Train your brain on these simple swaps to make a BIG difference.
We all know about the global plastic problem, yet it is still in our every day lives. Sneaking into everything we eat, drink and buy. To most, going plastic-free seems strange, intimidating and completely impossible but it's something our planet needs us to do. Here's 5 ways to get started.
1. Think Before You Drink
The first step in cutting plastic from your life is to genuinely THINK. Think about what you spend your money on each week. Think about your daily routines. Think about how much careless packaging floats into your day on a regular basis, and what do you end up doing with it? Recycle? Landfill? Identify your normal sources, this will help you prepare for what strategies you need in order to avoid it.
The easiest go-to for cutting plastic is to make sure you always have a drink container handy. For most people this means a reusable water bottle, which everyone should definitely have. But what if you prefer soda or coffee? Maybe juice or Kombucha? Reusable (preferably steel) cups come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. Keep these handy at home, work and in your car for drinks on the go! Glass Jars also work great in a pinch!
We don't need to get a cup every time we get a drink. Use fountain drink dispensers instead of purchasing drinks, ask places if they mind letting you use your own cup (as long as it's an appropriate size most places don't mind at all!). Some places (like Starbucks) even give you a discount for bringing your own cup, so win, win! Oh, and don't forget to skip the straw.
PROS: Accessible, Reusable, Washable, Customizable, Easy to store, Sizes for all needs
CONS: Don't forget to wash them (it will happen, it's ok), Avoid plastic reusable cups (plastic is not the solution to plastic)
*Training Tip: If you forget your cup, skip the drink. It will definitely help you remember for next time
2. Linen is In
Don't judge me for this, but there is something sexy about using cloth bags. I'm serious! Strolling down the bulk section, selecting my grains, filling my cloth bags and tying them off into a simple knots. I just love it. It's rustic, it's cool, best of all it's plastic free.
I always buy bulk now but that wasn't always how I did things. I used to do what was "normal"at the grocery store, what I was taught to do. You know the drill, go to the supermarket every week or so, pick up a bag or two of what I need and be on my way. Quick. Easy. Painless...so I believed. It turns out the process for that package to get to me wasn't so quick, definitely not easy and the plastic sadly is not painless.
Cloth bags are AMAZING. Simple, stylish, washable and dynamic. They can come in any size you can imagine and are a perfect tool in cutting plastic from the planet. You can purchase cloth bags in almost any store now but I encourage you to LOVE your cloth bags. Choose some you really dig, then you'll enjoy using them even more (I swear, I have a pineapple print bag that I'm obsessed with). Another option is to make them personal. You can hand craft them from old pillowcases, sheets or even t-shirts if your feeling thrifty! Deck them out with your favorite pins or tags for even more personal touch.
PROS: Cute, Accessible, Reusable, Washable, Customizable, Cheap, easy to store in your bag or car
CONS: Occasionally hard to remember (use paper if this happens)
*Training Tip: Keep bags of all sizes in your car. Also, if you forget a bag only let yourself buy what you can carry that trip. It only took me two times of that to remember my bags. Use paper if this isn't an option, then compost, reuse or recycle them.
3. Bulk, Bulk Baby
Buying bulk is a beautiful thing. It's also a cheaper thing (with exceptions). Now I only have to shop for rice, quinoa, lentils, flour, sugars, spices, dried fruit, nuts, seeds every few months (or less) and have significantly cut my grocery costs!
Simply weigh your bags so you know their weight and this can be taken out of the total cost (referred to as the Tare weight, mine are .05g). Most stores have electronic scales now so you can do this before you shop or ask a cashier to weigh them on your way in. I wrote my weights on the bag so it's always there. You can also just make a note in your phone and record your bag weights.
You’re still getting your favorite products just without all the additional waste. As I fill my bags I typically jot down the bulk item number on my grocery list or just snap a picture of the label (this part can also be written on a note in your phone). The cashiers need the item numbers at check out so this makes the process go quick and smooth. Doing this also helps you avoid plastic stickers or unnecessary labels at the weighing stations. If you forget your own bags, simply grab some paper coffee ground bags or paper bags at the check out stations to get your bulk needs.
This process isn't quite as fast as the grab and go fix from the aisles but it's a process that protects our planet and pushes you to think about your purchases more mindfully. After all, caring for my health and the health of the planet are long term, mindful investments. Since I only have to make this trip every couple of months for these supplies, I end up saving time as well.
PROS: Cheaper (with exceptions), Long lasting, Packaging (landfill) free!
CONS: Slower pace, Requires thought (not a con?)
*Training Tip: This works best if you make a. list of all the items you need and how much. This will help you keep prices down and getting what you need. After a few times you'll have it down to a science. Also shoot for deals, this will also help with costs.
4. Glass is my Favorite
My favorite plastic-free feature in my kitchen are my jars. I have a shelf that is lined with various sizes of glass jars, filled with assortments of all my dry goods. The colors and textures from this vibrant shelf bring life to my kitchen and a sense of tradition and wholesomeness. So once I've stocked up on my bulk goodies (typically at Richards, Whole Foods or Lucky's Market) I head home to stock my jars.
The jars change based on what I use and then buy, but they are always beautiful and always useful. I love having an array of grains and seeds available to mix into any meal. Plus I purchased most of my jars from thrift stores for super cheap or reused glass jars from products like salsas and sauces. If you're going to buy things pre-made, shoot for things in glass that you can reuse.
PROS: Cheap, Looks amazing, Pushes you to eat healthy, Waste-free, Lasts forever
CONS: Having the right size jar for your need can be a challenge at first (I prefer bigger jars). Also sucks when they break, so be mindful.
*Training Tip: Use large jars for things you use a lot. I eat grains A LOT and LOVE coffee, so I have several really big jars for those. Everything else I keep in a variety of sizes, based on how much I use the item. You can also buy/make sleeves for your jars so you can store soups or hot beverages on the go.
5. Always Hungry
If you are the kind of human that can't go without constantly eating throughout your day (like me) you have to come prepared in order to avoid plastic trash. Fast food is the NUMBER ONE source of single-use plastic waste in our daily lives. The convenience is killing our environment and definitely not good for our health. So, there are a couples ways to avoid this issue WITHOUT going hungry.
PACK FOOD. Packing a meal, particularly your lunch at work, is a top notch way of avoiding plastic waste. Meal prepping one day a week can make a big difference for your bank account, health and planet. Prepping snacks that you like can really make a difference in avoiding individually wrapped foods.
BE PICKY. Don't settle for junk, hold out for options that won't bog you down with plastic. If you weren't able to pack food but need a meal on the go, try to find options that come with little to no packaging. Typically in the produce, deli and baking sections you can find some options. Swing into a grocery store or market and get food from the deli wrapped in paper, fruit or bulk snacks in a paper bag. Some hot food bars and salad bars use cardboard packaging, but most use plastic unfortunately. You can also request no bag, box or additional things and just take your food wrapped up to minimize waste. Just be sure to ask them when you order so they don’t beat you to it!
BRING YOUR OWN CONTAINER. It might feel weird, but say it with me...bring your own container. The more you think about it. The more you talk to yourself about it. The more you do it, the less weird it becomes, I promise. Ladies, this is an easy one because there are a number of small to-go meal containers available that can fit in a purse. Gentlemen, if you do not use a bag you must be the bold, the brave, the sustainable. This isn't ideal for most people BUT if you and your friend are going out to dinner from your place, then going home after dinner- why can't you just bring a container for leftovers? You can even leave it in the car and grab it if needed.
PROS: You get creative with snacks/meals, you’ll eat cleaner, it will immensely boost your health, you are making a BIG difference on our planet with your choices.
CONS: Don't beat yourself up if you cave now and then, just focus on progressing forward with your conscious decisions. Plant-based and compostable packaging is a great option that isn't being utilized by most corporations. Voice your opinion and advocacy for compostable containers and compost systems, post about places that are doing it right.
*Training Tip: JUST TRY IT! Your body and planet will thank you!