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5 Easy Steps to Reduce Plastic in Our Lives

by Tiffany in A Green Home

1. Avoid plastic bags at the grocery store. This applies to the bags you get at checkout AND the plastic produce bags you put your loose fruits and veggies in. There are two really easy, really affordable products you can use instead of plastic so there is very little excuse to keep bringing plastic baggies home.

Reusable Grocery Bags – Cloth bags can be bought at most grocery stores for $1 nowadays and you can usually find good quality bags for $10 each that will last for years and years AND can be used for other things. My favorite reusable bag is the ACME Earth Tote from my fave online store, Reuseit. It is large enough for groceries, has pockets, and I use it as my weekend bag for trips to my parents house. During the summer we used it to tote towels and toys for the water park. LOVE this bag!

Produce Bags – When you want to load up on apples, celery, fresh greens, carrots, bok choy, wild mushrooms, etc. skip the plastic produce bags the store provides. You can bring your own mesh or muslin bags. They are super light weight and much better for the planet than plastic. The muslin bags even work for beans and grains.

These are some of my fave bags from my collection of produce bags: These are all from EcoBags.

Cloth Produce Bags

2. Use glass food storage dishes. You can buy plastic so cheap that it seems that is what most people do nowadays. They buy a box of 15 plastic dishes to store leftovers and lunches in and never consider the environmental or health implications. For the price of that one bulk box you could buy one or two really nice glass refrigerator dishes and just wash them more often. You can also find vintage glass and Pyrex refrigerator dishes at yard sales and thrift stores. I found a yummy green Pyrex dish for $3 just last fall! I also buy mason jars from thrift stores and use those:

Bananas in Jar

Check out my Squidoo lens on BPA, PVC and Phthalate Free Food Storage. It has a big list of glass and stainless steel food and liquid storage containers.

3. Instead of prepackaged foods wrapped in plastic buy loose or fresh foods. Mushrooms can be bought in foam containers wrapped in plastic and they can be bought loose and taken home in a produce bag. The same is true of greens, veggies, and many fruits. It might be slightly more work and expense to buy all the salad ingredients separate instead of salad in a bag… but the health and environmental benefits are worth it. Instead of buying your milk in a carton or jug (which are both made with plastic) see if you can find a way to buy in glass jars, perhaps direct from the local dairy farm. You could also switch to homemade almond milk, which is healthier anyway. Instead of buying yogurt cups you could start making your own, it’s actually pretty easy. I grew up eating homemade yogurt. Yum!

4. Make your own cleaners. Instead of buying plastic bottles of cleaners (even greener cleaners, make your own from natural ingredients and reuse those plastic bottles instead of buying new. You can even label them so you know exactly what is in them. Laundry soap (both dry and liquid, all purpose cleaner, carpet cleaner, scrubbing cleaner, all of it can be made at home sustainably and affordably. Check out Make Your Place: Affordable & Sustainable Nesting Skills. It is an awesome resource.

5. Get in the habit of thinking about every plastic purchase you make. Is the item made of plastic? Is it wrapped in plastic? Will it last? Can I buy it used? Can I recycle it? When you ask these questions you can usually find a non-plastic alternative, a used alternative, or you may decide not to buy it at all. When we don’t ask these critical questions we never stop to really think about how our purchases decisions really impact the world around us.

The only way we will wean ourselves form plastic dependency is to take baby steps and ask the tough questions.

How are you doing on reducing your plastic consumption? Share your tips or stories in the comments!

  • I do all the same things. And I also LOVE my old Pyrex stuff. My husband’s grandma died and we inherited all her old stuff. Sure, it’s not fancy, but it really works. Plus, it washes so well! Plastic and Tupperware tend to get orange from tomato sauces, which is gross.

    Did you join One Small Step? (Hip Mountain Mama’s eco challenge between now and Earth Day? If not, it’s a fun one, and one that seems right up your alley!

    Great read! I’ll be coming back to read your stuff again soon!

  • Catherine

    love this post. New year Res. to make my own detergent, for the whole year… well I need to gather all the ingredients and start.. Thanks for the extra push! I need to be better about bringing my own bag to the store… thanks a lot.. we all need improvement big or small! Thanks again

  • Love the idea of using the Mason jars in the fridge for storing things. I hadn’t thought of that before. And you are right, they are usually pretty cheap at thrift stores. Thanks!

  • andiscandis

    Cheaper than buying Mason jars: Just re-use glass pasta sauce or peanut butter jars. My husband takes soup for lunch in glass PB jars and not only are they more leak-proof than plastic, they’re microwaveable!

    Does it make anyone else rabidly angry to see shoppers put a bunch of bananas in a plastic produce bag? I had to stop myself from yelling at an old woman the other day. But seriously. They’re bananas. They’re pre-wrapped.

    • christine74

      great post! but the idea of yelling at someone because they put their bananas in a plastic bag to me seems counterproductive of wanting to live in an ecofriendly world in which we all peacefully co-exist. some people are just not informed. it doesn’t make them bad people who are deliberatley trying to trash our planet. the only things that i have control over are my own actions and on what i can do to make the world a better place for myself and my baby.

      • antichristine74


  • Brenna

    This is a great post on giving tips to reduce plastic. Keep up the good work.

  • I LOVE this post. Great job! I’m totally getting the Muslin bags! I bought some plastic-y mesh kind to use over and over again but they were horrible so I reverted back to the shitty plastic bags you get at the store and throw away when you get home. :(


  • ECC

    Great post, I was just saying the other day that I wanted to get all glass food containers to use… I will be checking out the produce bags too..

  • Lisa C

    As soon as I unpack my groceries I put my cloth bags back in the car so I don’t forget them next time.

    I have been a fan of pyrex for years and when my son moved into his college apartment, we set him up with a set of pyrex. I think it’s important to encourage young people to really take an interest in protecting the environment. I also gave him bottles of premixed non-toxic cleaners. When he comes home to vist, he brings the bottles to be refilled and the pyrex to take home leftovers.

  • Bummer… I like the company’s mission and all that you linked to, but they’re made in China! Ugh. I’m now on a mission to find organic cotton produce bags made in the USA that don’t cost an arm and a leg. I might make them myself.

  • Laura J.

    Even though they are still plastic, I use the plastic mesh bags that my tulip bulbs came in last year. They are great and the guy at the vegetable stand loves them too.

  • Has anyone ever tried green genius trash bags? They act t like plastic bags for your kitchen but they are biodegradable. So cool. I just saw a documentary on trash and how diapers and plastic bags are going to be the death of us all. too scary…..I am a convert to cloth sacs and or re-useable totes.

  • Cristiana

    I stopped getting plastic bags from stores years ago, but I do collect them from friends and family and office for my dog, to pick up her poop. My thought is that, at least, I give them one second life…
    It annoys me to no end that there are actually dog owners that will buy brand new plastic bags, marketed as “poopy bags”… what a waste!

  • keith wilcox

    I don’t make my own cleaners, but my wife and I discovered the greatness of pyrex containers a few years ago. They really are a bunch better than the cheap plastic ones. I do without the produce bags also, but I have a bunch of the cloth bags for grocery shopping. But, those bags do seem like kinda a good idea. Thanks for the tips!

  • I loved this article – thank you so much for posting it! We also use cloth bags and glass jars. Hubby even made a scrubbing cleaner from citric acid, bicarbonate of soda and washing up liquid.

  • christine74

    great post! but the idea of yelling at someone because they put their bananas in a plastic bag to me seems counterproductive of wanting to live in an ecofriendly world where we all peacefully coexist. some people are just not informed…it doesn’t make them bad people who are deliberatley trying to trash our planet. the only thing I can do is focus on my own actions and on what i can do to make the world a better place for my baby and me.

  • Kate

    Love it! Thanks for posting!

    I’m so interested in this topic and have been checking out 5gyres and fakeplasticfish but your ideas are practical and easy for everyone!

    I love your site – it’s wonderful!

  • Dr. Josh Axe

    Thanks for the article. I think that while a lot of people recycle they still purchase plastic storage containers and eat off plastic dishes. Recycling isn’t the only important factor, the scary health implications of eating out of plastic need to be considered.

    Thanks for all the info!

  • These are all really great, useful tips! I make my own cleaning products now, not just to reduce plastic but also to reduce the amount of chemicals I’m spraying around. Think about it: people don’t think twice about cooking their own meals. Making your own cleaners is just as easy, and they’re just as effective. Also, computers and electronics are almost all plastic. They get obsolete so quickly, so it’s important to recycle them right.

  • JJ

    Great ideas!! Has anyone tried BOBBLE? It is a filtered water bottle that you can use over and over again! Mine works great & saves money too! You can check it out at