100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life

Do you think it’s possible to live life without plastic? Or to at least live with less of it?  Check out this list of plastic-free alternatives and see for yourself.

I’ve been compiling this list of plastic-free and less plastic alternatives since June of 2007. It’s not meant to be overwhelming but simply to show what is possible. Choose a few that seem doable and that will make the most impact. No one can do it all at once. But we can all get started!

If you still have questions after looking over this list, search the blog for more plastic-free ideas, or contact me directly. You can also subscribe My Plastic-free Life for regular blog updates. And if you like what you see here, please use the email link above to forward this list on to the people you love. We can all make a difference.

    Top Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste

  1. Carry reusable shopping bags.

    Carry whatever works for you. Some people like reusable canvas totes (such as those from Eco-Bags Products or Project GreenBag.) 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.

  2. 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.

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    Grocery Shopping

  4. Shop your local farmers market.

    Farmers markets are a great way to buy fresh, local produce without plastic, as long as you remember to bring your own bags. Normally, the fruits and vegetables at farmers markets don’t even have those little plastic stickers on them.   And for small fruits like berries and cherry tomatoes, use your own container or bag and hand the vendor’s plastic container back to reuse.  Read more about farmers markets going plastic-free.

  5. Say “no” to plastic produce bags.

    They are generally unnecessary. What are we worried about? That our apples won’t get along with our broccoli during the trip home? Or is it that the produce will get dirty? Hey, it grew in the dirt, and we’re going to wash it anyway, right? At the grocery store, I put most produce directly into my cart and then into my reusable bag.

    If you do feel you want a separate bag for produce, cloth options are available. Some alternatives are AmbataliaECOBAGS, ChicoBag produce bags, Acme produce bags, or handmade bags from Etsy sellers. Check out this video of a woman who can make five reusable bags from one T-shirt!

    Wondering how to store your produce without plastic once you get it home? Check out this extensive list of ways to buy and store produce without plastic.   (And read why I never use Evert Fresh green bags.)

  6. Buy from bulk bins as often as possible.

    We have some great bulk food stores here in the Bay Area (Rainbow, Berkeley Bowl, Whole Foods, for example) and I can get almost all dry foods as well as some personal care products from the bulk bins. These foods include rice and other grains, pasta, beans (learning to cook dried beans is an important part of plastic-free living), seeds, nuts, all kinds of flour, baking soda and other dry baking ingredients, cereal and granola, pretzels and chips, some candy, tofu, oils, nut butters, olives, herbs, tea & coffee, and more things than I can think of right now.

    The key is bringing my own reusable bags and containers with me to the store. You can carry the same kind of cotton bags for bulk purchases as for produce (see above.) Glass jars and other containers work great as well. Why shop from bulk bins and take new plastic bags?

    A question I am frequently asked is how to avoid paying for the additional weight of the container. Stores have various methods for deducting the container weight. At Whole Foods, for example, I take my containers to the customer service desk to have them weighed before filling. That weight is then deducted from the total weight of the item at the checkout counter. At Berkeley Bowl, empty containers are weighed at the Bulk Counter and then weighed again at the same counter when full before checking out. At Rainbow Grocery, customers weigh their own containers. And all the cotton bags that I use are printed with the tare weight on their tags.

    Concerned about cross contamination for people with allergies?  Check out my post on avoiding gluten while still living plastic-free.

    Even if you live in an area that does not have bulk food stores, you can still buy non-perishable goods in large size packages, which will decrease the amount of plastic used overall.

  7. Cut out sodas, juices, and all 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.

  8. Buy fresh bread that comes in either paper bags or no bags.

    At the farmers market or natural food stores I can buy bread that comes in only paper. At the bakery down the street, I can have my bread placed in my own cloth bag and avoid all packaging. Bread keeps fresh when stored in the cloth bag inside an airtight tin. I reuse a popcorn tin that was sent to me as a gift several years ago. Often, thrift stores have more of these tins than they know what to do with. Fresh bread is a bit more expensive than its plastic-packaged cousins, but to me, it’s worth it. And since I buy so few new things, I can afford to spend more for quality, plastic-free food. See my post Fresh Bread: Buy It, Store It, Keep It Fresh Without Plastic.

  9. Return containers for berries, cherry tomatoes, etc. to the farmer’s market to be reused.

    One reader asked what I do about cherry tomatoes or berries since they can get crushed in reusable bag. I buy them at the farmer’s market in the green plastic basket and then return it to the farmer each week for a refill, so I never have to take new ones. Don’t have a farmers market nearby? Ask your local grocer to take them back. Or empty your berries into your own container before leaving the store and leave the plastic basket behind. If enough of us do this, perhaps merchants will take note.

  10. Bring your own container for meat and prepared foods

    I take my own containers with me to the butcher counter at Whole Foods or local butcher shop. (While the humans in our house don’t each much meat, the kitties do.) The butcher can weigh the container and deduct the weight, just as is done with bulk foods. The servers at the deli/prepared foods counter can do the same thing. Just ask.

  11. Choose milk in returnable glass bottles.

    Many areas have local dairies that provides milk in returnable glass bottles rather than plastic or plastic-coated cardboard (yes, all cardboard milk containers are coated inside and out with plastic, not wax.) In my area, I buy Straus milk, which is available in natural grocery stores. Unfortunately, the milk bottle does contain an unrecyclable plastic cap. But I would rather buy milk in a glass bottle capped with plastic than milk contained in plastic on all sides.

  12. Buy large wheels of unwrapped cheese.

    They can be hard to find, but when I do come across plastic-free cheese, I buy the whole thing.  Going in on it with friends can make it more affordable.  Check out my instructions for storing cheese without plastic.

  13. Try to choose only wine bottled in glass with natural cork stoppers.

    This is kind of a trial and error project since you can’t see the stopper until you open the bottle. There’s a mobile website called Corkwatch you can use to see what kind of stopper–plastic or natural cork–is in a particular wine bottle before you purchase it. If you haven’t already, please read this post about endangered cork forests and why it’s important to support them by choosing natural cork over plastic stoppers or metal screw caps (which contain BPA in the lining.)

  14. 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!

  15. Give up chewing gum.

    Did you know almost all chewing gum is made from plastic? That’s right. When you’re chewing gum, you’re chewing on plastic.  Read more about plastic in chewing gum here.

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    Eating and Drinking on the Go

  17. Carry your own containers for take out food and leftovers.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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 handpacked in my own container.

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    Lunch Time at School or Work

  23. Keep your own reusable foodware at the office.

    I brought a plate, bowl, glass, and utensils to keep at my desk.  This way, I can avoid all the disposable cups, plates, and cutlery in the lunchroom.

  24. Carry lunches in reusable stainless containers or cloth bags.

    A few examples of good lunch container options are:

  25. Choose reusable cloth sandwich/snack bags.

    Read about the many reusable cloth lunch baggie options here.

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    Kitchenware & Food Storage

  27. Choose glass/stainless steel food storage containers, and reuse what you have.

    We save nearly all glass jars and bottles for purchasing bulk foods and for storing leftovers in the refrigerator or even the freezer. When we run out of jars, we store leftovers in bowls with saucers on top instead of plastic wrap. Bowls with saucers are great for stacking. We also use Anchor glass refrigerator containers to store daily portions of our homemade cat food. More on that below. The key to freezing foods in glass is not to fill the jar too full, since the food will expand inside the container. The other caveat is not to heat the glass too quickly. Let foods thaw at room temperature to avoid glass breakage.

    Another option for the refrigerator or freezer are the flat-topped airtight stainless steel containers from Life Without Plastic. Their flat top makes them easy to stack and the fact that they are airtight means food can be stored longer.  Read about my favorite container here.

  28. Learn to preserve foods without plastic.

    Read how I freeze produce without plastic freezer bags.  You can also learn to can foods in glass jars or dehydrate produce to keep through the winter.

  29. Avoid non-stick cookware.

    Cookware coated with Teflon or other resins give off toxic perfluorochemicals when heated. We’ve donated all of our non-stick cookware and replaced it with stainless steel and cast iron. I did question whether it was better to donate these unhealthy items or to trash them. In the end, I figured that if someone was looking for non-stick, they’d buy it anyway whether I donated or not.

  30. Choose a glass blender.

    Avoid the high speed blenders that come with a plastic pitcher.  Those containers contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals.  My Waring Pro is all glass and metal and works just fine.  While you’re at it, please sign my petition to ask Vita-Mix to bring back the stainless steel blender pitcher it had when the machine was first invented.

  31. Spin salad without plastic.

    In one of my favorite posts, I compare an old fashioned wire salad spinner to a plain old cotton produce bag.  It was a fun experiment.

  32. Choose a stainless steel ice cube tray.

    If your old plastic ice trays have worn out, consider replacing them with stainless steel.

  33. Use stainless steel popsicle molds.

    If you and your children enjoy popsicles in the summertime, consider investing a stainless steel popsicle mold instead of buying packaged frozen treats or using plastic or silicone popsicle molds.

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    Make It From Scratch

  35. Make your own yogurt without a yogurt maker!.

    It’s easier than you might think, using only a Thermos, a pot, a thermometer, some milk, and some yogurt from a previous batch. (Your first batch can be store-bought.) See recipe and instructions here.

  36. Make your own soy milk.

    If you regularly drink soy or nut milks, you can learn to make your own, either with a soy milk maker or on the stove. All prepared soy milk cartons contain plastic.

  37. Make your own condiments.

    Most are not difficult. I’ve learned to make my own chocolate syrup, mayonnaise, mustard,  and ketchup.  I squeeze fresh lemon and lime juice and keep it in glass jars in the refrigerator. And we make our own hummus, either from dried chick peas or from the dry mix in the bulk bin at Whole Foods.

    While it’s true that some of these condiments can be purchased in glass containers, the homemade versions often taste better and involve less packaging waste overall.

  38. Make your own snacks.

    You don’t have to give up crackers, energy bars, and other snacks that come packaged in plastic if you learn to make them yourself. Read about my friend Katie’s awesome e-book, Healthy Snacks To Go.

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    No More Plastic Trash Bags

  40. Compost food waste.

    I bought a 100% recycled plastic Urban Compost Tumbler and started composting. This solves several plastic problems. First, since we no longer put wet stuff in the garbage, we don’t need plastic garbage bags of any kind (bio- or petro-based.) And I can mix the compost with soil from the yard to pot my houseplants and avoid buying potting soil in plastic bags.

    Lately, though, I have not had the time or energy to maintain my compost bin. But here in Oakland(as well as Berkeley and San Francisco) we have city-wide composting. We can put all of our food scraps (including meat) and food-soiled paper, along with yard waste, into our green bins. It’s then picked up with our garbage and taken to a commercial compost facility where our food scraps are converted into rich soil amendments for residents and local farms.

    Read more about collecting garbage without plastic trash bags.

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    Household Cleaning

  42. Clean with vinegar and water.

    I use a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water as an all-purpose spray cleaner (storing it in a reused spray bottle) and produce wash. I buy Spectrum vinegar which comes in a glass bottle. Only the cap is plastic.

  43. Baking soda is a fantastic scouring powder.

  44. Use powdered dishwasher detergent in a cardboard box.

  45. Hand wash dishes without plastic.

    Use baking soda or bar soap. Seriously, I’ve been using baking soda to hand wash dishes for several months now. It scours well and leaves dishes feeling squeaky clean.

    For really tough baked-on messes, I use a Chore Boy copper scrubber, which comes in a cardboard box with no plastic.

  46. Use natural cleaning cloths and scrubbers instead of plastic scrubbers and synthetic sponges:

    • Compressed natural cellulose sponges are often sold without any plastic packaging because they don’t need to be kept moist; they expand when wet.
    • Coconut coir brushesare great for cleaning water bottles and scrubbing dirty dishes.
    • Skoy cloths are made from cotton and cellulose, work like a cloth, absorb like a sponge, and can take the place of 15 rolls of paper towels.
    • And of course, good old rags made from old clothing and towels are free and probably the greenest option of all.
  47. Wash laundry with soap nuts or laundry powders without a plastic scoop.

    • Look for soap nuts in plastic-free packaging.
    • Borax comes in a carboard box.
    • Ecover laundry powder comes with a recycled carboard scoop instead of plastic.
    • Read all about plastic-free laundry methods here.
    • Treat laundry stains with a borax/water paste or with a handmade laundry stain bar. Try the stain remover sticks from Juniperseed Mercantile or Bunch Farmers.
  48. A reusable Swiffer cloth is great for those of us who already own a Swiffer mop.

    If you don’t know what a Swiffer is, don’t worry about it. It’s plastic and you don’t need one. But if you already own a Swiffer mop, check out the reusable Swiffer cloths from Juniperseed Mercantile .

  49. Use natural rubber gloves.

    When I needed a pair of rubber gloves (for some disgusting task — I can’t remember what) I opted for Casabella 100% latex gloves lined with 100% cotton flocking. Yeah, they’re girlie pink. But at least I didn’t have to buy plastic.  An even better option are If You Care brand FSC-certified natural rubber gloves.

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    Personal Care

  51. Check labels of personal care products!

    Did you know some facial scrubs and other personal care products contain tiny plastic beads? Avoid anything with “polyethylene” listed as an ingredient. Read my post Flushing Plastic Down The Drain! for more information.

  52. Use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap.

    People sometimes worry that sharing a bar of soap is less sanitary than sharing a bottle of liquid soap. But think about it: the bar soap gets rinsed off every time you use it. The plastic pump? Not so much. Where do you think the most germs are accumulating?

  53. Give up shampoo in plastic bottles.

    There are several plastic-free options.

  54. Try hair salves and pomades in metal tins or glass jars.

    My favorite product used to be one called Product, which only contains a handful of ingredients and came in a glass jar, albeit with a plastic cap.  And then I discovered Made-On Second Life Hair Butter, and my life changed completely.  This stuff is awesome for taming frizzies if you have curly hair like I do.

  55. Color hair with henna purchased without plastic packaging.

    Read about how I purchase henna in bulk or in solid form without plastic and how I mix and apply it to cover those gray hairs that make me look older than I feel.

  56. Baking soda is the best deodorant EVER.

    Instead of deodorant in a plastic container, I use baking soda mixed with a few drops of tea tree oil applied to dry underarms with a reusable cotton round. It works better than any commercial deodorant I have ever used. Seriously. If you don’t think baking soda deo is your thing, there are other options. Read my Great Big Plastic-Free Non-Toxic Deodorant Review.  But honestly? Try the baking soda first. No kidding. I would use it even if I weren’t trying to cut down my plastic consumption.

  57. Use soap instead of canned shave cream.

    There are shave soaps especially made for that purpose (Simmons, Williams) but I’ve found that any rich soap bar will do.

  58. Choose lotions and lip balms in plastic-free containers.

    Recently, I discovered a new company called Organic Essence, which is packaging its body lotions in compostable cardboard jars and its lip balms in ingenious cardboard tubes that squeeze from the end. There are also lotion bars and lip balms and glosses that come in glass or metal containers. And I’ve also made my own homemade lotion, but now that Organic Essence is using responsible packaging, I’ll leave the lotion-making to them.

  59. Switch from a plastic razor to a second hand safety razor.

    I found mine in an antique store. More on the razor and the blades here.

  60. Use less plastic tooth paste/powder, toothbrush, and floss.

  61. Coconut oil lube.

    It really works, and its natural anti-fungal properties are particularly good for women.  But be aware the oil-based lubes don’t play well with latex.

  62. Choose toilet paper that’s not wrapped in plastic.

    Seventh Generation recycled individually wrapped toilet paper can be ordered by the case through Amazon.com. It comes in a cardboard box without any plastic wrapping. Evergreen and Bumboosa are also plastic-free brands.

  63. Use plastic-free feminine hygiene products

    Some of the options include washable cloth liners and pads. One great brand is Luna Pads, which are made with organic cotton. Or search for cloth + menstrual + pads on Etsy.com. Remember to ask the seller to ship with no plastic packaging.

    Some women prefer the Diva Cup, which can be washed and reinserted.

  64. Look into plastic-free sunscreen options.

    I’ve found two great plastic-free sunscreens: Balm! Baby and Avasol.  Read about them here.  Several readers have offered other options. Check out my May 7, 2010 post and especially the comments for plastic-free sunscreen alternatives.

  65. Choose a plastic-free wooden hair brush.

    Read about my new plastic-free wooden hairbrush with wooden bristles here.

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    Medication and Healthcare

  67. Find Do-It-Yourself alternatives for over-the-counter remedies.

    Last winter, I tried making my own homemade cough syrup and looked into natural remedies for heartburn. Lately, I’ve been checking into herbs that can be used to promote sleep. I also learned to do acupressure to treat a headache.  Take a look at my favorite plastic-free cold remedies.

  68. Use handkerchiefs instead of paper tissue.

    I’ve never seen a Kleenex box without any plastic window. More importantly, we can avoid all waste by opting for reusable hankies. Some people make their own out of old t-shirts and cloth diapers. I found lots of hankies at a thrift shop. Another ingenious idea is the HankyBook, which makes carrying a cloth hanky so much neater.

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    Travel

  70. Bring your own water bottle — even on the plane!

    Many people don’t know it’s actually fine to bring your own water on a plane. You just can’t bring water through airport security. So what do you do? Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up at the drinking fountain on the other side. It’s really okay. In fact, it’s what musician Jackson Browne does!

  71. Bring your own snacks.

    Avoid plastic-packaged food. Bring your own sandwiches or containers of fruit, cut veggies, trail mix, or other snacks. But avoid liquid or semi-solid foods when flying.

  72. Bring your own utensils.

    Why should traveling be any different than staying at home? If you’re remembering to bring your own utensils while at home, don’t forget them when you go away.

  73. Bring your own travel mug.

    I’ve traveled to many different states in theU.S.and never had a problem getting my mug filled. In fact, most cafes these days will give a discount for bringing your own mug. And your mug can come in handy in hotels that provide plastic or Styrofoam cups in the room instead of real glasses.

  74. Don’t forget your headphones.

    When flying, bring your own headphones. Most planes will offer you new headphones in plastic packaging, but you won’t need those if you come prepared with your own.

  75. Bring your own personal care products.

    Skip the free travel size shampoos, soaps, and lotions offered by hotels. Just because they’re free doesn’t mean we should take them. What is the true cost of “free” when the environment is at stake? Instead, fill up your own reusable travel- size containers at home. If you’re not checking baggage, make sure they fit in your regulation zip lock bag (U.S.residents).

  76. Refuse the mini bar.

    Mini bar snacks and drinks are incredibly expensive. And they all come in plastic packages or bottles. Find real food to eat. Do a little grocery shopping when you reach your destination and stock your hotel room with healthy snacks in less packaging. Even if you can’t avoid plastic entirely, you can resist single-serving sizes.

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    Plastic-Free Pet Care

  78. Choose natural cat litter.

    SwheatScoop cat litter is made from wheat and comes in a paper bag.  It’s also certified flushable. We feel okay about flushing our cats’ poop because they’ve tested negative for toxoplasma gondii and they are indoor-only cats.  If you live inCalifornia, you should not flush cat poop unless you know for sure it is free of the parasite toxoplasma gondii, which is harmful to sea otters.  Outdoor cats are susceptible because they pick it up from rodents.

  79. Choose pet toys/furniture made from natural materials instead of plastic.

    • Purrfect Play makes beautiful all-natural toys made from wool and catnip.
    • I’ve also found all natural wool, leather, coconut, and feather cat toys at my local pet shop recently.
    • But the best cat toys of all? Wine corks, hands down. The real ones, of course. I don’t let my cats play with plastic.
    • We found a bamboo/sisal scratching post instead of synthetic carpet
    • Cardboard cat scratchers are great
    • This natural wood/sisal over-door climber is very sturdy and doesn’t contain any synthetic chemicals that can off gas into our home our the bodies of our pets.
    • Our most economical cat climber? We cleared off most of the flat surfaces in our home (tops of book shelves, etc.) so that our cats could roam and climb to their hearts’ content.
  80. Avoid plastic bowls.

    Did you know plastic food/water bowls cause pet acne?

  81. Buy secondhand pet supplies instead of new.

    We found our cat litter boxes and plastic cat carrier boxes through Craigslist and from thrift stores. They are plastic. But they are not new plastic!

  82. Learn to make homemade pet food without much plastic.

    We make our cat food from scratch instead of buying BPA-lined cans that come shrink-wrapped in plastic or dry pet food in bags lined with plastic. Our recipe does include a supplement powder that comes in a plastic bottle, but it lasts two months. Read more about our less plastic homemade cat food here.

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    Get it Fixed!

  84. Repair things when they break.

    When a plastic item breaks, try to repair it instead of buying a new one.

    I’m trying to conserve as many of the tools and appliances that I already own instead of allowing them to become obsolete or chucking them when they break.

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    Buy Secondhand

  86. Acquire necessary plastic items used instead of new.

    Check second-hand stores, FreecycleCraigslist or borrow.  Car-sharingTool-lending. I have no problem acquiring second-hand plastic. I think it’s always good to give things as many uses as possible before sending them to the landfill or recycling center. I also look for items made from recycled plastic, for the same reason. Here’s a partial list of plastic items I’ve acquired second hand since my plastic project began:

    • Plastic cat litter boxes and cat carriers via Freecycle and thrift shops
    • Computer monitor from Craigslist when my old one broke and couldn’t be repaired
    • Crock pot
    • Power strips via Freecycle
    • Laptop computer from secondhand electronics store
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    Packing and Shipping Materials

  88. Request zero plastic packaging when ordering online.

    I’m trying to buy fewer things in general, but vendors do sometimes send me products to review for this blog. When that happens, I include a message to the seller requesting zero plastic or Styrofoam packaging, including plastic tape. (See my packaging policy here.) When this doesn’t work, I’ve started to send back unwanted plastic packaging with a letter of explanation. And I send back unwanted plastic I receive unsolicited in the mail or on my doorstep.  Here are some examples of innovative zero waste packing materials:

    Read more about plastic-free packaging materials here.

  89. Get off mailing lists to reduce plastic envelope windows.

    I have switched to online billing, online statements, canceled subscriptions, and called to have my name removed from mailing lists. I want to save paper as well as plastic. TrustedID (formerly known as Catalog Choice) can help.

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    In the Office

  91. Make your own glue.

    Here’s a recipe for homemade wheat paste that really works.

  92. Avoid disposable plastic pens.

    I use pencils as much as possible and for times when a pen is necessary, I have switched to a refillable fountain pen with a cartridge converter that allows me to refill the pen from a bottle of ink rather than buying new plastic cartridges.

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    Electronics & Entertainment

  94. Look for secondhand electronics, games, and toys first.

    There are so many useful products already in existence that have been gently used and need a good home.  Read about the awesome secondhand computer I bought when my old one wore out.

  95. Choose refurbished equipment from a certified e-steward.

    Learn how you can do your part to combat “planned obsolescence.”

  96. Take care of what you have already.

    Often we can avoid buying new stuff by keeping the stuff we do have in good condition.  I learned this lesson the hard way when I broke my laptop screen through a stupid accident that could have been easily avoided.

  97. Avoid buying new CDs and DVDs.

    They are made from polycarbonate plastic, after all. Instead, I download music and movies and borrow DVDs from Netflix or the library.

  98. Learn to recycle old disks.

    You can recycle old disks.  But keep in mind that recycling is no substitute to reducing what you buy in the first place.

  99. Choose healthier electronics.

    Try to find electronics secondhand rather than buying new plastic, but when you do have to buy new electronic gadgets, choose those that have the least packaging and toxic materials. For example, thinksound ear buds are PVC-free, made from wood, and come packaged with almost no plastic.

  100. Find DIY solutions for techno needs.

    For example, I knitted a cover for my iPod instead of buying a plastic one, and I crocheted new headphone ear pads when the foam on my old headphones wore out.

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    Gift Giving and Receiving

  102. Learn strategies for green gift-giving.

    Give only what will be truly appreciated. Opt for experiences or services (like restaurant meals, tickets to events, your help with a task) over stuff.  Read my Guide: Green Gifts Don’t Have to Suck to learn more.

  103. Consider giving charitable gift cards.

    But choose wisely and plastic-free.  Read my comparison of charitable gift cards here.

  104. Request plastic-free gifts for yourself.

    It can be challenging to ask friends and family not to give you new plastic.  But it can be done in a kind way.  If you don’t need any new things, request a donation to your favorite charity, perhaps.

  105. Find ways to wrap gifts without plastic tape.

    Here’s a method I discovered for myself. And use paper tape for other types of packaging needs. Of course, reusing gift bags, reusing wrapping paper, and wrapping presents in reusable cloth bags or furoshiki are the best options.

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    Holidays and Entertaining

  107. Bring your own beverage container & ustensils to parties and events.

    If you’re not sure whether the host will offer real dishware or disposable plastic, discreetly bring your own.  Or be less discreet, depending on your relationship with the host.  I carry a little stainless steel wine glass (which is good for events where glass is not allowed) and bamboo utensils with me, just in case.

  108. Throw a Zero Waste party.

    Here’s an example. Provide durable dishes, glasses, utensils.  Ask guests to bring their own dishes or at least cups.  Stock up on thrift store utensils and mugs (mixing and matching crazy mugs can be fun) especially for parties.  Request no plastic cling-wrap on potluck offerings.

  109. Re-think your Christmas tree.

    Most artficial trees are made from toxic PVC.  Opt for a real, sustainably-grown and harvested tree, a live tree that can be planted, or an artificial tree made from natural materials.  There are “trees” made from recycled cardboardwood, or even recycled glass bottles.

  110. Skip holiday plastic tchotkes.

    Make your own plastic-free vegan Easter eggs.  Avoid Valentine’s Day and Halloween plastic crap.

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    No New Plastic Clothing

  112. Choose natural fibers.

    So much new clothing these days is made from synthetic materials with names like: polyester, acrylic, lycra, spandex, nylon. In other words, plastic fabric. When buying new clothes, I look for organic cotton, hemp, ethically-raised wool, and other natural fibers. I avoid conventional cotton because of pesticides used to grow it. Sometimes the best place to find these materials is online. One of my favorite sources is Hempest.com. Just be sure and request no plastic packaging when placing your order.

  113. Shop thrift stores.

    Buying gently-used secondhand clothing and shoes is a good way to get the styles you want without buying new plastic — except of course for that inevitable tag hanger! It’s also a lot less expensive than buying new.

  114. Make your own clothes.

    Um… as someone who is afraid of the sewing machine, I can’t really elaborate on this one. But I know a lot of you crafty crafters are up for it. Be sure and choose natural fabrics.

  115. Look for plastic-free shoes.

    For example, Feelgoodz flip flops are made from natural rubber rather than plastic.

  116. Choose ethical underwear.

    You may not be able to find underwear that is completely plastic-free, but look for styles/brands that contain a high percentage of natural fibers. I like PACT organic underwear because they are made from 95% organic cotton, are packaged in compostable bags, and support non-profit organizations.

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    Camping and Outdoors

  118. Choose plastic-free camping equipment.

    Going to Burning Man two years in a row forced me to seriously consider alternatives to plastic camping supplies.  I found:

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    Avoid unnecessary plastic around the house

  120. Stop buying plastic water filter cartridges unless necessary.

    We had our water tested to find out if we even needed to be filtering it in the first place. Turns out, our Oaklandwater is fine without a filter. So we can avoid plastic water filter cartridges from now on. For those who do need to filter their water, Brita has teamed up with Preserve to create a way to recycle the plastic cartridges. Here are the details: http://www.brita.com/us/support/filter-recycling/

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    If You Do Nothing Else

  122. Avoid the Worst Plastics

    If you do nothing else, try to steer clear of Polyvinyl Chloride (#3 PVC), Polystyrene (#6 PS), & Polycarbonate (#7 Other).  PVC is found in many, many products and causes a whole host of environmental problems. Read my post about the problems of PVC. PS contains styrene, which is toxic to the brain and nervous system. PC contains BPA.  Read more about BPA here. If you must use plastic, make sure it’s not #3, #6, or #7 polycarbonate. (Note: #7 is a catch-all for many types of plastic that doesn’t fit into the first six categories. Biodegradable plastic is also labeled #7. So when in doubt, ask.)

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Leave a Reply

474 Comments on "100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life"


Guest
Isabel Schwarzkopf
10 days 20 hours ago

Hi girls! There is another simple way of reducing plastic from feminine hygiene products -> https://www.menstrualcup.com/gb I think a menstrual cup is clearly a more green alternative.

Guest
Catherine Sultana
24 days 13 hours ago

One question: what is verdict on silicon? Silpat or frying pan?
I really like this list, good way for me to gauge where I am on the plastic-free continuum. Thanks for doing this work!

Guest
Denise
26 days 13 hours ago

This is wonderfully helpful and made me aware of more steps I can take to reduce plastic consumption. The only problem with so many of your suggestions for products which can be purchased is that they are expensive, too expensive for many of the people I know in my city neighborhood. Organic cotton? I would love to buy organic cotton clothes. Sadly, not easily available, not a lot of variety, too pricey and no XXL sizes. An aware friend on public assistance knows the evils of Walmart and other discount stores, but she is forced to shop there because she just does not have the money. We will not make true headway unless these products are affordable and/or the big companies change their evil ways.

Guest
Heather
1 month 10 days ago

Love this post, so incredibly helpful in transitioning to a less toxic life (non-toxic seems unavoidable, just thinking of the chemicals in carpet, for example :( )! As a poor grad student, do you have any suggestions on an alternative for a shower curtain liner? Also, in reading the comments below, would you mind providing a link to Beth’s website? Thanks so much!

Guest
Noel
1 month 21 days ago

Your post is so helpful. I will referring to it when I reduce plastic.

Guest
Ash
1 month 24 days ago

Love your post, trying to reduce plastic in our life and this was like a one stop shop for all the information I needed. Thank you…

Guest
Emilia Simpson
2 months 17 days ago

thank you for all of the information I’m DEFINITLY going to re-think everything I own!

Guest
4 months 8 days ago

So simple and interesting ideas in this post! I sewed my own grocery bag and I always bring it with me when I go to the grocery. I also use glass bottles instead of plastic. Now I bought incredible jars in which I will put my muesli breakfast. Thank you for the plastic free ideas! I will definitely try them all!

Guest
4 months 8 days ago

We have two of those particular over-the-door cat climbers and both smelled horribly of glue for quite a while after we got them.

Guest
BethTerry
4 months 8 days ago

Panya That’s terrible.  I wonder if they were the same brand.  Ours just smelled like sisal.  I’m very sensitive to chemical smells, and it didn’t bother me.

Guest
SwineandDine
4 months 15 days ago

I am opening a food truck and one of my biggest concerns were eliminating those little plastic sauce containers. I found paper cones with a corner that folds down for your sauce, and my other concern was plastic forks. I have not found anything for that yet other then not serving food that requires forks. And chopsticks are not for everybody since I am not serving chinese food. Any ideas? Thanks Swine & Dine.

Guest
Catherine Sultana
24 days 13 hours ago

would bamboo skewers work for some items and going with handheld foods wrapped in paper? Give discount to folks who bring own to go container? Best wishes for success!

Guest
quicksilver8519
4 months 7 days ago

Hello SwineandDine, Love your logon! Got some ideas for you to look at and some are very affordable, as well as an interesting article addressing your type of concern. http://inhabitat.com/spudware-cutlery-made-from-potatoes/
http://www.treecycle.com/biodegradable.html#cutlery
for ordering ideas

 http://www.whatsonxiamen.com/wine_msg.php?titleid=902
Edible cutlery yum. Less landfill waste and no forks to clean.

Guest
4 months 8 days ago

There are disposable utensils made from wood, and some that are corn-based.

Guest
quicksilver8519
4 months 17 days ago

Here is petition that can be signed to ban micro-beads and protect ours waters and fish.
https://www.change.org/p/environment-canada-protect-our-waters-enforce-ban-on-plastic-microbeads

Guest
Claudia
4 months 30 days ago

I’m not sure if anybody has mentioned this previously, but another easy alternative to shampoo is using eggs.  Eggs are a natural emulsifier (bind oil to water), which is the whole point of shampoo.  Some people say just to use the whites, but I prefer the whole egg so I don’t waste the yolks.  Nobody can tell the difference and it is a cheap, plastic free, highly sustainable option.

Guest
quicksilver8519
4 months 21 days ago

Thank you for the idea Claudia. I may try this one. Beth, I have the greatest admiration for you. This site you have created and the open mindedness that you have with opportunity for everyone to share, is a huge example of how it is done and how it should be done.
Hoping this will spread and other groups learn from your example.

Guest
MUTHIAHSOMANASARI
5 months 2 days ago

very good instructions.
Regards.
S.Muthiah

Guest
quicksilver8519
5 months 16 days ago

Found some recipes to make the plastic free easier with soya milk. Love your DIY yogurt recipe, thank you.

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-soy-milk-at-home-124820
 http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-Homemade-Soy-Milk/

Guest
Catherine Sultana
24 days 13 hours ago

I make cashew milk and coconut milk by soaking raw unsweetened unsalted item in fridge overnight in mason jar. Cashews get rinsed in metal strainer then blended with equal amount of fresh cold water for several minutes (don’t have a Vita mix). Coconut milk is similar except no rinsing.Keep in fridge in sterilized pitcher or bottle.Use within 3-5 days, shake before pouring. Can add vanilla or sweetener during blending to cashew mylk for coffee creamer.

Guest
BethTerry
5 months 15 days ago

Thanks!

Guest
quicksilver8519
5 months 20 days ago

Funny thing happened on the way to the MYPLASTICSFREELIFE today. I found a recipe for DIY plastic made at home. O.K….O.K. nobody is smiling…..yet.
Check this link out!
http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-Potato-Plastic!/?ALLSTEPS
My father burned potatoes to the bottom of the frying pan years ago, and had a terrible time trying to chip and scrub the substance off the pan, saying, “I have just made potatoe glue!” Maybe it is an idea?

Guest
quicksilver8519
5 months 20 days ago

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/03/100310/why-tap-water-is-better/
This is a good read.
Soon enough you won’t need to worry about whether the water in your bottle is better…you’ll wonder if the plastic your drinking in the water is better.

Guest
Ms schambach
5 months 22 days ago

How bout the diva cup? I’ve been using mine for almost 6 years, which first off saved me ALOT of money on pads and tampons and healthier because tampons are bad for you. Also saves the dump/environment a lot of pads and tampon waste products. But is the rubber used for the cup safe?

Guest
quicksilver8519
5 months 20 days ago

I guess it depends on the manufacturer following safety laws to protect the consumer? Probably no BPA though. Consumers have been using rubber condoms and rubber sealers for canning throughout the years. Plastics were introduced to replace the use of the rubber used for canning, but we hear that is not such a good idea.
Sorry to get off topic slightly, but I am going to try bees wax for canning in future. Maybe there is something better than the diva cup as well, but until found, you probably have the best solution so far, for not using tampons.

Guest
quicksilver8519
6 months 1 day ago

Here is a link that is an update concerning our plastics in the Ocean. Maybe a motivating.
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2015/02/we-have-to-stop-filling-and-killing-the-oceans-with-plastic/

Guest
Anni
6 months 2 days ago

Thank you for this! I literally went crazy the past few days trying to research any way I can reduce all the plastic in my life. I got really overwhelmed when I looked in my fridge and there was plastic, plastic everywhere! Even my pantry! Jars of peanut butter and other things, I was like WHY?!?!? (as I threw my fists up in the air in a dramatic fashion). This list has helped me A LOT. 

I would also like to comment on the christmas tree thing, there is a company called Living Christmas that allows you to rent a real tree, and they take it back and plant it into the ground. Pretty cool. I haven’t tried them but they aren’t in my area (only parts of CA) but here is the link: 
http://www.livingchristmas.com/

thanks again! I am sure it took a good while to adopt these things into your life and to research. You have saved me lots of time by doing this :) Thanks!

Guest
jazzydog300
6 months 7 days ago

hi jazzy here again,

thanks for the tip and now the parents! they live for plastic but im all organic and hippie help!!!!!!

Guest
quicksilver8519
6 months 7 days ago

Well…..here is a good start…..read everything you can on this site. I find all the information and questions that others have posted to be informative and enjoyable. There are recipes and tips throughout this site. Example is, do you want to choose coconut oil as a makeup remover if you wear any? Is it right for you? Research everything even if someone else has suggested it. That is what googling is wonderful for and the library believe it! Spent many hours looking up books at the library for anything I was interested in.
You can google or maybe learn  through the library how to use fabric dyes that are plant extraction (DIY even) and can be used to create your own fun and conversation pieces, or anything hippy you like. Macrame with jute or cotton, reduce everything you can and keep it simple. I will cost less that way as well.
Here is one your parents may like as a cleaning tip to reduce plastic bottles cleaners come in
 http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/cleaning/non-toxic-disinfecting/
This is science and fact. Could be a great class assignment as well???
If you come up with some ideas of your own through googling and reading up on things, post your great ideas on this site.

Guest
quicksilver8519
6 months 9 days ago

I have been reading more of the blogs and I apologize if I repeated what someone has already posted.
Here may be something different that I hope is helpful. For all the plastic film, bags, everything else etc that seem not possible to recycle, there may be a partial to complete solution, while earning money for your household, neighbourhood, or organization. Some of these recycle companies will PREPAY YOUR SHIPPING FEE AT NO COST TO YOU AS WELL. I got these links through the David Suzuki Organization and am posting some of them for you to check out, including the link to the Suzuki organization where you can find pages and pages of how to recycle practically everything you have. 

http://www.terracycle.ca/en-CA/
 http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/better-world/reuse-a-shoe
 http://www.rona.ca/corporate/social-engagement
 http://www.davidsuzuki.org/search/?q=recycling&x=0&y=0

Guest
quicksilver8519
6 months 9 days ago

Anyone know where to order or buy wood pellets packaged in cotton or other bags non-plastic bags? Please???

Guest
jazzydog300
6 months 10 days ago

yellow,
any tips for cats
jazzy

Guest
quicksilver8519
6 months 9 days ago

A few for cats. We stopped using clumpable or loose clay cat litter. Instead, we buy Satisfaction Brand wood pellets from Home depot. The wood pellets are chemical free and dust free, and can be composted and less than $5.00 per 40 LB bag. There is a plastic bag though, but it is reduced i every other way, as well as healthier for the cat.
Good balance for the foods put into the compost.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXZjMUfXvck   link for cleaning tips.
http://www.catster.com/lifestyle/5-diy-cat-toys-made-from-empty-tp-rolls  I found this link and tried these toys for our cat. Well guess what? She likes these toilet roll toys better than anything bought at the store. In the link the woman made a ball using parts cut from the roll. We made the ball and also made more rings that we didn’t construct into a ball, for toss, retrieve and play. The rings are her favorite!  Pounce can manipulate the lightweight rings, toss and pick up easier. Once the toilet roll toys need to be replaced, that is easy and the scraps from prior toys of course, you know it, can be recycled or composted. Bye Bye plastic toys or toys with small parts to cause bowel blockage.

Another thing we are trying (don’t know just how great it is yet), is shredding empty egg cartons into small pieces and tossing the shreds into the litter box as another biodegradable filler. http://thegreenists.com/pets/tip-of-the-day-make-your-own-kitty-litter/1044 and recycling all paper waste through the cat litter box where possible.

Guest
quicksilver8519
6 months 10 days ago

Here is a recipe using that baking soda of yours…..that might feel milder. Don’t know if you’ll like it. We use coconut oil mixed with baking soda to get the Pearl Drops consistency in texture and love it. Feels like just coming from the Dentists after a polish. So here it is in different versions:
1) 1 part coconut oil, 1 part baking soda, add a few drops of peppermint oil and sweeten with sugarless powder sweetener of your choice.
2) 5 T baking soda, 1 T sweetener, 4 T coconut oil and a few drops of peppermint oil.
If the mix is to crumbly etc, add more coconut oil until you get the Pearl Drops texture. Main ingredients for us is the baking soda and coconut mix to get the polished feel.
Here is a recipe to avoid plastic laundry bottles.
Liquid Laundry: 1/2 cup borax, 1/2 cup washing soda, 1/2 bar Linda Laundry bar (grated), 3 gal. water + 4 cups boiled water in sauce pot to melt soap, and a 5 gal. pail to set the mixture in.
On stove in large sauce pot boil the 4 cups of water, then turn the heat down to medium/high and add the grated laundry bar soap (use whatever laundry bar brand you like) and stirring melt it completely. Remove from heat and add the borax and then the washing soda (can use baking powder for milder detergent) and stir as it thickens. Once thickened and fully incorporated, pour into the pail and add the 3 gals of water….2 cups at a time stirring to blend well. Once all the water has been mixed into the pail, cover with a lid (I use a dinner plate) and leave somewhere for 24 undisturbed. If this is disturbed it will not jell. In 24 hours the soap has set and there will be some water separation as well as a very very thick jell. This is good. Use a hand blender or stick blender to breakup the jelled soap and mix well. Pour into your glass jars and use 1/4 – 1/2 cup per load depending on your ashing machine and load size. This laundry soap will not suds up and I was skeptical on whether it would work well or not without seeing the suds. 5 months later….I am a believer! Will never go back to buying plastic bottled expense laundry detergent off the shelf! To give your wash an extra boost….add 1/4 – 1/2 baking soda for colorfast clothing or whites.

Have a powder version as well that I can only use on whites and really colorfast clothing or color is lifted or faded quickly. Very cheap to use.
Deodorant: 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cornstarch, with 1/3 cup coconut oil, and a few drops of Lavender oil (or your favorite oil to scent). Add more coconut oil if the mixture isn’t soft enough. This should be a consistency of melting as your rub under your arm, to blend into skin, using the size of a pea for amount applied. This works well for our family anyway. Store in a leftover jar from bread yeast or other small jar you’ve kept.
Cheers!

Guest
quicksilver8519
6 months 12 days ago

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/
Has many recipes for household use including making laundry detergent. However, you may want to use a plastic free container.

Guest
quicksilver8519
6 months 12 days ago

Thanks for creating this website. I would love to read more suggestions for everyone posting. Such as the cat litter box? Try a large used oven roaster from the used store. One thing that I had thought, that while we use non-plastic as much as possible and reuse what we have to make mobiles, crafts etc…we won’t live forever and unless everyone can liquidate everything through sales and give away (if wanted) there is no point in leaving any of your reused plastics in your Will.
So, we all need to find a way to get the plastics companies to stop in productions.
Soon there will be no fish in the Ocean, no water safe to drink and no air to breathe because of plastics. The breakdown of plastic in the Ocean as example, causes carbon dioxides and oxygen killers. Even the chemicals invented to create decomposing plastics down to disinegration, causes carbons that kill oxygen, and our planet relies on Forrests and Oceans to give us the air we breathe.
What we do at home helps at home, but it will not solve the problem.

Guest
Ruby
6 months 30 days ago

Hi, I am considering braces and wonder if you have any information about Invisalign… They are fully plastic, I believe.  Thanks

Guest
BethTerry
6 months 12 days ago

HI.  I don’t have specific information about Invisalign, and I did use that product years ago before I became aware of the problems with plastic.  Today, I would not opt for Invisalign.  In addition to concerns about possible chemicals leaching into my mouth, Invisalign produces a tremendous amount of waste, as each set is discarded every week or two.

Guest
mariana1
7 months 2 days ago

Hi,
I’m trying to reduce plastic, especially when it involves food. Many food products are available only in plastic containers. My question is: if I buy something that is sold in plastic, is it worthwhile to switch it to glass once I get it home –  or is the damage already done?

Guest
BethTerry
6 months 12 days ago

Hi.  First, I would attempt to find the produce or something similar without plastic.  Barring that, I do think it’s worthwhile to switch the packaging when you get home, just because it’s so much more pleasant to live in a plastic-free environment.  Buy you’re right that much of the damage has probably already been done.

Guest
Sarah
7 months 11 days ago

I’m feeling discouraged :( I keep reading about all the wonderful reusable containers you can bring to the bulk food store but our bulk foods stores in Ontario Canada don’t allow it due to health regulations on cross contaminations. So what is the benefit of going to the bulk store if I’m forced to use their plastic bags and containers? They say I have to take a new one each time and can’t reuse at all. Arg. I’m feeling like the regular grocery story packaging might almost be better in some cases (ie. flour, sugar).

Guest
BethTerry
6 months 11 days ago

Hi Sarah.  What’s to stop you from reusing their containers/bags and putting food in glass when you get home? Just do it without asking.  I’m guessing, if you’re subtle about it, they won’t even know.

Guest
MelissaGraves
7 months 28 days ago

Any leads on where to find plastic free liquors?

Guest
BethTerry
6 months 11 days ago

MelissaGraves Which liquors specifically?  Most hard liquor is available in glass.

Guest
7 months 30 days ago

Great.

Guest
Ideoform
9 months 26 days ago

Hi.  I just finished reading your book.  I have done many things on your list for several years now.  I love all of your suggestions and research, and the links to help me make decisions when I buy stuff. 

I am a person who likes lists.  I wonder if you could put this list up as a checklist somewhere, without the explanations.  I feel good when I can check things off.  It gives me the motivation to keep doing more things on the list.  I would like to print it out and post it on my wall over my desk where I make out my shopping list and do meal planning, but the list with explanations is too big for that.

Also, do you have a nice looking artwork that says:  “Don’t Forget Your Bags!”  That I could print and put by my door?

Guest
9 months 29 days ago

Yay! Say no to plastic bags and use ecofriendly alternatives! So many great tips here :)

Guest
Steve
10 months 8 days ago

Cool.

Guest
Georgiabags
10 months 12 days ago

Thank you so much for your info. it is fantastic. We use frequently reusable bags.

Guest
Michelle
1 year 1 month ago

I was so glad to find your page – I live in Canada and I was getting so frustrated because we just don’t have the variety and availability of different products and packaging in my province they way you do in the USA. I have found a few local small businesses who sell handmade products, some of which are in responsible or no packaging, but we are limited by the seasons here when it comes to a lot of things – we only have a farmer’s market with produce for two or three months of the year. I can’t even switch to using cash to avoid plastic credit/debit cards because our “paper” money is now made of plastic (!). I read your posts about your struggles with plastic-free solutions and your triumphs and it gives me hope that things will one day change!

Guest
Maddiey
1 year 1 month ago

Found this to be super helpful and extensive.
I do have a suggestion for the toothpaste tubes though, Lush cosmetics make Toothy tabs,
they come in cardboard boxes and are little chewable tabs that you crush between your front teeth and then brush. There are a range of flavors and they work really well. Their solid deodorant is really effective too.

Guest
BethTerry
1 year 30 days ago

Yes!  Toothy Tabs are great.  I didn’t realize I hadn’t updated that portion of this list.  I’ll do it right away.  Cheers!  (Here’s my review of them, by the way.   http://myplasticfreelife.com/2011/08/searching-for-the-perfect-all-natural-plastic-free-toothpaste-or-powder-or-soap-or/)

Guest
Sierratello
1 year 1 month ago

Wow this list is amazing!
Another non-plastic alternative for everyone when it comes to a filtration pitcher is getting a Soma. I just purchased one since I am trying to reduce buying plastic products and I absolutely love it!
It is made out of shatter resistant glass and has a biodegradable filter so you can compost it.
This company is amazing and i would recommend a Soma to anyone. Their website is drinksoma.com if you’re interested! I promise you wont be disappointed

Guest
Cateau
9 months 16 days ago

Hi, I am looking for a plastic free water filtration pitcher to replace our Brita, and have been looking at the Soma as well. However, isn’t the cone that holds the filter made of plastic? That, and the limited filtration (no lead or other compounds besides chlorine) are turning me away from it. Is the cone made of petroleum based plastic?  Thanks!

Guest
Mel
1 year 29 days ago

I was just wondering if you knew if the white part of the filter is made of plastic. It looks like it is, but I wouldn’t want to miss out if it isn’t!

Guest
BethTerry
6 months 11 days ago

I believe it’s made from a corn-based plastic.  Still plastic.  And as far as I know, it doesn’t have any compostable certifications, so I’m not sure it’s actually compostable in normal circumstances.

Guest
AneCristi
1 year 2 months ago

“But we also need to close the tap” http://www.iflscience.com/environment/19-year-old-develops-machine-clean-oceans-plastic

Guest
BethTerry
1 year 30 days ago

Absolutely.  In fact, I have a post coming up on this very topic.

Guest
Anonymous
1 year 2 months ago

100 Tips..very detailed..thanks for your time n effort
ALmost complete..would be handy for anyone who want to get rid of plastic

Guest
Shayna Keil
1 year 2 months ago

you can use 100% olive oil bar soap as toothpaste read here
http://fondalashay.com/mintchilli/why-i-dont-use-toothpaste
and my family has given up a christmas tree altogether. my mom loves your website. weve really been trying. we compost as much as we can, almost never eat out, walk to school each day, are on days 8 and 18 of no poo, use olive oil and sugar scrub made at home once a week for soap, we dont use soap exceptfor that, olive oil for lotion, no plastic water bottles, and baking soda and vinegar for almost all cleaning products. we also only use  borax for dishwashing detergent. any other useful tips? we grow and can our tomatoes, beans, and peppers just this year.

Guest
BethTerry
1 year 30 days ago

You guys are doing a great job.  But regarding the olive oil soap toothpaste — I actually did try it a while back, and I personally couldn’t hack it.  Everyone’s different.  Some people swear by it, but I couldn’t do it without gagging.  I just couldn’t handle the taste — even in tooth chips that have flavoring in them.  Here’s the post I wrote about it:  http://myplasticfreelife.com/2011/08/searching-for-the-perfect-all-natural-plastic-free-toothpaste-or-powder-or-soap-or/

Guest
Izzymgoodman
1 year 2 months ago

Thank you so much for this list! I’m trying to switch my family over to as many of these alternatives as I can but as you said it does take time!  We do a lot of them already but there are so many more we need to start doing! Thanks again! :)

Guest
Maria
1 year 2 months ago

Any one have an idea for a plastic free solution to a shower mat? We have a clawfoot bathtub and live in MN = coldness for feet all year round. 
I’m trying to think up a mat or something to stand on while showering before winter … 

Thanks for any ideas you may have!

Guest
Michelle
1 year 1 month ago

You should track down a living bath mat – they are made of moss I think. They are supposed to be fantastic.

Guest
Guest
zambooka
1 year 3 months ago

Where did you get your stailess steel bucket for keeping your compost in? I love that it’s attractive, and keeps smells/fruit flies at bay.

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BethTerry
1 year 9 days ago

It’s actually an old ice bucket I found at a yard sale.

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Lisa
1 year 3 months ago

Truly impressive – thanks a lot for all of this!

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Abigayil Abrami Moses
1 year 3 months ago

BethTerry  I’m looking for non-plastic lids. I’m doing my own project Ditch the Plastic. Stainless is great, but conventional plastic lids will still leech chemicals and even “BPA free” plastic leeches toxic chemicals other than BPA, some of which are WORSE than BPA! All plastic has bisphenols, and more than just one. I’m looking for an alternative so I can have hot drinks.

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BethTerry
1 year 30 days ago

Hi. I’ve been searching for and asking companies for this for seven years. My workaround right now is simply not to drink directly from the lid. My particular mug has a nice smooth rim, so drinking without the lid is comfortable. Of course, this means not drinking while walking or while riding in bumpy vehicles. If you do find a stainless steel mug without a plastic lid, please let me know!

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Michelle Hill
6 months 11 days ago

I have seen ceramic mugs with silicone lids out there. They are covered but have an opening that doesn’t close, so it would be less leaky but not leak proof. I haven’t bought one yet, but hope to try one out soon.,

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AneCristi
1 year 3 months ago

Hi Terry, one idea for makeup, coconut oil is the best makeup remover, and it can be found in a glass bottle. Hugs, Cris

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marthaisbliss
1 year 3 months ago

Hi! Any suggestions for a plastic free electric tea kettle? Thanks!

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cheryljoy
1 year 3 months ago

How about just a regular stainless steel one that goes onto the stove? Mine is from a thrift store or yard sale (can’t remember which) and it’s got a built in whistle! (I ruined many without the whistle, but fortunately never burned down my kitchen.) It’s Revere-Ware. Though it does have a plastic handle. A while back I looked for the best and found my dream kettle: Simplex, made of copper, wooden handle, and there’s a version for gas stove and a different bottom for an electric stove – oh it’s beautiful! but definitely out of my price range.

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marthaisbliss
1 year 3 months ago

That’s similar for what I have for home use, but I’m trying to find one for my office (which doesn’t have a stove or heating element).

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cheryljoy
1 year 3 months ago

Did you see this blog yet: http://www.thekitchn.com/is-there-a-plasticfree-electric-kettle-good-questions-183593 ? (she always has good stuff!)

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GreenQueenofMod
1 year 3 months ago

WOW! This is one of the most comprehensive lists I have ever seen. Thanks for putting in all the research and sharing it on the web.

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AneCristi
1 year 4 months ago

Hello, thank you for posting so many ideas!!! I wish I could find the products you talk about here in France… I guess I will have to find my own solutions!!! But thank you very much!!!

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BethTerry
1 year 4 months ago

I’m collecting ideas for a global database of solutions. I hope you’ll share any resources you find in France.

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Manish
1 year 4 months ago

We can use CLAY container in kitchen, in ancient India people use maximum clay like for handwash, kitchen container, i found some website which greatly offer clay product, you must see it, 
http://www.claycraftindia.com/
http://www.mitticool.in/

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7Holly
1 year 4 months ago

I am astounded by the detail and thoughtfulness here.  I am going to scour this because I am already finding your research invaluable.  I, too, am trying to live a healthier, plastic-free as I can be, life.  Thank you so much! :-)

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BethTerry
1 year 4 months ago

Awesome!  Let me know if you have any questions.

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zambooka
1 year 4 months ago

Hey one of my favourite companies Nature Clean started making their cleaning products in bulk. One of the store nearby bought the bulk and allows people to fill up their old containers, using the product. Unfortunately the bulk containers were made out of plastic that had to be recycled when it was finished. (It’s still way less plastic then buying new containers all the time. )I wrote to the company comending them for thinking up this neat idea, and I explained how I was trying to save on the amount of plastic I used. I asked them if there was a way in which they would accept the empty containers back for reuse. I also asked them to make a few other of their products in bulk. 

They replied to me and said that there is an impact on sending big empty containers through the mail too. They also said that the company was having financial troubles but they would do their best to think up a solution to my idea. 

I looked on the company website, and they made a new feature advertising that it saves 85% of the plastic used. Here is the link. http://www.naturecleanliving.com/nature_clean_eco_refill_program

The company is really concerned about the environment and their products are all natural and eco-friendly. The company does not use sweat shop labour and their products are all manufactured in Canada.  I love that this company took what I said to heart, and actually tried their best to make something work to reduce their footprint.

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BethTerry
1 year 4 months ago

I think this is a good step.  Yes, they are still using plastic, but a lot less of it.  Hopefully, they can figure out a way to recycle the bags that doesn’t involve shipping them through the mail.  If the stores that sell the bags would collect them for recycling, that would save on fuel.  Perhaps the company could work with the stores that sell their product to come up with such a system.

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zambooka
1 year 4 months ago

I just wanted to add that the company decided to recycle the plastic sent back to them and they did not go with the reuse idea. If you could send an email to the company commending them for their brilliant idea, but informing them that reusing the bags sent back to them would be much better for the environment I’m assuming it would also save them on money. Then if the bag is no longer usable, then they can recycle it. 

I imagine it would be difficult to reuse these bags. But I wonder if there is a way.

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sunshinedaydream
1 year 4 months ago

Can you recommend a  travel mug  for hot tea that is is safe?

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BethTerry
1 year 4 months ago

I use a stainless steel mug from Aladdin. I take off the plastic lid before I drink. But I do like the mason jar idea too. This is the Aladdin mug I have: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000IZ99YU

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cheryljoy
1 year 4 months ago

I use a mason jar with a cloth napkin wrapped around it and held on with a couple of rubber bands in matching colors. It looks good, too, choosing appropriate napkins for the season or the occasion. The only problem is the lining on the metal lid, but it’s one of my last holdouts also, like Beth.

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quicksilver8519
6 months 12 days ago

You can buy mason jars with handles already on the (part of ) glass jar and sold as a drinking glass at stores like Walmart, Dollar stores and Canadian Tire store. Just screw the lid on using any canning lid and if you drill a smooth hole in the lid, you have a sippy coffee cup made of glass and metal.

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zambooka
1 year 4 months ago

I have to say, for the past year and a half I’ve reduced my packaging footprint by a lot. I no longer use, 

1. Disposable feminine hygiene products
2. plastic bags from stores
3. cling wrap
4. bought cheese
5. plastic yogurt containers
6. shampoo/conditioner/body wash containers
7. new Dish soap containers (I refill from bulk)
8.  plastic deodorant containers 
9. plastic bulk bags
10. plastic fruits and vegetable bags
11. disposable milk containers
12. (I’ve only bought one kleenex box for guests)
13. cleaning supplies containers (except vinegar)
14.  new handsoap containers
15. Ziplock sandwich/freezer bags
16. disposable water bottles
17. (very few plastic covered chocolate/candy) I have my moments of weakness but I have cut down significantly.
18.  new plastic toothbrushes. (I only buy the heads)
19. bought bread covered in plastic or paper
20. I reused my berry containers when I could go to the farmers market. (for 5 months of the year.)
21. new laundry detergent containers
22. plastic straws

So yeah… even though I still use a ton of plastic, I’m still proud of my reduction!

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BethTerry
1 year 4 months ago

Zambooka, your progress is great. One step at a time, and you’ve taken many!

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KarenScribner
1 year 5 months ago

You deserve Straus ice cream for all the hard work you are doing to raise the awareness of plastic use gone wild. Keep in mind with quality ice cream you eat less so the carton of ice cream lasts longer. You can use the carton for a plant pot, too.

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Janet
1 year 5 months ago

Love your post! I do a fair amount to decrease our use of plastic and try to provide a healthful diet for my family. We still have plenty of plastic in our home. I’m constantly pulling plastic bags out of the trash (from his purchases)  AND I have to keep telling hubby that things he thinks are ‘healthy’ to feed the kiddos really just aren’t.. Will keep trying…

Guest
1 year 5 months ago

Hi Beth,
This is a very comprehensive and useful guide. Ive been reading your blog for hours now. Thank you. However, Im wondering about buying from the bulk bins. I also live in the Bay Area and If I remember correctly Rainbow uses plastic bins for their dry bulk storage. Doesnt that mean that the grains etc. are tainted?

Guest
1 year 5 months ago

I suppose you could scoop from the middle of the bin where the food hasnt touched the edges.

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zaklyon
1 year 5 months ago

Hello, I love this post. I’ve been trying to find a manufacturer of Plastic-Free Deodorant Stick Applicators. Is there anywhere you might tell me to look. I cannot find a single company that does it. Are there at least ones that do biodegradable plastic or BPA Free plastic?

Thanks,
Zak

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Liz
1 year 5 months ago

Totally, totally love your blog. It’s become my go-to place when I’m ready to let go of another source of plastic in my life. However, here’s a question I haven’t seen answered yet.  A friend and I want to get our county government to ban plastic bags, much as is done in Portland, OR.  One major question that I know will come up is how are people going to bag their garbage for pick-up by the county.  You and I both know that if folks would compost, this wouldn’t be a problem.  But we’re talking almost 1.5 million people and, sadly, many of them aren’t going to get on board unless things are easy for them.  So, do you know of any sources for heavy-duty paper bags that could be used for people’s kitchen garbage? Many thanks for any info or resources you can share.

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lynn
1 year 17 days ago

Goodness people, what do you think people did in the past? I was an architectural draftsman in the 70′s and 80′s designing schools, restaurants and nursing homes. They all would have a can wash janitor’s sink. Just don’t use a bag and wash the can if it gets dirty. Most wet stuff should be composted and I just wrap any fish or meat bones/scraps in a piece of newspaper, which is what I drain any fried food on.

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DeCrafts
1 year 6 months ago

I love this! Thank you!

Maybe to be added, I had a real dilemma about my birth control.  Condoms, pills, patches… what I ended up deciding on (and LOVE) is the copper IUD.  This has been the most effective and non damaging or body altering solution I’ve found.  I was disturbed how our waste is affecting the reproduction and health of fish! Have you seen how estrogen levels are affecting wild life: http://www.mnn.com/local-reports/south-carolina/local-blog/birth-control-pill-endangers-fish-populations

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zambooka
1 year 7 months ago

I also have a question about a compost. I live in an apartment building, and I’ve been thinking about getting a worm bin. Does anyone here have one? I have a balcony, can I put them on there? I live in Canada, and it does get cold in the winter, will they survive? I know they survive underground all year in Canada, so I can’t see it being an issue.

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BethTerry
1 year 4 months ago

Hi Zambooka. This would be a great question for the Discussion Forum. More people will ser your question. I don’t have a worm bin so I can’t answer. http://myplasticfreelife.com/forum/

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zambooka
1 year 7 months ago

I wrote an email to booster juice asking them to change their environmental practices with their cups. THis was the e-mail I got back. 

Thanks for contacting Booster Juice. I applaud your iniative in trying to do your part by saving extra cups/straws.
Booster Juice is always looking to minimize our impact on the environment. To that end we offer our own reusable cups and offer customers a free booster every time they re use the cup.
Our stores should not actually be using customer provided cups or containers, all smoothies should be served in our styro cups or Booster juice reusable cups.

Regarding the Styrofoam cups, most of the research out ther
e contradicts the long standing public belief that Polystyrene cups are harmful to the environment. The cups of today are nothing like the cups of 30 yrs ago that contained CFCs. CFCs have been banned in polystyrene since 1980. Polystyrene cups are far better insulated than paper cups, thus preserving the product whether it be hot or cold for a much greater length of time. Virtually every paper cup used in the food service industry is NOT recyclable as it is lined with a wax polyethylene compound that prevents the cup from leaking. If the cups were not lined, the liquid would quickly leak out. Most cups whether they be paper or styrene end up in the landfill. Styrene cups are much lighter and take up less space. Tests have shown that coated paper cups do not breakdown or decompose in landfills. The other issue is the production of paper cups is much less environmentally friendly than styrene. Paper making is one of the most environmentally unfriendly processes there is, producing more than twice the greenhouse gases than a comparable styro cup and using twelve times as much water as a styro cup.
I hope now you can understand why we continue to use the styro cups. As soon as a better option presents itself, we will investigate it. We encourage everyone to use a reusable cup, as that is the most environmentally friendly thing to do!

Please write emails to booster juice telling them that polystyrene is not good for the environment. 

Thanks.

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BethTerry
1 year 7 months ago

It doesn’t make sense that they will allow people to use Booster Juice reusable cups but not their own cups.  It can’t be a cleanliness issue because there’s no guarantee a Booster Juice reusable cup will be cleaned any better than any other cup.  It seems like just a way to make more money.  Also, in their defense of polystyrene, they did not address the toxicity issue.  polystyrene has been found to leach styrene into foods and beverages.  It’s also not true that polystyrene takes up less room in landfills. Because it’s filled with air, it takes up more.

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zambooka
1 year 7 months ago

I wrote another email explaining the same things you did, and this is the response I got back. (I have to admit I am kind of impressed that they’ve written me  twice. I have written to about 10 companies, and I always send emails back after and after sending another email in response to their initial response email I don’t get anything. )

I just wanted to follow up with you and clear up some misconceptions. Booster Juice and our Franchise partners are involved in their communities across the country.
Here is just two recent examples:
In November Booster Juice partnered with JDRF Canada in their biggest fundraising campaign ever that resulted in the largest single donation they received this year in support of Juvenile Diabetes Research. Yesterday Booster Juice announced a partnership with PGA professional Mike Weir whereby Booster Juice will create a month long awareness and fundraising program at our 300 stores nationwide in the goal of advancing physical, emotional and educational welfare of children across Canada.
I will agree with you that all takeaway cups used in food service are not environmentally friendly, that is why we offer the reusable cup option for our customers that want to reduce their environmental impact.  For everyone else, we offer the styrene cup that is proven to be exponentially far more green than its paper counterpart. Whether it be paper or styrene, neither of them decompose.
Thanks again for your interest and feedback.
I’m guessing the first one was a response to when I said that I didn’t see the difference between people using the booster juice reusable cups vs the ones they already had and it must be a money thing. The second one was when I said that they were sadly mistaken to think that polystyrene was the best environmental option.

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BethTerry
1 year 7 months ago

It’s great that they took the time to write back again.  I just wish they had answered the actual question… why they won’t let customers use their own cups.  Thank you for following up with them.

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zambooka
1 year 7 months ago

I buy milk from glass bottles and make my own yogurt. I used to buy tons of yogurt in plastic containers. From the glass bottles I also make my own cheese for salads. I bring my own bags to the grocery store, I have the main bags, bulk bags and produce bags. I save all my gift bags, tissue paper, gift boxes and bows. This saves a lot of plastic from the bags these items are stored in. I use cloth napkins, where disposable ones come wrapped in plastic. I use vinegar and water for cleaning supplies. (I buy the biggest tub of vinegar I can find, because I have not been able to find them in glass.) I try to avoid buying produce wrapped in plastic bags. I use a radius toothbrush where I only replace the head. I use hankybooks so I can avoid kleenex boxes with the plastic windows. I try to buy from bulk containers a lot. I replace the heads on my razor, even though it’s cheaper to buy a new one. I freeze my stuff in stainless steel. I use wash clothes and tea towels instead of paper towels and sponges. I use a diva cup. I use baking soda as my deodorant. I don’t buy bottled water instead I use a reusable water bottle. I would like to get my meat from the butcher shop where he agreed to put the meat in my own containers. I get my books from the library. I get my hand soap, laundry detergent, and dish soap bottles refilled from bulk. For the dishwasher I use powder in a cardboard box. I bring waste free lunches to work. (the only waste I generate is my fruit cores/tops.  I bring my own utensils, and collapsible stainless steel cup in my purse. I use stainless steel straws.  Yet somehow I seem to STILL produce a ton of plastic. I don’t get it.

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zambooka
1 year 7 months ago

I guess I just wanted to ask is if I’m doing enough. Is there another simple way of reducing plastic? Personally I LOVE ravioli and the stuff I buy at the store is often wrapped in a plastic container. Is there a way to get ravioli without making the noodles? I am on a limited time/money budget. I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to eat at home, and frankly I’ve not found it to be that much cheaper and in the long run it probably evens out to my previous fast food diet because of the extra time it takes. But I am willing to do it for the environment. Most of the stuff I buy is reusable, good quality, and ethically produced so it’s been costing me a small fortune these past 2 years that I hope pays for itself soon. (it definitely already has with the diva cup.) The hardest thing I find is food, and I’ve also not been able to find toilet paper wrapped in paper either. Is there a special place I can find that? My dental floss has also been a challenge.