12 easy tips for your plastic free journey
I know it is hard to dive into a new habit. But with a few tips and tricks and trying on a regular basis it will get easier and easier. Like if I remember when I started running a few years ago. First: I didn’t wanted to go if it was raining, it was too early or too late… But when I put my running shoes and clothes straight in front of my bed so it was the first thing I saw in the morning, I just got up an went for a short run. And after a while it was like I missed this when I didn’t go.
Same thing with shopping plastic free. In the beginning I saw all the plastic that I didn’t wanted to buy anymore, and now I only see the plastic free version and I don’t miss any plastic packaged food anymore. (I know it is not easy and not always possible in every country/city to avoid plastic a 100%, but after all my travel I am certain a 90% is always possible.)
1) Find your inner driver!
First of all, take a few minutes and think about why you want to reduce or even refuse plastic in your future. Its important to know why you do something, or you will just follow this path for a few days and if it gets a little uncomfortable you will just get back to your old habit.
So make a little list and write on this list why you want to change your plastic consumption:
- You want to do something for the environment and wildlife?
- You want to buy better products (organic, or long lasting healthy clothing, want to support fair eco friendly brands)?
- You want to improve your and your families health?
- You want to break out of the brand marketing strategies?
- anything else you can think of that make you do this change…..
2) Avoid new plastic
After this you know why you want to reduce and refuse plastic in your life. So the second step is to avoid new plastic taking it’s way into your household. Check what you still have in your house (unscratched plastic container, shampoo, soap, plastic wrap, etc.)
You should not throw everything made of plastic away straight away. That would not solve a problem, but it would cause more trash and you would need to spend a lot of money for new things. Use your stuff until it breaks. Use it until it is empty.
But if it breaks, take a look if you can repair it or make sure to recycle it properly and then buy plastic free new things (you can get some inspirations here-> Eco friendly product recommendations.)
If you want to get rid of your plastic stuff straight away, try to sell it, give it to friends or social organizations, there will always be some people happy to take second hand stuff.
3) Avoid single use plastic.
- The top 4 offenders are straws, plastic bottles, plastic bags and take away coffee cups. And all these are just too easy to avoid.
- If you go out for a drink, say: No straw please! (If you like to drink out of a straw buy a reusable one, you can find some made of stainless steel, glass or bamboo.)
- Bring your reusable cup every day to take away coffee or cold drinks.
- Have your water bottle ready and in your bag/car every day!
- Take your jute bag or other reusable bags made of natural fiber if you go shopping.
- Refill your own water bottle, you find really nice ones made of glass or stainless steel. Sometimes they will have some plastic or silicone on them, thats not perfect, but you will use them for a long time, so its better than none.
- (find your zero waste basics here.)
4) Take away rescue kit.
If you know you are eating take away a lot or you are traveling, make sure to build your own reusable take away rescue bag.
In your daily bag you should have your reusable cutlery (you can find really small ones or a spoon and fork in one in camping stores e.g.), your cup, a reusable straw and a jute bag.
It’s not too heavy to carry around and helps you refuse a lot of single use plastic when traveling or eating out. I always carry my little handmade pouch with me, where I have a spoon, fork and stainless steel straw just in case…
5) Shopping bags.
If you go grocery shopping bring some small jute bags or nets for fruits and veggies and bread and all other stuff you buy (clothing, shoes, utensils). You do not need to put them in plastic bags.
If you just buy a few apples, onions or carrots you do not need a bag at all. And if you need bags, you can find reusable bags made of natural fiber in eco online shops or bulk stores.
If you have a sewing machine just make some yourself (e.g.use 100% cotton fabrics). Would be a great present for friends who want to make a change as well.
6) Bring your own container/jars
If you got used to avoid single use plastics and you want to do even more, take glass jars (reuse and hoard all the glass jars you can find, they look also really cool to store your rice, seeds, etc.) or steel container to buy your cheese, cream cheese, ham etc. from the fresh counter without plastic wrap.
Some people working behind the counter may look a bit confused or don’t really know how to handle this, in some stores it is not allowed because it is against their hygienic laws to take your container behind the counter, but then sometimes they can still fill it on the counter. If you try it the first time in a new store, it would be best to do so during a not too crowded part of the day so the staff can take their time, and you can explain everything (tare the weight of the glass first, etc). But it is not possible in many big chain supermarkets. It is way easier on markets and in smaller organic stores. Bulk bags are much easier…
You can find bulk stores or even Zero Waste Stores in many places where you can buy your nuts, rice, seeds without plastic but in your own bag, mostly you can also refill vinegar, oil, shampoo, washing soap, etc.
In some cities it might be a challenge at first, you need to find a store, maybe you need to drive a longer way, and you think it is not eco conscious to do that, but then you can buy in larger quantities so you do not have to drive there twice every week. Maybe you can bring large quantities and share (product and the price;) with friends/neighbors.
This is also a great opportunity to know your neighborhood better and make new friends.
7) Online shopping
Last but not least sometimes online shopping is more eco friendly than driving long ways to a supermarket. And yes, supermarkets get stuff delivered too and use a lot of energy, etc.
So try to compare and sometimes it is definitely more eco friendly to buy online. (more about that topic here->Greenindyblog.com) I just recently ordered some stuff plastic free from an online store here in Germany (mein-muesli-laden.de) where you can choose a plastic free delivery (for almost every product).
If you want to order stuff online, it is a great idea to check beforehand if they can send it plastic free, or at least plastic/packaging reduced. If not you can still choose to order somewhere else if you like to.
Also finding clothing and other stuff second hand is sometimes even easier online than heading to all the different op shops, second hand shops around you.
Or if you are looking for something special like I did because I needed a backpack. Easy online, plastic free packaging was no problem (I asked before I purchased) and so much cheaper (backpack price new: 110Euros, second hand in real good shape: 40Euros)
8) Cook fresh and try to buy as local as you can!
If you cook fresh and buy veggies without plastic wrap you will save a lot of plastic and cut a lot of unnecessary sugar, salt and flavor enhancers. You will feel healthier and fitter soon. Most recipes don’t take hours to cook.
Try to buy your stuff from local farmers as much as possible. I am honest, I don’t want to avoid all the yummy fruits from overseas the whole time, but I try to buy all the rest from close by. (For example: If you live in Germany, buy apples from Germany not from New Zealand.)
For some inspiration: I’m collecting some of my “plastic free recipes” I find and cook on my journey on my blog too.
9) Invite family and friends to join.
It’s always easier to stick to a goal if you have people around you being on the same path. If your family think you are crazy, please don’t give up, try to find new friends to join your challenge. I am pretty sure you will find people with the same interest or goal on Facebook or Instagram who would love to connect and support.
10) Rescue tips:
- If you forget your take away cup once in a while, just ask for a real cup and sit down for a few minutes to enjoy the coffee. Does it have to be take away all the time? Take the break as a little gift during these quick and stressful days.
- If you got an invitation for a party or BBQ and you know it will become a plastic trash party, don’t be like: I am not going there… If its a good friend try to talk and give some plastic free solutions, if its not a good friend just take your own cup and cutlery. They might look at you like you are a weirdo, but thats ok. They don’t know better. But you will feel much better if you stick to your choices than eat from plastic forks, I promise!
- If you forget your bags: Look out for paper bags in the mushroom or bakery section of a supermarket.
- If you can’t find something plastic free, try and buy the biggest container to avoid all the small bottles, wraps, bags, etc.
- If you like to cook, see if you can find a recipe for your favorite wrapped snacks. See if you can find the ingredients plastic free/reduced and make it from scratch.
11) Don’t go crazy!
Once you are aware about the plastic problem you will see it everywhere! And you know why? Because it IS EVERYWHERE!
Some days I don’t even know why I am doing this, because I see plastic everywhere I go. In shops and in nature. And then I remember: I feel so much better myself if I refuse and reduce, because I know I am not only complaining about the problem, I am taking action. And instantly I feel better. I do what I can, I try to inspire other people, and I know if I can reach more and more people to be aware and cut plastic consumption we can make a big difference in this world.
On those days google plastic free shops, google eco friendly clothing, or search Instagram. You will see, there are so many people out there trying to do something, being the change! Go search people in your hometown and connect. You can even organize some clean ups or plastic free BBQ´s together.
If you had to step back, if you where stuck in a situation where you needed to buy plastic stuff or couldn’t find any unwrapped things, don’t be mad about yourself, don’t beat yourself up. You can only do your best, just keep trying and stay motivated! Every single day you avoid as much plastics as you can is a successful day.
12) Be proud and Have fun
Every single day you are doing your best. You made a great choice to change your life and make a difference to save our planet.
So its not about being a 100% plastic free from day one. It’s every little step you take in the right direction that makes a difference. Just think about the tons of plastic you are NOT buying because you are reducing and refusing.
So be proud to be part of a worldwide growing community of people changing the world by doing the right choice. The Happy Choice.
Every new challenge in your life will be confusing and exciting and emotional and frustrating at the same time, but it will make you feel great! It’s a lot of fun checking out new stores and markets, to make new friends, to get out of your comfort zone, or to plan your holiday by looking for clean ups, or if you can join an organization somewhere.
Tell me about your journey so far! And if you do have different tipps and tricks to share with our Anti Plastic Warrior Friends go for it and share in the comments!!