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.
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:
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!