If you’ve followed our guides to zero waste, which are simple ideas to get you thinking about reducing unnecessary plastics in your home environment, you’re doing really well! But you’ll likely still have plastics in your trash can every day, like I do. These are the toughest steps we take to get beyond our fear of being judged and push through the next level of plastic-free(dom) and even closer to zero waste:
1) Figure out what your biggest plastic vice is and find a plastic-free alternative. One of my family’s weaknesses is Amy’s frozen organic burritos. My children love them and they’re easy to heat up for school lunches. But we also love to eat burritos and enchiladas for dinner from delicious dried black beans that we slow cook and then assemble the burritos and enchiladas from scratch. Solution? Make an extra-large batch of burritos on burrito night and save them for school lunches. You can even freeze quite a few so you have your very own Amy’s-style yummies to keep the earthlings happy at school.
If your vice is raw bars or granola bars and snack bars, find a baker near you who makes them and order them plastic-free. On Bainbridge Island, Rebecca makes Rawbecca Bars that are better than anything I’ve ever purchased in a store. She’ll make them for you in bulk, in many flavors, and totally plastic-free. We’ve ordered them in bulk to take on our expeditions in the Himalayas because they last over a month. Our local bakery also makes some unbelievably tasty peanut butter raw bars that I can order up waste-free.
We love crackers but can’t find our favorite varieties without plastic packaging. And our homemade crackers are better than any bought in a store. So, once in a while, we’ll make our own to help reduce our impact. And we’ll make enough for 2-3 days. They go fast.
2) Stop buying plastic containers and come to love glass. I love glass containers of all sizes and can’t find anything that I can’t store in them.
3) Buy your cheese plastic-free. This might take some hutzpa on your part, but if you talk sweetly to your deli counter people, they’ll likely let you buy their bulk (often gourmet) cheese without any of their packaging. Just bring your own container and act confidently when you ask if they can just put their cheese it it. Smile, say “cheese.” Then, at home, store it in a beautiful glass cheese container. It stays fresher longer and looks delicious in there.
We store our cheese in a large glass container, like our friends in France do. © Liesl Clark
4) Same goes for meat and fish. Buy it fresh, bring your own container, and store in glass.
5) Just say “no” to plastic clamshells. Clamshells? These are the polystyrene boxes that hold fresh berries and cherry tomatoes. Yes, it might mean you’ll have to say goodbye to these delicious food items until they’re in season and you can get them at your local farmer’s market. Refusing them sends a message to your grocer that you just won’t buy produce in that packaging. Better yet, take a letter to your grocery store’s customer service department and let them know that you, and a whole lot of other people in our community, are refusing to buy fresh produce in clamshells.
6) Say “no” to plastic mesh produce baskets (see above.) And use our letter to your grocer to do some good.
7) Flowers don’t need to be wrapped in plastic for the journey home. First let your florist know you’ll carry them home sans plastic in your bag or basket, or your own two hands like you do at the farmer’s market or from your garden to your table.
8) Try a less plastic toothbrush. It’ll make you feel good. Some are so plastic-free they can be used as kindling when you’re done with them.
9) Switch to homemade powder toothpaste. I’m still perfecting our recipe, but it’s basically baking soda, a few drops of stevia and a few drops of organic peppermint extract. The kids like it and we’ve reduced our toothpaste tube waste significantly.
10) Exert your buying power by choosing products that are entirely plastic-free. You’ll thank yourself later when your wood/metal/rubber/glass item is still functioning years later. I can attest to this for useful household items I’ve bought like pencil sharpeners, colanders, cheese graters (ones with plastic handles break), rakes, rubber spatulas (that’s why they call them rubber and the wooden handles are nicer to hold), soup ladles, straws (glass ones have a lifetime guarantee). My list could go on and on. I’ve never regretted purchasing a sometimes more expensive plastic-free item.
What are the toughest steps that you’ve taken to reduce the persistent plastics that you can’t seem to eradicate from your bin? Please let us know in the comments below so we can all try to come up with solutions together to help you reduce them.