If you don’t think it’s important to at least consider reducing single use plastic in your life, then you are part of the problem and you should just stop reading here. And I’m not talking about banning straws or refusing to drink coffee from any shop with plastic straws, I’m talking about actually being aware of all the plastic you use in your life, and making conscious decisions and behavioral changes to reduce your use.
Remember, you don’t have to eliminate all plastic at once. Once you start taking stock of how much you actually use, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged. Try with one or two items or habits at a time, see how it feels and move on from there. Here are a few tips and tricks we’ve rounded up to do your part in reducing and eventually eliminate plastic use in your life.
Start at the Grocery Store
The amount of single use plastic we consume at the grocery store is actually staggering when you add it all up. I’ve never understood why we put produce in separate plastic bags at the store before we put them in the cart, but I’ve always done it because my mom did it when I was little and I just thought that’s what you do! Silly me. Even just eliminating the use of those silly bags would have a huge impact. I recommend putting large produce (potatoes, pumpkins, squash, zucchini) at the bottom of your cart or basket. You’ll wash it all when you get home anyways (or at least you should). For smaller produce, I recommend getting reusable produce bags. I like these reusable mesh produce bags from Amazon. You get a set of $9 for $14. If or when they get dirty, you can wash them.
While you’re in the produce section, think about choosing produce that isn’t pre-wrapped in plastic. Instead of a bag of baby carrots, opt for large carrot stick that you can cut into snackable sizes later. Instead of a plastic box of spinach or lettuce, opt for a head of lettuce or bunch or spinach not wrapped in plastic. It may be a little less convenient to not have pre-washed lettuce, but the stuff not in plastic is cheaper so BONUS, you’re saving the world and money.
If you need nuts or items the store offers in bulk, you can also fill your reusable produce bags instead of opting pre-packaged items in plastic. Some stores will also pre-weigh empty glass jars for you to fill as well, but not every store does that so be aware. Again, this option is generally cheaper.
Finally, when you check-out at the store opt for using reusable shopping bags. You can usually purchase a few right at the register of any grocery store. Or you can use reusable bags that you may have laying around the house from other shopping. For example, I use Lululemon bags that I’ve had laying around. You could also purchase some, like these, from Amazon.
Bring Reusable Bags to Other Shopping Excursions
Okay, so you’ve eliminated some, if not all, single use plastic from your grocery runs. Good work! But what about the times you leave Target with several shopping bags, or the mall? If you say you haven’t, you’re lying. Consider keeping your reusable bags in the car with you, and bringing them into other stores to shop as well.
Don’t want to bring them into the mall and carry them around while you shop? Pro tip: Ask for a large bag at the first store you shop at, and use that bag to carry everything you purchase from multiple stores. It’s not eliminated single use plastic, but hey, it’s better than leaving with several bags.
Examine Plastic Use in the Rest of Your Life
Think outside the box here. There’s plastic where you don’t even think about it. If you drink from plastic water bottles, switch to a reusable one. If you get your coffee on the go every morning, consider bringing your own mug – some places even offer a discount for doing this. My personal achilles heel is makeup and beauty products. It comes in mostly plastic, and while there isn’t really a way to avoid it, unless I stop buying and wearing makeup (not happening, ever), I’ve taken steps to at least recycle the bottles and product packaging once I’m finished with it. It’s not perfect and neither am I, but again, it’s a step.
Think about where plastic shows up in your life. Do some research to see how other people are eliminating it. If there’s not perfect solution, do your best.
Remember, every step you take counts.
Do you have other tips or tricks for eliminating single use plastic? What’s the hardest part for you? Let us know.