The most significant challenge of going plastic-free is, well, going plastic-free. It’s not enough to be aware of the issue or make a conscious effort to reduce or avoid using plastic – you must be vigilant about it at all times to truly make a difference. Even if you’re successfully removing plastic from your own life, it’s still everywhere around you and can end up in your home and your trash if you’re not careful.
Going plastic-free can be daunting because plastic is seemingly everywhere, but with some planning, it can be achieved!
Plastic is often treated as a disposable material when in reality, it’s indestructible – at least for our lifetimes and the lifetimes of the next few generations.
Plastic waste is one of the leading causes of animal entanglement, starvation, and death. Animals either get tangled in plastic debris or mistake it for food and ingest it, causing them to choke or starve.
Here is how you can contribute towards a more sustainable and plastic-free life.
1. Bring your shopping bag
The average person only uses a plastic bag for a few minutes before throwing it away, but it can take hundreds of years for that bag to decompose. Understandably, we often need to remember to bring our reusable bags when shopping, but there are easy ways to remember. For example, you can keep recycled cotton bags (or bags) by your front door, in your purse, laptop bag, coat pocket, or glove compartment. If you need to remember your reusable bag, try to see if you can manage without one.
2. Carry a reusable water bottle
The healthier and more eco-friendly option is to carry your reusable water bottle instead of relying on single-use plastic bottles. Most people understand and will agree to refill your bottle if you explain your reasoning behind wanting to reduce your plastic waste. Even using a plastic reusable water bottle is better than contributing to the millions of single-use plastic water bottles discarded worldwide – of which only a fraction is recycled. We simply don’t have the facilities to eliminate the rest effectively.
3. Bring your cup
Millions of coffee cups are thrown away daily and end up in landfills or as plastic pollution in our waterways and oceans. The best way to help reduce this problem is to invest in a reusable cup or insulated bottle that you like and always carry with you. Not only will you be doing your part in helping the environment, but you’ll also save money in the long run since you won’t have to keep buying disposable cups!
4. Pack your lunch in reusable containers
When packing a waste-free lunch, there are a few options to choose from that are more eco-friendly than disposable plastic sandwich bags or cling film. Some of our favorites include stainless steel bento boxes and snack pots, stainless steel thermos food pots, reusable sandwich bags, and beeswax food wrap. We prefer to avoid reusable plastic food containers because of the risk of toxins leaching into our food, and we think food tastes better when it’s not served in plastic.
5. Say no to disposable straws & cutlery
Disposable plastic utensils and straws are a large contributor to plastic pollution. Just like plastic bags and bottles, single-use silverware and straws are usually only used once for a few minutes before being disposed of, which then litter our towns, countryside, or, worst of all, our oceans. However, it’s not difficult to get into the habit of carrying your utensils with you or even leaving a set in the car.
6. Slow down and dine in
In today’s fast-paced society, we are always on the go and rarely have time to sit down and enjoy a meal. We expect everything to be instant, leading to adverse effects such as eating on the go without taking the time to appreciate the food. Instead, try structuring your day so that you make time to stop and enjoy your food or drink in your favorite café, pub, or restaurant. This will help you slow down, taste your food properly, and catch up with friends or colleagues in person.
7. Skip the plastic produce bags
When shopping for fresh produce, we often choose the more convenient option of plastic packaging or lightweight plastic bags offered by the store. However, next time you’re at the store, consider whether you need a plastic bag for your fruits and vegetables. Putting them loose in your trolley or basket is not much more effort then transferring them to your promotional cotton bags. Not only will this save you money in the long run, but it’s also better for the environment!
8. Store leftovers in glass jars
We’ve recently discovered that glass jars make for excellent food storage containers – they’re safe, durable, and can be reused repeatedly. So instead of sending them to recycle, we can re-purpose them for all uses, including storing leftovers in the fridge, freezing cooked or uncooked food, storing dry goods in our cupboards, or taking them with us on the go.
9. Share these tips with your friends
We don’t want to lecture our loved ones about their lifestyles. Still, it can be useful to explain our motivations for making changes in our lives – like reducing our reliance on single-use plastics to help reduce pollution.
Of course, we’re not perfect, and this journey to cutting out plastic altogether is tough! So let’s constantly remind ourselves of a few ways plastic could still get the upper hand on us. The goal is to control the urge and limit ourselves wherever and whenever possible.