use beeswax wraps to keep food fresh

11 Simple Steps To Take Towards Going Plastic-Free

By now, we all know that plastic harms the environment, and we should eliminate it from, or at least use as little as possible in, our everyday lives. Though our household is not fully plastic-free, we try to be as close to it as possible – considering we live in the US.

As part of our quest to live and travel sustainably as much as possible, we’ve been trying to eliminate or at least reduce our use of plastic products for years, replacing most with sustainable alternatives. The good news is, it is getting easier every year.

Plastic-free was the norm in certain parts of the world a few decades ago

I grew up in a plastic-free environment in Romania in the nineteen seventies and eighties, though “underdeveloped” by Western standards. Yet, we had the last wild places in Europe, the darkest woods, the fewest cars, the least plastic. During my childhood, I don’t remember using any plastic – and I’m not that old.

We carried our milk home in glass bottles, in the same cotton mesh market bag we used every day, for all our shopping needs. We drank water from a well or from our faucet if we lived in newer homes or apartments. From the well, we carried our water in metal buckets.

In the stores, the fruits and vegetables in our stores were loose; what we bought,bought, we carried in our own bags, the same cotton mesh ones we used for everything. Even the eggs were loose, we had to pack them ourselves – and had to be very careful with them. Sometimes we had small paper bags for them.

In the bookstores, when we bought a book, they sometimes wrapped them in paper – folded, like a present. I learned to wrap books and gifts without tape watching the bookstore clerks from my hometown.

To write, we used pens filled – and refillable – with ink, and had one for our complete school career; replaced it only if we lost it. We bought the ink for them in little glass bottles.

For our cleaning needs, we used cotton fabric ripped from old clothes, dipped in vinegar and water.

Instead of tissues wrapped in plastic, we used handmade fabric handkerchiefs.

Today, when I visit, I see plastic in Romania – but still not as much as in the US

Eventually, the plastic revolution made its way to Romania. However, since it happened so much later than in the Western world, it only had a few decades before humanity realized it’s not that great. So, it didn’t really have time to get a hold on society; the country didn’t become as dependent on plastic.

While now, when I visit, I see plastic containers, they still don’t offer single-use plastic bags in grocery stores. If you don’t bring a bag, you can buy one, which may be plastic – a more durable one – but at least it is reusable. And because plastic does not have such a hold on the society there, it should be easier to eliminate it.

Not so much in the most developed countries, especially in the US, where I live now. But even here, eliminating plastic, especially single-use plastic, is not impossible. The following are a few ways we are trying to eliminate plastic from our household, both at home and on the road.

1. Refuse Single-Use Plastic Bags When Shopping

My family has been doing this for years, and it makes us feel good when we see others do it, too. And over the years, we noticed more and more people do the same. I am sad that we still have to ask the cashiers not to bag things we buy because we have our own bags; at this point they should not even offer that single-use plastic bags. But if most people refuse them, they will eventually stop offering them.

And it is easy enough to bring your own reusable bag. I have been making them – for my family and friends, but you can also buy them. The upside is, you only buy them once, and reuse them for a very long time.

And when we forget – we still refuse the single-use plastic; we just carry out groceries or other things we buy to the car, without bags. After all, we can take them all in the cart, and when taking them out at home, we can take multiple trips to the car. Or, if it’s a lot, we put hem in bags at home, before taking them out of the car.

2. Choose Your Groceries Without Plastic Packaging When Possible

Buy your produce in bulk and bag them in your own reusable produce bags. You can buy them in many different places, or make your own if you sew, knit, or crochet.

For everything else, try to find the food items packed in boxes instead of plastic. Choose your eggs in sold in cardboard containers for example.

A few years ago my daughter was shopping with me and started pointing out the packaging of everything we were buying. As much as we tried, we still got some things in plastic. But watching the packaging, we were able to get most of our groceries either loose or in cardboard instead of plastic. As a bonus, while doing this, we also noticed that we ended up with the healthier choices.

3. Pack Your Own Food For The Road When Traveling

It’s both harder and easier to control your plastic usage when on the road. You can pack your own food in whatever container you choose. So, when you pack from home, bring it in reusable containers. Or wrap them in beeswax wraps. The beeswax wraps also have the added benefit of keeping things fresh for longer.

If you eat at a restaurant on the road, try to dine in and don’t take leftovers (they may pack them in plastic). Share a meal, to make sure you can finish it.

For takeout, choose a restaurant that uses eco-friendly products. Some pack your meals in cardboard boxes, and add bamboo utensils. Try to find those. They are, more often than not, the healthier choices, anyway.

4. Carry Your Own Utensils And A Reusable Container For Leftovers

If you can’t finish a meal at a restaurant, take your leftovers home in your own container.

For take-outs, use your own utensils. You can find travel utensils from several companies now, both stainless steel and bamboo. A few of these sets made great Christmas presents in our households. But you don’t need to buy anything new; just pack a set of your own when leaving home.

5. Always Carry Plastic-Free Reusable Water-Bottles

There is no reason at this time for anyone to buy water in single-use plastic bottles. You can find reusable water bottles in all shapes and sizes, some with built-in filters. And no matter where you go, you will find refill stations.

You not only help the planet by doing this, but your own health, too. If heated or frozen, the plastic from these bottles leaks into the water you are drinking. So, while it may be free of germs, you are drinking microscopic plastic particles. That can’t be good for your health in the long run.

My favorite water-bottles are the 4ocean Reusable Water Bottles. I bought them a few years ago, from a company that is committed to cleaning the ocean. I bought them because I wanted to show my support for a company that helps the environment.

However, these water bottles ended up being the favorite in our family, after about two years of using them. They keep our water cold all day, even during hikes in the scorching deserts of Arizona. The wide mouth makes it easy to add ice, and I prefer it to the more common spout design. Even after two years of almost daily use, my water doesn’t get the metallic aftertaste I experienced with other metal water bottles. It doesn’t leak, even if turned upside down, and it’s sturdy enough that I have no dents in it after dropping it on rocks in the desert. I also like the handle, making it easy to carry.

I am not affiliated with the company, I just like them and their products. The link is not an affiliate link.

But you’ll find many brands and sizes, so you might have a different favorite. Or, if you hike longer distances, you have a Camelback anyway, which is another great alternative. The main thing is though, don’t buy water in plastic bottles.

6. Bring your own reusable coffee cup when going out for coffee

Many coffee shops sell their own reusable coffee cups now, with different designs. Some offer free refills if using their cup in the long run. But you can also buy your own, and bring it with you, too. I’ve done this several times, and the coffee shop owners always appreciate it. They often comment on how they wish more people did it.

7. Buy your own reusable metal straw and carry it with you

Personally, I don’t use straws. I grew up without them, so I never really feel the need for them. However, I still have several metal straws for my family members to use. And, for our travels I also bought a few collapsible travel straws from 4Ocean, along with their full sustainability kit.

You can find them anywhere at this time. However, don’t overdue it. Just because they exist, we don’t need to buy hundreds of them.

8. Replace Your Shampoo And Conditioner With Bars

You can find shampoo, and conditioner bars now from several companies, and they are all good. Some are even healthier for your hair than the old alternatives. Just use them as shampoo. They may not lather as much, but clean your hair just as good, if not better. Besides eliminating another plastic bottle, most use fewer chemicals, so your hair will be healthier, too.

9. Replace Your Plastic Toothbrush With a Bamboo One

Besides being more environmentally friendly, I actually prefer bamboo toothbrushes. They may be a bit more expensive than some of the plastic ones, but worth it in the long run.

Bamboo ice much better for the environment because bamboo plants grow quickly, and they are fully biodegradable. And, after removing the bristles, you can use the bamboo handles in your compost pile if you have one.

Bamboo toothbrushes are not new. We are going back to the beginning with this one. They were one of the oldest types of toothbrushes. The earliest toothbrushes were made in China using bamboo for handles and boar’s hair for the bristles.

10. Replace your laundry detergent with laundry strips

I’ve been using EcoStrips for about two years now, and my clothes get just as clean as they did when I used liquid detergent that came in a plastic container. The strips come packed in small cardboard envelopes, and they are easy to rip for any size wash. They are convenient, easy to store, and take up much less space than the bulky plastic container did. And I feel good about my choice.

Now I noticed more companies make them; you can pick from several options. However, bottom line: they all clean your clothes, just as well as the liquid ones. And you don’t hurt the environment when washing your clothes.

11. Make Your Own Cleaning Products

You can make your all natural cleaning products, using a combination of baking soda and vinegar as a base. It works for most of your heavy cleaning needs. You can clean just about anything with some vinegar, lemon, and baking soda.

Besides being natural and better for the environment – and our own health – it is also much cheaper than the chemical alternatives. I haven’t had any other cleaning product int he house for years.

To make it even better I usually add some essential oils, including lavender, citrus, cinnamon, for their germ fighting properties and scent. I usually store them in reusable spray bottles, or glass jars.

Do You Have Other Ideas? Please Share Them

The ideas above are only a few of the ones I implemented for trying to go plastic-free over the years. Most of them are little steps, and I know we can do a lot more and better. I will admit, it’s hard to switch all at once, especially when we’ve been using unnecessary plastic products and packaging for years.

What are some of your ideas for switching to plastic-free living? Please share your suggestions in the comments.

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