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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Ambatalia, ECOBAGS, 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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.
Carry your own containers for take out food and leftovers.
- Request take out places use your container instead of their disposable one. If they won’t do it, give them a Take Out Without card to help them understand why they should. Some examples of convenient containers are:
- To-Go Ware tiffins and individual sidekick containers
- Life Without Plastic’s stainless steel containers in various sizes
- LunchBots lunch containers
- stainless steel containers sold at some camping supply stores
- Think bringing your own containers is too much of a hassle and won’t make a difference? Please check out my post “Carrying Our Own Containers: Powerful Action or Pointless Inconvenience?”
Carry a stainless steel travel mug or water bottle at all times for coffee and other drinks while out in the world.
(I use my travel mug for water instead of a water bottle.) Besides the plastic lid and plastic straw, paper cups are lined with a plastic coating. When I first began this project, I got in the habit of requesting “no lid and no straw” when ordering a drink in a disposable paper cup. But nowadays, if I’ve forgotten my mug, I simply do without until I can find a water fountain or sit-down cafe or restaurant with durable cups and glasses. This process helps me to remember my reusable mug next time.
Carry reusable utensils and glass drinking straws.
I keep a To-Go-Ware bamboo utensil set and a couple of GlassDharma drinking straws in my purse at all times. And actually, I didn’t need to go out and buy the bamboo. I could have just as easily used my own stainless steel utensils. Check out blogger Mindful Momma’s cute DIY utensil wrap.
When ordering pizza, say no to the little plastic “table” in the middle of the pizza box.
It’s called a “package saver.” Think about it. A single use plastic device meant to save a single use cardboard box. What about all the marine animals that swallow that type of disposable plastic? It doesn’t save them, does it? When ordering, say, “Please don’t put that little white plastic thing in the middle of the pizza.” They’ll know what you mean.
Treat yourself to an ice cream cone.
Instead of keeping containers of ice cream in the freezer, I will enjoy the occasional ice cream cone while I’m out. That keeps my ice cream consumption down, which is better for my health, and it also does away with the plastic-lined containers as well. Ice cream cones require zero container or utensil waste. If I do want to bring some home, I can have my ice cream handpacked in my own container.
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.
Carry lunches in reusable stainless containers or cloth bags.
A few examples of good lunch container options are:
- PlanetBox lunch boxes
- Life Without Plastic lunch sacks and stainless containers
- Life Without Plastic insulated lunch bag
- Eco Lunchbox containers.
- LunchBots stainless snack and sandwich containers
- To-Go Ware tiffins and individual sidekick containers
- Other options can be found at Reuseit.com. However, be aware that this company does sell some plastic lunch kits which I do not recommend.
Choose reusable cloth sandwich/snack bags.
Read about the many reusable cloth lunch baggie options here.
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.
Learn to preserve foods without plastic.
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.
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.
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.
Choose a stainless steel ice cube tray.
If your old plastic ice trays have worn out, consider replacing them with stainless steel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Baking soda is a fantastic scouring powder.
Use powdered dishwasher detergent in a cardboard box.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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?
Give up shampoo in plastic bottles.
There are several plastic-free options.
- The “No-Poo method uses a baking soda & water wash and an apple cider vinegar rinse. That’s the method I use, and the number of people who swear by it is growing.
- If No-Poo seems too hard-core, there are solid shampoo bars you can use. Brands include:
- Lush shampoo bar
- J.R. Liggett’s Old Fashioned shampoo bar)
- Or try a searching for shampoo + bar on Etsy.com and request that the seller send your shampoo bar without any plastic packaging.
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.
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.
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.
Use soap instead of canned shave cream.
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.
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.
Use less plastic tooth paste/powder, toothbrush, and floss.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Choose a plastic-free wooden hair brush.
Read about my new plastic-free wooden hairbrush with wooden bristles here.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Avoid plastic bowls.
Did you know plastic food/water bowls cause pet acne?
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!
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.
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.
Acquire necessary plastic items used instead of new.
Check second-hand stores, Freecycle, Craigslist or borrow. Car-sharing. Tool-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:
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:
- Reused packing materials from packages sent to you. Before buying new packaging material, use what you already have.
- Yesterday’s News padded mailers made from recycled newspaper fiber
- Jiffy padded mailers (the kind with paper pulp padding rather than plastic bubble padding)
- Jet-Cor rigid cardboard mailers
- Paper packing tape or Biodegradable Cellulose tape with natural rubber-based adhesive
- Molded paper pulp
- EcoCradle molded packing material made from mushrooms
- Geami protective wrap
Read more about plastic-free packaging materials here.
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.
Make your own glue.
Here’s a recipe for homemade wheat paste that really works.
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.
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.
Choose refurbished equipment from a certified e-steward.
Learn how you can do your part to combat “planned obsolescence.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Find DIY solutions for techno needs.
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.
Consider giving charitable gift cards.
But choose wisely and plastic-free. Read my comparison of charitable gift cards here.
Request plastic-free gifts for yourself.
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.
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.
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.
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 cardboard, wood, or even recycled glass bottles.
Skip holiday plastic tchotkes.
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.
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.
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.
Look for plastic-free shoes.
For example, Feelgoodz flip flops are made from natural rubber rather than plastic.
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.
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:
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/
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.)
Top Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste
Eating and Drinking on the Go
Lunch Time at School or Work
Kitchenware & Food Storage
Make It From Scratch
No More Plastic Trash Bags
Medication and Healthcare
Plastic-Free Pet Care
Get it Fixed!
Packing and Shipping Materials
In the Office
Electronics & Entertainment
Gift Giving and Receiving
Holidays and Entertaining
No New Plastic Clothing
Camping and Outdoors
Avoid unnecessary plastic around the house
If You Do Nothing Else
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.
Found some recipes to make the plastic free easier with soya milk. Love your DIY yogurt recipe, thank you.
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!
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?
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.
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.
These were some great tips about living a more "green" lifestyle. I think that the tip here that I could use the most was the one about drinking less bottled water. That is my weakness. It seems to be the only way that I drink water. I guess I could use the tap more often. http://askhrgreen.org
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?
Here is a link that is an update concerning our plastics in the Ocean. Maybe a motivating.
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:
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!
There are recipes and tips throughout this site. Research everything even if someone else has suggested it. That is what googling is wonderful for and the library believe it!
You can set an example for your parents, through creating your new ideas. Macrame with jute or cotton, reduce everything you can and keep it simple. It 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
This is science and fact.
Post your great ideas on this site and good luck with all Jazzy!
hi jazzy here again,
thanks for the tip and now the parents! they live for plastic but im all organic and hippie help!!!!!!
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.
Now I will give it a rest and not bug y'all!
Anyone know where to order or buy wood pellets packaged in cotton or other bags non-plastic bags? Please???
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.
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.
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 Forests and Oceans to give us the air we breathe.
What we do at home helps at home, but it will not solve the problem.
Hi, I am considering braces and wonder if you have any information about Invisalign... They are fully plastic, I believe. Thanks
@Ruby 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.
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?
@mariana1 Hi. First, I would attempt to find the product 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.
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).
@Sarah 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.
@MelissaGraves Which liquors specifically? Most hard liquor is available in glass.
Thank you so much for your info. it is fantastic. We use frequently reusable bags, for example;
Nice list of things to do for preventing our nature from plastic disaster. thanks for sharing such an amazing information here.
Sierratello 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!
@Mel 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.
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!
@BethTerry 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.,
@Maria You should track down a living bath mat - they are made of moss I think. They are supposed to be fantastic.
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!
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.
@Maddiey 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/)
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
@Sierratello 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!
"But we also need to close the tap" http://www.iflscience.com/environment/19-year-old-develops-machine-clean-oceans-plastic
100 Tips..very detailed..thanks for your time n effort
ALmost complete..would be handy for anyone who want to get rid of plastic
you can use 100% olive oil bar soap as toothpaste read here
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.
@Shayna Keil 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/
Has many recipes for household use including making laundry detergent. However, you may want to use a plastic free container.
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! :)