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September 14, 2011

What is Your Favorite Plastic-free Tip?

 

I’m putting the finishing touches on the Plastic-free Book, due out this spring, and I’d love to include input from the plastic-free community, without which this site and book would not exist.  Would you like your voice to be included in the book?  If so, please share your one or two favorite plastic-free tips.  Tips could be plastic-free recipes, products, methods you’ve discovered.  Helpful web sites you consult.  Ideas for communicating with family or friends.  Ways you remember to bring your bags, bottles, utensils, etc. with you.  Things you tell yourself to stay motivated.  Ways to get kids involved.  Steps you’ve taken to make changes in your community, school, organization, work, etc.

Please keep your tips succinct and let us know how they have changed your life.

Include the name you’d like me to use (doesn’t have to be your full name) and your web site or blog if applicable.

I can’t promise that all of your suggestions will be included, but I’d love to use as many as I can.  I’ve already included a lot of inspiring stories from individuals who have taken steps to make a difference.  But the more voices the better.  I want to show readers that working to solve the plastic pollution problem is a community effort and that there are a lot of others out here supporting each other and coming together to create a movement.

Thank you!  What has kept me going for the last 4 years is knowing that I am not alone and that my efforts are magnified by all of yours.

 



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104 comments
Barb
Barb

If you have little kids and are worried about glass straws you can always used a wide, hollow, noodle.

Alina
Alina

Most important thing: don't start trowing away the things you already have and buy new (plastic free) stuff. The whole point is to use it up and then reuse. Reuse the plastic bags you already have, turn an old bed sheet or curtain into produce bags, make some cute sandwich cloth wrappings out of old pajamas, turn old pants into a sturdy reusable bag. Step by step you'll be almost plastic free. 1. I keep 2 cardboard boxes in the car for shopping. They are easy to load/unload the shopping to/from the car and up to my flat. They are free and definitely plastic free. 2. Where there is no alternative to plastic, buy bigger containers. Ex: 10Kg detergent, 50 toilet paper rolls, 4L vinegar etc 3. Look into your disposables habit. I did not find alternatives for everything, but I wrote to the producers. Hopefully, someone will hear. 4. If you travel a lot, put together a travel kit with reusables. 5. If you try to educate the ones around you (and you should), make it by the power of example and in style. The success of your campaign depends greatly on your image. People will look at your hair, then at what you do, then at your reusables. So dress up, do your hair and go change the world!

Victoria H. Bedford
Victoria H. Bedford

My favorite is to take an extra (inexpensive) cloth grocery bag to the supermarket and if the person in front of me doesn't have one I simply ask whether they will accept a give. No one has ever refused me and they usually smile. This helps recruit new people to the anti plastic cause.

Monique
Monique

I buy less stuff! I have to laugh when I get these "save the earth" catalogs full of more stuff to buy! Everything created has an environmental price. I bought washable feminine pads. They are actually much more comfortable than having a plastic pad in my pants, anyway! LOL

kat zieg
kat zieg

I use glass jars for leftovers and wash and reuse- safer than plastic anyway-not good to put hot food in plastic. I take my own "doggie bag" to restaurants. Sadly, it IS plastic, but it gets re-used (it's a sturdy tuperware type thing, that I actually found in the street while biking to work several years ago) and it saves the restaurant $$ and there is one less foam box in the world.

Michelle
Michelle

I´m going to add some 3 years refusals totals for you. Because over time individual actions REALLY add up.

diane merker
diane merker

We have come before the city council of Boulder Colorado requesting that they enact a ban or fine on the use of plastic bags in our city. I think our efforts are going to be successful, and we will join the many other cities and countries around the world getting rid of the use of "stupid" plastic bags!

Kristin
Kristin

I just did a post about a plastic free challenge. I love your site! Keep up the great work.

Martha
Martha

Before buying anything that is plastic, I ask myself if there is a non-plastic alternative. Most of the time there is, it just takes a conscious effort and a little research. Plastic is everywhere---so plentiful, flashy and cheap---sometimes it's hard not to be lured in. Especially with a new (first) grandchild, looking at toys is a real challenge. I've passed up so many adorable plastic/synthetic things---for lovely cloth and wooden items. Plastic-Free is a constant, on-going lifestyle choice. Thanks for all the continuing encouragement your website gives, Beth!

Kisha
Kisha

Just spend a few bucks more and get glass, stainless steel, ceramic, wood or whatever. It will be easier to clean and it won’t break…

Kayla
Kayla

1) I seek out staples like spices, pickles, and applesauce in glass containers. They can be reused to store food in the freezer and fridge or be easily recycled. 2) I use reuseable grocery bags that I got from IKEA. Granted, they are not cloth but I have had them for 2 + years and used them for many things like laundry and moving outside of groceries. They are very sturdy and easy to carry. 3) I use upcycled lunch bags made from windbreakers. These are awesome. 4) I used upcycled produce bags made from old curtains. These are awesome.

Emma Murphy
Emma Murphy

Tomorrow I have set myself the challenge of going a day without plastics. I know to you guys a day might sound like a pretty poor effort. But this is without any preparation (or forethought!) and I'm going to try and get through the whole day without touching or directly benefiting from plastics. I'm going to try and follow my normal day getting up, going to work and see just how much avoiding plastics makes things difficult. I'll be posting updates on the whole thing here: http://www.life-size-media.com/blog/2011/emma-day-plastics/ Would love it if you guys had any useful advice for me as I go along! Emma

kanishka
kanishka

anticipate and start researching purchases you expect to need in the next 6 months or more, outside of your regular weekly grocery purchases. i am still working on this. i try to compromise between minimizing my time thinking about consuming / purchasing while spending a lot of energy researching the impacts of something i find essential to buy. i usually find myself making a quick, poor decision when i am rushed to purchase something. examples - toothbrushes, cooking supplies, clothes, electronic goods especially cell phones, batteries, bike accessories, shopping bags, food storage containers, pens, light bulbs, appliances if you give yourself some time beforehand, you can do things like ask the producing companies, what their program is for recycling their products at the end of their lifecycle.

Mary Katherine
Mary Katherine

One of my favorite tips is make your own almond milk. It's really easy and it means you don't have to throw out one of those big plastic containers. I keep it in a Strauss milk bottle. All you do is soak 1 cup of raw almonds in 4 cups of water overnight, blend it in the blender, and strain it through a dishtowel. I put my almond milk in smoothies and on homemade granola. The recipe says if you want it to be sweet you can throw a couple dates in. I haven't tried this though cause I think its fine on its own.

Leo
Leo

When the world is not bothered about the environment, it feels great to find someone to write a plastic-free book. It is very encouraging. There are many plastic things that we can do without, going for iron chairs instead of plastic one, wooden combs instead of plastic combs, aluminum ice trays instead of plastic ice trays etc. I hope these ideas will help you.

Kathleen Sullivan
Kathleen Sullivan

1. Shop for things in old-fashioned Mom & Pop hardware stores. That's where I found a wood handled toilet bowl brush and a glass butter dish this weekend. (Both Made in USA!) I found a handmade ceramic vase in Goodwill to contain the brush. Funky! 2. Like other posters, I cook most everything from scratch and can preserves. Today is applesauce day! My favorite is yogurt, though. I use the last 1/2 cup or so to start the next batch I keep in a quart mason jar. Haven't bought yogurt in a plastic container in years. 3. I have a stainless steel nesting lunchbox to use for restaurant leftovers. Congratulations on your book!

Jacqui MacNeill (Escents Aromatherapy Bath and Bod
Jacqui MacNeill (Escents Aromatherapy Bath and Bod

For big get-togethers like BBQs, picnics, etc, instead of buying plastic cutlery I ask everyone to bring their own dishes. This makes a big difference. I just wish everyone would do this. For my aromatherapy business, we encourage customers to use re-usable bags and only use paper bags (which biodegrade much more easily) when necessary.

Rosalia
Rosalia

I really like the world plastic free as I know the repercussions of using plastic. Before one year I went plastic free and started using earthenware utensils wherever possible instead of using plastic wares.

Theresa Harris
Theresa Harris

Choose zero-waste (plastic-free) packaging whenever possible. We are rescuing wine bottles and filling them with safe, earth friendly household cleaning products. Join the movement to reuse, by refilling your glass containers. It's ecofriendly and economical!

Dmarie
Dmarie

because I occasionally forget the re-usable string bags I keep in the car, I now keep a couple of plastic grocery and produce sacks in my purse. I managed to accumulate those bags, but with some effort, I will re-use them endlessly and not make that mistake again!

Autumn Dawn
Autumn Dawn

I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award!

Amber
Amber

Hi There Terry~ I've been following your blog since day 1. A few months ago I started an alternative food blog, but it's more than just food, I also incorporate green living into my philosophy and your blog kicked off my "decreasing kitchen-waste" challenge a few years ago. I'm almost there....creating very little waste in my kitchen and zero plastic. I have you to thank for the inspiration and I've dedicated my blog post to you; here I share some of my easy methods to decreasing waste. This post is for the beginning challenger. Thank you wonderful Terry!!! Be Well, --Amber Please see: http://www.thetastyalternative.com/2011/10/how-to-decrease-kitchen-waste-101_08.html

Sapan@Eye doctor Torrance
Sapan@Eye doctor Torrance

We used to give the patients Papers/precriptions in a plastic folder where we had our name & address printed on the cover. since last 6 months we have totally stopped giving them files, we have got new stationary printed, the size of papers are small and we have increased the font size of our name and address on it.

Rodrigo Valenzuela
Rodrigo Valenzuela

I love the plastic free world and three years back I have tried to minimize the use of things that were plastic. I shoved off all the plastic bags out of my house and I started using paper bags for lighter items and cloth bags for heavier ones. This has really changed my life and made me feel responsible towards our environment.

Julie
Julie

Use your teacups! A few weeks ago I was dishing out ice cream for myself and my toddler, and didn't want to put it in our old plastic bowls. I opened a cupboard to get out the real cereal bowls, and noticed, way up on the top shelf, the teacups that came with my everyday dishes that we never, ever use. My mom had some similar ones with HER everyday dishes, and they never got used, either! Now that I've brought a few down, we use them for all kinds of things. My 1-year-old is appropriately careful with them, and she loves that her ice cream dish has a handle. :-)

Walker
Walker

To get rid of using some small garbage bags you just use a bin. Then you dump the garbage right into the garbage bags but i don't know how you would get rid of using the big garbage bags. maybe if you dumped a bigger bin at the dump off yourself?

Monica Woelfel
Monica Woelfel

Wow, so many great posts. I haven't read them all, so I hope I'm not repeating here. (I did read a lot!) Some of my plastic reduction ideas are almost inane. I mean, I am so used to plastic that I forget how to do without it. Our kitchen garbage is my tip. We have a plastic bin. We have always lined it with either plastic or paper bags. We throw our compost in the garden, so the garbage isn't very sticky. One day I was trying to think how to do without the plastic garbage bag and it dawned on me... duh! The garbage can itself works for, well, garbage. I fill it up, dump it in the big bin and wash it out each time. Voila, no more plastic garbage bags. (Ok, the bin itself IS plastic but at least we can re-use it, as long s we've got it.)

Melody
Melody

Here's a tip for people with kids: use regular ceramic dishes at home. We bought a stack of salad plates at goodwill so we weren't out much money if they got broken. 4 years later we still have most of them. They were light enough that my 1 and 5 year olds were able to bring their own plates in from the table. Kids seem to naturally be more careful when carrying the heavy weight of a glass or ceramic dish than they are carrying light-weight plastic.

Eve Stavros
Eve Stavros

My favorite tips: 1. Have a to-go container (I use a two-tier tiffin) in the car so it's handy for leftovers. The two-tier tiffin is a perfect size for Chinese food to go. I've even crocheted a case for it, so it's not too hot to the touch, for either the server or me! 2. Think of giving gifts to friends who might be open to the plastic-free life. It's a small way to encourage others to change even one small thing about their plastic use. I've personalized them with handmade carrying cases and they have made great gifts my friends actually use! (1) a Preserve toothbrush in its mailer packaging, (2) bamboo cutlery in a handmade pouch, (3) glass or metal straw w/brush in a handmade carrying case, (4) crocheted floor duster covers. And for wrapping these gifts - nothing like brown kraft paper (sold by the roll cheap at the home improvement store), sealed with good old twine, or some scraps of recycled colorful yarn.

Sara Jennings
Sara Jennings

Groups to check out - you might want to look into "Pebble in the Pond" in BC. They have done some neat stuff. Don't know much about them, but did some reading about them some time ago when the environmental group I work with was (and still is) trying to get our local municipal council to ban plastic bags (we started this campaign 4 years ago!) My biggest challenge is at work - I manage the local food bank and we use a lot of plastic! I did a lot of work right away when I started to replace plastic, but I am stuck on how to change the rest. I would love if you would do a bit where people could share specific challenges on your blog and let your readers help problem solve. I learned so much just from reading the comments section on this post and past posts, that I think it would be valuable for some specific issues that you may not have yet blogged on due to the fact that you don't personally face them. Can't wait for the book and look forward to learning even more!

Ellen
Ellen

Something that I think is helpful and makes sense is to try to align your hobbies with your desire to live plastic-free. If you're feeling a tug to start baking, and a simultaneous tug to try skeet-shooting, maybe focus on the baking! Baking will help you cut way back on cookie packaging, bread bags, etc. The same can be said for woodworking, sewing, canning, gardening -- they're all hobbies that can help you cut back on plastic while learning new skills and having fun. I have always liked baking and never liked cooking, but when I started doing the plastic tally I had to do more cooking from scratch, and now I'm actually starting to enjoy it! Also, for people brand-new at cutting back on plastic, I think you'll quickly find you never need to buy plastic wrap or plastic food-storage bags again, if you start using the things that you once unthinkingly tossed in the trash, like inner cereal bags and sub sandwich wrappers.

peaJayFish
peaJayFish

I know it would be better moved to the forum, but I would just like to second Beth on the info about cat food. No need to go through the trouble to make dry food for cats, as they need the moisture from meat. I will look for you in the forums. Beth has an entry about what she feeds her cats (which is awesome), and I have some easy "recipes" for raw feeding. Very healthy. Kudos to you for looking into it! Beth, I can't wait to get and read your book!

AliceMartel
AliceMartel

Had no idea that cans where lined with BPA... was a little shocked. Looked online for BPA-free cans and found this TreeHugger page - 7 Companies You Can Trust to Use BPA-Free Cans (I looked on the site before posting this but didn't see anything about BPA-free cans). http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/03/7-bpa-free-canned-foods.php I've bough Eden cans before, and I'm gonna keep on doing that for now on! Too bad there aren't any wet cat food cans w/out BPA yet - for now, gonna try to make my own. But even w/out BPA, making your own means less waste period. What I would really like to do, but is time-consuming (I would assume it's harder and longer to make them than wet cat food), is dry cat food (waaay better for them than store bought). I have found recipes in a book I bought a few years ago: 250 Things You Can Do To Make Your Cat Adore You by Ingrid Newkirk (PETA co-founder). There are a bunch of recipes and I will had them on here (not sure where), when I have the time or send them to you Beth, if you want to add them to your website.

Joanna
Joanna

Two super-simple and free tips: 1. I often keep leftovers in the fridge in a ceramic bowl and just cover it with a saucer - a completely free way to change to a plastic-free method as you're just using stuff you already have. This also works to stop food spattering when you're reheating it in the microwave. This and the fact that when I take a dish to a potluck I choose something I can take in a lidded casserole dish mean I haven't felt the need for cling film for two or three years. 2. When I go out to a bar for a drink I always try to choose one of the beers on tap - practically packaging-free as I'm pretty sure breweries refill the kegs, plus you never get ambushed with a plastic straw!

Rozsika Steele
Rozsika Steele

Storing carrots, celery, beets, etc. in a bowl of water in the fridge so they don't get rubbery. Replace disposable paper towels and toilet paper with cloth. I haven't purchased either paper towels or toilet paper in over 4 years. Cloth diapers are great but you could also consider infant potty training. My friend used elimination communication with her daughter starting at 4 weeks old. It was easy to do and saves times and diapers. http://www.diaperfreebaby.org/ Chico bags! I have had my chico bag for 5 years. They are much more durable (and portable!) than the crap reusable bags you find at the grocery store. Canvas bags are also easy to find at thrift stores.

Melanie Jade Rummel
Melanie Jade Rummel

My favorite tips: * Use a Diva Cup instead of tampons. I wish every woman know about these. I LOVE mine! * Use cloth towels and napkins instead of paper. Most come wrapped in plastic, and it's all just waste waste waste anyway. Keep cloth rags handy for cleaning. * Ask servers at restaurants ahead of time to not give you a straw in your drink. * Make your own delicious, healthy food instead of eating out or buying pre-packaged. Your body will thank you! * When my husband and I go out to eat (rarely) we split 1 meal so we don't have to use a carry-out container.

BetsyR
BetsyR

A great way to acquire a lifetime supply of garbage bags is to collect bagged leaves from the curb in the fall, use the leaves in the compost pile, dry out the bags and save them for re-use. Once I have enough, I make packets of folded bags to leave with the homeowners when I collect the leaves.

Betsy (Eco-novice)
Betsy (Eco-novice)

Hi, Beth! Look, I'm catching up on my Google Reader! Here are a few more tips: Invest in a pressure cooker and make beans from scratch. Super cheap, and no more plastic-lined metal cans! Plus, you can buy dried beans in the bulk section or in 25 or 50-pound paper bags usually. Instead of making your smoothie in the plastic (probably polycarbonate) container that came with your immersion blender, purchase a few stainless steel malt cups for blending (I got mine through a restaurant supply store). They are dishwasher safe, will last much longer than that plastic beaker (which will look scratched up the second time after you use it), and keep your smoothie nice and cold. I sip right out of mine with a stainless steel straw. I really like Klean Kanteen's stainless steel sippy cups for kids because you can continue to use them beyond the sippy cup stage -- just swap out the sippy cup lid for a regular one (my toddler/ preschooler like the sports cap). Makes it easier to swallow the higher up-front cost of the steel sippy, in my opinion. Like the commenter above, I agree that plastic-free living is particularly challenging with young ones! One general tip: borrow or buy used all infant gear. Your baby will hate half of it anyway. If you borrowed it, you can just return it. If you buy it used, you can usually resell it for only a small loss. Also, don't spend any of your own money on plastic toys (you'll receive PLENTY as gifts). There are great wood, cloth, and natural rubber options out there now. Etsy is one of my favorite toy sources. Here is a little post about why I love wood toys (and hate plastic ones): http://heirloomwoodentoys.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/what-happens-to-a-toy-when-it-dies-by-guest-blogger-betsy-of-eco-novice-going-green-gradually/ I am excited to see your book when it comes out and am curious to see how it is organized (chapter topics).

Madelaine
Madelaine

My favorite plastic free tip is to use newspaper rather than plastic bags for kitty waste disposal.. I lay out a few sheets of newpaper, place the sifted waste from the kitty litter box on the newspaper then wrap it up and place in trash. Tidy, not gross and cheap.

Martin
Martin

Get cloth shopping bags where the handle material is sewn into the sides right down to the bottom of the bag. Cheap reusable shopping bags may not save anything in the long run if they don't hold up.

Keri
Keri

This is a tip that I came up with on my own and often share with friends: If I forget to bring my coffee mug, I don't buy coffee at all (kind of like punishing myself). This helped me learn FAST to always remember to bring my coffee mug everywhere! ;)

Charisma
Charisma

I think if we buy food stuff with plastic, we should not just throw it. Keep it and reuse it.

Eleanor K. Sommer
Eleanor K. Sommer

I have struggled with how to preserve our garden bounty without using (or by minimizing the use of) plastics. Not everything is good canned, and a lot of food needs to be temporarily frozen until used. Glass works for some items but is dangerous and often breaks with the slightest touch, plus takes up huge freezer space. To date some solutions include, using sustainably produced paper cups and bowls with aluminum foil for covering (held tightly with rubber bands or string); paper take-out containers (which unfortunately can most often only be purchased in bulk); stainless steel tins (expensive to have more than a few); and, in desperation, putting freezer items in nonbleached, eco-friendly wax paper and then placing items in plastic bags (yikes, I know), which can be re-used indefinitely as they do not actually touch the food (personal health is just as much an issue for us as environmental concerns).

peaJayFish
peaJayFish

@ Olena, I do agree that with many things, it is expensive or difficult to find plastic-free alternatives (toothbrushes a fine example). Since you did mention laundry detergent, though, I wanted to share with you that you can make your own plastic-free version that is MUCH cheaper than Tide (coupon or not). I like the powder version, and my clothes have never been or smelled cleaner! (I use aryurvedic soap instead of fels naptha). If you have an HE washer, the liquid version might work better (I have read time and again that HE washer users have no issues with the homemade soap): http://sewmuchado.blogspot.com/2010/03/tutorial-homemade-laundry-detergent.html http://tipnut.com/10-homemade-laundry-soap-detergent-recipes/

Rebecca
Rebecca

My much-loved refillable ink cartridge has probably saved me a whole mountain of disposable ones... made of plastic, of course. This is one of my favorite plastic-free things because it's also one of the first environmentally conscious decisions I made, way back in primary school. The cartridge isn't completely plastic-free, but in the approximately 10 years I'm using it I had to replace it only once, and I would probably still be using the first one if I hadn't lost it. Somewhat newer, but also much appreciated, is the idea to bring old potato nets with me to the store and pack fruits and vegetables in them - they are very lightweight, so even if the store won't let you subtract their weight from the weight you're paying for, it's not a big issue.

meeshel
meeshel

Always have utensils and something that you can eat out of and drink out of with you (be creative). This is especially helpful to the people out there asking for more tips with kids. And always have water with you. Bring food along to avoid melt downs (for kids and adults) and to completely avoid the need altogether to stop and buy food... which will start the dilemma of potentially needing packaging in the first place. I always keep an extra container in my car in case I ever need one, and I find that I use it quite a bit. But the best advice that I have is to really determine if you need something or want something that you think you need. Can you make it yourself or acquire it another, more eco-friendly way?

Deb Moulton
Deb Moulton

Going no 'poo is an easy and inexpensive way to reduce plastic waste. For the past two and a half years, I have used only baking soda and water to wash my hair and apple cider vinegar, water, and rosemary essential oil to rinse. Now I have shiny, healthy, and nice smelling hair without shampoo and conditioner bottle plastic waste.

Chris T.
Chris T.

I go shopping at thrift stores and yard sales if I need anything "new." Not only do I get the clothes and household goods I need without any plastic packaging, but I end up buying better quality fabric and furniture to boot!

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Emma. I enjoyed reading about your crazy day not using or touching anything plastic. What I would like to know is what you learned from the experience. I, obviously, use and touch a lot of plastics. My plastic-free commitment is not to buy any new plastic, and I also don't use the most toxic plastics or use plastic for food contact. But your day was pretty extreme. Did you develop an appreciation for certain plastics? What conclusions did you come to?

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Alice. I would be happy for you to post recipes. The Discussions Forum would be a good place. About dry cat food -- I read that cats have evolved to get their water from their prey rather than drinking water from a bowl. Dry food is hard on their kidneys because they don't drink enough to make up for the lack of liquid in the food. We feed ours homemade wet food and add some water to the food bowls when we serve it to them. The bowl of water we leave out rarely gets touched.

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