12 Simple Ways to Use Less Plastic

12 Simple Ways to Use Less Plastic

The holiday season is the most wasteful. According to one study, Americans throw out 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Ready to leave these wasteful habits behind? Here are some eco-friendly habits to incorporate into your life to use less plastic and minimise your environmental impact:

1. Take reusable shopping bags

This is plastic-free living 101. Single-use plastic shopping bags are a menace to society, to our wildlife, our neighbourhoods and pollutes our pristine natural environments. Some local, state and federal governments across the world are starting to take action, banning various types of single-use plastic bags forcing people to take reusable shopping bags or pay for a more durable kind when they’re in the supermarket. Avoid plastic bags altogether and just bring your own when you’re doing your weekly grocery shop. And don’t forget to invest or make a set of fabric produce bags so you can avoid the plastic ones as well.

Take your reusable shopping bags every time you leave home. Photo: Photo by cottonbro.

2. Carry reusable bottles

Reusable and refillable water bottles from brands such as S’well will not only help to reduce the amount of plastic bottles you throw away, but will also help you save the cash you would have spent buying bottled water or other bottle soda drinks. If you enjoy sparkling water or fizzy drinks, invest in the home carbonated drinks system SodaStream.

Related Post: A Zero Waste Advocate’s Guide to Reusable Drink Bottles

3. BYO coffee cup

It is estimated that Australians use one billion disposable coffee cups each year – that’s roughly 2,700,000 paper coffee cups landfilled every day. So get into the habit of bringing your own coffee cup with you when you leave the house (keep one in the car and at work too so you’ve got your basis covered) and you’ll help to reduce the amount of single-use takeaway cups being trashed.

4. Say no to disposable cutlery

Why use disposable plastic cutlery when you can just bring your own ones? You can either take ones from your cutlery drawer or just invest in a reusable travel cutlery set. So pack that washable fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks. Another great alternative to reducing food-related plastic is to slow down and just dine in the cafe or restaurant instead.

Photo: Prudence Earl.

5. Buy in bulk

Package-free bulk stores are taking off as more people become eco-conscious but even if you don’t have a bulk store nearby, by buying in bulk quantities, you’ll save more single-use plastic. Think about it; purchasing a 20-kilogram bag of rice will save 20 bags of one-kilogram plastic bags right? Now if you can’t buy in large quantities because budget is super tight and you’re living paycheck to paycheck, why not try pooling funds together with family, housemates and friends? Using the above rice example, if you buy the 20-kilo bag, you can reduce environmental impact whilst making the purchase more economical for yourself and everyone else as well.

Related Post: How The Source Bulk Foods Are Helping Australia Lead the Zero Waste Movement

6. Bring your own food containers

Food containers such as stainless steel containers or glass jars are super handy and have versatile uses. If you’re dining out and can’t finish your meal, just pop it into your food container and take the leftovers home rather than asking the restaurant or cafe to supply you with plastic containers.

When shopping, you can avoid plastic-packaged seeds, nuts and other items by filling a clean container or glass jar instead. With COVID-19, it has become a little difficult shopping in this way so it’s best to check the store policies and respect their health and safety wishes if they say no to you using your own containers.

7. Use bar soap

Before fancy liquid body wash in plastic bottles dominated people’s bathrooms, most families in decades past were using bar soap. So if you want to reduce your plastic footprint, this is the way to go. You can avoid more plastic by vetoing plastic-wrapped bar soap in favour of the ones that come in paper or cardboard packaging. Paper is manufactured from plant-fibres (ie. from trees or other plants such as bamboo) and can be composted and recycled.

8. Switch to a safety razor

Another way to avoid plastic, particularly in the bathroom, is to switch to a stainless steel safety razor. The razor blades are generally made of stainless steel and can be recycled. You just need to contact your local council to learn the location of the recycling facility that will accept them.

Photo: Ignacio F.

9. DIY natural cleaning products

Making your own natural cleaning products is easy. I make a DIY multi-purpose cleaner by reusing an old spray bottle and filling it up with some white vinegar, water, a lemon and a teaspoon of baking soda. This cleaner works on just about any surface in my kitchen – stainless steel, wood, ceramic – but to be safe, make sure you conduct a spot clean before using. A quick online search will provide you with recipes for other cleaning products such as drain cleaners, window cleaners, detergents and even dish soap.

If you don’t have time to make your own eco-friendly cleaning products, there are plenty of conscious brands on supermarket shelves such as ecostore that manufacture natural, non-toxic cleaning products that come in recyclable bottles. Alternatively, businesses such as Cleancult offer revolutionary refill systems where natural cleaner refills are packaged in recyclable milk cartons to reduce plastic.

10. Use shampoo and conditioning bars

It is estimated that 80 billion plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles are thrown out globally each year and by using shampoo and conditioning bars, you’ll be helping to reduce this amount of waste. New Zealand brand Ethique produces a range of vegan-friendly shampoo bars as well as Australian brand Shampoo With a Purpose.

Photo: Ethique.

11. Wear reusable menstrual products

For women ready to up their plastic-free lifestyle game, transitioning to reusable period products is the way to go. If you generally use disposable tampons, why not give a reusable menstrual cup a go? If you use disposable sanitary pads, why not try a reusable and washable pad? A pair of period undies from Thinx or Modibodi can do the trick for the lightest of menstrual flows. There’s a little ‘ick’ factor involved as you grow accustomed to seeing and smelling your own menstrual blood but once you get used to it, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to make the switch.

12. Avoid synthetic clothing

Did you know that synthetic textiles such as nylon, polyester and acrylic shed microfibres when washed which can make its way into waterways and the oceans? (Read this article as it breaks this issue down in comprehensive detail). So where possible, avoid purchasing synthetic clothing and opt for clothing made of natural and organic fibres such as organic cotton, hemp and linen.

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