From landfills to oceans, plastic waste is accumulating at a rate more rapid than our planet can accommodate. By 2050, experts estimate that our waterways will be filled with more plastic particles than fish. While world leaders are awakening to the problem and introducing legislation to decrease our single-use plastic consumption, we shouldn’t wait for plastic bag bans to go into effect before we stop using them. Here are eight simple ways you can do your part to use less plastic and lead a more sustainable lifestyle:
1. Replace plastic shopping bags.
Fabric totes can carry more groceries, making them more efficient than plastic ones, and many stores will also give you a small bag discount for using them — double win! Buy a few reusable bags next time you’re in the checkout line, or invest in a sturdy set from online.
2. Carry a reusable water bottle (and coffee cup).
Make it a habit to always have a stainless steel tumbler like the S’well bottle on hand. These versatile vessels can be used for cold or hot liquids, so you can fill with water or coffee when you’re on-the-go. BPA-free Contigo mugs are also popular picks. (Reusable beverage containers make great gifts, too! Check out our guide to smarter, sustainable gift giving.)
3. Bring your own straws, cutlery and take-out containers.
Every plastic straw, fork and to-go box adds to our plastic pileup. To avoid using these disposables, keep the essentials with you. Buy a set of stainless steel straws and stash them in your most-carried bags, and keep a set of utensils and compact containers at the office so you can bring them with you when you go out for lunch.
4. Skip plastic food bags at home and in the grocery store.
Ditch the sandwich bags and store snacks and leftovers in glass containers instead, or buy a set of easy-to-clean reusable bags. When you’re in the produce section doing your weekly food shopping, skip the plastic bags — you’ll be washing your fruits and veggies at home anyway — or bring your own set of eco-friendly mesh produce bags to fill with apples, avocados and other loose items.
5. Switch from plastic to Beeswax food wrap.
Once you buy a pack of reusable Beeswax wrap in a variety of sizes, you won’t have to worry about running out of hard-to-maneuver cling wrap.
6. Choose more sustainably packaged cleaning products.
From spray bottles to laundry detergent jugs, most cleaning products are sold in plastic containers. Choose refillable products or seek out brands committed to using packaging that is biodegradable and made from recycled materials. Dropps laundry detergent pods and dish detergent pods come in 100% recyclable, repulpable and compostable cardboard boxes.
7. Forgo the dryer sheets.
Made from a synthetic plastic fiber, dryer sheets are another cleaning product to avoid. Wool dryer balls are reusable and help to reduce drying time, so they’re a cost-effective swap! (Here’s how to use dryer balls.)
8. Pick out plastic-free personal care items.
Buy bar soap to avoid using more plastic liquid hand soap bottles, look for lip balms and lotions in metal or glass containers, or try DIY shampoos and conditioners. Women can further reduce their eco footprints by using menstrual cups like the DivaCup instead of throw-away tampons with plastic applicators.