6 Tricks for Never Buying Plastic Again

How Banning Plastic Purchases Has Made Me Happier, Healthier, and Wealthier

First published on Buzzfeed.

Plastic packaging dominates our grocery aisles. Photo source.

When my boyfriend came home one day, disgusted by the amount of waste we produce, and asked me to join him in a pact to never buy anything made of plastic ever again, I laughed.

“Good luck, babe!” That was my response.

But the idea stuck. A few days later, I announced my new pledge to friends and colleagues: I would not buy a single piece of plastic for one month.

Making a commitment to be “plastic-free” turned out to be easier (and more fun) than I expected. Keeping my promise to not purchase any virgin plastics even opened my eyes to a totally new way of living. I learned how to be savvier with my shopping, thriftier with my belongings, and more careful with my consumption — all of which helped me save money and live more healthily. At first, it required some sacrifice and more thinking ahead than I was accustomed to, but now, it all comes naturally. I am a happier, more prepared person.

That plastic-free month has turned into a plastic-free year. Who knew so much satisfaction could be attained from simply living with less plastic?

Want to give it a try? Here’s how to get started:

  1. Keep the Plastics You Own

Look around. Chances are you already own a gazillion plastic products: water bottles, Tupperware, Ziplock bags, toothbrushes, storage bins, shampoo bottles, etc. That’s great. Hold on to them! The second principal in sustainable living after “reduce” is to “reuse”, so take care of the plastics you own and ensure you can reuse them for as long as possible. There’s no need to go all Marie Kondo and dispose of perfectly good products just because they don’t make you feel tingly on the inside. If your plastic items can no longer serve their original purpose, get crafty! Discover a new purpose for your polymeric treasure. Just remember: sending petroleum products to the recycling center or landfill should be your last resort.

2. Never Leave Home Without a Reusable Water Bottle, Travel Mug, or Shopping Bag

For most of us, the majority of our daily plastic purchases come in the form of packaging: food casings, beverage containers, and plastic bags. To avoid needing any of this unnecessary junk, follow this rule: never leave home without a refillable water bottle, travel mug, and cloth shopping bag. (I like stainless steel coffee mugs and water bottles because they are the most durable and won’t contaminate beverages with nasty chemicals like plastic mugs and water bottles will).

3. Only Buy Takeaway Food That Comes in Compostable Packaging

It’s unrealistic to think that anyone has the time, energy, or diligence to pack a homemade lunch every day for work. So, on days I didn’t bring my own food to the office, I went to cafes and supermarkets that offer takeaway food in compostable containers. Dining in? Ditch the doggy-bags. Bring your own container for leftovers.

4. Buy in Bulk With Your Own Containers

Walk down a grocery store aisle and count the number of items wrapped in plastic. Can you see all the waste waiting to happen? Don’t buy into it. Most food, cleaning, and personal care essentials can be purchased in bulk using a reusable container. Bring your own paper bags and clean containers to stock up on refills of cooking oils, pastas, rice, beans, candies, peanut butter, shampoo, detergents, lotions, spray cleaner, and more at a better price. It’s astonishing what you can find in the bulk section!

5. Only Buy Food That Comes in Glass or Paper Packaging

You can’t buy everything in bulk (at least, I couldn’t). Luckily, if you take another look down the grocery aisles you’ll notice we are blessed with options. Choose foods that are only packaged in glass or paper. Better yet, fill your shopping cart with foods that come in no packaging at all, like fruits and vegetables! (And skip the plastic produce bag. Does your broccoli really need its own liner?)

6. Shop Exclusively at Second-Hand Stores

Did you know most clothes contain plastic? As do most shoes, linens, housewares, and jewelry. Damn plastic is everywhere! Luckily, the pact was to not purchase any VIRGIN (meaning new) plastics. Recycled and reused plastics are in the clear. So say good riddance to online shopping and crowded strip malls and reward yourself with a huge shopping spree at your local thrift shops and consignment stores! I bet you’ll find what you need and even save some money too.

Are you up for the challenge?

You, too, can live a proud plastic-free existence! It’s never too late to start. I bet you’ll even discover some tricks of your own.