8 Easiest Hacks to Reduce Your Plastic Consumption

Plastic is literally everywhere. Shopping bags, toothbrushes, backpacks, shoes, wrappers, you name it. Is it even possible to avoid all of it while enjoying a normal social life?

We all know that plastic is no good for the environment, but it can be a real challenge to get away from it.

Rather than sitting there with your head spinning, it can be less stressful to just give in—everyone else uses plastic, why not me, too?           

But reducing your plastic consumption doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. By shifting your daily habits slightly, you can keep a lot of single-use plastics out of our landfills, waterways and oceans.

Here are a handful of habits to leave behind for a cleaner planet (and body).

1. Say no to plastic straws.

If there is a piece of plastic pollution that is entirely pointless, it is the plastic straw. The straw doesn’t have a reasonable purpose. It is simply an unnecessary convenience that ends up painfully jammed in the noses of sea turtles.

And guess what–Americans use 500 million straws every single day! Do your environment a favor and refuse the straw. Just sip your drinks instead, like a regular human.

Of course, if you’re a major straw fanatic, you do have other options. Paper straws are growing in popularity, as are edible straws. And of course, there is the reusable metal, glass, or bamboo straw if you’re a true aficionado.

Let your straw be your passion, not an environmental inconvenience.

Macro closeup of two plastic cups with ice cubes and water and condensation on table with straws by green salad in restaurant

2. Abandon to-go cups and bottles.

Not only are plastic bottles and to-go cups horrible for the environment, but the chemicals that leach out of them are horrible for your health. But there’s an easy fix.

If you’re staying at a cafe, ask for a glass or mug. If you’re bringing your drink on the run, just bring a reusable bottle or thermos with you. It’s really not difficult once it becomes habitual.

Plus, many stores offer a small discount for customers who bring their own cups. Sure, it’s just a few cents, but it can add up over time, especially if you get a few iced coffees on the go every day.

3. Stop buying single-use coffee pods.

Speaking of coffee, coffee pods are a big no-no. They are single-use and all plastic. Not only do these build up fast in landfills, but the chemicals in the plastic can leach into the hot water when you’re making your coffee. Ew.

But here’s the big issue: almost 1 out of every 3 Americans own a single-cup coffee machine, meaning pods aren’t going away anytime soon. Luckily there is a healthier option–reusable pods.

Buying a reusable pod isn’t expensive (even a plastic-free one), and you’ll no longer be restricted to the variety packs of manufacturers. You can fill your pod with the best direct trade, organic coffee you can find. It will be a lot fresher than the single use pods, too.

Gold capsules on coffee background

4. You don’t need plastic baggies or plasticwrap.

For years I felt guilty about buying and using non-recyclable plasticwrap and baggies. But then I discovered other solutions. Seriously, I haven’t purchased plasticwrap for 4 years.

For one, try reusing the produce bags from the grocery store instead of buying plastic snack baggies. Ideally, you’d cut those produce bags out at some point, too, since they’re plastic, but for now we are taking baby steps.

For covering or storing food, in lieu of plasticwrap, try securing parchment paper with a rubber band or invest in sustainable and reusable wrap like Bee’s Wrap. They wraps are both reusable and way more environmentally sustainable.

People have existed for millennia without plasticwrap. We don’t need it now.

5. Watch out for your cotton swabs.

There are two types of cotton swabs: those with plastic handles and those with paper handles.

Neither can be recycled, so don’t even try. But believe it or not, cotton swabs with the cardboard handle can be composted, so opt for these if you have a compost bin. Even if you don’t compost, just stop buying the plastic ones.

If anyone discovers cotton swabs that use 100 percent recycled materials in their handles, let us know. Cotton swabs aren’t a very eco-friendly product, so use them only when necessary.

cotton bud on yellow background

6. Choose solid personal care products.

Think of all the personal products you buy that come in plastic containers.

Reduce that number by buying more dry items, like a bar of soap (rarely packed in plastic) instead of a liquid body wash. Or swap out your liquid laundry detergent in a plastic jug for a box of cardboard-clad powdered. Ladies, consider tampons without the plastic applicator or even a reusable menstrual cup.

While this doesn’t work for all products, you can cut out some of the wasteful plastic packaging in your bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room by being a bit more aware of what you’re consuming.

7. Ditch disposable razors.

Not only are disposable razors not ideal for shaving, they are also pretty wasteful in the plastic department.

In the US, 200 billion plastic razors end up in the trash every year. Even if the plastic handle isn’t necessarily disposable, the blades are loaded with plastic, and there is just no good way to recycle either when you’re done with them.

Do yourself a favor and invest in a metal safety razor. The handles range in price from $20 to $100+, but remember that it is a one-time purchase. It’s also a lot cheaper in the long run since the blades come in 100 packs for less than a Hamilton.

And of course, the shave is way better (for both men and women).

Pink generic razors on a blue background

8. B.Y.O.B. (bring your own bag)

And, of course, always bring your own shopping bag. Plastic shopping bags are one of the biggest pollutants, and they are really challenging to recycle in a facility. They are small enough to fit on your keychain nowadays, so no excuses.

These are all really easy lifestyle habits to change, and they pay off environmentally in a big, big way. How are you going to reduce you plastic consumption this month? Share your goals with the community below.     

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Images via Thinkstock.

211 comments

Cindy S
Cindy Smith2 months ago

thanks

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Sue H
Sue H2 months ago

Excellent reminders, thanks.

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Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer2 months ago

I do most of these but I did learn some new stuff. Thanks.

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Justin M
Justin M2 months ago

Thanks

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 months ago

Thanks

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Tara B
Tara B3 months ago

I already do all these things and more, but I still don't feel like it's enough. I want to avoid plastics - or at least single-use plastics - altogether, but living near a small town there are just not that many shopping options around here, and too many foods come wrapped in plastic when you buy them from a regular grocery store.

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Tara B
Tara B3 months ago

I already do all these things and more, but I still don't feel like it's enough. I want to avoid plastics - or at least single-use plastics - altogether, but living near a small town there are just not that many shopping options around here, and too many foods come wrapped in plastic when you buy them from a regular grocery store.

SEND
Stephanie s
Stephanie Y3 months ago

Thank you

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W. C
W. C3 months ago

Thank you.

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William C
William C3 months ago

Thanks.

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