Becoming plastic-free is a step by step process. It starts with avoiding the plastics that are easiest to say no to, like straws. Then things start to take more planning; you start to make your own meals and cosmetics and cleaning products to avoid packaging, and you realize just how much of our lives comes plastic-wrapped. Things become less convenient. And, even when you've made it to 100% plastic-free, you still find yourself dealing with plastic every once in a while. And, hey, no one's perfect! But I believe we should all try to use as little plastic as possible, because, in the process of doing so, we learn how to do things for ourselves, we become crafty, and creative, and we re-establish a sense of self-reliance. So not only are we helping the planet, we're also helping ourselves to rely less on the capitalist system.
Are you interested in transitioning to a plastic-free lifestyle? It begins with the steps below. And, for all the reasons why you should do it, see my post on why you should avoid plastic.
Step One: Disposable Plastic-Free
This means you avoid some or all single-use plastics, including straws, disposable water bottles & cups, disposable cutlery, and plastic grocery bags, among other things, but you may still use heavy-duty plastics like Tupperware and Nalgene water bottles, as well as harder to avoid plastics like cosmetics packaging and food packaging.
Step Two: Transitionally Plastic-Free
Step two is, without a doubt, the longest step. You've achieved step one plus you've begun to phase out heavy-duty plastics and harder to avoid plastics, which really takes a while. You might begin with one thing at a time, like switching out your plastic Tupperware for glass Pyrex or stainless steel food storage containers, or phasing out your old polyester clothes for cotton. You may also begin to buy some foods and toiletries in bulk, and store them in cloth bags or glass jars. And you might also think longer and harder before buying anything plastic-wrapped; this includes everything from pre-made sandwiches, to Starbucks coffees, to pill bottles, to shrink-wrapped packets of printer paper.
Step Three: 100% Plastic-Free
This means that you've freed yourself from all plastics! From your make-up routine to your pantry, you use almost no plastic on a daily basis. You buy groceries in bulk and/or from the farmers market; you make your own cosmetics in reusable glass jars; you always bring your glass water bottle, reusable lunch bag, and bamboo silverware to work; and you would never accept a plastic bag from the checkout at the grocery store.
- Exchange plastic utensils, plates, tupperware, etc. for glass, ceramic, wood, or stainless steel
- Use cloth napkins
- Invest in a fleet of Mason Jars and/or small cloth bags for storing bulk goods in
- Always bring your reusable grocery bags to the store or farmers market; woven baskets work nicely as well
- Buy bulk hand soap (or use bar soap), dish soap, laundry detergent, dish-washing detergent, and cleaning spray, or make your own, and store in reusable glass containers
- Use wooden cleaning brushes, cotton cloths, or natural vegetable sponges instead of plastic sponges or paper towels
- Avoid packaged foods and make things from scratch when you can (see the food section for recipe ideas!); whole foods don't come in packaging and, as an added bonus, they're much healthier for you
- Buy in bulk or make your own! See my green bathroom guide for ideas
- Use reusable cloth pads and cotton q-tips to remove make-up
- Buy toilet paper that comes wrapped in paper, not plastic, or, if you have to buy it wrapped in plastic, buy the kind that has multiple rolls in one large plastic sheet, rather than each roll being wrapped in plastic
- Phase out your polyester, nylon, and fleece clothes for cotton, hemp, linen, silk, leather, and wool
- Wash your clothes in cold and air dry (this isn't a plastic-free thing, but it's a good way to help your clothes last longer!)
Out and About
- Always keep a miniature set of bamboo or stainless steel utensils and a cloth napkin/handkerchief in your bag in case you eat out and they only have disposable utensils/napkins
- Bring your glass or stainless steel water bottle with you to work, school, or the gym
Do you have more plastic-free tips? Let me know in the comments!