100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life

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    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.

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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. 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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Leave a Reply

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

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Thanks for the helpful suggestions. They are great and I intend to pass them on to friends and family- a digestible chunk at a time!

The urban composting is an especially good one. This will be a family project this Spring.

Sibyl

I just took a quick look here, but you have lots of good information! You have lots of good ideas and links for stuff I could use. I plan to come back later when I have time to really check it out better. Thanks for sharing.

Oh my goodness, you are insane! (In a good way of course.) I’ve been trying to cut down on my waste lately in attempt to be more “green.” Hopefully I’ll be able to remember some of this and take it to heart. I’ll never be able to do as much as you, but I guess you never know, do you. Oh, and I never realized how many things have plastic in them and how harmful plastic actually is…I don’t quite know how I didn’t realize this.
Thanks for you’re awesome blog!

I love the ideas you’ve listed! Most of them are so practical that they cut across geographies.

Looking forward to more inspiring ideas…

Could you take your prescription bottles with you to the pharmacy and ask them to refill them? Then they could just put a new label over the old one.

Very impressive, Beth. Your blog has completely re-inspired my quest for being green. I have to admit, I had fallen off of the bandwagon since college and haven’t even been trying to recycle since I got married and had a child. I look at my greener friends with envy and wonder where they find the time! I have made very small changes however and have taught my family to conserve, but deep down, I know that I haven’t been doing enough. Since reading your blog last night, I am determined to adopt this cause and bring more awareness as well!… Read more »
HARDCORE!!!!Amazing.How do you put your garbage out without plastic bags. I put the permanent plastic inner bin of a waste basket out once instead of bagging the waste, hoping that they’d just toss it in the truck, but they threw the whole thing out instead. Now I use two galvanized garbage cans, but haven’t gotten around bagging our garbage in shopping bags (we don’t get them new at the store, generally, but they drift to us from the world…) “I’m using the Bronner’s to wash the dishes, but I think I may have ruined it with too much lemon juice.… Read more »

Furoshiki cloths are a nice alternative to paper/plastic gift wrap. Furoshiki are a type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that can be used to wrap gifts, carry groceries, lunches, etc. And since it’s all tied with knots you don’t have to worry about tape or glue.

I wrapped a Christmas gift for one of my nephews this way. I just used a nice bit of cloth I had laying around and cut it down to size.

Wow, that is a lot of great ideas! I have to admit I was a little leery of embarking on a more eco friendly lifestyle after reading about No Impact Man and others that are going without electricty etc. I admire their resolve and beliefs but I don’t really think I could do that, at least not anytime soon. But your ideas are things that I could and will do. Thanks for the inspiration.

Wow – this is an awesome list full of great ideas and solutions to problems I’ve been thinking about for a while.
I am SOOOOO impressed and inspired that you have made all those changes – good on ya!
I will be joining you o your anti-plastic mission! :D
Cheers,
Rache / Ecomonkey

Just discovered this blog following links from “The Nag”. Great to see all the ideas and makes me realise just how much plastic surrounds me every day. Have long tried to recycle where I can but it’s not always easy – some great ideas here. My gripe is how hard it is to buy decent looking, useful, recycled products at sensible (rather than extortionate) prices. Regularly carry spare bags for shopping – reminds me of the old days when nobody went shopping without their shopping bag and the supermarkets charged for each bag used. Good to see some supermarkets here… Read more »

thanks beth for your interesting and creative blog.it looks much better than mine but we must think alike as far as the ecology is concerned http://www.lemming5.blogspot.com

Beth: Thanks for visiting me at Living Small. Inspiring list; keep it up!

So much to think about. I have just started reducing plastics in my home. I am so thankful for all your information. I have a lot more to think about. I have bought the kids stainless steel water bottles and bowls for lunches. I will have to take it one step at a time. Thank you!

I love the kids I have...
RE: Feminine hygiene products I hated everything about having a period. Last year I found out about a medical procedure called Novasure (endometrial ablation). Quick outpatient procedure. Covered by my insurance b/c of anemia caused by heavy bleeding. Still need other birthcontrol just in case but NO MORE PERIODS. Everything else is the same, the only difference is the lack of bleeding. I’m not suggesting that someone should go to this extreme to stop buying feminine products but for me it was a solution for multiple issues. While it is still possible to get pregnant it is very unlikely. I… Read more »

Thanks Beth for an amazing wealth of information!
Now I see that recycling, particularly for plastics, really isn’t! So much for my feeling good about 99% of my trash going into the the blue bin every week here in LA for recycling….a detergent bottle does not really get made into another detergent bottle!
I look around the house, particularly the kitchen, and wonder how we” ever do so many things such as margarine without plastic!
I’ll do my best to not buy it in the first place from now on!
Best regards,
John
Los Angeles

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank

Hi Tanya. Feel free to email me directly. My email address is in my profile.

I do know that hummus, in general, is easy to make. I’ve made it. But until you’ve tasted Haig’s Spicy Hummus, you haven’t had the supreme hummus experience. I’ve tried making it, but without a recipe, I just can’t make it taste the same!

Hi Beth-

Haven’t logged on in a while but thanks for the info. about rubber gloves. And yes, rubber is probably better than the electrical tape but I was just trying to get as much use out of them as possible b4 buying a new pair! :) Also, I wanted to let you know I checked out Rainbow grocery last weekend, and that place is fantastic! :) I also re-read your list and you would be surprised at how easy hummus is to make, much more so than pita bread! :)

T. (Tanya)

I found your site from a link from a financial article in the Wall Street Journal. Good work! When I have to buy non-recyclable plastic items, I try to talk to someone; the store manager or the manufacturer (in this case Trader Joe’s muffins from Zen Bakery)about using better plastics that I can recycle. It’s hard to do it all at home; I have resistant family members! But we recycle more than we throw away!I also organically garden fruits and veggies, so compost happens around here. We all are a work in progress. I still drink from the plastic cups… Read more »
freebagsmadam.nothanks

Great Blog!

Over at http://www.abolishplasticbags.org.uk we’re trying to eliminate the plastic carrier bag, but as part of the process we’re hoping to raise more awareness of the wider plastic problem. So I’m sign posting people here!

If you have time you might also like to check out http://www.plasticbagfree.com where there are video resources about how plastics are effecting the marine environment and wildlife.

Good stuff!

Holy smokes – what a fantastic list! You have things on here that I’m not sure I would have ever even considered, but now everywhere I look I’m swimming in plastic.

Also love the way you are tracking your reduction over time. I think my footprint curve will look similar: you make the big changes first, and then it gets harder to give up conveniences…

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank
If you already have plastic grocery bags, you can get the most use out of them by first reusing them as many times as possible. Once they can no longer be used as bags, take them to a store recycling bin. They will most likely be recycled into lawn furniture or some other plastic item. Then, switch to reusable bags. If you can’t find inexpensive canvas bags, check Goodwill or your local Freecycle group. There are tons of reusable bags floating around in this world that have been given out as promotions. Many people have more than they can use… Read more »
Beth – Thanks for your feedback on the Clean Air Gardening blog. I’m impressed by your list of ways to avoid plastic and plan to share it with several of my like-minded friends. What do you think is the most effective way to do away with plastic grocery bags? Some local businesses have installed recycling bins for the bags, but I’ve read that plastic bags can only be recycled a few times before they get thrown away. Other stores (such as Ikea and CostCo) have started charging per bag – that puts financial pressure on the consumer to use fewer… Read more »

What an awesome List! Thank you so much for this…what incredible ideas!
Many many thanks!

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank

I think the gloves are more biodegradable than the electrical tape. Natural latex comes from rubber trees. They are not plastic.

Hi Beth-

Thanks for the tip regarding the rubber gloves. I’ve actually used these gloves before and they work great! Are they biodegradable though? Well, I can’t seem to find any rubber gloves online that state that they are biodegradable and I’ve tried searching on everything I can think of so I guess I will go ahead and go with these! My other gloves have been patched so many times with electrical tape and I need a new pair! :)

T.

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank
Hi T. Welcome. I actually bought a pair of Casabella 100% natural latex gloves. I haven’t blogged about them yet because I haven’t actually tried them yet. Haven’t had a need to. (I guess they’d keep my hands from getting chapped, but I just don’t like the feeling of having my hands covered up while I’m working.) Of course, these would probably not be good for someone with a latex allergy, although they are lined with cotton. And they come in a plastic-free box. I’ll let you know how they work for me when I try them.
Hi Beth- I found your blog by accident when searching for environmentally friendly rubber gloves but I can’t seem to find any… Do you have any suggestions? Anyway, I am happy that I stumbled upon your blog as I recently bought some canvas shopping bags that say “Anti-Plastic” on them. And since I’m walking around proclaiming that I am “anti-plastic” I thought to myself that I better not be hypocritical and be stuffing my shopping bags full of plastic items so I would say that I am also doing about 85% of the items already listed on your list and… Read more »

Wow what a big list. You’ve done so much here and great ideas for all of us. I’m into making recycled crafts. I crochet with plastic bags, vcr tape, cassette tapes, and other recycled materials into reusable bags, purses, grocery totes, water bottle holders, etc. Every little bit helps to reduce our plastic use and wastes.

I love microwave popcorn, and read you can just pop natural (organic) popcorn in a bag, so now I’ve eliminated the plastics in the single portion pkgs. Don’t know what the store-bought popcorn bag liners are but they look shiny, so maybe they’re plastic too.
http://moneychangesthings.blogspot.com/2007/10/frugal-city-popcorn.html
Great list – think of all the fossil fuel you are NOT consuming and all the CO2 emissions you are NOT responsible for. You’re practically an offset program all by yourself!
what kind of shoes do you fancy? Not flip-flops, I’m guessing!

Love the list / your website. I have been trying to lower plastic / all trash. I have been making yogurt in a yogurt maker my mom found at a thrift store. I buy one container to use to make batches and then can use the batch to make more. It couldn’t be easier. The kids love it. The containers are glass with plastic lids. The yogurt doesn’t touch the plastic in the cooking process.Also, I bought stainless steel food containers for the kids lunches.I am very interested in the penguin soda maker!!!Still having a hard time figuring out the… Read more »

What do you use for garbage bags?

I use canvas totes for my groceries but then stop using them when I need a new stash of garbage bags (the grocery bags work fine as I use a garbage chute in a condo building.)

I can’t figure out a way around using those.

A possible alternative to Preserve toothbrushes (haven’t tried this yet): The Source toothbrush, at http://www.radiustoothbrush.com/

I reuse plastic corks, lids and those lid wrappers as cat toys, when I can’t avoid them. They still end up in the trash after I fish them out from under the furniture for the fifth time, but it does mean no new plastic kitty toys. :)

Beth, thank you for this list!! It really is inspiring, and so full of info!! (I clicked on the toothbrushes, which led me to Stoneyfield farm, and now I can send my yogurt containers back to them!) Next time I have to get a prescription refilled, I’ll bring my bottle back and ask for a true refill.

Thanks for this info, Beth.
I’ve been noticing in all the articles about cities banning plastic bags, peoples’ main objection is they need them for their trash. Only when we to stop generating so much trash, will we stop obsessing about what to put it in.
I wonder if pharmacists would let people bring their own bottles back for refills. I bet they’d object to the idea of reusing them for someone else, but they are too sturdy for just one use.

Thank you for this list! I am going to bookmark it.

I have been wondering about the pill bottles. They seem sturdy – it’s too bad you can’t peel off the labels and give them back to the pharmacy to be washed and reused.

I think this post is going to be really useful as I’m embarking on a journey of small changes.

I’m surprised that you recommended opting for real cork stoppers in wine. I’ve been actively searching out screw tops because I thought there was something (can’t remember quite what) wrong with using real cork.

Loved this post! New ideas, plus thank you for the composter research. This helps a lot.

Beth in the Fake Plastic Fish Tank

Siel, that’s a great question I forgot to answer. Right now, I just keep taking the same green plastic containers back to the farmer’s market and trading them for new ones. Same for cherry tomatoes. The vendors seem to be fine with me bringing back the used ones. In fact, I think I got the idea from Colin Beavan.

What do you do when you buy berries? I reuse plastic bags for this purpose, but I’m wondering if you’ve found an alternative —

You are very inspiring Beth. In fact the things you do to avoid plastic are awesome. I am going to try…a little a time.

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