We don’t live in a perfect zero-waste/plastic-free world. Trash is going to happen, and plastic is going to happen. However, we can take great strides to eliminate a lot of unnecessary trash and plastic waste from our lives with a little bit of forethought and creativity!
For more information on why plastic is a problem, read this post here. Long story short: Plastic doesn’t decompose the way natural materials like wood do. Instead, it hangs around for thousands of years (or longer) in landfills and waterways, where it causes all kinds of harm to the environment.
That’s why it’s so important that we all start doing our part to reduce the amount of plastic pollution that our lifestyles create. Here are 10 awesome ways that you can get started today.
1. Buy less:
First and foremost, the number one way to keep plastic waste out of the landfill is to simply buy less. We buy A LOT of things we don’t need. By buying less, we can drastically reduce our consumption of plastic.
Before you make ANY purchase, ask yourself — Do I really need this? Will I still need it two days from now? Can I use anything else? Can I borrow something from a friend? Who knows — your friend might even have an extra they don’t need.
That’s less plastic in the world, and money in your pocket.
2. Think outside the box:
I mean this one quite literally. There’s a whole unpackaged life out there. When making a purchase, try to look for goods with less plastic packaging.
For instance, when you buy a phone case from Best Buy or Target, it probably comes in a plastic clamshell. Why? Here at Pela we send our 100 percent compostable phone cases naked in an envelope.
If your phone case has to be protected by another plastic container, can it really protect your phone?
3. Say no to the big four:
This one is a huge way to make an impact on your personal plastic consumption! Get familiar with the so-called “Big Four” of single-use plastic products, which are plastic straws, plastic water bottles, plastic bags and coffee cups.
Wait — coffee cups? Yes, coffee cups are lined with plastic! It makes them virtually impossible to recycle as very few recycling centers have the technology to separate the plastic film and the cup.
Say no to straws when dining out. It’s really that simple. If you love smoothies, like me, look at investing in a reusable straw, or you can always use a spoon.
Carry a reusable water bottle on you at all times. Phone, wallet, water, keys — repeat. Pretty soon, you won’t miss having those flimsy plastic bottles all over your house.
I like to opt for an insulated refillable water bottle that keeps hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. This way, you can use it for water, but you can also get your coffee to-go.
Did you know that Starbucks will even pay you to BYOC? Go forth with confidence.
When it comes to grocery and produce bags, if you’re the kind of person who always forgets, I recommend getting a bag that clips onto your key ring. Then, you will never be without a shopping bag.
4. Use real stuff:
When you’re at home, opt for real stuff. Did you know it takes eight gallons of water to make one paper plate? Purchase some well-made dishes and housewares that you can reuse many times, and you might just find that you’re taking a little more pride in your dining arrangements, too!
By washing reusable dishes, you are saving water. Break out the cloth napkins, the real plates and the real flatware. A single quality set of stainless steel cutlery can take the place of hundreds or even thousands of plastic utensils.
When it’s time to put the leftovers away, investing in a set of glass food storage containers will help you break your reliance on plastic wrap. For items like pies that may not fit into a reusable container, try some reusable beeswax wrap to cover it.
5. Dine in or BYOC:
By dining in instead of getting takeout, you can save so much trash. I love takeout as much as the next person, so you don’t have to give it up.
You just have to get a little creative. First, remember to ask the restaurant not to include single-use plastic items like straws and plastic cutlery. Many places will simply toss these in with every order unless you specifically say you don’t want them.
When it comes to actually getting the food home, I bring my own containers to get takeout so I can avoid the trash. It sounds super scary at first, but I always receive really positive reactions. This is definitely easier at mom and pop shops than at fast food joints. Although, I’ve seen several people succeed at fast food restaurants as well.
It’s typically about who’s working. Be brave and give it a go, making sure to have your reusable containers ready to go as soon as your food comes up. Always remember: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Pizza is always zero waste in my book. Ask for no mini plastic table/pizza spacer, recycle the top half of your box as it’s typically not greasy and then compost the bottom half.
6. Look for creative solutions:
Sometimes, you have to get a little creative. My favorite cafe has coffee stirrers at the coffee bar.
Next to the coffee bar is the dining bar which offers spoons, forks, napkins, etc.
Instead of instantly reaching for the plastic coffee stirrer, if you took a beat just to look around the room, you might notice you could easily grab a spoon.
Sometimes, living plastic free is about taking a beat to look around the room and asking yourself, “Can I do something better?”
7. Don’t be afraid:
It’s OK to be different. It’s OK to go against the norm. You’re awesome! Be brave and ask someone for something different.
If the cafe serves their food on real plates, their water in real cups, but their smoothie in disposable plastic cups, speak up! Ask for your smoothie to go in the real cup.
Is it a little different, sure, but they should be able to accommodate you. Typically, they will honor your request without even batting an eye.
8. Be prepared:
Being prepared really helps. By carrying an insulated water bottle on you and a reusable bag, you’ll find yourself prepared for most situations. Sometimes, I like to tuck a cloth napkin in my bag.
If I’m going out to eat, I might also pack a Mason jar or metal tiffin to be prepared to take home leftovers.
It really helps if you know what you’re going to be doing for the day. I always try to ask myself where I’m going before I leave the house. Then, I can better prepare eco-friendly alternatives for potentially wasteful situations.
9. Ask your gran:
If you ever have any questions about ditching plastic, ask your grandparents. They lived life before plastic, when everybody brought reusable produce bags to the grocery store to take home their food.
Plastic has only gotten out of control in the last several decades. It wasn’t always like this, and older people have a wealth of knowledge about plastic-free living that can be a big help to anyone trying to reduce plastic waste. When trying to figure out what a non-plastic alternative might be, there’s a good chance they’ll know!
10. Start slow:
When you first start to notice all of the plastic in the world, it can be overwhelming.
You’ll notice EVERYTHING is in plastic.
Don’t focus on the things you can’t change — focus on the stuff you can change and know that you’re doing an awesome job!
You don’t have to be perfect to make a positive impact. Start slowly. For now, I’d recommend starting with the big four.
Once you have that down, then start to look at other places you can phase out plastic. Your phone case is another great place to make the switch. Browse Pela’s lineup of gorgeous compostable phone cases to see how good the sustainable life can be!