Who Needs Plastic? Tips on Living a Low-Plastic Life

The environmental hazards caused by plastic are well documented by this point; check out our blog post on single-use plastic if you need a refresher. The distressing truth is that plastic is accumulating in oceans at a rapid rate, to the point that by 2050, there will be more plastic by weight than fish, according to estimates. What that means for marine life is dire: Consumption of plastic can result in an animal’s slow, painful death, and the effects are even more harmful because of the toxins that can be absorbed by plastic particles.

We could throw a ton of facts and figures at you about marine life and plastics, but photographs are often so much more immediate. Look at this black-footed albatross chick, this sea turtle, this sea otter pup, or this whale who started vomiting up pieces of plastic before dying. He had 80 plastic bags in his stomach.

Humans consume fish that have ingested plastics with toxins, which could be transferring toxins to people. Here’s another fun fact about plastic and food: A recent study found that participants who had dined out the day before had higher urine levels of phthalates, chemicals added to plastics to make them more flexible. Studies have linked phthalates—which can get into food during processing—to preterm birth, fertility problems, and behavioral issues in kids.

Though we prefer to be optimists, it’s hard to see a silver lining when it comes to plastic overuse.

Campaigns like recent anti‒plastic straw movements are admirable pushes in the right direction. There are other ways to reduce our consumption of plastic, too. Truly, every bit helps. Here are some ways you can make a difference.

Step 1: Take Stock

How much plastic do you consume? The answer may shock you. Take a quick walk around your home, and assess how much plastic is in each room. Do you have plastic wrap, plastic bags, and foods that were packaged in plastic in your kitchen? Does your bathroom have a medley of shampoos, conditioners, makeup, and toiletries in plastic containers? If you’re like most of us, the answer to any of the above is probably yes. Plastic is pretty inescapable, as walking down any given aisle at any given store will show you.

Step 2: Get Proactive with Products

Reducing your plastic intake doesn’t actually have to involve many sacrifices. There are plenty of options for a simple switchover.

Instead of plastic bags … Bring reusable bags to the grocery store. Companies including Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe’s, and Lowe’s Foods offer discounts for shoppers who BYOB: Bring your own bags.

Instead of plastic sandwich bags and containers for food storage … Try products that use silicone, which is a safer alternative to plastic, as well as a natural resource. We are fans of Stasher storage bags, and we especially love the Stasher Plastic-Free Pledge, which includes the following:

  • “I will not purchase single-use plastic bags and containers.”
  • “I will reuse garbage liner bags as many times as possible.”
  • “I will make conscious decisions in everything I consume: reducing first, reusing wherever possible and recycling when necessary.”

Please join us in signing the pledge!

Instead of disposable water bottles … Use reusable bottles and tumblers, like Healthy Human’s Stein Water Bottle and Cruise Tumbler, which are made from 100% premium food-grade 18/8 stainless steel. The Cruise Tumbler comes with a complimentary stainless steel straw, which brings us to the next one….

Ditch plastic straws for … reusable stainless steel straws! Do your part to contribute to the no-plastic-straw movement, alongside everyone from Kim Kardashian to the Queen of England.

Instead of cycling through toiletries in plastic containers … Body wash can be replaced by good old-fashioned bar soap. Some facial cleansers are available in bar form too, like CeraVe’s hydrating cleanser bar. Shampoos and conditioners are also available in bars. Ethique is an especially fantastic eco-friendly company that sells a wide range of hair, face, and body products. As of May 2018, the Ethique had prevented more than 150,000 plastic bottles from being made and discarded.

Another way to reduce plastic waste is to refill containers at stores that provide bulk options. Zero Waste Home has a fantastic location finder for stores with bulk options. Bulk refills extend beyond bathroom products like shampoos; even cleaning products like dish detergent may be refillable.

Instead of toilet paper rolls that come wrapped in plastic … Buy TP from Who Gives a Crap, which makes TP without inks, dyes, and—most awesomely—even trees in addition to donating 50% of proceeds to help improve sanitation and build toilets in the developing world.

Instead of deodorant and toothpaste in plastic containers … Consider making your own! Morgan Hannah Pettersson wrote for Mind Body Green about taking her dedication to going plastic-free to the next level, making her own toothpaste and deodorant.

Two great resources for living the plastic-reduced life are MyPlasticFreeLife.com and LifeWithoutPlastic.com.

Step 3: Know That You’re Part of a Kickass Low-Plastic Community

As you reduce your plastic use, you may hit a few bumps in the road. One is the temptation to go with the easy, plasticky option at the grocery store. Another is the possibility that others may think you’re going overboard with your commitment to living low-plastic. But know that you aren’t alone in that commitment. Amazing women like Lindsay Miles and Erin Rhoads are setting such a high (stainless steel) bar for us to live up to. Erin’s blog has great tips on living an eco-friendly life (as does her book Waste Not: Make a Big Difference By Throwing Away Less) and Lindsay’s site likewise has so many valuable resources.

As Lindsay writes, “It can feel isolating, to go against what everyone else seems to want to do. The world can feel like such a huge place, and it’s easy to feel small and insignificant. Sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle. But you know what? You’re not alone. We’re all in this together.” We’ll cheers—with our reusable water bottles—to that!