16 More Tips for Living Without Plastic

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Plastic-free living requires careful and conscientious consumer choices. Here are more ideas to help you along the journey.

1. Burn beeswax or other natural candles to scent your home, instead of air fresheners. Just make sure to avoid palm oil in the ingredient list.

2. Choose kids’ toys carefully, opting for wood, fabric, paper, and rubber as much as possible. Buy recycled paper coloring books, wooden paintbrushes with natural fibers, pencil crayons and wax crayons instead of markers, and natural rubber erasers. Purchase items that come in cardboard.

3. Buy an aluminum or bamboo toothbrush. Keep your teeth clean and go green with sustainable brushing.

4. Don’t use a plastic lighter to start a flame. Invest in a refillable metal either such as Zippo, use matches, or—if you’re camping—buy a magnesium block with flint.

5. Use paper tape instead of Scotch tape when packaging items. Wrap in recycled paper or newspaper, or learn the beautiful Japanese art of furoshiki for wrapping presents.

6. Avoid synthetic clothes, as these garments release vast amounts of plastic microfibres into wash water over the course of their lives, much of which is not filtered out. Opt for natural fabrics made of cotton, linen, hemp, jute, bamboo, and wool.

7. Buy loose-leaf tea in a reusable container and steep it in a metal strainer. Did you know that many disposable tea bags contain plastic? It’s a completely pointless use of plastic when a zero-waste alternative is just as easy.

8. When at home, use newspaper to pick your dog’s waste and toss into the trash. Alternatively, you can use toilet paper and flush it down the toilet. Or shovel into a specially dedicated dog compost pile. Learn more about how to do it here.

9. Choose alcoholic beverages wisely. Buy wine bottles that come with cork stoppers instead of synthetic ones, since cork is fully biodegradable. Buy beer in returnable glass bottles, not aluminum cans.

10. Line your garbage bins with homemade newspaper bags, so that you’re not tempted to accept plastic bags at the grocery store in order to reuse for this purpose.

11. Stop buying plastic water filtration cartridges. While companies like Brita are trying to recycle them, it’s likely your municipal water supply is perfectly safe to drink from the tap.

12. Have a vasectomy, if you’re male and are absolutely certain you don’t want children. It will enable you to avoid the plastic waste that goes along with other forms of contraception. Some condoms are made of polyurethane plastic, as are certain wrappers. Even latex condoms are not 100 percent latex; they contain non-biodegradable plastic substances that help make them stronger, thinner, and more comfortable.

13. Avoid buying new CDs and DVDs. This is obviously getting rarer, as more media is available online, but plastic discs are still widely sold. Learn how to recycle the stash you probably have at home but never listen to. Check out the CD Recycling Center of America.

14. Buy high-quality reusable grocery bags. I know this has been said many times on TreeHugger, but I wanted to mention the Zero Waste shopping kit made by Stitchology. The kit comes with 9 handmade organic cotton produce bags (three in each size), 2 totes, and 1 washable crayon. The tare weight is conveniently stamped on the side.

15. Seek second-hand items in order to cut down on packaging waste. There is so much excess stuff floating around our world that surely you can find whatever you need, avoiding the cardboard, bubble wrap, rigid plastic packaging, etc. that unfortunately accompanies most purchases.

16. If you must buy something that comes with packaging, return it to the store or mail back to the manufacturer, if possible. This puts the onus on them to figure out what to do with it, and while it may end up in the trash for now, imagine the effect if the majority of customers did this. Companies would be forced to figure out a better alternative.