Reduce your plastic footprint with these 43 tipps
Plastic is such a great invention when it comes to medical stuff… But how humans are using it now, exessive for single use packaging, cutlery, cups, for convenience and mostly unhealthy stuff is just not sane anymore.
Plastic is seeping silenlty into every aspect our lives and it is causing problems we just can’t ignore anymore: litter, pollution, health issues, harm to wildlife, environmental damage and is using up valuable non-renewable fossil fuels in the production.
-Did you know 99% of plastic is currently made of fossil fuels?
-And that in 2019 the production of plastic totaled around 36 million tons worldwide?
-Did you know that ince 1950 humans have produced more than 8 billion tons of plastic?
-And that only about 9% of all the plastic actually got recycled?
-And that an estimated amount of 4.8 to12.7 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year!
Plastic is harmful, but also easy and we are so used to it we don’t realize the amouns anymore. And once its in our lives, getting it back out again can be quite the challenge because if you look around, you might just see plastic everywhere.
But once aware we can start to make changes.
Plastic free living
When you think about ‘going plastic-free’ or ‘giving up plastic’ it might sounds quite overwhelming.
That’s because we haven’t broken it down into smaller pieces.
When talking about plastic free, it means more like unnessecary plastic free, single use plastic free, plastic reduced, low plastic…
‘Going plastic-free’ is also not achievable because even the fresh produce in the supermarket that is not wrapped has a plastic footprint along the process from the field to the supermarket. And your vegan cafe latte that you get in a reusable cup has a plastic footprint. But reducing your plastic footprint, your convenience plastic footprint that is possible and easy, buying loose apples rather than pre-packed apples, bringing your water bottle from home, refusing take away packaging by dining in, don’t seem quite so tricky.
So, we’ve put together a list of things that you can do to “Kick plastic in the butt and out of your life” aka “reduce your plastic use” .
These steps will help you get started on this journey to using less plastic.
Start with one thing that sounds easy for you, and then step by step go further…
43 ways to use less plastic
1) No more plastic wrap/ cling film
There are many great alternatives to single use cling film.
-flexible silicone lids
– rigid silicone lids
-wax wraps (DIY made with beeswax or soy wax)
-bowl cover with elastics
-or simply use a plate to cover a bowl
-reuse bigger glass jars for leftovers (empty pickle or jam jars)
Read more about Wax Wrap as zero waste alternative to plastic foil.
2) Reusable container to use less plastic
Look into your shelves. You migh have plenty of food container already. Jus decant any opened plastic packets or aluminum cans into these to store the food.
Use them for leftovers from dinner, at home or when out dining.
Use them for your homemade lunch to bring to work/shool.
Start with what you have, no need to buy a lot of extra container if you already have some. Even plastic container you already own, just make sure: there are no scratches in the plastic and that the food is cold before you fill the food into the plastic container.
If you need new container for food, buy stainless steel or glass. They are the safest materials for food.
If you know all the stores around town you might have noticed already where food is packaged heavily and where you can find unpackaged food. Maybe there are even bulk bins somewhere around.
Check all the stores around you and pick the ones that have the best options.
-> Check out our guide: How to do plastic free shopping in supermarkets.
3) Buy groceries unpackaged
This is not possible for all of us. Not every town has unpackaged options/bulk bins. But if you are lucky, use them. (Read about how to do Bulk-Shopping here.)
Maybe theres an online store selling dry foods in paper bags.
Or just choose unwrapped fresh produce and bread that doesn’t come in a plastic bag. A lot of bakeries will allow you to put the bread into your own reusable bag.
Remember, 100% plastic free is not possible, but every Item that comes without plastic is a step into the rigth direction.
4) Refuse plastic produce bags
If you can buy veggies and fruits unpackaged, you can either just put the big ones into the shopping cart “naked”. Don’t be afraid of dirt or anything, you will wash, peel or cook anyway before eating them.
For the smaller ones bring your reusable meshbags/produce bags.
If the store offers paper bags you can use them too, but remember to reuse them at least 3 times to reduce the carbon footprint of paper bags. They do have a bigger footprint than plastic bags if only get used once. I use paper bags as long as the last.
5) Refuse plastic shopping bags
Most of us normally plan when we are going for the weekly grocery shopping tour, so it shouldnt be a surprise to need reusable bags.
Always have your shopping bags prepared, close to the door, or in your car.
Or if you shop by car, have a box or something in your car.
I always have a light weigh reusable bag and a produce bag in my backpack/bag in case I do buy some food spontaneous.
6) Choose glass, metal and cardboard packaging over plastic
Take a look around. Some items will be packaged in glass, metal or cardboard/paper.
Oats, pasta, flour, sugar migh come in paper. Oil, peanutbutter, condiments in glass. Coffee grounds, nuts in metal container, etc.
If you can find items that have metal lids instead of plastic=one less plastic item.
7) Choose the smallest amount of plastic if you can't avoid it
In a lot of places plastic is very hard to avoid completely. So if you can not refuse it, at least avoid the overpackaged products, like tiny packs inside a bigger bag, avoid tiny sized snacks, tiny pots of yoghurt. Buy the bulk bags and then pack the amount you like to bring for lunch or your kid need to take to shool into your right sized reusable container.
8) If you can't avoid plastic choose recyclable plastic over non-recyclable plastic packaging
And no, I can not tell you what kind of plastic is easily recyclable. This is different from town to town and country to country.
Check with your local council/waste management to find out exactly what kind of plastic can or can not be recycled where you live. And then dispose the plastic into recycling bins or collect and drop it off at recycling points if you don’t have recycling bins.
Each plastic has a different number. You will see the number of the plastic on the packaging inside the three arrow triangle.
Plastic number 1 and 2 (PET and HDPE) is the most recycled plastics. They have the most value and are easiest to recycle.
If you choose recyclable plastic you will at least prevent the plastic going to landfill or incineration.
To Use less plastic in the kitchen
9) Replace plastic kitchen tools with plastic free alternatives
Again, don’t throw out all of your plastic tools and buy everything new straight away. But I suggest throwing out any tools for hot food (spatulas for the pan, etc.) because heat and plastic is not a great mix…. or if you have a scratched plastic cutboard, you might not want to use that anymore…
Anything else that just has a plastic handle – knifes, etc. can be used until they break and then replace them with a plastic free or reduced alternative.
You can find great second hand kitchen gear on second hand markets, thrift stores too.
10) Try to make it from scratch
Not everybody enjoys cooking and making food from scratch, but if you do, this is the perfect way to reduce your plastic footprint.
From hummus, cookies, plant milk, tacos, energy balls, bread, peanutbutter, vegan mayo, you will find recipes for almost everything online these days.
It`s fun, it´s less plastic packaging and also healthier because you can control what kind of ingredients you use.
You can find all our vegan recipes and food inspirations here.
Around the house
11) Reuse what you have
Throwing away all the plastic items you have just means more plastic trash on landfills or for incinerators. And thats something we actually want to avoid in the first place right?
So if you have plastic items not getting used for hot food, use them as long as they last.
Plastic food container can also get reused as laundry powder container, or to hold buttons, cosmetics, pens, or seeds for the garden.
Use less plastic on the go/travel
12) Reusable to go kit
You know best what you might need when out and about.
The most common items would be a set of cutlery, a cloth napkin, reusable water bottle, reusable coffee cup and if you are a straw drink person, say “no straw please” and bring a reusable straw.
If you know you’ll get some stuff from a bakery or street food. Bring a container for any kind of food or sticky baking goods or an extra napkin/cloth bag for nonsticky baking goods.
13) Allrounder: the reusable cup
A reusable cup is great for many things. Not only coffee.
You can use it for all kind of cold drinks. To carry some snacks.
I use it for some spontaneous bulk shopping (if I know the store can subtract the weigh of the cup).
I also used it for leftovers already, or if you have some fruit peel you need to bring home because you can’t find a compost bin.
14) Bring your own lunch to use less plastic
The easiest way to reufuse plastic (and unhealthy food) is to bring your own. Salads, Sandwiches, fruits, overnight oats, cookies, nuts, etc. Pack it into your reusable container, wrap it in a sandwich bag or wax wrap, bring a reusable bottle with water. If you travel a bit you can even bring a thermos bottle with coffee or tea.
15) Choose the take away option with less plastic
If you do need buy lunch anyhow and all of the options are packaged, look for the packaging that comes without plastic or the least amount of plastic.
You can also ask if they can put the food into your container, or dine in and if you really don’t have the time to stay, pack the food into your container and go.
16) Get used to refuse. Just say NO!
This is something you need to get used to say if you like to reduce plastic in your life.
Say “No Thank You” when it comes to small plastic sachets of sauce, plastic straws or stirrers. Pre wrapped culery sets or little packets of wasabi or soy sauce for sushi.
And any other unnecessary freebies people want to gve you as advertisement. We are so used to say yes to everything withouth thinking about if we really need something, and most of the freebies will end up in the trash bin unused anyway….
17) Buy used gear or rent
Look for used gear, second hand clothing or buy in local stores to avoid the plastic packaging you get when ordering online.
If you don’t plan to go camping regularly, or are kayaking only once a year try to rent or borrow gear.
18) Homemade food instead of sachet meals
19) Filter bottle to refuse plastic bottles
Get a filter bottle for your outdoor adventures or travels. With the right filter bottle you can drink from every fresh water source and can refuse heaps of single use plastic bottles this way.
Read more here: Best water filter bottle
Skin and hair care
20) Switch from bottles to bars
These days this is an very easy swap. Keep an eye open for solid soap and shampoo bars to avoid plastic bottles.
Not every shampoo bar is working for every kind of hair, but not every liquid shampoo is the right one for every type as well. So take your time to find the one that suits your hair best.
Learn more about a Zero Waste Hair Care.
Bars might seem a bit more expensive sometimes, but they actually last longer as liquid soap. Cut the bars in half or quarters and they will even last longer.
If theres no shop selling plastic free wrapped soap in your town, you can take a look online.
Try to avoid Soaps with palmoil. If there is palmoil inlcuded it should be sustainable, If this is the case it is visible on the packaging.
More tipps about a Zero Waste Bathroom.
21) Find refill options for liquid soap and shampoo
Zero Waste Stores have soap and shampoo refill options, and some other shops /brands already have this option too.
If you can not find any, and don’t want to switch to bars, find brands using recycled plastic for their bottles, and buy the biggest bottle.
22) Check cosmetics for micro beads
Sadly a lot of products do have synthetic/plastic micro beads inside. From soap, so suncreen, to peeling, toothpaste, etc.
So always check for the label “micro bead free”/Micro plastic free or check products with the Code Check App.
By buying organic products you can make sure theres no microplastic involved, and some products are so easy and cheap to make your own, you would be crazy to spend money for overprized brands 😉
23) No Poo for your hair
This might sound strange, but it actually works.
No Poo mean you are not using any shampoo or conditioner for your hair. Instead you can use rye flour, or bicarbonate and an apple cider vinegar mix as conditioner.
Read more about this method here: no poo method – rye flour as shampoo
24) Bamboo instead of plastic toothbrush
4 plastic toothbrush a year. Easily avoidable by swapping a plastic with a bamboo toothbrush. They now get sold in a lot of supermarkets already and sure heaps of them available online if you can’t find them in your local store.
If you use an electrical toothbrush look for a sustainable brand. I found this brand in Germany called Happy Brush, they use no plastic in their packaging, using 100% recyclable materials, using recycled plastic in their toothpaste tubes and use renewable materials for the brush heads.
25) Plastic free floss
Plastic free floss is made from silk. Conventional silk is not cruelty free so look out for organic peace silk floss*, nature silk where the silk worm stays alive.
Most of the other alternatives might not be 100% plastic free yet, so always ask the producer if there is plastic in the floss involved to make it sturdy enough.
But more and more brands are looking to make compostable non toxic floss so keep on looking.
You can always find plastic reduced floss if you look for floss that comes without plastic packaging.
26) Toothpaste, tablets, powder in glass jars
27) Reusable menstrual products
One of my first zero waste item was a reusable menstrual cup! And I can’t imagine to go back to tampons….
My sister is a huge fan of menstrual panties. And you can find menstrual pads too.
Try out what suits you best. You might even want to have both.
It migh feel expensive on firs sight, but a cup can last for up to 10 years and a pad or menstrual pantie 3-5 years!
Read more in my post here: Zero Waste period: Menstrual Cup
28) Laundry detergent
Switch from liquid to powder, and use organic/biodegradable one to make sure theres no microplastic (micro beads) involved.
Powder will be available in cardboard boxes.
If you do have a place where you can refill liquid laundry detergent go for it.
30) Dishwashing soap
You can use a bar of castila soap for dishwashing. Try to find a brand without palmoil or with sustainable plamoil.
If you want to stick to liquid, switch to organic brands using recycled plastic for their bottles or try and find refill stations.
31) Brushes and cloths
Even dishwashing brushes, sponges and cloths are made from plastic, and the sponges and cloths are easily shedding micro plastic fibers while you do the dishes.
You can also find brooms with natural bristels. I still remember that I found pink , red and green plastic broom bristles in Mexico at the beach….duh…
32) Second Hand
Buying second hand is a grea way to not only save money and find unique pieces but also to stop new plastic clothings being made.
If you don’t have a good thrift/second hand store nearby look online. There are heaps of second hand online platforms around. Also great to look for Outdoor Gear.
33) Plastic free fibers
Did you know that most clothes actually are made from plastic?
Most common: Polyester, Nylon, Rayon, Faux Leather, Spandex, Polyamide….etc.
If you need to replace clothing, try to look for natural materials first. Organic Cotton, Tencel, Hemp, Linnen, bamboo,..etc.
34) Wash less
Less washing, spot cleaning, Airing clothing outside, will make your clothing last longer.
35) Line dry
Even tumble drying your clothes will shed micro plastic fiber. And air drying will also benefit the lifespan of your clothing.
36) Use a Guppyfriend bag
37) Second Hand
Buying new items involve a lot of packaging. Buying second hand means no extra packaging plus keeping useful items in circulation.
From furniture to kitchen tools to bikes, you can find everything second hand.
Try online platforms, thrift stores, charity shops, garage sales, and flea markets.
38) Buy from local Stores
If possible always buy from local stores. Not only reduces it packaging but you will also support small local independent shops.
Buying online can be easy and sometimes necessary, but there might always be a lot of packaging (plastic peanuts, bubble wrap, other plastics…) involved. Try to find online stores using less or no plastic.
Some stores that sell online too may be happy to reuse packaging, so if you know stores in town shipping stuff, ask them if they like packaging stuff.
Before you buy something where you know you won’t use it every day, maybe it is something you can borrow from neighbours and friends. Some Cities even have tool libraries or private borrow platforms.
You can use libraries to get books and DVDs or boardgames and magazines.
When something breaks, try and see if you can repair it before you think about replacing it.
Maybe you can replace that broken part, some companies offer repairs, some stuff is easy to fix while watching a youtube manual, or theres maybe a local repair shop around. Sometimes you migh find a repair cafe or similar where you can go to repair your bike or other things, using the tools they have and you can get help from people who know how to do so.
41) Embrace what you have - don't get caught in endless consumption
Marketing and advertising is trying to get us to buy new clohing every season, to buy new phones everytime the new edition is out… But you know what? You are the one who decides when and how often you buy something. Don’t let them brainwash you.
Buy good products that may be a little pricier but last longer (a lot of stuff is actually made to break apart afer a while so we need to buy new.. crazy right?). Embrace wha you already have and take good care of it.
Buying less stuff is better for the environment and your wallet.
42) Minimize, declutter, simplify
One of the greatest lesson of low waste/plastic free living? You actually realize that you don’t need all the stuff you might have bought before. And this will make a change on your bank account too.
So think before you buy new or want to replace some items with plastic free alternatives: Do you really need it? Or can you just stop using it? Give yourself a month to think about if you need that particular item. If you still want and need it after a couple of weeks buy it. If you forget about it, you know you don’t need it;)
43) Do it because YOU want it and stay positive
Don`t let anyone make you feel bad because you like to make changes towards a plastic reduced life. You do this because you feel better like this. If friends or family find that weired, thats their opinion…You stick to your path!
And don’t let any mishaps discourage you. A hidden plastic wrap inside a box? Couldn’t find a plastic free alternative? Dining in, asking for “No Straw” but you get one? Don’t let this drag you down! We don’t live in a circular world, in a sustainable world. You do what you can, but don’t forget to have fun and stay positive.
Easy for me to say? No hell no… I still get mad if I get that plastic straw as a surprise, or buy something that looks plastic free but there is plastic hidden inside… I also sometimes lose hope when I see a beach after a storm when all that plastic shit gets washed onshore or if I see people leaving cigarette butts and coffee cups and plastic wrapper on the beach…
But as frustrating this is, all this also empowers me to do what I do. To reduce plastic in my daily life, to do what I can, because it feels so much better to live plastic reduced! Grocery shopping looks more beautiful and we actually eat more healthy.
And I still hope to plant a lot of seeds into heads by picking up trash, by bringing my own produce bags, saying no to plastic straws and no to plastic spoons for ice cream, by bringing my own cup, etc…. and some of these seeds might sprout in some heads some day.
-Check out these Tipps from Environmentalists on how to stay positive.