The various negative impacts that plastic has on our planet have started to get me down. So I have tried to start minimizing plastic use in my own life. I am by no means ‘plastic free’ and I still have a long ways to go, but I have taken some small baby steps which make me feel like I am on the right path. Below I describe a couple ways that I have been able to minimize my use of plastic, especially the ‘disposable’ kind.
The dreaded grocery bag. This is an easy one to cut out. I have started to use reusable tote bags instead. For fruit and veggies, rather than use the plastic bags they provide, I bring my own little fruit tote bags. They typically sell them at the front of the grocery store nearby the tote bags. One of the most difficult things about tote bags is remembering to take them with me to the grocery store. To solve this, I would just keep the tote bags in the trunk of my car rather than in my house. After I go grocery shopping, I just put the tote bags next to the door, or on my backpack, so I can remember to make sure I put the tote bags in my car.
Every once and a while though I forget my tote bags, or I get my meat put in plastic. Rather than just throw these away, I use the excess grocery bags as cat litter bags. Its not the best, but it beats buying cat litter bags and doubling my plastic consumption.
Food Storage Bags
One of the most prolific single use disposable plastics are food storage bags. These are another relatively easy one to replace. I invested in a variety of different types of tupperware and have bought significantly less food storage bags since. I have tupperware specifically for sandwiches, some for soups, some for butter, big ones, small ones, microwavable ones. Tupperware does take up a bit more space in the fridge, and you have to wash it, but just the money I have saved from not having to buy food storage bags has been financially worth it. Not to mention it is better for the planet. This Christmas I have also added some silicone reusable/washable food storage bags to my Christmas list. For those times when a tupperware just isn’t what I need.
I have a bad habit of picking at my teeth. A while ago I discovered the disposable single use flossers and they helped me channel my habit into something constructive. Rather than pick at my teeth with my fingers or other random sharp-ish objects, I could just floss them. It was much better for my teeth. Recently however, every time I dispose of one I feel a pang of sadness knowing it is just more plastic trash. So, I found an alternative. Now I buy wooden toothpicks from the grocery store. They are not as satisfying, but they alleviate my habit, and are still better for my teeth than random objects. The fact that I don’t feel as bad about using so many of them is a super huge plus, and the wooden toothpicks are cheaper.
Almost every woman knows just how much plastic is used every single period. There are some great alternatives to tampons and sanitary pads that can all but eliminate one’s period plastic usage and actually save money. One alternative is one of the many brands of period panties. Rather than using pads, you can just wear these special period panties and throw them in the washer to use for your next period. There are also other alternatives like menstrual cups, which are made of body safe materials and you can wash and re-use. Its a bit of an investment, but in 2-3 months mine has already paid for itself in terms of how much I have saved on tampons.
There are also a lot of smaller random things that I do to try and minimize my plastic usage. I never buy bottled water if I can help it. Instead have invested in several reusable/washable water bottles and a water filter. My work has disposable plastic silverware, but I always bring my own with my lunch that I can wash. I try to buy biodegradable trash bags for my smaller waste bins at home. I never get a straw at restaurants.
There are probably a myriad of additional things I could and should be doing to minimize my plastic footprint, but my lifestyle can only change so much all at once. Slowly bit by bit I am trying to adapt more plastic-free practices in my day to day life. It can still be difficult though. I tried buying bread in the paper bag rather than a plastic bag for example. And the bread went stale the next day. Since then I have had to revert back to plastic bagged bread. But I will not give up!