10 Additional Tips for Living With Less Plastic

CC BY 2.0. samilee02

It's an ongoing challenge to limit the role of plastic in your life. Here are some additional ideas for how to do it.

Limiting the role of plastic in your life is a good goal to have. It will reduce exposure to the many toxins in plastic that pose a risk to human health, such as bisphenol A, styrene, lead, and phthalates, and you will have less plastic waste to send to landfill or recycling. As a follow-up to last week’s post on how to live with less plastic, here are some additional tips. Please share any of your own ideas in the comments below.

1. Stop buying juice, soda, and other beverages that come in plastic bottles

In some places it’s possible to buy soda in individual-sized reusable glass bottles that are returned for a refund. Go for that option whenever possible. Beth Terry of My Plastic-Free Life suggests getting a soda maker for use at home whenever you get a fizzy craving; the machine itself is plastic, but the carafes are glass and will replace hundreds of disposable bottles.

As for juice, buy it in concentrate form, which comes in a cardboard tube with metal ends and is much cheaper. Better yet, you could eat fresh fruit instead and eliminate all that additional sugar from your diet.

2. Stop chewing gum

Gum is essentially the same as chewing on plastic. Ever since World War II, food scientists have stopped using natural rubber in chewing gum and replaced with synthetic rubber, which is also known as polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate. These substances are considered toxic and are known to cause tumor growth in lab rats, but due to industry pressure, have not been banned.

Think, too, about where old chewing gum ends up when you’re done with it. It doesn’t biodegrade.

3. Use glass or metal in the freezer

You don’t need plastic in order to use the freezer. Glass jars work well if you fill only 2/3 of the way and avoid any thermal shock. Jars are good for stock, tomato sauce, coconut milk, etc. The only problem is you have to plan ahead and let them thaw slowly. Stainless steel is another great option. I’ve purchased some excellent sealable containers from Life Without Plastic that work very well in the freezer. An old-fashioned metal ice-cube tray is good, too. Buy meat wrapped in butcher paper.

One cheater solution I occasionally use is to buy or pick fruits and vegetables in bulk, and then freeze them in old plastic bags that I reuse until they reach end of life. It’s not the best option, but it works in a pinch.

4. Say NO to plastic straws! Use reusable straws if you must.

Straws are a terrible offender when it comes to plastic waste. Heather Itzla of the blog There Is No Away writes that 500 million plastic straws are thrown away daily in the United States – enough to fill 127 school buses every day.

If you can’t kick the straw habit entirely, then buy some reusable ones (glass, stainless steel, or paper) and keep them in your bag, car, and home. Some companies making good reusable straws are: Aardvark (paper), Simply Straws (borosilicate glass), Mulled Mind (stainless steel).

5. Eat an ice cream cone

Avoid the Styrofoam cups and plastic spoons that come with individual servings, as well as plastic-lined tubs from the store. Choose a cone instead, since edible is the ultimate form of green packaging! Or get an ice cream maker for use at home. It will be better-quality ice cream, anyways. In the same vein, get a stainless steel popsicle mold for your kids, instead of a plastic one.

6. Make your own yogurt

Yogurt is really quite easy to make; you can buy a yogurt maker (the actual machine is plastic, but the cups are glass and indefinitely reusable), or learn how to do it in a large Mason jar.

7. Use your compost bin

By composting all organic scraps, you can cut down considerably on the amount of garbage that you put out for collection each week. By separating it from regular household garbage, the latter will be drier, which limits the need for heavy plastic garbage bags. You’ll also have rich soil in the composter, instead of buying potting soil in plastic bags for houseplants and gardens.

Margaret recently wrote about how to compost even in a small urban apartment.

8. Use bar soap instead of liquid

Bar soap is cheap, often package-free, and just as effective as liquid soap. I like the bars made by The Soap Works in Toronto, and buy them loose at my local health food store.

9. Choose toilet paper that’s not wrapped in plastic

You can buy toilet paper in bulk at office supply stores like Staples. It comes in large cardboard boxes, without the thin plastic bag. You’ll have a lot on hand, but buying in bulk is always a good idea to reduce packaging.

10. Use reusable menstrual products

On average, a woman will use up to 16,800 disposable menstrual products over the course of her life. Reusable options are just as good, although they take some getting used to and a bit of extra maintenance. Check out companies such as LunaPads, GladRags, and Sckoon.