New York Times said it best when they said that as a marketing term, the words “plastic-free” are the new “No carbs.” It’s a hot topic, especially in our environmentally conscious corner of the country here in the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes well-intentioned people can get so passionate and extreme about cutting plastic out of our life altogether that we feel turned off or even defensive. This is not the goal of our article! We want to feel motivated, inspired, and encouraged to make the changes we can and not worry about what we can't!
So here’s what we know about Plastic: It's gross.
When recycled, plastic is broken down into microplastics that are smaller than dust particles and are absorbed by every creature from plankton to whales to birds to even humans. 94% of the tap water in the U.S. contains plastic. Yuck!
Less than 1/5 of the plastic globally gets recycled and less than 10% of the plastic in the USA! Nearly 9 million tons is deposited into the ocean annually. In 30 years, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
Obviously, the stats are horrifying, and we could go on with hundreds more. Most of us don’t need convincing that plastic is terrible. But old habits die hard, and without even thinking about it, we could be contributing to the problem. However, we aren’t here to guilt anyone and this isn’t a competition. In this post, we want to give practical, attainable steps we all can take to move towards a plastic-free home.
The key to success is to start small. Don’t feel overwhelmed by how many changes you have to make, or you will never begin. So choose one or two things on this list that you think is doable for your family, and then when you’ve adjusted to those changes, add more in later! Phase plastic items out of your home one at a time and replace them with eco-friendly, sustainable options. In the end, you can feel better about doing your part to reduce waste, and as an added bonus, you may also be surprised how economical it is in the long run.
Beeswax Wrap is the new Saran wrap.
Beeswax wrap is fabric that has been coated in beeswax and can be used to cover containers and wrap food for storage just like plastic wrap, but instead of being single use, you can wash it with warm water and dry it in order to use again and again and again. It’s reusable, compostable, biodegradable, and as a bonus, you can choose really cute patterns to look at! If you are feeling ambitious and super industrious, you could follow a DIY tutorial and even make your own with recycled linens or clothing! More and more grocery stores are carrying them and there are numerous small shops you can buy them from via Etsy or Amazon.
2. Phase-out your Ziplocks.
Replace your plastic baggies with freezer and dishwasher safe, food-grade silicone, resealable bags that you can wash & use over and over again. Personally, we love Stasher bags, and although a bit of an initial investment, you really only need a couple in each size and you can buy them one at time as you slowly phase out of your plastic sandwich baggie collection.
3. Ditch the plastic straws.
Plastic straws are only used for a few minutes but are extremely hard to recycle. Five hundred million disposable straws are used and discarded DAILY in the US alone. It’s such an easy thing to phase out of our lives and replace it with reusable glass or metal straws! They have a better mouth feel and are wider than a plastic straw, meaning that smoothie can be enjoyed even easier. Glass straws have a slight advantage over metal ones in our opinion, because you can see inside for easier cleaning.
4. Shop from local bakeries or farmer's markets.
This may not seem as obvious, but by doing this, you can avoid the plastic packaging involved in mass production for the supermarkets. We aren’t saying to boycott your local grocery store, but most good bakeries sell you fresh loaves in brown paper bags. We can’t say enough good things about the advantages to shopping at your local farmers market, but when you buy local food, it hasn’t had to travel halfway around the world to reach you, thus cutting down on your carbon footprint. You can avoid packaging altogether if you put the produce straight into your reusable bags.
5. Store pantry items in glass jars.
Slowly phase out pantry items stored in plastic containers by replacing them with glass. You do not have to pay a fortune to do this at The Container Store (although if that’s your thing, don’t let us stop you). Just keep sauce, condiment, and pickle jars when they are empty and reuse them! Label them, and then start to buy those items from bulk bins. This is so much more efficient and cheaper in the long run and if you have exposed or open shelving in your kitchen can be a gorgeous way to display your pantry essentials!
6. Quit drinking bottled water.
It’s 2019, and glass water bottles are in style. Or if you’re afraid you’ll drop it and break it (not that we’re speaking from experience or anything), get a Hydroflask! They keep your water colder longer anyway, it won’t break when you inevitably drop it, and we love supporting a PNW made product when we can. If you drink bottled water for the taste because tap water freaks you out, get a purifier that attaches to your kitchen faucet— it pays for itself rapidly when you are no longer buying plastic water bottles!
7. Toss your toothbrush.
In the US alone, an estimated billion toothbrushes are discarded annually. This is equal to 50 million pounds of waste. For such a simple thing like a toothbrush! Obviously electric toothbrushes are a great option, but if you aren’t ready to spring for a Sonicare at this time, try just simply swapping that Costco pack of toothbrushes for a biodegradable bamboo version, or if you want to take it a step further, a wooden brush that is completely compostable after use.
8. Composting isn’t just for hippies anymore.
I’m sure we don’t have to mention all the ways composting is beneficial for the environment and economy, but it is also a great way to cut down on your household waste. In the Seattle area, I’m sure we are all too aware of how big those yard debris cans are in comparison to the itty bitty trash cans the city provides. When you compost and recycle properly, you would be amazed at how little is actually left that is truly garbage. Less garbage = less plastic garbage bags. If you don’t even want to mess with buying the biodegradable bags for your under the sink compost bin, you can even find these stylish countertop bins that have stainless steel inserts.
9. Make your own cleaning products and put them in glass spray bottles.
This is so much more fun than you’d think with wins all around. Less chemicals in your house, and making your own cleaning products is so much cheaper! Most bathroom, window, countertop, car, furniture cleaner and even hand sanitizer can be made with combinations of pantry staples such as vinegar, baking soda, olive oil, witch hazel, essential oils, and water. There are infinite DIY recipes on Pinterest should you care to take a gander. The glass bottles are a one and done initial investment but you only have to buy them once and now your cleaning supplies are pretty enough to display and non-toxic, too.
10. Choose conscious options when shopping online.
It would be hypocritical to include links to products on Amazon in this article without addressing how much plastic and waste is involved when we have products delivered to our door. But let’s be honest—where would we be without online shopping or the ease of Amazon Prime in our lives? Many people don’t know that Amazon has Certified Frustration-Free Packaging available that is designed to reduce waste by being 100% recyclable and comes without excess packaging materials or plastic clamshells. The product inside is the same and everything is included that would be in the original manufacturer’s product, it’s just in sustainable packaging that is “right-sized” and has been tested to reduce damages in transit.