How to Avoid Plastic in All Areas of Life

plastic-free July

Plastic-free July

The Invention of Plastic

Plastic was invented in 1869 as a substitute for the elephant tusk ivory used in the cue balls of the popular game of billiards. Ironically, it was seen as an environmental act at the time since it was saving both the elephant and tortoise populations.

This invention was revolutionary in the way that humans were no longer completely reliant on the substances that nature provided us with. If only we were to know the true irony that this “environmental substance” would hold a century later.

Food

Some grocery stores are better than others when it comes to using plastic packaging sparingly and finding alternatives. Aldi is at the top of the list right now, and they have plans to improve even more in the coming years.

There are also stores that do a better job of offering bulk options. Here is a link for learning the best options for shopping zero waste in your area.h

And, of course, one of the best ways to reduce waste at the grocery store, is to bring your own reusable bags. This is a hot topic right now, as many stores and cities are phasing them out.

If you opt for one of the popular new delivery services, make sure you put a note in the comments that you would like them to use as few bags as possible.

Bakery & Bread

If the farmers market isn’t open, check your local bakeries, or simply find the bakery section in your grocery store and look for the fresh breads in the paper bags.

You can also give making your own a shot if you so desire. There are some reasonably priced bread machines that take the work out of this task, and what could be better than fresh bread every week? Sourdough bread from a starter is also a great option as you also receive the healthy bacteria in your gut from fermentation.

Meats & Seafoods

Or you can find out where your local farms are and what services they offer. Sometimes you can order whole or half cows, pigs, chickens or even lamb; and then have them cut it up however you like. You will probably need to invest in a large freezer for that option.

It’s a little trickier to find fresh fish outside of the grocery that is good for you, if you don’t live where they do; but you can always opt for canned (salmon, mackarel, anchovies, sardines) or jarred fish (herring).

Pasta & Rice

Or if you are feeling really ambitious, make your own; there’s nothing like fresh pasta. If you get lucky, maybe you can even find organic pasta in bulk. This is why organic pasta is necessary.

Oils, Sauces, Salad dressings & Condiments

Cereals & Breakfast foods

Soups & Canned goods

Frozen Foods

Dairy, Cheese & Eggs

Milk doesn’t need to be purchased in a tetrapak or jug, find glass bottles that can be returned to a local farm or grocery. They will often offer a refund for a price they tack on to motivate returns.

Cheese, though often packaged in plastic, can also be discovered enveloped in wax or foil, or even sitting in a brine in a glass jar.

When it comes to yogurt, I really can’t think of a time I have seen it in anything but plastic containers. So if you have a few minutes and this is something your family regularly consumes, making your own from home can be very beneficial.

Snacks & Crackers

Produce

Once you have your produce home, here are some good tips for avoiding plastic when storing it.

Drinks

Did you realize that those disposable coffee cups they give you have a plastic lining? How about teabags–they actually have plastic incorporated as well. Who knew we were drinking so much plastic when we enjoy what seem like harmless, even beneficial beverages such as these? Loose leaf organic teas are always best.

When buying other beverages, like juices and sodas, glass bottles are where it’s at. And try to avoid the individual size, especially if you have to resort to the plastic.

Food Storage

  • Silicone suction lids are great for storing leftovers in the fridge when your bowl, or even cup or jar, doesn’t have a partnering lid
  • Beeswax wraps are the perfect substitute for plastic wrap, and you can even make them yourself!
  • Parchment paper may not cling, but it can be placed on top of a container as a buffer to aluminum foil’s harmful chemicals.
  • Mason jars are my favorite for their multipurpose fridge, freezer and pantry storing capacity.

Restaurants

Dining out

The straw

Besides that, even if you forget your straw, is it really even necessary? How often do you drink from a straw when you’re at home?

Cup vs Cone

Takeout

Clothing

Not only does new clothing often come with plastic hangers, tags and stickers attached; but it is also frequently made from plastic-based materials like polyester and nylon.

Secondhand

Don’t know of any clothing swap opportunities in your area? Host your own! I am holding one in my home tonight with my local Zero Waste FB group.

And when your clothing gains a hole, loses a button or gets a stain; try to find a way to either repair or reuse it. Even if that means putting it in the rag pile for cleaning, etc.

Conscious Brands

Cleaning

Dishwashing

In place of chemical-laden dish soaps, try substituting either eco-friendly dishwasher tablets that come in a box, or simple baking soda that most of us already have in our kitchens. You can even make your own soaps!

Clothes washing

Dryer sheets may make your clothes smell like flowers, but they leave just one more plastic to be discarded when you’re done. Not to mention the plethora of harmful chemicals that the wearer ends up inhaling all day.

Why not try some wool dryer balls with a few drops of your favorite essential oil in its place?

General cleaning

Over the years, microfiber cloths have become many people’s go-to for their absorption capacity as well as their scrubbing capabilities. However, the problem with microfiber is all of the tiny plastic fibers tend to break off and float away into our waterways, when laundered.

What you can do instead, is simply reuse old t-shirts and the like that have outlived their wearability. You kill two birds with one stone that way–reuse and plastic-free! Or you can pick up some old cotton pieces at a thrift store and use those.

If you really cannot bear to part with your microfibers, look into GUPPYFRIEND. It is a reusable laundry bag that keeps those microfibers contained, so that they don’t wander out into the ocean.

Beauty & Hygiene

Skin care

Hair care

Dental care

Most flosses are filled with plastic fibers, but an electric waterpik can not only avoid the waste, but it can save you money. There are more eco-friendly dental flosses out there as well. Just please do not use those plastic individual flossers. I can imagine that the sea is submerged in them by now.

And skip those plastic brushes, please! No need for them when we have access to some amazing biodegradable wooden ones.

Hand & Body soaps

Deoderant

Some people find that their skin is sensitive to the baking soda (like myself), so here is a good option for those that are.

Shaving

The shaving cream really isn’t necessary. All you need in its place is a bar of soap that gives a good lather.

Feminine hygiene

At Work

Same goes for printer ink cartridges as well.

Every business owner has to find ways to promote their products and services. I get that. But a major pet peeve of mine is to attend some kind of festival or other event and see table upon table full of plastic tchatckes that will only end up in the waste bin by day’s end.

The next time you feel the need to increase your promotional swag inventory, consider shopping for it on ethicalswag.com. They provide some great options that are also environmentally friendly such as reusable straws, reusable shopping bags and even business cards made from seed paper!

Baby supplies

Diapers and wipes is another area of parenting that involves tons of waste. There are so many great options for easy cloth diapering in today’s world. However, if you find that’s not your thing, there are also many different brands that have cropped up with eco-friendly disposable options.

The wipes can either be diy at home or eco-friendly commercial products as well.

Children’s toys

Arts & Crafts supplies

But you don’t have to just give up on art projects with your kids. Shop for craft supplies at thrift stores, in Facebook marketplace groups and in your recycling bins, for free!

Pet care

Like children, pets can generate some gear as well, so always do a used search for those items first as well.

Seasonal

A lot of the waste can come from all the gatherings of family and friends that the seasons encourage. This is a positive, of course; however, the plastic waste that is generated from these gatherings can easily be decreased.

Shipping or Moving supplies

The Takeaway

“Spreading the word about living green & clean.”

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