Have you heard of Plastic Free July?
Plastic Free July is an exercise — a time to acknowledge just how much plastic waste we’re creating, and do something about it. In honor of the movement, and to be part of the solution to plastic pollution, I’ve put together some easy ways we can all reduce single-use plastic waste at home.
While the changes might seem small, they make a difference.
Patterns are easy to fall into, and oftentimes can be even harder to break. It’s my goal to help you identify easy ways to decrease the amount of plastic you use. I understand that sometimes sustainability practices can seem overwhelming — Where do you begin? Are you doing enough? Can you really make a difference?
The truth is that YES, you can make a difference.
Each single-use plastic item you don’t throw away is one less piece of plastic not getting discarded into the landfills or the oceans. And small changes every day add up to big changes.
While you don’t have to create a massive composting pile in your backyard (unless you want to)—there are other things you can do to reduce your environmental impact and be environmentally conscious at home.
Once you begin to implement little changes, they become habitual, and soon enough you’re part of the change. Think you can get on board with that?
So, where do you start? Take into account your groceries, household items, beauty products, food items (takeout containers, coffee cups, things wrapped in plastic). Once you identify where you’re using plastic, it’s much easier to find alternatives.
Here are easy ways to switch to plastic-free alternatives!
At the Grocery Store
You can actually ditch the plastic produce bags they provide at the market, and simply present your fruits and veggies sans baggie (make sure to give them a good wash once you get home!).
Alternatively, if you like having your items all grouped together in bags, opt for reusable ones. I love these reusable mesh produce bags because they’re durable, you can throw them in the wash, and they’re sheer enough so the register can read the product labels easily through the bag.
Always, always, always bring your own reusable bags to bundle up your goods to take home!
Shop Local as Much as Possible
Consider heading to your local farmers’ market more often, too! When you shop locally, most items are not wrapped in plastic, to begin with.
I love Trader Joe’s but there is SO much unnecessary plastic packaging on their vegetables and products. Search for your local CSA—short for Community Support Agriculture—so you can support small, local farms. They might even offer a weekly produce box that can be delivered to your doorstep.
Shopping at local farmers markets also support local, small businesses. Win, win!
Make What You Can at Home
Some products that you buy at the store (and come with a ton of packaging) can pretty easily be made at home and stored in your own glass containers. A few of my faves to make at home are:
Also, consider buying items that only come in glass containers — nut butters, spreads, and condiments are notoriously packaged in plastic, but there are alternatives on the shelves!
Tea bags sometimes have plastic of synthetic materials in the glue that holds the string in. So they don’t actually break down all the way and can last a really long time.
Beauty + Grooming
This little thing that you do every day can often be overlooked when it comes to implementing a change — but it’s a pretty easy one at that! Think about how many toothbrushes you’ve used and thrown away in your lifetime… those were all plastic. Toothbrushes, toothpaste containers, and even the single-use flossing picks can all be switched out for more sustainable and practically plastic-free versions.
Did you know that generic dental floss is made of plastic? Opt for plastic-free flossing with Dental Lace (which also offers subscription services so you’ll never forget to reorder) or similar waste-free options.
I like using Davids Toothpaste — it comes in a metal tube, and while the cap is plastic, it’s a lot less plastic than most brands. Alternatives to this are toothpaste tablets or toothpaste in glass jars.
A lot of generic cotton swabs, or Q-tips, has a plastic handle. All those little swabs add up! Opt for a completely biodegradable swab.
Many companies package skincare and like products in plastic containers. If you can consciously make the decision to not support those companies or buy those products —that’s an improvement!
Opt for glass containers or ones made with recyclable materials for a more sustainable option.
Some companies have made the transition to glass containers and still use plastic lids, and while it’s not 100%, it’s still an improvement. In addition, Terracycle offers programs for recycling different brands packaging, that normal city recycling centers can’t do — you can find recycling programs for brands like Burts Bees, Acure, Garnier, and more here.
Here are several products that come in recyclable packaging (some are even completely zero-waste!).
While it will cost more upfront than disposable razors, you can opt for something with longevity, like a metal razor with refill blades. Leafshave has some great starter kits that will last you a long time!
Menstrual cups are a game-changer! These cool little cups can be reused for years and you just need one to be covered for your entire period.
If you’ve never used one, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy and clean they are.
Just insert it then empty as needed. You can wear it for up to 12 hours at a time. They are easy to clean and get ready for instant reuse.
Period panties are another must-try! Thinx is a really cool concept that can replace tampons or liners. Each pair of panties can hold up to four tampons’ worth. And don’t worry—it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a diaper.
They’re super easy to use, zero waste, and the most comfortable option if you’re not a fan of traditional menstrual products.
If menstrual cups and period panties aren’t your thing, no worries! You can opt for plastic-free tampons. Actual plastic applicator tampons create a TON of waste. Some easy switches to make are cardboard applicators which are biodegradable.
Lola is a subscription brand that you can get sent straight to your house. They’re 100% organic cotton and there are no *nasties.* They’re cardboard and free of any synthetic fibers so they break down.
Trash bags are one of the easiest switches to make!
Water Bottles + Coffee Cups
Do you have a reusable water bottle? If not, have you considered how many plastic bottles you go through in a day… a week? Is the backseat of your car a graveyard of half-empty bottles?
Reusable water bottles are where it’s at!
Reusable Coffee Cup
On the note of reusable bottles, getting a reusable coffee cup is a wonderful switch, too!
While some places/cafés might not allow this for safety and health reasons, other places highly encourage it. At the very least, you can store your coffee or tea in the reusable mug with coffee from home when you’re on the go!
Straws + Utensils
Leftovers + Food Storage
I switched to Stasher Bags in place of Ziploc baggies and use them every day. While they are more expensive upfront than a box of Ziploc baggies, you end up saving in the long-run by not buying over and over. Plus they’re better for the environment.
Do you tend to cover leftovers with plastic wrap before putting them in the fridge? You can switch to reusable beeswax paper which works in just as well but it’s sustainable!
Package Free Shop is a wonderful resource with tons of plastic-free and package-free goodies for you to make the switch to!
One of my favorite quotes is by Anne Marie Bonneau. She said, “The world doesn’t need a few people doing zero-waste perfectly. The world needs millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
So, remember this when you feel like you’re not doing *enough* or single-use plastic and pollution seems like an overwhelming problem that you can’t do anything about. Every little bit helps and making these easy switches is a great way to start.