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.

100-steps-plastic-free-guide.fw

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.

Click the + sign after each step for a detailed description and additional tips.

Top Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste

Carry whatever works for you. Some people like reusable canvas totes. Others prefer to put their purchases into a backpack or messenger bag. Do you often forget your reusable bags? ChicoBags are a great emergency alternative. While they are made from synthetic materials, they compress into their own attached stuff sack, which makes them very convenient and likely to be used. I carry several of them in my purse so I am never without a bag. If you have a car, keep your grocery bags in it and remember to bring them into the store with you! And one more thing: reusable bags are not just for groceries! Carry them for all your purchases, from electronics to clothing.

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.

Eating and Drinking on the Go

(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.

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.

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.

Instead of keeping containers of ice cream in the freezer, I will enjoy the occasional ice cream cone while I’m out. That keeps my ice cream consumption down, which is better for my health, and it also does away with the plastic-lined containers as well. Ice cream cones require zero container or utensil waste. If I do want to bring some home, I can have my ice cream hand-packed in my own container.

Grocery Shopping

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.

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.

One reader asked what I do about cherry tomatoes or berries since they can get crushed in a 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.

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.)

Many areas have local dairies that provide 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.

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.

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.)

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!

Did you know almost all chewing gum is made of plastic? That’s right. When you’re chewing gum, you’re chewing on plastic. But plastic-free chewing gum options do exist.  Read more about plastic in chewing gum and healthier alternatives here.

We have some great bulk food stores here in the Bay Area (RainbowBerkeley BowlWhole 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.

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 AmbataliaECOBAGSChicoBag 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.)

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.

Household Cleaning

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.

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.

  • Compressed natural cellulose sponges are often sold without any plastic packaging because they don’t need to be kept moist; they expand when wet.
  • Natural fiber brushes are 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.
  • Look for soap nuts in plastic-free packaging.
  • Borax and Washing Soda come in cardboard boxes.
  • Read about all of my plastic-free laundry methods, including how to make laundry liquid from soap nuts and how to get the stink out of nasty, oily cloths.
  • Treat laundry stains with a borax/water paste or with a handmade laundry stain bar. Try the stain remover sticks from Juniperseed Mercantile or Buncha Farmers.

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.

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 is If You Care brand FSC-certified natural rubber gloves.

Personal Care

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.

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?

My favorite bar soaps are from Aquarian Bath and Chagrin Valley.  But for those folks who prefer body wash to soap, there is now solid, packaging-free shower gel.  Try it and see what you think.

There are several plastic-free options.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Who Gives a Crap brand toilet paper comes in a cardboard box with paper-wrapped rolls.  No plastic.  They offer a choice of recycled paper or bamboo.  And the company gives 50% of its profits to build toilets and sanitation in developing countries.

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.

Some of the options include washable cloth liners and pads. One great brand is Luna Pads, which are made of 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.

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.

Lunch Time at School or Work

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.

A few examples of good lunch container options are:

Read about the many reusable cloth lunch baggie options here.

Kitchenware & Food Storage

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.

Check out my review of various beeswax-coated cloth wraps to substitute for plastic wrap.  You can buy them new or make them yourself!

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.

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.

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.

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

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

We had our water tested to find out if we even needed to be filtering it in the first place. Turns out, our Oakland water 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/

Make It From Scratch

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.

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

Most are not difficult. I’ve learned to make my own chocolate syrupmayonnaisemustard,  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 chickpeas 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.

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.

Buy Secondhand

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
  • Crockpot
  • Power strips via Freecycle
  • Laptop computer from secondhand electronics store

Get it Fixed!

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.

In the Office

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

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.

No More Plastic Trash Bags

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.

Plastic-Free Pet Care

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 in California, 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.

  • 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.

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!

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.

Travel

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!

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.

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.

I’ve traveled to many different states in the U.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.

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.

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 Ziploc bag (U.S.residents).

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.

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

Medication and Healthcare

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.

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.

No New Plastic Clothing

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.

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.

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.

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

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!

Holidays and Entertaining

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.

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.

Most artificial 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.

Gift Giving and Receiving

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.

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

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.

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.

Packing and Shipping Materials

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.

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.

Electronics & Entertainment

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

If You Do Nothing Else

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

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Michael W

Wow, so many options! There is plastic everywhere during our regular every day use and I didn’t really realize it so much, down to plastic lined ice cream containers. We need to cut back on plastic and these are some great ways to start. I found this shirt that I loved showing the extinction on straws…pretty funny, but a great message.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/b07g7jwnxc

Stephanie Bettinson

I’m from the UK. After seeing ‘Blue Planet’ and now another BBC1 programme about plastic pollution in our oceans this week, I am determined to cut back on plastic as much as I can. Everyone that I speak to is completely shocked by the reality of what we have done to our planet. I actually don’t know how we will rectify it, but at least we can begin by cutting back on our plastic use. I think that your site is excellent but wish that the company ‘Life without Plastic’ sold in the UK! I want those stainless steel containers… Read more »

Sonia Koetting

Now for a discussion on biodegradable plastics. Do they help us when they get mixed up with recyclables? And, most landfills are trying hard to cap methane and do not want things to biodegrade. I think I do not like biodegradable plastics… they just allow my cleaners to say “Don’t worry, the bag will biodegrade.” But, as I’ve said, it’s not so easy.

Manuel Cortes

Great tips! I have a son so I wonder If Legos contain bad materials???

Joana

I feel like you are so concerned about the enviornment but dont realize that dairy has a huge bad impact on our enviornment and u shouldnt promote it ,like meat and other animal based things… just a thought tho, dont want to criticize u.

Mitali

We are a young startup trying to save the world and are passionate about finding a solution to some of the problems our world faces – starting with finding ways to reduce our plastic footprint on our planet.

EcoRight is a young team of 8 people, and we have partnered with one of the best manufacturing facilities in India to create eco-friendly products for the world.

We do awesome stuff. No really, we do. Okay fine, this is what we actually do (though it is quite awesome)

At EcoRight, we create products that help people go eco-friendly in a fun way.

https://www.ecorightbags.com

Douglas Killick

Hi Mitalia – good on you for what you are doing. We’re on a mission to be plastic-free on the things that people can put in your bags! We’ve created an entirely plastic free shaving and skincare range. To take a look, visit https://kairn.co.uk

Diana

This is such an awesome list! Great ideas I’ll refer to again and again as I work to kick plastic out of our home and lives:) Thank you!

Vincent

Love number 5 on this list. We use bamboo straws from http://www.cocoboo.co. They look good, and taste terrific. Thanks.

Jamal

Awesome list! Thanks for the suggestions… its idiotic things that humans do like this that motivate me to live plastic free: https://theuprootedrose.com/blog/photos-that-will-piss-you-off-if-you-care-about-the-environment

Pippa

This is great thank you!

Wassily

#plasticoverload

Valentina

Great Ideas! It can be so overwhelming to change our habits! Do you have Kids? I think you left out a very important issue such as diapers and wipes. More than 7000 dispers per child ends up in the landfill…We use cloth diapers which is probaly still better for the environment. It would be better to not use any diapers at all, or train kids from early age how to use a pot.

xanthi

hi! i dont have kids but cant live without wipers..change to jackson reese wipes..they are natural, and biodegradable, no chemicals, no perfume, no alcohol, only water and plant extracts..they are awesome and can be used on kids from birth on!!!

rohini Karnad

How can you teach your child to be sensitive towards the environment? From taking up a global challenge to going on a plastic hunt, help your child become eco-conscious through these fun activities.
https://www.parentcircle.com/article/5-activities-to-reduce-plastic-usage/

vinni

amazing effort! very helpful.

Khadijah

While reading this, I remember the metal ice trays, the metal lunch box’s. I remember when things switched from metal to plastic and I was so amazed at how much better it made life but in reality, we made a mess of it. I am currently age 48 and I do miss the old ways.

Martin cooper

Can’t help laughing at how ridiculous many of these “tips” are

Cliff Sondrup

Thanks for the tips. It is clear that just recycling isn’t going to cut it for this planet :)

Rebecca

Great help to those wanting to reduce plastic in there lives! Thankyou

Alan

What about wheelie bins? Our council is trying to force people away from corn starch bags and into ‘easier’ wheelie bins for compost waste.
What’s the environmental cost to one wheelie bin over a lifetime of cornstarch bags?

Kristie

This is such a great list! I’m working on reducing my plastic use by slowly replacing things as I run out. This list has given me more ideas!

Deana Gosman

Wow what a great list! I am already incorporating many of your ideas, but you have certainly given me food for thought on incorporating more. I have recently started looking into ways to not only reduce more plastic in my life, but reduce plastic waste coming from companies I regularly buy from. I have started reaching out to them asking for better packaging. We shall see. As I have started looking through my house and items, it has become disheartening and honestly overwhelming how much stupid plastic is in and on everything! I thought I was doing so well. What… Read more »

Ruth

I read one article that says plastics with #’s 2, 4 or 5 are the safest plastics for water storage. I am trying to eliminate all of my plastic milk jugs with glass bottles. Is their any company that sells all of their milk in glass bottles besides ones at a health food store where the milk cost almost $6 for 1/2 gallon bottles?

Cassie

I have a similar issue as I live in a rural area with well water that isn’t the safest. We have to buy all of our drinking water and transport them in plastic jugs. I’m definitely going to look into the type of plastic they’re made of and look for alternatives, but if anyone has ideas, I would definitely appreciate them : )

Sam

Wow 😮 thanks very much it has helped and opened my eyes 👍

Lottie

What do you do about rain protection? Most good raincoats (eg actually proper waterproof) contain some form of plastic. And a good raincoat is essential for me as I walk or cycle most places – without mine I would be far more tempted to drive or take cabs, which is worse for the environment, my wallet and my waistline

Heather

Perhaps an Aussie Driza-Bone? We’ve had ours for years and they’ve protected us from even the strongest rain downpours and winds.

Kathy Alexander

sign up for a sewing class. It’s easy and fun.

Gabrielle

Thank you for a great list – I have been cutting down drastically already but you have just given me answers for many more ways to cut down/ out plastic that I was wondering about how to do.

Sillylittlething

Glitter! Avoid Glitter. Most is made of plastic chopped small – it may as well be branded ‘micro-plastic’ and have done with it. It’s bad enough with kids’ craft, but think about the trend at the moment of putting it on your face….which you then wash off down the sink at the end of the evening. aie.

Alexandra

Lush uses a natural glitter from seaweed in their bath bombs, etc :) not sure how many countries they’re set up in though.

Fletcher

This is an amazing list!

Briana Hurley

Great Suggestions, However I am still looking for a better alternative for providing drinks for parties and events.
Example: a birthday party at a park. It is not easy to bring a water dispenser and 50- 100 (paper) cups along with everything else. Anyone have any suggestions?

JLS

I am not a 100percent sure on this, however, I think asking restaurants and deli counter to use a container from a customer may be a health code violation in MA.

Sam

That’s a good point

Sandy

A lot of places won’t do it. Even if you verbally accept all risk to the manager. Take out waste is something I end up with. I’m not cooking at the moment so I have a lot of take out and drive through meals.

Marsha

Here’s one that I have used for years. I live on a farm and we have lots of animals, I reuse the bedding bags (we try to buy paper ones,but not always available), as trash bags. I haven’t bought trash bags in almost 15 years. Not the prettiest thing in the Kitchen but it works and I don’t send plastic bags to the landfill. If I do I’ve reused it or repurposed it.

Sanjay Jain

Thanks. Very good information. Difficult to follow all. But not impossible. I will follow maximum of above suggestions.
I am from India.

Mona

This is a fantastic list – thank you so much for all these options and alternatives!

Anne

So many good ideas I hadn’t even thought of! Thank you.

Chris

Thanks for the thorough summary and helpful suggestions and links.

Christina

Hi! I’m trying to eliminate plastic from my life. I love to use soap instead of shower gel that comes in plastic bottles but am having trouble finding a soap dish with a lid (for travelling) made of wood. Does anyone have any suggestions where to find a wooden soap dish suitable for travelling?
I’d also be interested in reading about your experiences using a bamboo toothbrush.
Thanks in advance!

Best,
Christina

P.S.: a metal soap dish is not an option, because it will get rusty.

Margee

If you know how to sew just make a bag to put your soap in for travel —- just let the soap dry before putting in the bag

Natasha Garner

I use bamboo toothbrushes and have bought them for all of my family. I use the environmental toothbrush, which has a soft and firm bristle option. My mum who has sensitive teeth uses the soft bristles as the firm ones were too hard for her. I love my toothbrush, I just wish the bristles weren’t made from plastic.

I use the “dirty” toothpaste tablets from lush, even though they come in a plastic bottle it’s made from recycled plastic and once you’ve finished the bottle you can return it to be refilled or to be recycled.

Linda B.

Go to act.greenpeace.org and sign the petition directed at Coca-Cola and other corporations to find alternatives to single use, plastic packaging. Add a donation if you can!

Julie C

Instead of buying dish washing detergent, it is easy and inexpensive to make at home! I have been doing this for 10 years and it can be stored in glass jars or I reuse an old plastic sherbet container that my MIL gave to us. I also make “unpaper” towels from diaper cloth that cost about 37 cents a piece to make, and no more plastic wrapping to throw away when paper towels are purchased. I also make dry laundry detergent (began making it in 2007) that works better than store bought. And I’ve recently begun making snack bags and… Read more »

Suzan I Albright

Wow! Great ideas! I do many of these things, but I can and will do more! I signed the Vita Mix petition. I have had a steel one for decades and would replace it if new ones were made with the same material and quality. Thanks for admitting your fear of the sewing machine. I have the same issue, but I own a machine and am determined to learn to use it!

Sherrie

I would love a version of this that is downloadable to print so I can check things off and circle my next goals.

Debbie Grifka

Me too!

Clarisse

Me three!

Pauline

I’m attempting to do a plastic free month and getting very mixed reactions from some shopkeepers. However also some great results as my local greengrocer now has provided more paper bags so customers can choose to put loose items in them rather than using the roll of plastic bags. Also my butcher will wrap meat in paper on request – Just have to keep drip feeding him about perils of plastic so he does it as the norm. Now I’ve started I’m definitely on a mission to persuade ,( in a positive not a fanatical way),local people to shop plastic… Read more »

Sadie

This list is great, thank you for becoming passionate about the plastic epidemic! I personally use a reusable water bottle every day and a reusable coffee cup. I now request no straws in my waters and use cloth grocery bags when I go grocery shopping. Although my nonplastic actions are minimal, I still feel like they make a difference. I wish that other people would quit using plastic disposables in everyday life. I think some of the problem is also not having enough bottle filler drinking fountains to help encourage people to use reusable water bottles. Putting bottle filling stations… Read more »

Charlotte

I have lots of plastic straws, one use cups, plates etc….. Some of them 15 years old! How can I safely dispose of it all??

Melinda Loustalot

I am a 56 year old mom and grandmother who is so gratified I found your blog. .I have been a fan of Katie at Kitchen Stewardship for quite some time and appreciate you referenced her snack ebook. Years ago I had a discussion with my children (elementary school aged at the time) about all the things that were made with plastic now and how it was different when I was young and things just weren’t made from plastic to the degree they are now. I had them go around the house and grab anything that was plastic and put… Read more »

Cornelia

Please add in the personal care category: q-tips. There are paper and cortton ones available. C. B.

kelly

Love this blog. We’ve set up Plastic free Brighton & Hove for people in the city in the UK https://www.facebook.com/Plastic-Free-Brighton-Hove-2015550678657350/ and on Instagram if anyone wants to do things locally https://www.instagram.com/plasticfreebrighton/?hl=en

Jennifer

As for water filtering, I came across an amazing blog about using charcoal sticks. https://meredithtested.com/2016/03/09/plastic-free-zero-waste-water-filtration/ There she explains how and why she uses them. I’m going to try it myself as soon as I can!

Christine

I have been concerned with plastic consumption for years. Seeing all of the waste we produce gives me anxiety. Yet I haven’t been able to make the huge leap in going completely plastic free as it’s been a very daunting task. I use reusable bags for groceries, skip the produce bags, use reusable containers, and water bottles. Which doesnt seem like much when i look at this list and think about all of the other products i use daily. This list is a very helpful guide and is motivating me to make more concious steps in reducing ! Thank you!

Littlegreenfootpath

I just want to congratulate you on this thorough and comprehensive list, which is both inspiring and most importantly very practical. I’m looking forward to integrating these tips by and by them into our home life. You have gone a long way and the more we as individuals, families and communities get active the better.
Thank you so much!

Jon

Shouldn’t the first item on the list be to buy less? It’s the first R in the recycling mantra “Reduce, reuse, recycle”.

Kendall

Great list! Any tips for house or car building?