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 and less plastic alternatives and see for yourself.

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The list is 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, use the search bar above for more plastic-free ideas. Or read my book Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, your complete guide to living a life with less plastic. 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.

Note: If you make a purchase via any product links on this site, I may earn a small percentage to support my plastic-free mission.

    01 - Top Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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    02 - Eating and Drinking on the Go

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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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    03 - Grocery Shopping

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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. (Read about Buying and Storing Meat without Plastic and Plastic-Free Beef Jerky.)

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.)

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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, 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, or specifically buying and storing loose lettuce and leafy greens.  (Here’s why I never use Evert Fresh green bags.)

  21. 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.

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    04 - Household Cleaning

  23. 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.

  24. Baking soda is a fantastic scouring powder.

  25. Use powdered dishwasher detergent in a cardboard box.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.
  28. Wash laundry with soap nuts or laundry powders without a plastic scoop.

  29. 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 .

  30. 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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    05 - Personal Care

  32. 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.

  33. 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?

  34. Give up shampoo in plastic bottles.

    There are several plastic-free options.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

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

    Organic Essence packages 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.

  40. 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.

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

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

  46. Choose a plastic-free wooden hair brush.

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

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    06 - Lunch Time at School or Work

  48. 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.

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

    A few examples of good lunch container options are:

  50. Choose reusable cloth sandwich/snack bags.

    Read about the many reusable cloth lunch baggie options here.

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    07 - Kitchenware & Food Storage

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. 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.

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. Choose a stainless steel ice cube tray.

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

  58. 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.

  59. 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: https://www.brita.com/recycling-filters/

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    08 - Make It From Scratch

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

  63. 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.

  64. 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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    09 - Buy Secondhand

  66. 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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    10 - Get it Fixed!

  68. 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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    11- In the Office

  70. Make your own glue.

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

  71. 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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    12 - No More Plastic Trash Bags

  73. 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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    13 - Plastic-Free Pet Care

  75. Choose natural cat litter.

    Integrity 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.

  76. 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 bookshelves, etc.) so that our cats could roam and climb to their hearts’ content.
  77. Avoid plastic bowls.

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

  78. 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!

  79. 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.

  80. Waste-Free Lunchware by ECOlunchboxes.com

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    14 - Travel

  81. 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!

  82. 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.

  83. 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.

  84. 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.

  85. 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.

  86. 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).

  87. 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.

  88. Choose plastic-free camping equipment.

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

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    15 - Medication and Healthcare

  90. 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.

  91. 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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    16 - No New Plastic Clothing

  93. 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. And all synthetic fabrics create microfiber pollution when laundered.  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.

  94. 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.

  95. 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.

  96. Look for plastic-free shoes.

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

  97. Alter and Modify Old Shoes and Clothing into New

    Do you have old clothes and shoes in the closet that you never wear because they don’t fit or are out of style?  Take them to a tailor or cobbler for alteration.  During my Buy Nothing New year in 2016, I had a pair of shoes modified to fit my feet better.  It’s like having a new pair of shoes!

  98. ECOlunchbox - Green and Healthy Lunchboxes for People & Planet

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    17 - Holidays and Entertaining

  99. 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.

  100. 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.  Ask guests to bring containers for leftovers, as they did at our Thanksgiving potluck.

  101. 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.

  102. Skip holiday plastic tchotkes.

    Make your own plastic-free vegan Easter eggs.  Avoid Valentine’s Day and Halloween plastic crap. Say no to fake plastic wishbones.

  103. wild Dill for Baby & Mom

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    18 - Gift Giving and Receiving

  104. 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.

  105. Consider giving charitable gift cards.

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

  106. 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.

  107. 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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    19 - Packing and Shipping Materials

  109. 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.

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

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

  111. Feelgoodz natural flip flops

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    20 - Electronics & Entertainment

  112. 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.

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

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

  114. 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.

  115. 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.

  116. 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.

  117. 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.

  118. 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.  And while this is not exactly techno (in fact, it’s the opposite), I also knitted and felted a new checkbook cover to avoid PVC.

  119. Waste-Free Lunchware by ECOlunchboxes.com

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    21 - If You Do Nothing Else

  120. 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.)

  121. Waste-Free Lunchware by ECOlunchboxes.com

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

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Can anyone give any ideas on how to pick up dog poop at the park without using a plastic bag? ;)

Biodegradable compost bags

Really comprehensive, informative and aspirational! Thank you

I really appreciate this article–many things to try to just do even a little bit to help reduce the plastic. :)

Great inspiration. Happy to be part of a community “somewhere”, as locally there’s no real plastic free intent. I have gone mad with not using plastic. It makes me go crazy – when in the super market watching how they put one lemon in separate beg. Arguing when they insist in putting my staff in plastic…. It has become so tiresome though. I don’t know where or what is the line; I have withdrawn a bit at the moment and without trying to persuade those around me, I just do what I do. I don’t see a great impact that… Read more »

Two Biljanas reading this at the same time :D

Hi. This was very interesting to read, I’m not as dedicated as you but do as much as my everyday life allows. I have one comment. For your Clothes section you never mention that the plastic clothes we have release high levels of plasticmicrofibers in every wash (up to 350.000 pieces for every single wash of an old fleece sweater.!) This is pretty new knowledge, but hugely important as we cannot as of today find a way to remove from the sea. So when asked, I usually tell people to stop buying fleece, acrylic etc, but also to handwash what… Read more »
Amazing amount of information! I took some suggestions and will try out the products you suggest…washcloths, bar shampoos, stainless steel straws and natural deodorant. My 2017 New Years resolution is a “reduce plastics challenge” and I’m positive this is really going to make a huge impact on my lifestyle far beyond the one year challenge. I’m already on board with some things like no bottled water, buy more clothing at Goodwill and using my own beverage containers everywhere I go. I plan to reuse more jam jars around the home too for food and cosmetic storage needs. My next grocery… Read more »

Thank you for all the suggestions, clearly much research and care goes into your work. I never thought of requesting sellers of online purchases I make not use plastic packaging, I will begin doing that.

Thank you for the great article! When you stop to think about it, it’s amazing how many unnecessary items came to our lives made of/packaged in plastic. And kitchen appliances, which sole purpose is to be bought. Personally, I’ve never heard of a salad spinner and have lived happily without it my whole life:) If we look closer, we’d discover that all these “bring convenience” stuff is just clutter.

i love my salad spinner because then i don’t have to use paper or tea towels to dry, but honestly, you can buy one and never have to buy another–i’ve had mine for over 20 years!

Thanks a lot for your post. I am trying to avoid plastic and it’s not always easy. Some things I do since like forever because that’s the way I grew up (use fabric shopping bags, for example), others I tried to change on the way. What I find most difficult is that most/ many things are not available in my surrounding (I am living in the Middle East where awareness is low). I could order through internet but then it would involve shipping by airplane and that’s not what I want either. So I try to find local products, but… Read more »

This is a great article (writes the woman who is typing on plastic keys.) I want to mention that many people become sensitive to using baking soda as a deodorant. I make my own deodorant and it is wonderful, but my girls (3 grown women) can’t use it, as they get a rash from the baking soda in it.

Hi, I am really inspired by you and reduced use of plastic in my life. I have started a blog recently and made an Infographic title “Plastic Not So Fantastic”. Hope you like and share with your audience and spread awareness as you are doing since so many years.
Here is the Link: http://21bottle.com/plastic-the-convenient-killer/
Thanks

Living In A Sandcastle

This is awesome. Great suggestions! Thank you so much for sharing.

Another alternative to tampons or pads is a diaphragm. It is fitted by a woman’s health practitioner, and purchased at a pharmacy. It may last for YEARS when used for menstrual flow.

I use just cotton, it works great for me!

Just a couple of things- glass straws seem a bit fragile- they make some awesome stainless steel ones. Also another option for artificial trees- my fiancé is allergic to real trees and I’m against cutting down trees just to use them for decoration- we got a used tree for super cheap. And I don’t see why we would ever throw it away, so if you can’t find an “all natural” artificial tree, that’s the way to go. Great post!

Hi! Another alternative for menstrual products that are plastic-free is a website called Partypantspads.com. I started using them and love it!

Thank you Beth for this wonderful ressource. It will take me weeks to read through your whole site but this list has inspired me to get cracking on some of the things I’ve been thinking about for years and some things I’d never thought of. I left on holiday and just had tie to grab a small pot of bicarb of soda for deodorant. Just applying it in powder form with a fingertip worked really well. I’ll be making toothpaste too. Some thoghts #3 Already prefer fruit to juice but have just tasted home made lemonade again for the fist… Read more »

Im concerned with your suggestion of recycled toilet paper. We recently made the switch to seventh generation recycled, and I was discouraged to learn that recycled tp, paper towels, and napkins contain BPA.

“Farmers markets are a great way to buy fresh, local produce without plastic, as long as you remember to bring your own bags.” I bring my own bags made out of hemp. It is more durable. https://hemptique.com/

I have bags made from unbleached calico and when they get grubby you can wash them.

So helpful! Thank u for the exhaustive list. A few follow up questions…

1. What dehydrator options can you recommend since many are plastic? I’
m on a budget, and wonder if stainless steel trays are good enough or if the plastic casing of the unit would leech chemicals. Looking at this one, for example, as a lower cost:

http://amzn.to/2ktsJwS

2. If we have to have a water filter, what’s an alternative to the Brita or pur plastic pitcher?

hi,GREAT post!
so any idea on a safe home water delivery company that is also BPA free? we have Chloramine (combo of Ammonia and Chlorine) in our water (San Francisco area) as well as who knows what else. Im at a loss to as to what to do. i find myself drinking less water because of trying to find a healthier option and not being able to. Most filters dont remove Chlorine and then we have the whole plastic and disposable issue *sigh*..
any thoughts? even on a good filter at this point. thanks! :)

Chlorine dissipates over time. Let sit in re-usable pitcher in the fridge.

Nice to see more than the ‘usual’ tips, so thank you.

What about the toxic plastics that our appliances are now being made of? Apparently it is becoming a big issue. My new washing machine and vacuum overwhelms my laundry with a nasty plastic smell, even with the window open.

I don’t want these toxic things in my home, but what alternative is there?

thank you! great tips! i have been wanting to reduce my plastic consumption for a while now :)

i am wondering though, why you still consume animal products? they have an even worse effect on the environment than plastic. or do you avoid plastic mainly for health reasons?

anyways, thanks again :)

what about tupperware, i have not idea what it is made of , i know its plastic, but its so rigid and mine has not marking on the bottom Its mostly handed down from parents

Thank you. I am glad to learn that I am not alone in my endeavour to avoid taking new plastic bags home and to buy less new items by reusing or choosing recycled products. I love shopping in secondhand markets!

You are officially my new favourite person on the internet! I’ve been planning my transition to a plastic-free life recently, and this post filled in a lot of gaps for me. Thanks so much!

Thanks for some fabulous tips!
I am very interested in making short films on how to reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse. I would love to track my garbage, especially as to where my plastic ends up. I find most people are blissfully unaware of what happens to their garbage (many when quizzed are very interested to find out). I am looking for other people that may be interested or be able to help direct me on my quest.

I hVe been using Laundry Magnets for almost a year now, and they are truly awesome! Also they have wool dryer balls instead of softeners! These are a bit inconvenient but worth it.

BusinessKind Myanmar is supporting a Stop Burning Plastic Campaign in MyitKyina, Kachin State, Myanmar. We are looking for Mentors Moms.. Who is interested?

Thanks so much for this very informative post on going plastic free. So many pitfalls when we shop at the grocery store! I know it is not enough to just take your own re-usable cloth bags and hope that all the other plastic wrapping and packaging and crap that we take home each week when we do the grocery run will be recycled. I know that despite putting it into recycle bins, it is often not the case. I made a decision this year 2016, to try to go as plastic free as possible. I started with our grocery shop… Read more »

If you included photos in your posts, we could share your content on Pinterest. Please add some? Excellent resource! Thank you so much.

Check this link and page for Edible Cutlery!! 100% biodegradable and eco friendly. One can use this in bulk for parties and get-together.

https://www.facebook.com/HuffingtonPost/videos/10153784778656130/?pnref=story

Do you have any recommendations for a travel child sippy cup that doesn’t spill? Or a learning cup for babies?

Sorry, I just went to get you the link for Peppersmith Gum and it turns out they have stopped using chicle :-(

You can buy REAL chewing gum in the UK, made from chicle and xylitol by the Peppersmith brand. I think they

This thread is awesome! I love reading everyone’s ideas for new inspiration. I also have a bit of a large question, and I hope someone on here could help. I’m building a tiny house, and I’m trying to make it as plastic-free as possible. So far we’ve had pretty good luck for most of our materials. We have had to compromise in a few areas, but one I’d rather not have to skimp on is plumbing. I’m concerned about my health, and I want to making something lasting. There are so many cheap plastic options out there that are supposedly… Read more »
Lots of great ideas for living a more environmentally conscious life. I’ll definitely be trying a lot of the ones that I have not already adopted. I would like to comment though on #65, where the recommendation is to use your own travel size containers. When my stepmother was traveling back to the states from Mexico a few years ago, the TSA confiscated her plastic zip lock bag containing her travel size bottles. Her medication was in the bag as well. When she inquired why they were taking it, she was told because the bottles did not the number of… Read more »

I was all excited to take my containers to the shops to buy my chicken and deli meats. I asked them to put the produce in my containers but they first weighed them out in their plastic bags first and then transferred them into my containers… argh!. Maybe I’ll have to give detailed instructions next time. Reminds me of the time I had to teach the hardware store guy how to measure 1.3m of chain. He got confused because he only had a 1m ruler!

The one plastic thing I still don’t know how to give up is vitamin bottles. I try to get most of my health needs taken care of from herbs, but there are some vitamins that are absolutely essential for my health…and they all come in plastic bottles. Any thoughts? I wonder if I could write the companies and ask them to send them in a paper bag or something?

I don’t know where you live but Viridian & Solgar are high quality brands in brown glass bottles.

I take three prescriptions a month. All come in plastic containers. I save them and upcycle when needed for bulk herb container, sewing needles, pins, etc. once a year I will recycle the remainder but I work really hard to upcycle first.

Bulk Supplements have MANY supplements in powder form, you would either just need to weigh them out (on a small gram scale) or you can make your own pills by using empty veg-based capsules.

Just read this article and the scientific paper it linked to (well, I read the abstract). Turns out most commercial plastics leach estrogen like chemicals especially when exposed to heating, microwaving and UV light…

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/tritan-certichem-eastman-bpa-free-plastic-safe

Shouldn’t Soda Stream be on a BDS list? I believe they are made in Israel. I would not buy anything made or produced in Israel since I stand in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Hello! I am new to going plastic free but am loving the challenge. I have an idea that I did not see here. Hopefully I did not miss something and am being redundant. I bought inexpensive cotton cloth napkins so that we would not use paper napkins or as many paper towels at home. My husband and I also love to take them with us whenever we go out to eat. We do not have to ask for more napkins from the waitress and we have a nice sturdy napkin that is easy to wash. They could certainly be homemade!!

I collect vintage cotton table cloths. When they become word or stained, I cut the “good” parts into napkin size and use them instead of paper napkins

Hello,

I have been taking so many steps in my life to change the amount of waste I produce but perhaps the biggest thing you can do right away for the earth is go vegan. Please everyone watch Cowspiracy and you will be astonished by the impact animal agriculture has on the earth. If you have Netflix you can watch it right away. Please help spread the word!

These ideas are all so great! We’re a small campaign that’s trying to raise awareness about the impact that plastic waste is having on the marine environment, and these are some very useful tips that we’d love to include. Out of curiosity, which of these steps would you consider has been the toughest for you to abide by? You’ve done so much!

Thank you for all of your hard work. I amm doing pretty good as to your standards, but there is always room for improvement, thans again

Thank you for all the tips… Nice Job!

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.

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!

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… Read more »
Leontion