Simple Options to Reduce Plastic in Your Home
When it comes to plastic consumption, I’ve often thought that as consumers, we are somewhat powerless because mostly everything is packaged in plastic somehow. But then it dawned on me… we do have power. And the goal is small steps here. Think about it: in your lifetime, you can easily reduce your plastic consumption simply by being actively aware of it. Some of these plastics will outlive you. That’s not drama, that’s fact.
I’m not here to tell you that you need to eliminate plastic, or shame you for using plastics. I’m here to encourage you to reduce the amount of plastic you bring through your home and ultimately put in a landfill.
In October of 2020, my town drinking water had high levels of Per- and PolyFluorAlkyl Substances or PFAS, a group of potentially dangerous human-made chemicals used since the 1950s to manufacture stain-resistant, water-resistant, and non-stick products. They are also known as one of the “forever chemicals.”
The interim solution to the PFAS crisis was to provide safe drinking water in the form of plastic water bottles. That got me thinking, are we essentially swapping one forever chemical for another harmful chemical? Plastic can take decades to decompose; we may one day find an abundance of new chemicals in our drinking water from the breakdown of every day plastics. BPA, phthalates, all stem from plastic.
We’ve heard it before: reuse, recycle, reduce. But I’m going to add one more in there: resist. (More on that in a bit.)
REUSE: because reusing one plastic item saves you from using another. Here’s some ideas how…
- Rainy day deliveries– reuse the large plastic bag that FedEx or UPS uses to protect the parcel from the rain. I like to use it as a garbage bag. I throw it under the sink with my box of trash liners ready for use.
- Tale as old as time: reusable water bottles. However, as a mom of 3 all close in age who does not always have it together, I GET IT. Sometimes you have to go for it, or the gatorade, etc. Dasani now offers 100% recycled bottles as a good option. But what I like to do is ONLY use plastic drinks for the road when we have to. Small goals.
- Take out containers– reuse them as Tupperware, for storage, pets, kids crayons, etc.
- Buy a reusable straw. Only gripe is you have to remember to clean it at home after! OR just ask the waitress to hold the straw. At home use paper straws or silicon straws.
RECYCLE: What you can’t reuse, recycle.
Please don’t put recyclable things in the trash can. Give them a second chance. There are many manufacturers that use at least 10% post-consumer materials, some even 25-40%. However, not all companies use recycled plastic, so it’s important not to rely on recycling alone.
Choices you make when shopping: RESIST (and thus, reduce!)
This is honestly where you have most power in reducing your plastic use. Here are some options to help you RESIST the plastic, or at least become AWARE when you’re shopping. This will dramatically reduce how much plastic you bring into your household for a fleeting moment, only to end up in a landfill for hundreds of years.
Most of your plastic-ditching habits are in the choices you make as a consumer while shopping at the grocery stores or other establishments. I have a list of things you can become aware of when shopping to reduce the amount of plastic you bring in your home and the environment.
You have options for resisting, and thus reducing. Choose 3-5 of these to start implementing into your grocery trips (heads up, some products contain Amazon affiliate links!)
- Shopping Bags: Paper or plastic? BEST way to avoid plastic is reusable shopping bags or go with paper. 8/10 times I forget my reusable shopping bags. Paper, please!
- Laundry jugs– lots of wasted plastic. Laundry strips are great. I subscribe to Tru Earth (but also supplement with detergent pods, I’m not perfect but I’m aware.)
- Paper sandwich bags (instead of plastic). My favorite is lunchskins.
- BUY juice in a cardboard carton instead of plastic (orange juice, lemonade or fruit punch found in the refrigerated section.)
- Half gallons of milk in cartons (if you’re willing to spend the extra money to reduce plastic intake.)
- Sodas and iced teas come in plastic bottles or aluminum cans. I rarely buy the plastic bottles. The cap is convenient, but the kids usually gulp the iced teas down immediately anyways, so not a dealbreaker! Same with sodas and other carbonated beverages. If you CAN go CAN, do it!
- If you like Native Deodorant, it also comes in a plastic-free cardboard dispenser. This is my product of choice because of it is aluminum free, but ever since the no-plastic option, I’m in love. You can find these in store at Target, or online on Amazon: Plastic free deodorant
- Cleaning Spray: Buy ONE reusable water bottle (I like the Full Circle Brand from Amazon) and one bottle of castile soap (I like the almond kind I linked, I also add a few drops of my favorite essential oil to make different scents). The thought process here is that one teaspoon of castile soap makes an entire bottle of cleaning spray. These two plastic containers will last you for years, as opposed to going through multiple bottles of cleaning spray in one year.
- If you’re a yogurt fan... Stonyfield comes in non-plastic containers made from corn. There are also some glass options like the Oui Oui brand.
- If you can buy things in person at a store, it eliminates plastic shipping and shrink wrap. Life gets busy, but if you have the time…
- I have a Chewy subscription for canned cat food. I ended up going with a brand that was in a FULL cardboard box instead of a half cardboard box with plastic shrink wrap. Sometimes you don’t know which brands ship a certain way until you go through the motions. If you can’t buy in store, choose a brand or company that does not use so much plastic packaging.
- Pasta sauces: I try to go for the glass jars instead of plastic!
- Microbeads: Skip face washes or body scrubs that contain microbeads. They are literally small plastic beads. Go for a brand like St. Ives that uses natural exfoliants.
- Avoid individually wrapped paper towels within multi-packs. Some brands individually wrap each paper towel roll in plastic and then put it INSIDE the larger plastic-wrapped pack of 6 or 12. Examine the package, do you see MORE unnecessary plastic inside? Consider brand that does not cause you to bring more plastic home.
- Basically ANY time something has a cardboard, glass, or aluminum alternative, I consider it.
Other ways to reduce plastic use:
Toothbrush: though electric toothbrushes are more expensive, they yield less waste overall (and are better for your teeth.) Not really gonna push these though, since they require batteries and electricity.
DITCH the PLASTIC SILVERWARE: We go camping A LOT. I always buy either bamboo eatery or compostable forks and spoons. I always opt for paper cups OR compostable cups when I can. Paper straws or reusable silicon straws!
Food delivery apps: some have options to leave the plasticware by checking a box. If you do get plastic silverware in your food delivery and you don’t need it, stick in it your car’s glove box for when you find yourself with passengers in need of a fork on the road!
Even if you choose THREE of these to start implementing today, you are doing your part. I urge you to stick with three, then move on to five or six from this list! Will it be perfect? No. I do everything on this list but not consistently. I do it most of the time, but sometimes it’s just not possible. That’s the world we live in, but these little changes DO add up!
Let’s help reduce our plastic intake, one decision at a time 🙂