6 Easy ways to reduce plastic use

Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about this plastic free kick everybody's on. I took a look around my house and I realized everything is plastic. There's literally plastic in every room, on every surface and in every drawer. It's almost impossible to avoid plastic.

I've heard the phrase plastic is forever a lot lately. The meaning of course is that plastic doesn't break down and it doesn't deteriorate. It is not biodegradable. Once plastic is created it never goes away and that's a sobering thought. I don't want to make a big impact on the environment however I don't know how to live a different way. This is just the way that things are now. 

living plastic free

Plastics make life convenient and are considered disposable so they are literally in everything. You touch plastics thousands of times a day from the moment you get out of bed and step into your slippers, which probably have plastic in the soles....till the last moment of your day when you brush your teeth at night. Think about this, your toothbrush will exist longer then you will even though it's only made to be in use for 3 months. 

That's scary.

I know I need to make some changes but I also know that the harder these changes are the less likely I'll stick to them. That's just human nature. So I've been trying to make changes in my plastic use without it being painful or a giant change in my life.

At the same time, I also don't want to be wasteful! I'm seeing so many people freaking out about BPA's and all the sudden dumping every bit of plastic in their kitchen and bragging about how they threw these big garbage bags full of plastic away. 

Well where do you think it's going now? It's going in the landfill and it's still not going to rot. It's still going to be there. Why not use it till it breaks and then find a better product when it's time?

I don't see myself throwing everything plastic away to have it just sit there in the landfill forever and then having to buy something else to replace it with. That seems just as wasteful! I've started to make changes that make a lot of sense to me because I need this to make sense if I'm going to stick to it.

Practical ways to reduce plastic use 

These are 6 of the changes I've made to reduce my plastic use over the last year. I haven't been perfect, but I have made progress and that part is important! 

Once you start making changes you will find yourself using different products and of course you'll miss your old products. It's not a failure if there's a product you can't give up or a switch that doesn't work for you. Keep trying new things and making small changes, and they really do all add up!


1) Skipping bottled water.

I've stopped buying bottled water to take with me when I leave the house. Instead of constantly buying cases of bottled water, I bought myself a stainless steel insulated water bottle last year.

This water bottle keeps ice water cold all day long. Which is great because many times in the past I grabbed a cold bottle of water when I leave the house and in 2 hours it's lukewarm and I end up buying another one, so at least this one keeps me from buying something to drink while I'm out. 

If I'm out and I have to buy something to drink I'm still kind of stuck. I know I could buy glass or cans and those are both recyclable. Unfortunately it takes much more energy to recycle something than it does to use a refillable bottle, so I'm still working on this one but I am making progress.

2) I've started refusing straws. 

This is kind of hard for me. I worked in restaurants for many years and I know how clean the dishes aren't after they go through a restaurant dishwasher. I also know that as a bartender, many times we've just wiped off the lip of a glass that came out with lipstick still on it. That's common practice actually. (I'm sorry to tell you if you didn't know that) 

Anyway, I've always had a problem putting my mouth on a glass in a restaurant because I don't really think they get that clean in the dishwasher so I always used straws. Unfortunately, straws are a one use item that goes straight to the landfill and they are there forever. It has pained me to not take the straws at restaurants, but I have been turning them down. 

I have this set of glass straws for home use, but I'm afraid if I carry them with me they might break.

3) Reusable produce bags

While we're talking about single use plastic, let's talk about produce bags. I've recently bought a set of reusable produce bags because I was grossing my husband out! Lol I stopped using those thin plastic bags that they supply for loose produce at the grocery store. I was putting fruits and vegetables in the cart directly. He was pretty disgusted by that so I ended up finding a set of bags on Amazon.

I'm sure they're made with some kind of synthetic fabric, but I will be able to use them for years because they are reusable and washable. They have drawstrings and they come in a set of 7 bags in 3 different sizes, so I can use them for any type of loose produce in the store. (plus they were only like, $6 and came with wash bags and a nut milk bag too)

4) Forgo the dental picks.

Another change I've made is I quit using plastic dental picks. That's something my husband is fanatical about, and he got me on a kick with those and I've been using at least two a day. That's a lot of plastic when you think about it. I switched back to good old fashioned dental floss without the plastic thing attached. 

I recall reading somewhere that regular floss was better for your teeth anyway, but normal floss definitely keeps me from putting plastic back into the environment everyday. I do understand that regular dental floss is still nylon, but I can't bring myself to put silk dental floss in my mouth.

5) Reusable grocery bags.

I've also started keeping reusable grocery bags in my truck. This actually started because I've been on an Aldi's kick for the last couple years but I've started carrying them into the regular store also. Yes some of these bags are made with plastic. I have many woven canvas bags that I like to use and now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever bought a reusable bag. They're given out at events all the time. There's no reason why you'll ever need to buy one of these. 

reduce plastic waste

I did have a company send me two reusable shopping bags last year and they are these cute little bags that fit in a tiny pouch by this company Echo Jeannie.  The bags are really big but they fold up into this tiny little attached pouch (see size comparison with my phone) and I keep them in my purse. 

These are great because if I'm out and I want to buy something unexpectedly, I can pull out my reusable bag instead of getting another plastic bag from the store. So these are nice to carry with me and I've been trying to do that as much as possible.

6) Skip the single use coffee pods.

I'm using my refillable kcup more often instead of buying new cups for my Keurig coffee maker. I tried for a while years ago but never found a coffee I liked in the right concentration, but I'm giving it another try! My grocery store has fresh coffee beans available which you grind yourself and they actually have paper bags instead of plastic. 

Pro tip: you'll want to get a set, not just 1 cup. The last thing you want to do is have to clean them out between use when you're tired or in your morning rush. Get a few then clean them out after the caffeine has kicked in! 

In my quest to use less plastic I've of course been reading a whole lot about what other people do and I've noticed a lot of them have switched to buying stuff in glass and then recycling. In a post I wrote about my burn cage I discussed how I don't have a recycling program where I live. I live in the middle of nowhere and there is absolutely not one recycling program anywhere out here.

The only semblance of a program we have is a paper retriever bin at the high school which is a 15 minutes drive from here. We also have a scrap metal place that will take soda cans beer cans etc., but it's about a half an hour away. There are some glass and plastic recycling companies in Pittsburgh but that's over an hour away and I don't know if they accept from other counties or not. 

We do have a plastic bag recycling bin at the local grocery store. Those are my only options. So I don't have the luxury of just buying something in glass instead of plastic and just recycling it. Plus, it takes an awful lot of energy and effort to recycle glass on a grand scale. It's much simpler to reuse it yourself. 

I'm still trying to figure it out though!

Some of the other changes I've been making... 

* Carrying my refillable coffee/tea mug with me. I'm very good at making tea to take with me, but if I'm already out and I do have it with me, I'm always too shy to ask to use it at to go places, and I really need to work on that. 

* Making better restaurant choices. A traditional sit-down restaurant uses much less plastic to serve the food than a fast food restaurant. Even many paper items in a fast-food restaurant are coated with plastic. It's not an option, your food comes packed in boxes that are plastic lined and the only utensils they have are plastic. 

The only way I can see around it is to choose to go to a restaurant where your food comes on a plate with a real fork and knife. Of course I probably should be cooking at home, but...baby steps!

Here is a picture of a meal I had in an airport recently. There are 7 pieces of single use plastic (not counting the forks plastic wrapper) 2 paper products (straw and napkin) and a wax lined paper cup. For 1 meal! 

Single use plastic from 1 food court meal

* Not buying new plastics. This is hard because so many items only come in plastic and many more only come packaged in plastic. I really can't see it being possible to live life without plastic completely though...even this computer is plastic! 

I have been making different purchases though, like a shampoo bar from Lush instead of a new bottle of shampoo.

I did remove some Plastics from my kitchen. I went through all my food storage plastics and removed anything that was damaged on the inside where the food touches. The kids had used them in the microwave at different times and they got cooked basically, so we shouldn't be using those for food anyway. I ended up matching them all up with their lids and putting them in the garage and we're using them for storage out there for now. 

I've also noticed that this is a real pick your battles situation! It seems like so many reusable items that are meant to replace disposable plastics, contain plastic themselves. This creates quite the conundrum when making changes. I'm pondering things like 'is 1 reusable nylon bag better for the environment then 100 disposable plastic bags?' or 'are glass straws really recyclable when they break?' (luckily I haven't broken mine yet!)

I'm not sure just how far I'm going to take this plastic reduction thing. I don't know if I'm going to eventually do a huge overhaul or if I'll just keep making small changes as I go. Stay tuned for updates!


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  1. It is amazing how much plastic is in our lives! I do try hard to limit my contribution but I'm like you - having a hard time with the straw thing! Thanks for sharing at The Blogger's Pit Stop! Roseann from www.thisautoimmunelife.com

  2. Totally correct - plastic seems to touch every aspect of our lives these days. I too have tried to cut down my usage, but , dang, plastic ziplock bags are soooo convenient!! I now wash and reuse these bags multiple times to cut down on how many I buy. I really dislike all the molded plastic cartons items are sold in. Not only are they hard to open most of the time, but such a waste of materials, used because people would otherwise stead product. There must be a better way. I have found that most things I order from Amazon are not in plastic cartons.

    1. Those molded plastic cartons have always been a pet peeve of mine! I order form Amazon a lot too and have noticed the same thing. If they can do it, anyone can...so hopefully these other companies will catch up!


  3. Some great ideas here ... a few I already do, but some I never really thought about. Thanks for your suggestions.

  4. Good info - keep it up and keep spreading the world. The environment worldwide is drowning in plastic.

    1. It really is! Such a sad situation, but hopefully we're changing that!