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How To Reduce Plastic Use in Daily Life in 20 Easy Ways

We’re a little obsessed with single-use plastic facts. We love to research them. We love to tell you about them. We love to hear how you’re doing with making alternative choices as you learn about your options.

I think seeing factoids like these presented in different ways can be helpful in remembering them. Say it one way and maybe it doesn’t have an impact. Say it slightly differently and maybe it sticks. Or, I suppose, just take a screengrab and save it to your photos.

Here are 20 easy ways you can reduce your plastic use:

  1. One of the best changes you can make is using your own refillable water bottle when you’re away from home. Americans throw away 50 billion water bottles every year, and they take 500-1,000 years after that to break down. The math is frightening on how many are piling up.
  2. You can do the same thing for your daily tea or coffee habit. Bring your own tumbler with you and skip all the plastic cups for iced drinks, or all the non-recyclable paper cups for the hot ones.
  3. Bring your own bags with you when you go shopping. Whether you use a tote bag or just bring a paper or plastic bag from a previous trip, reusing any of them avoids having to take a new one.
  4. Stop using the plastic produce bags at the supermarket. Most markets have paper bags in compartments beneath the displays ‒ which used to be standard. Or you bring your own reusable cotton produce bags – there’s a ton of them available online.
  5. Choose cold drinks that come in recyclable aluminum cans or glass bottles (or increasingly, in aluminum bottles) rather than plastic ones. They stay colder longer and have high recycling rates.
  6. Avoid the liquid soaps in the plastic bottles and buy regular bars wrapped in paper. You’re mostly paying for water in those liquid products, and the plastic bottle is only used to contain it.
  7. Choose a solid powder laundry detergent – or one of the new washing machine sheets – rather than a liquid or pods that come in big plastic tubs.
  8. In the kitchen, skip the liquid dishwashing detergents in plastic bottles and go for the powders or tablets that come in paper boxes.
  9. If you’re sending a package, skip the plastic padded envelopes in favor of one made from kraft paper, or use a cardboard box with a natural material like newspaper for insulation.
  10. When you’re ordering takeout food that you’ll be eating at home, make a point of declining the plastic utensils. You already have some at home – and probably at your work as well – so skip the set you’re just going to trash.
  11. You can take your takeout ordering habits to a new level by downloading the JYBE app (app.gojybe.com) which rates restaurants on their use of non-plastic takeout containers. This way, you’ll only order from places that use sustainable materials.
  12. Replace your plastic lip balms with ones made from paper dispensers like the ones from ETEE or Well Earth.
  13. Those plastic dental floss dispensers add a lot of plastic waste to the trash. Get yourself a refillable glass or stainless steel case and then just buy the refills online. Those plastic savings will add up fast.
  14. Plastic toothbrushes can never be recycled so switch over to a version that’s made of bamboo. They’re very durable and will biodegrade over time.
  15. In the shower, those plastic bottles filled with shampoo and conditioner are mostly water, and the bottles themselves are rarely recyclable. Switch to a shampoo and conditioner bar – they’re made of just the dry ingredients so you’re really only paying for the part you want. And since there’s no plastic bottle to toss out, they’re guilt-free.
  16. If you’re heading to the pool or beach this summer, skip the plastic bottles and tubes of sunblock and get that comes in a paper roll-on or a tin. They have the same sun blocking ingredients but skip the containers that are trashing our oceans. Plus, they just look cool.
  17. In the kitchen, put those plastic storage bags away and switch to reusable containers – either Tupperware, which can last for years, glass containers of the same size, or try the newer silicone zip top containers that mimic the disposable bags, but can be washed in the dishwasher. You’ll earn back the cost fairly quickly in saved disposables, and it’s an easy swap.
  18. Don’t fall for the ‘vegan leather’ marketing message. Vegan leather is another way to say plastic – either PVC (the stuff used to make plumbers pipes) or Polyurethane (a combination of plastic and rubber). If you’re trying to avoid animal products, stick with natural fibers like cotton, wool, bamboo or silk.
  19. Give disposables a break when you’re having a party, too. Plastic plates can be easily replaced with palmware – plates and bowls made from fallen palm fonds that are beautiful, durable and basically yard waste when you’re done with them.
  20. At the same time, you’ll want to get rid of your plastic utensils which can never be recycled and use sets made from bamboo or birch wood. These are also yard waste when you’re done with them and can go right into the green bin (or whatever color it is where you live).
reusable ello bag filled with veggies on wooden cutting board

Here are a few facts to consider as you’re reducing plastic in your daily lives:

  • The United States throws away $11.4 billion worth of recyclable containers and packaging every year.
  • The amount of plastic film produced annually could shrink-wrap the state of Texas.
  • There are 25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the oceans ‒ 269,000 tons float on the surface, while four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea
  • Over 100,000 marine animals die every year from plastic entanglement and ingestion.
  • Glass bottles have been reduced in weight by approximately 40% over the past 30 years.
  • Aluminum cans make up less than 1% of waste in the United States because they are the #1 recycled item.
  • There is no limit to the number of times you can recycle an aluminum can.
  • You can make 20 new cans from recycled material using the same amount of energy that it takes to make 1 brand new can.
  • The average U.S. office worker goes through roughly 500 disposable cups annually.
  • If 1/10 of all discarded American newspapers were recycled annually, approximately 25 million trees would be saved.
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