to go above and beyond – carrying your own silverware with you is an easy way to reduce plastic waste when you eat out or bring your lunch to work.
Washing can be as simple as running into the bathroom and using hand soap, or you can just take it home and clean it for the next day.
Make Your Own Gifts
Who says store-bought gifts are the best? With so many toys ending up in the landfill every year, buying your favorite niece or nephew a new doll of action figure may not be the most ecologically sound thing to do.
Plus, when they know that you put the time and effort into creating something for them rather than just running to Walmart, the gift has more meaning, and is more apt to be cherished forever.
Consider a Fountain Pen
While ball-point pens do last a fair amount of time, they ultimately end up running out and being tossed.
By purchasing a refillable pen, you can not only avoid adding to the plastic problem, but they write well, save you money, and they can be pretty cool too (Ooh, a personal pen—how neat it that?)
Real vs Disposable
Will a real cloth work better than that disposable one? Baby wipes, counter wipes, and other disposable cloths are often made of plastic, and can usually be replaced with reusable natural fiber cloth.
No, it will not be QUITE as convenient, although it will save you money, and also keep some harmful chemicals away from baby’s skin.
Natural Fiber Clothes Feel Better
Polyester clothes are itchy, don’t breathe, and disintegrate to add micro-plastics to waterways and soil.
Consider buying natural cotton, wool, or bamboo fiber clothing which not only feels better on your skin, but can smell better, and come from sustainable sources.
Plant a Garden
Why even worry about transporting vegetables home in anything, when you can harvest them right from your back yard! Not only can you cut out plastic produce bags, but your vegetables will be fresher, more nutritious, and better tasting.
In fact, you could even try a chicken coop – the more food you grow at home, the less plastic it takes for stores to sell it to you.
Shave and Save
Are disposable razors really necessary? Sure, they are inexpensive and convenient, but once they are dull, there is not much which can be done with them other than throwing them away. And that adds up – both for the environment and your wallet.
Try using a refillable razor, which may also give you an even better shaving experience, and are easier to clean between uses.
Electric razors have also become advanced enough to provide a good shaving experience, although they are usually made from plastic, which eventually needs to be thrown away.
Reuse, recycle, and repurpose
Okay, so you forgot to bring your bags to the store with you, and ended up having to bring some plastic bags home with your groceries in them. But guess what?
They are washable, and even if you don’t use them for groceries again, there are many practical uses for them other than tossing them in the landfill.
This holds true with any number of plastic packaging, toys and plastic products which may otherwise be thrown away. Use your imagination, and you will be surprised at the number of things plastic products can be used for.
And, if nothing else, recycling keeps plastic out of the environment, and creates jobs.
Last modified: December 8, 2021