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How to Live a Plastic-Free Life
Carry reusable shopping bags.
Carry whatever works for you. Some people like reusable canvas totes. Others prefer to put their purchases into a backpack or messenger bag. Do you often forget your reusable bags? ChicoBags are a great emergency alternative. While they are made from synthetic materials, they compress into their own attached stuff sack, which makes them very convenient and likely to be used. I carry several of them in my purse so I am never without a bag. If you have a car, keep your grocery bags in it and remember to bring them into the store with you! And one more thing: reusable bags are not just for groceries! Carry them for all your purchases, from electronics to clothing.
Give up bottled water.
Not only does it come in a plastic bottle, but tremendous resources are used to extract, bottle, and ship it. And many brands of bottled water are simply filtered tap water. Get a reusable stainless steel bottle (Klean Kanteen has just come out with a completely plastic-free water bottle — no plastic on the cap at all!) or stainless steel travel mug, fill it up with tap water before leaving the house, and refill it wherever you happen to be. I don’t recommend reusable plastic or aluminum bottles. Plastic may leach chemicals into the water and aluminum bottles are lined with an epoxy resin, some of which has also found to leach into water depending on the brand. Why take a chance? Read my posts about bottled water for more information.
Carry your own containers for take-out food and leftovers.
Request takeout places use your container instead of their disposable one. If they won’t do it, give them a Take Out Without card to help them understand why they should. Some examples of convenient containers are:
Stainless containers from Life Without Plastic, Eco Lunchbox, LunchBots, and others.
Stainless steel containers sold at some camping supply stores
Think bringing your own containers is too much of a hassle and won’t make a difference? Please check out my posts “Carrying Our Own Containers: Powerful Action or Pointless Inconvenience?“
Carry a stainless steel travel mug or water bottle at all times for coffee and other drinks while out in the world.
(I use my travel mug for water instead of a water bottle.) Besides the plastic lid and plastic straw, paper cups are lined with a plastic coating. When I first began this project, I got in the habit of requesting “no lid and no straw” when ordering a drink in a disposable paper cup. But nowadays, if I’ve forgotten my mug, I simply do without until I can find a water fountain or sit-down cafe or restaurant with durable cups and glasses. This process helps me to remember my reusable mug next time.
Carry reusable utensils and glass drinking straws.
I keep a To-Go-Ware bamboo utensil set and a couple of GlassDharma drinking straws in my purse at all times. And actually, I didn’t need to go out and buy the bamboo. I could have just as easily used my own stainless steel utensils. Check out blogger Mindful Momma’s cute DIY utensil wrap.
When ordering pizza, say no to the little plastic “table” in the middle of the pizza box.
It’s called a “package saver.” Think about it. A single-use plastic device meant to save a single-use cardboard box. What about all the marine animals that swallow that type of disposable plastic? It doesn’t save them, does it? When ordering, say, “Please don’t put that little white plastic thing in the middle of the pizza.” They’ll know what you mean.
Treat yourself to an ice cream cone.
Instead of keeping containers of ice cream in the freezer, I will enjoy the occasional ice cream cone while I’m out. That keeps my ice cream consumption down, which is better for my health, and it also does away with the plastic-lined containers as well. Ice cream cones require zero container or utensil waste. If I do want to bring some home, I can have my ice cream hand-packed in my own container.
Cut out sodas, juices, and other plastic-bottled beverages.
I’ve made the decision to eat fresh fruit instead of buying juice. This eliminates the need for all disposable bottles — glass as well as plastic. I don’t drink sugary sodas, but I do like seltzer water. Especially in the summer. So I got a Soda Stream Penguin soda maker for those times I crave some fizz. The soda maker itself is plastic, but the carafes are glass, and the soda maker replaces hundreds of disposable bottles. What’s more, the reusable CO2 cartridges are returned to the manufacturer for refilling.
Let go of frozen convenience foods.
This was a hard one. I agonized for a while over which brands of frozen meals used the best containers, but in the end, there was just no sound alternative. They all use plastic. Even frozen food trays that seem to be made of cardboard are lined with plastic. The more we limit our consumption of frozen convenience foods, the less plastic waste we’ll generate and the healthier we’ll be!
Say no to plastic produce bags.