20+ Ways to Reduce Single Use Plastic (Recycling isn’t the Answer)

As recycling plastic becomes more and more difficult, as consumers, we need to figure out how to reduce the amount of plastic that comes into our homes. Take some of these ideas to heart!

Originally published in May 2015; this post has been updated.

cloth banner against a blue sky background.

Recycling Isn’t the Answer

Plastic is made of oil. The United States uses 12 million barrels of oil each year to manufacture plastic bags. And that’s just plastic bags!

We hear how dependent we are on foreign oil for our vehicles, but imagine how much of this oil we’re using to manufacture plastic. The plastic manufacturing process releases toxins into the air (the plastics industry is responsible for 14% of these toxic emissions).

Once manufactured, all of those plastic containers must be transported to factories that will fill them with shampoo or ketchup or itty-bitty scoops of coffee, then they’re transported again to the grocery store where consumers like you and me buy it.

After spending their allotted time with you, those plastic containers that you recycle are picked up by waste management workers in their big, polluting truck. From waste management, that plastic has to be bundled up and shipped to a manufacturer to process. Once again we have toxic emissions and the cycle starts over again.

For me, that used to mean it was shipped on a barge either to the Pacific Northwest or Southeast Asia, but guess what? Our local recycling center has stopped taking plastic entirely. Plastic is not easy to recycle

People are upset about this, but I’m seeing it as an opportunity to change habits. If it’s not easy to toss the single-use plastic salad container in the recycle bin — guilt free! — maybe humans will think twice about choosing that option.

plastic waste piled up

Recycling Single Use Plastic is not the Answer!


I understand that plastic is here to stay. And there are some great innovations in our world thanks to plastic. (Bike helmets come to mind.) But the idea of disposable, single use plastic is just wrong-headed. Think about it: These products are made specifically to be discarded. In what realm does this make sense??

Check out these statistics, courtesy of the movie Bag It:

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  • We add 800 pounds of packaging (packaging!) per person, per year to the waste stream.
  • One million plastic cups are used on airlines every five minutes.
  • Americans spend twelve billion dollars on bottled water every year. Water! Something that you can get out of your tap for almost free. That doesn’t come in disposable, BPA tainted plastic.
  • Two million plastic bottles are consumed in the U.S. every five minutes; less than 25% are recycled.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, only nine percent of the total plastic waste was recovered for recycling in 2012. Let me say it again: Recycling is not the answer. And don’t tell me that it’s okay because you re-use the containers.

I hear that little story inside my own head, too, and I’m here to call us both out: Enough! Enough with the red party cups and plastic bags and picnic cutlery. Enough with the plastic bottles and yogurt containers and disposable razors.

Sure, you should reuse the plastic containers you already have. But we need so stop bringing them into our homes in the first place. Enough! No more excuses. Only change. Ready? ::fist bump::

Be sure to check out all of these cool zero waste options at Etsy, too!

woman choosing peaches from a large pile

Let’s Write a Different Story

Recycling plastic containers should be a last resort. Instead of using that as an excuse that we’re doing the right thing, we need to recognize that this is a broken system.

We’ve been sold on the idea that we need water in plastic bottles. That our fruits and vegetables must be wrapped in plastic. That Lunchables and individually wrapped cookies are are a mom’s best friend. Recycling plastic makes it okay, we’re told.

We need to rewrite this story and reduce plastic waste!

20+ Ways to Reduce Single Use Plastic 

The first step in changing this plastic mess we’re in is the hardest. (Ain’t that always the way?)

We need to get in the habit of saying no.

Look at the products in your shopping cart; not just the product but at the packaging as well. Are you comfortable with the level of plastic and packaging? No? Then refuse to bring it into your home. Refuse that plastic shopping bag. Refuse the drinking straw that restaurants automatically bring. Stop bringing this unnecessary waste into your home.

Is Zero-Waste Attainable?

Are you likely to ever reach the zero waste level? Maybe not. But every little effort helps. There are dozens and dozens of ways to reduce the amount of plastic that comes through your household, your life. Is there one item that you can pinpoint that would be an easy habit to break?

Another big step we can make is to recognize the term “single use.” We’ve been conditioned to think that using something once then disposing of it is normal. Identify where single use plastic is creeping into your life and reduce what you bring home. Is it plastic shopping bags? Plastic bottles? Packaging? Once you recognize this, you can start to take steps to eliminate these items.

This video is eye-opening, watch it then scroll down for ways you can help.

1. Change your to-go habit.

Is a take out salad in a plastic container your daily lunch? Get in the habit of making a big salad a couple times a week and bringing it to work in a reusable container. Need a pick-me-up coffee every afternoon? Skip the disposable cup and bring your own. Just say no to drinking straws and plastic forks. (I carry a chopstick set in my purse so I can easily forgo disposable plastic utensils.)

3 glass jars of homemade mustard - DIY to reduce single use plastic waste

2. Make your own condiments.

Instead of bringing mayonnaise and mustard and relish home in plastic bottles and jars, learn to make your own. Same goes for salad dressings. Will you still be buying some ingredients in plastic? Probably. But it will be far fewer containers than if you were buying individual condiments.

3. Single use plastic has no place in coffee brewing.

For the love of all that is holy, if you are a rabid Keurig coffee fan (and I know there are lots of you!) go get a refillable K-cup. And while regular coffee filters are paper (not plastic) you can just as easily replace yours with a reusable version that will probably last your lifetime.

4. Stop buying individually wrapped snacks.

Seriously. From cookies to carrots, it seems like everything is available in pre-packaged portions these days, all wrapped in plastic. Take ten minutes at the beginning of the week and prepare your own snacks to fill reusable containers. You can even make your own Jello cups!

5. Find a butcher shop.

Instead of purchasing meat at the grocery store—where Styrofoam and plastic packaging abounds—make the effort to find a butcher shop. Many still wrap meat in butcher paper. Even if they don’t do it as the norm anymore, they’ll probably be willing to do so if you ask.

6. Change the way you store food.

Instead of using plastic containers to store leftovers, recycle glass jars for that purpose (or use canning jars). Just say no to plastic wrap and zipper top bags. Instead, try these beeswax wraps and reusable sandwich bags. And learn to freeze meals without the use of plastic containers. (Yes, it’s possible!)

diy beeswax wrap with celery, more beeswax wraps alongside - - to reduce single use plastic waste

7. Make it a clean cut.

If you’re still buying disposable razors, stop! Invest in a razor that allows you to replace just the blade. Try an old fashioned safety razor or a newer version with blade refills. Either way, you’ll be tossing less plastic.

8. Shop without single use plastic.

While many states now have a plastic bag ban encouraging shoppers to bring their own bags to tote groceries home, the little plastic produce bags are still in use. Instead of using those, skip a bag altogether or make some of your own drawstring produce bags. Or whip up some of these small cloth bags for purchasing bulk spices.

green cloth bags tied with ribbons.

9. Choose boxes instead of bottles.

Choose powdered laundry and dishwasher detergent that comes in boxes rather than the liquid that comes in plastic bottles. This is an easy switch to make to reduce your plastic use. Better yet, have a go at making your own non-toxic cleaning supplies.

10. Buy in bulk.

Instead of buying plastic packaged rice, granola, dry beans, or flour, pick these ingredients up in bulk and store them in reusable containers.

11. Take it to go.

If you’re heading out to eat and anticipate having leftovers, bring along a container of your own. Yes, you might feel like your grandma showing up with your own containers. But isn’t that better than the Styrofoam option?

12. Say no to plastic-bottled drinks.

Bottled water is quite possibly the biggest scam ever. Sure, there are a few instances that might warrant bottled water, but mostly? It’s tragic. Get yourself a couple of travel bottles and get in the habit of bringing them with you. Recycling plastic bottles is not the answer. If the idea of breaking your soda habit hurts your heart, invest in a soda stream. Yes, there’s some plastic, but it’s a whole lot less than a daily soda habit will generate.

pink homemade popsicles

13. Cool off without the single use plastic.

You know how kids love popsicles? Especially those fake bright colored plastic tubes that start out liquid and freeze into summertime treats? These reusable silicone popsicle molds will let you replicate that experience and reduce plastic. If you’re committed to not using silicone, stainless steel popsicle molds will do the trick. These popsicle recipes not only taste good, but nourish, too.

14. Ditch the dairy.

Well, not really. But in my household, dairy products like sour cream, yogurt, and cottage cheese—that come in plastic tubs—are our biggest sticking point. Short of getting a cow, what can we do? While I’ve successfully learned how to make my own yogurt, ricotta cheese, and sour cream, it does require buying milk. I have a cow share so I usually have a gallon of fresh milk to work with each week, but until she calves again, we’re back to buying milk when we need want it.

15. Ship green.

Instead of choosing bubble wrap lined padded envelopes, opt for something like this that utilizes recycled newsprint as the padding. (Sadly, you won’t find anything like this at the post office.) Ditto for packing a box to ship. Unless what you’re shipping is really fragile, you should be able to get away with recycling newspaper as your padding. There’s even paper tape that can be used as an alternative to plastic packing tape.

16. Switch to cloth diapers.

I know, this is a hard one for lots of you. Maybe a compromise: Use cloth diapers when you’re home, and disposables only when you’re out and about. There are some great diaper wraps that make it easier than the old-fashioned diaper pins. That will reduce your diaper waste a little bit. If you’re really feeling like reducing plastic use by limiting diaper waste, look into elimination communication.

17. Green your picnic.

If you must use disposable plates—say at a picnic or outdoor party—choose plates that can be composted and then offer a place for guests to dispose of compostable items.

18. Give up gum.

Believe it or not, chewing gum is made of synthetic rubber and a plastic called polyvinyl acetate. Don’t want to give it up? Check out these options for cleaner chewing gum.

19. Skip the single use plastic liner.

While you’ll probably want a trash bag liner for some of your trash—the wet, gross stuff that can’t be composted—other items can be placed directly into your trash container. Same with recyclables.

No need to package them up in a plastic bag. Adopting this idea reduces the plastic you use on a weekly basis. And think about the irony here: You’re buying these plastic bags for the sole purpose of throwing them away. Try lining your trash cans with newspaper instead.

20. Be festive and skip single use plastic decor.

Who doesn’t love party decorations? But instead of using balloons, plastic streamers, and plastic tablecloths, get in it for the long haul. Banners like these can be used year after year.

Invest in (or make!) several color schemes and matching tablecloths, and you’ll never have to buy party decorations again. (I love these, too — what a fabulous way to salvage damaged or stained doilies!)

21. Buy secondhand.

There are a multitude of reasons to opt for secondhand shopping, and reducing your plastic use is just one. New items come wrapped in plastic or packed in Styrofoam. Even new clothes come with those little plastic price tag danglers and plastic stickers.

Along with this goes the “be patient” mantra. There are some things that you might decide you need right away—maybe they’ll reduce your plastic consumption drastically—but others that can be added to a “watch for” list. Keep that handy in your wallet and scan it while on your thrifting adventures.

22. Be vocal. 

Let the manufacturer of your favorite food or other item know that you’d appreciate if they switched away from plastic packaging. Ask the purveyors at the farmers market to stop bagging fresh produce in plastic. Speak to the management at the grocery store and let them know you’d be more likely to buy produce if it was packaged differently. If we continue to support the use of plastic with our pocketbook, the use of plastic will continue.

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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. Read more about Kris and how she got started with this site here. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

84 comments… add one
  • crazyliblady Jan 22, 2022 @ 20:04

    I find that some of these tips just do not work where I live. For example, one tip says that you should not line your trash can with a plastic bag but newspaper. My trash pickup company requires that all items be packaged in a plastic bag. That company is the only decent trash pickup provider in my area.

  • Holly Whiteside Oct 14, 2021 @ 2:41

    hi Kris,
    Thank you so much for writing this post this way. I found it very helpful! While my household generates little trash now and less in recyclables, the journey continues! I will be using your link to try to make sour cream, and I have been making yogurt. I’m making sandwich bread, too, but still having trouble getting my d.h. to use it for his pack lunches, so we are getting some bread in bags (I’m not… HE is… LOL) I’m also planning on switching my cat litter to a compostable system (completely separate from my regular compost and not to be used on the garden! Somewhat like a latrine.) The cat litter is the biggest portion of our trash at the moment. Broken things with metal we take to a scrap yard… I highly recommend that. OH! You did not mention plastic clothes! I try avoiding the plastic, but when I can’t and the clothes can’t be worn longer, I take them to a rag merchant (GoodWill is doing this) or use them to make braided rugs or throw rugs.
    I hope you are still responding to these replies because I have a couple of questions, too.
    Isn’t butcher paper now commonly plastic-coated on one side?

    And, I live in sort of a “bulk desert,” where it is an hour to get to a bulk store in any direction. I can’t quite bring myself to justifying carbon emissions just to pick up dry beans, rice, etc. Have you any additional suggestions? Why aren’t companies selling these things in paper yet? Or cellulose bags? Or are there companies doing this yet but I just don’t know them?

    Thank you!

  • Sharon E Oct 13, 2021 @ 1:04

    I’ve switched to bar soap instead of liquid, but other then buying very large bottles, I can’t find a good replacement or recipe for shampoo. And what about baby powder… I’ve only found it in packaged in plastic.
    Anyone out there have some ideas

  • Anna Oct 21, 2020 @ 6:47

    I can’t recommend elimination communication enough. Both my kids were exclusively pooping on their potties by or before 3 months of age, and done with peeing around 1yo. If water (or time/yuckiness) is an issue, it might be better to look into a cloth diapering service – which gives you all the ease of disposable (as you literally just dump the dirty diaper in a pail and put the bag out on your porch once a week, for pickup and a hospital-sanitized fresh load), without the incredible plastic waste. These services use special water conserving washing machines and will give you the cleanest load. You can give expectant moms a gift certificate for one of these services (along with reusable breast pads) etc.

    It’s also already been mentioned but for those who menstruate: look up reusable alternatives! (cups all the way!!)

  • Beth Jul 8, 2020 @ 7:34

    Always good to read some tips. I’ve been working on reducing plastic in my house for some years now and there are still more steps we can take. I’m noticing right now in the summer of 2020 that it’s a painful step backwards at my food coop where I buy bulk items that we are not allowed to bring in containers from outside due to COVID-19. Many bulk items are pre-packaged by staff in plastic bags. We can’t even bring in containers for soap so when we run out of laundry & dish detergent we’ll be buying something packaged instead of refilling a container. I may ask staff if they can please source a compostable packaging option, not as good as reusable, but much better than yet another plastic bag. At a time when we need to improve our resiliency, wrapping even more things in disposable plastic feels wrong. I think we could use safe practices AND come up with more sustainable packaging.

  • Reet Feb 3, 2020 @ 23:59

    I’ve been taking my own utensils to use at work since I was 19, I’m now 60 & I have one set in my bag & I keep another at work. Even at my place of work, any time we have a function we don’t use ANY plastic, everyone brings their own plate & utensils (company does provide these as well) but I have bought my own. At home I use lock’n’lock storage containers, both the plastic & glass ones, & they are freezer & dishwasher safe. We are doing the best we can, unfortunately our Australian govt still has its head in the sand as they keep saying that until the larger industrial countries (China, India etc) get in on the act, we can’t make a difference, I beg to differ but not many people agree with me. Thank you for an excellent post.

    • Kris Bordessa Feb 6, 2020 @ 7:24

      Love it!

  • Skie Jan 23, 2020 @ 2:37

    As for elimination communication, can I recommend godiaperfree.com? Really great resource that makes it EASY!!! I did that with my fourth baby, and once you try it it’s amazing how simple it is.

  • Caroline Mar 6, 2019 @ 15:39

    All good reminders. I’ve been working at this for my whole life, it seems. And yet plastic is insidious!

    I’ve been buying ziplock and trash liner bags made from 100% potato starch. They work really well, and I even use the ziplocks over and over. The same company — If You Care — has unbleached FSC certified coffee filters, non-plastic household gloves, sponge cloths, reusable paper towels, recycled aluminum foil, and more.

    Here is a link to their web site:


    Let’s keep at this, growing more conscious of how we buy, use, and recycle what we consume.

  • Chuck Meyer Feb 28, 2018 @ 9:13

    WOW !! You’ve given me a lot to think about and taken me to a new level of awareness. I will implement these suggestions and work on HOW I can personally plan ahead and be creative enough to minimize, to eventually eliminating my use of any plastic.

  • Casey Pastine Feb 28, 2018 @ 0:19

    I have ditched the dairy except butter which comes in boxes. I reuse my laundry plastic containers. I have cloth bags for shopping. I compost, even though I live in an apartment. I cut meat down to just one piece a day even though I don’t get it in paper. I do buy pop in liter plastic bottles. I want to quit pop, but that shit is more addictive than alcohol. I dumpster dive. I shop used. I walk and take public transport. I didn’t have children, so I don’t and haven’t caused a lot of problems that way. I make my own dressings. I get my rice and beans from the government, so what can we do to make them not use plastic? They don’t seem interested in being practical. many neighborhoods are making dumpster diving illegal. How can we get these shitheads to donate instead of waste? I used to get enough dumpster stuff to make 100-200 dollars aweek selling it at the flea market, so they don’t just throw out a little. I used to see trucks and other vehicles collecting from these same dumpsters every weekend, so it wasn’t just me making money from them and their throwaways.

  • Bethany Feb 18, 2018 @ 4:58

    This is helpful. It also reminded me of some other things I’ve been meaning to try. I’ve really got to find all my cloth grocery bags again. They keep getting scattered. And I really want to start reusing those ziplocs I use in the freezer. (We stock up when meat goes on sale, and nothing I know of staves off freezer burn like plastic. If you know a trick, please let me know!)

    On the cloth diapering note, it is motivating to think about the money saved. Even accounting for laundry costs and buying the prefolds, covers, snappis, wipes, etc. – we calculated that we have saved $1,800 in our son’s first year alone. And that’s based on Luvs diapers and walmart wipes. You can also reuse them with subsequent children and save even more. And really, truly, I don’t feel like it’s that much more work.

    • Holly Whiteside Oct 14, 2021 @ 3:06

      Hi Bethany. When I divide up meat I’ve been first wrapping it in wax paper, labeling it/closing it with masking tape, freezing it, and then once frozen, putting it in a reusable silicone pouch like Stashers which keep the burn off. Wrapping it and freezing it first helps keep the juices from soaking into the reusable silicone bags. It’s not a perfect solution, because the wax paper is then not reusable, but it is better than what we were doing before. My husband also sometimes buys cereal in boxes that have plastic liners. I save and clean these, and then reuse them in the freezer. They hold up a very long time.

  • Anita Goodson Jan 31, 2018 @ 8:06

    Kroger stores in my neighborhood recently started selling Glass Containers to take the place of plastic containers used for leftovers. Still have a hard plastic lid, but I’m assuming they will last YEARS longer than the plastic ones, and if I happen to lose the lid, I still have a perfectly usable glass container to use in the microwave,etc. or even to store craft items in etc. They can go from refrigerator, to microwave to freezer to oven. Only restriction is they are not made to use in an oven over 450 degrees. Just a thought for anyone trying to get away from plastic.

  • Stig M. Sep 21, 2017 @ 7:02

    Recycling plastic might not be the answer – reduce, reuse, recycle is still the prioritised order – but it is an answer, because keeping plastic out of nature is extremely important, and I would like to include landfills among the areas where plastic should not be welcome.

  • Stef Ferraton Sep 18, 2017 @ 21:10

    There’s a lot of good common sense behind your recommendations and I would subscribe to most of them. Reducing the amount of 1-way disposable plastic products is definitely a priority. Consumers and manufacturers should stop considering that plastic products are systematically cheap and can therefore be disregarded as soon as no longer in use or broken.
    I however fully disagree with the recycling bit: because there is so much of it around, recycling should remain a top priority. Why? Because plastic is based on oil and oil is running out, because in many applications plastic remains the best possible material, and finally because plastic waste is too good a raw material to be buried in landfills ( a PET bottle takes in excess of 500 years to fully decay) or incinerated (releasing small particles and dioxins in the process despite incinerator filters). We must continue recycling and all the while encourage the industry through the way we consume to apply plastic material to long lasting quality products.

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 14, 2017 @ 8:26

      My recommendation NOT to recycle plastic is a bit tongue in cheek. Of course we should — but better we stop *creating plastic to recycle in the first place, no?

      • Holly Whiteside Oct 14, 2021 @ 3:27

        Recycling is a very complex thing. I urge people to learn more about the ins and outs of it and get involved. Some points about it, 1) If there isn’t a buyer, even if it gets picked up for recycling it will STILL go to a landfill. This happens more often than we realize. Virgin plastic is often cheaper for manufacturers than recycled plastic, and prices fluctuate. 2) Also, single-stream recycling is both convenient, cost effective, and also a problem. Many states are no longer recycling glass because of their system being single-stream, as has happened recently in my county.

        We have to remember that money drives most trends in business and many things in our society, and this brings me to the belief that the real responsibility is not solely on governments or business but is primarily on us. If we don’t BUY it, they won’t MAKE it. As long as they have buyers, they will continue to make Keurig cups and those dental floss harps. We need to start convincing others to also lower their waste and to refuse to buy certain things when there are better alternatives. If we can’t convince them for environmental reasons, we can often convince them by the money they will save by refusing single-use products. I try to gently convince one or two people a month. I’ve taken recycling containers over to people, and because I’m gentle, they are not offended and try it. I’ve given reusable things as gifts. I started, many decades ago, because of a little old lady who told me we have to think of the future, and who would look in my waste basket and chastise me. She is long gone now, but thank you Ruth! You were a dear and a visionary.

  • Christina Jun 18, 2017 @ 8:29

    You are my kind of person. I am going to glass and taking my own cup and spoon. No plastic in my life

    • Kris Bordessa Jun 29, 2017 @ 16:47

      I’m trying!

  • Tammie Mar 23, 2017 @ 13:59

    lol did you actually mean RABID coffee fan? Just checking

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 27, 2017 @ 8:30

      Isn’t that what it says? Or are you unfamiliar with Keurigs?

  • Carolyn Jan 10, 2017 @ 7:56

    My husband loves soda, but we always buy it in the cardboard boxes with a bunch of aluminum cans. All those parts are recyclable so we’ve stuck with that (plus it is a pretty cheap way to buy soda). The waste on the Soda Stream seemed worse to me.

    We’ve been getting glass bottled milk. There are still milk men some places. We get ours at a Dutch Country Market but I’ve also seen them at Whole Foods.

    For trash bag liners I use diaper pail liners. I have two and I switch between them and wash the one not being used.

  • Milja Jan 8, 2017 @ 7:32

    Even harder than packaging: polyester and other synthetic fibers in clothing. For example when you need something windproof, there’s not much choice given.

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 9, 2017 @ 15:41

      Clothing is TOUGH. Even choosing cotton can be problematic, not because of plastic, but because most cotton is transgenically engineered.

      • Holly Whiteside Oct 14, 2021 @ 4:34

        Not just that. Cotton uses an unusual amount of water, and water is a precious resource. I’m also very concerned that cotton still commonly uses slave labor, and often child labor. It still takes a lot of labor to pick and process cotton, and just because it is “organic” doesn’t mean it isn’t using slave labor.

        Not all man-made cloth fiber is plastic. Many manmade “polymers” are made from things like birch, cotton waste, bamboo, pineapple, and other natural materials that are biodegradable. The trick is knowing how many chemicals they use in processing it and if it is a big polluter because of the processing chemicals. The industry has been very actively reducing the impact of these inventions. Tencel, Lyocel, modal, viscose, and others are often seen as sustainable fibers. I would recommend checking about every five years (and checking multiple sources as they don’t always agree with each other) as to what is considered sustainable and biodegradable fiber, but the important thing to remember is just because it isn’t “natural” doesn’t mean it is producing waste, and just because it IS natural, doesn’t mean it is automatically not wasteful. Biodegradable manmade fibers are often made from industrial wastes, so that is an additional advantage to sustainability.

  • Barbara Bolton Jan 7, 2017 @ 7:48

    What moved me along, though I have a ways to go…toilet paper wrap….ha, use to line waste basket….so what moved me started with food products and BPA in can liners and other endocrine disrupters…so thank you for giving me more reasons to look in the shopping cart. Buying a CSA share also helped me a lot in not using plastic produce bags, habits can change.

    • Carolyn Jan 10, 2017 @ 7:59

      Toilet paper reminds me that my mom has been buying toilet paper that doesn’t have a cardboard tube in the center. I can’t remember which brand that is.

  • Isabelle Jul 27, 2016 @ 14:16

    What a great post! I’m an English teacher in France and have been working on Zero Waste with my students. May I use your article in class and edit parts of it to work on it?

  • Caroline Kloppert Jul 26, 2016 @ 23:38

    You are so right. About the milk products too. Getting a cow share is not likely here, so I have tons of those milk bags, I’m keeping them to re-use as planters in my nursery but that is not enough. Here in Cape Town, South Africa, ALL milk products come in plastic, unless you drive 30km and buy from an organic market where they have driven the milk in from the country 200km, not exactly a low carbon footprint. My only option is complaining to the retailers, which I now do on a regular basis. Offering them free Zero-waste workshops, whining about clingwrap, writing to their customer care hotlines… BUT…..until a certain percentage of the population is green, the individual has so little power, because in the end it is consumer power which makes retailers switch. Our greenest industry is the hospitality industry because the German tourists are green minded and demand green practice. So I also want to start an education campaign in our lower economic groups in the burbs, with a table outside the supermarkets for handing out information, to shift the consciousness locally. In this country I may just get shoved around by security …. sorry about the length of my missive, so much steam to let off !!!!

  • Dawn Apr 26, 2016 @ 5:38

    I have constantly made comments about people getting into the buying a refillable water bottle and get so much flack about it! It’s too expensive. OMG, if anyone were to break down the cost of a refillable bottle (mine even has the whole added cost of a filter!) and how long they last…they look at “oh the cost of a case of bottled water is under 5 bucks! and your bottle is $59” I’ve had mine for YEARS. The filters are not cheap-$39. But that lasts me 4-6 months depending on usage. Break it down people! If you can’t realize the need to stop using plastic, look at the money you’re spending.
    Thank you for putting this out there. Great to feel I’m not the only one on the damn soapbox.

  • Keith Barkley/B & B Happy Craft Shop Apr 1, 2016 @ 15:47

    Wow this information was great and deep ! And just thinking about it bring tears to my eyes and sicking my heart to really understand how far humanity has come to self destruction. And it all may come down to plastic. Yes, we really need to rethink our so call human ways on
    plastic waste and wastefulness in general for future generations to come. But my hat still go off to starting somewhere, Making a change by reusing,recycling to reduce the damages to land and waterways to earth.

  • Kate Wisner Feb 18, 2016 @ 11:40

    I was wondering if you had any thoughts on “green” products; some of my research has revolved around how certain products simply make people believe that they’re “helping” the environment, when they really just enable them to consume the same products without feeling guilty.

    • Kris Bordessa Feb 18, 2016 @ 14:57

      I think you just have to do your research. “Green” has become a buzzword and there are a lot of companies taking advantage and “greenwashing” their products to make them *seem like they’re clean, but may not be.

  • Anajú Feb 18, 2016 @ 3:55

    Great post. I recomend to watch “Plastic planet”, once you know how many toxins you put in your body just by drinking bottled water, you will start a cruzade to ditch plastic of your life. At least I did.Is not easy, but it’s worth it. I’ve buyed glass bottled tomatoe salse and after a good washing I use them to chill water in the fridge. My biggest achievement so far it has been to buy a montly supermarket list (the complete market car) without using the market’s plastic bag. This may not be a problem in USA, because you have paper bags, but in my country plastic is the only option.
    For the dairy issue, I have a partial solution. I use kefir to make yogurt and cream cheese. Because the kefir adds all sort of good minerals, proteins and stuff, I buy a cheap powdered milk in bulk and work with that. I still buy sacheted milk for the coffe, but I went from 4 sachets per week, to 2, and also ditched the plastic cups of yogurt and cheese. It’s a working progress. I try to reduce as much as possible, and those plastics that I can’t (yet) avoid, I recycle.

  • Kate Wisner Feb 12, 2016 @ 16:13

    I love the ideas you present here to reduce the amount of plastic that we consume! I’m currently working on a research paper about more fundamental lifestyle changes that Americans can make to help to lessen the damage which humans have on the environment. What I learned about recycling is fairly similar to what you’ve written here, I actually read that it is primarily endorsed by the plastic (and other recyclable product) industries. I was wondering if you have any more ideas about how consumers can change the products they buy and their lifestyle to be more considerate of the state of the environment.

  • Janelle Bagley Feb 12, 2016 @ 11:41

    Excellent article. I am slowly working on reducing what comes into our home, especially plastics. Been reading the book, Garbology, by Edward Humes, stunning and sad how we have cluttered our planet just so life is easier for us. Also read Zero Waste Home, by Bea Johnson, she has taken it to a whole other level to getting trash out of her home, don’t think I could totally do what she’s done, but wow, she doesn’t care what people think, she just wants what is best for her family and country.

    • Kris Bordessa Feb 18, 2016 @ 15:01

      Be sure to watch “Bag It” as well!

  • Kate Wisner Feb 10, 2016 @ 3:30

    I’m currently working on a research paper about climate change and what people can do to try to reduce our impact on the environment, and I absolutely love your ideas! In my research, I’ve come across a lot of information about recycling (the fact that it’s mainly endorsed by the industries that make the recyclable products!). I think the problem with a lot of people is that they simply aren’t informed about the inefficiency/futility of recycling. The best way to reduce the amount of damage being inflicted on the environment is to actually make a lifestyle change, which is what you’re doing here! I love that you’ve come up with relatively simple ways for people to reduce their plastic consumption, because I feel that that’s the place to start. We don’t all need to lead a “zero waste” life right away (I found the blog of a girl who fit all her trash from a YEAR into a mason jar!), but we do need to actually make life changes, not just buy hybrid cars and use reusable grocery bags. I can’t wait to implement some of the changes you mentioned here in my own home!

  • Anne Jones Jan 24, 2016 @ 19:49

    Instead of putting scraps in the garbage bin put them in a compost bin. I line my kitchen bin with newspaper and place food scraps small bit of cardboard, paper fabric household dust and floor sweepings in there. It contains no plastics At the end of the day I take this to the compost bin where it is mixed with garden soil, animal manures and green waste. In about 3 months it becomes lovely loamy soil full of nutrition for my garden.

    • Roberta P Cozine Jan 8, 2022 @ 14:07

      Before composting your vegetable food scraps, keep container in the freezer and drop the scraps in there. When full, put them in a pot of water and mack veggie stock. Strain and save in quart containers. Then use the compost pile.

      For meat scraps and bones, do the same thing. Sort by type or cook altogether. Dame process. You can add large pieces of carrots and celery to flavor the broth.

      • AttainableSustainable Jan 13, 2022 @ 7:39

        That’s also a good idea. 🙂

  • Carole Dec 18, 2015 @ 2:42

    What about plastic credit cards and bank cards. Everyone has those in their purse or wallet.

  • Jane Schindler Oct 26, 2015 @ 18:29

    Really appreciate all this, but I’m thinking it’s still better to offer the plastic for recycling than trashing ?

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 26, 2015 @ 18:32

      If you NEED to buy the plastic, then sure.

  • kristi Oct 19, 2015 @ 8:13

    Thank you for enlightening me to the real truth about our wastefulness and the downside of recycling. Just recently I have been making efforts to reduce my personal usage of plastics, but kind of see now that it’s sort of futile in the big scheme of things. But I will continue to reuse what I can out of the items I consume and now, thanks to your article, I will be more mindful of what I can further do to help in some small way. The way I figure, if EVERYONE got on the bandwagon, it could only get better, right?
    Thanks again!
    Kristi Moe

  • Hoko Aug 9, 2015 @ 10:26

    There is still the option of bioplastic which is fully compostable and biodegradeable.

  • Alicia Aug 9, 2015 @ 3:20

    The 3 R ‘ need to become 5 to give more emphasis to what we should be doing. Repairing it’s also overlooked.

    Refuse – Reduce – Reuse – Recycle – Repair

  • Spotter Aug 9, 2015 @ 3:13

    Great list. I’ve been incorporating many of these things into my family’s routine for years. My only issue with this list is the Diapers. In most places of the country cloth is definitely the way to go. I did cloth for both my kids and Loved it. We even have a local green-cloth diaper service where I live (uses some sort of fancy high tech oxygen process instead of bleach). But cloth diapers use A LOT of water, each load sometimes needs 2 cycles to get clean. If you live in an area of the country that is in a serious drought, or you live in a desert, disposable might be a greener solution.

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 17, 2015 @ 6:20

      Yes, when we’re in the middle of a drought, the scales may shift on this, some.

    • QQ Jan 11, 2016 @ 16:00

      Remember that there is water consumption in the production of disposables also. We just don’t see it because it’s at the factory.

      • Betina Jan 13, 2016 @ 16:38

        My kids are grown now, but when they were babies I used cloth diapers. I found I used much less water to wash them if I filled the diaper bucket with water and popped them in there when changing. Then I’d pour the whole thing in the washer and spin it out before putting on the wash load. In that way, the 5 gallons in the bucket prevented me from having to do a double wash, even when the babies were “very productive”. I see that some feel they’d have to wash them twice, but I never, ever had that problem with the wet soak method. Also, I didn’t put them in the dryer. I had a drying rack for the kitchen on wet days, and an umbrella dryer in the back yard for dry days. The neighborhood didn’t allow clotheslines, but the umbrella dryer was lower than the fence line, so no one could see it, and it never was noticed.

        I used cheap thin washcloths for diaper wipes and just threw them in with the diapers in the bucket. Never had disposable wipes, so never had to deal with the plastic packets from those. To this day I use dedicated washcloths for bathroom wiping, clearly marked to not be confused with facecloths and pop them in a lidded ice cream bucket beside the toilet, washing them with the towels, etc. just like I used to wash diapers and wipe cloths.
        Hope this helps a bit.

        • Kris Bordessa Jan 13, 2016 @ 16:57

          Yep! That’s pretty much how I did it, too!

          • patti Apr 26, 2016 @ 3:37

            I cloth diapered 6 babies. I used to buy the Gerber diaper service prefolds from an amish shopkeeper. They are easier to clean and dry than the ones that are made to look like disposables. I also used a nylon overpant instead of plastic. It’s not as hard as people think. I’ve taken them and hand washed while camping out in Death Valley, taken them on a car trip across the country and even washed them by stomping in the bathtub in an old farmhouse.

    • Judy Jan 8, 2017 @ 11:58

      I don’t recall ever having to wash diapers twice. Although truth be told, I was free with the bleach.
      In retrospect, stained doesn’t mean dirty. Nobody sees it but you. I also had a twin tub washer which really saved me on the water.
      It wasn’t so much the water use, but something that would fit in my apartment kitchen. I grew up using a wringer washer. If we are concerned about the amount of water we use, perhaps we should bring back some “old” technology

  • Tara Jul 7, 2015 @ 12:23

    For us we try to minimise plastic as much as possible, and people think I’m nuts (especially the glass jars in the freezer thing). But we also make effort to take responsibilty for the plastic that does come into our home whether its repurposing milk bottles into the garden (as pots, waterers or even labels) or building bottle bricks for future mud bricking projects. The bottle bricks are a great reminder to us about all the things wrapped in plastic and as we started making them we naturally started buying more environmentally friendlier options and it now takes a long time to fill a bottle. I’m not affiliated with them but I like their idea, https://www.bottlebrick.com/index.html

  • Beth @ Hooked on Health Jun 20, 2015 @ 8:09

    I absolutely love this post and while I am extremely conscientious about reducing my plastic use as in, cloth napkins, no disposable plates etc, refusing straws and taking my own canvas shopping bags to the store to name a few, I see I have more progress to make. Thank you for such a thought provoking post.

    • Kris Bordessa Jun 22, 2015 @ 17:32

      I think we’ll all *always have progress to make. Certainly true for me!

  • Rene Jun 19, 2015 @ 1:00

    As I type a response on my plastic phone and get ready to start my day, I am going to pay close attention to all the plastic I use today. I hope to find that much of it can be replaced! Thanks for writing this!

    • Kris Bordessa Jun 19, 2015 @ 6:14

      And I’ll respond on my plastic keyboard… It IS a part of our lives, like it or not, but we sure can be smarter about the *unnecessary uses.

  • Daeric Jun 18, 2015 @ 19:53

    You mentioned reusable diapers…what about cloth menstrual products? Wary to switch, but I’ll never go back. I have a menstrual cup and many cloth pads now that are so much better for my skin, and the environment. We have started switching to cloth ‘paper’ towels and have different types for floors, dishes and food so they are never mixed up. Next on the trial list…family cloth aka cloth toilet paper. All this cloth does not cost me any extra laundry. I just wash most with the bath towels and the floor cloths with the rugs.

  • Ev Jun 18, 2015 @ 18:06

    I heartily support the elimination communication route for reducing diaper waste. Both my kids were largely done with diaper poops by a year and diapers in general before two. Plus you end up ‘catching’ most of their pees in the potty and we saved a load on diapers there. I can’t recommend it enough!

  • ATF Jun 18, 2015 @ 2:24

    I like the post!

    I always prefer not to buy “to go” in order to avoid packaging but I was surprised to find out that there is a trend here, in Germany, to package the food you buy in reusable jars, for example, or your drinks in your own thermo. Is the trend also arriving in USA?

    • PENELOPE Jul 31, 2016 @ 7:44

      Hi! Some places in Eugene, OR will honor my “no plastic” request. Others look at me like I have 2 heads! I keep asking so they get used to it!!

  • TMM May 30, 2015 @ 6:13

    Totally agree with all of it, with one small (okay, not so small) dilemma. I love the cloth diaper idea, but I live in California. I’ve been doing some reading about how much extra water is required to clean cloth diapers, and we’re doing everything we can in our house right now to reduce our water usage as much as possible to deal with the drought. We’re expecting our first child in October, and as much as cloth diapering appeals to me, I simply can’t get out between this rock and hard place that diapering options have put me in. We’re already going to be expanding our laundry load exponentially (if the experience of all my mommy friends holds true for us), and adding a grey water system to our laundry room would be impossibly cost-prohibitive for our family at this time. So I think we’re going to have to go with an eco-friendlier disposable diaper brand for our nugget and start working on elimination communication asap. We’re trying to reduce our use of plastic all the time, but right now water conservation is priority numero uno.

    • Kris Bordessa May 30, 2015 @ 8:46

      This is *always the conundrum about cloth vs. disposable, and in a drought-ridden state a tough call. I applaud you for giving it such thought! And may you get rain soon. (Chances of that are slim till fall, now though…)

      • Mika W Oct 19, 2017 @ 6:49

        I live in California and used cloth with two babies. It is a hard choice to make because of our water shortage. But, although it might not affect our local water supply, water is needed to make the diapers in the first place. So I figured that my overall usage of water was less when reusing cloth vs. all the water going in to making the disposable diapers. I also had a bunch of flannel cloth squares serged and used them with my own homemade wipes spray. These were tossed in the laundry with the diapers. Most wet wipes contain plastic as well!

        • Kris Bordessa Nov 14, 2017 @ 8:10

          Diapers are always a tough call!

  • Sonia (foodiesleuth) May 26, 2015 @ 7:38

    Wow… I really try, but you have taken it to the nth level…
    Recently I gave away a lot of the plastic jars, jugs and storing containers I had accumulated – three bags full – through Freecycle, and got glass containers at Ross’ instead – granted, they have snap on plastic lids, but I felt it was a step in the right direction. I do use glass jars and glass canning jars, both to store in fridge and freezer. I have more to give away soon, as soon as I can replace them with reusable glass containers and bottles..

    Our group of friends and the members of BISS get together several times a year for potlucks and picnics. Each person brings reusable plates, cups/mugs/glasses, flatware for their own use and we encourage the use of cloth napkins, thus eliminating the need for disposable paper and cardboard.

    We re-use the packaging that toilet issue comes in – the larger ones holding the multi-packs and the smaller ones inside holding the 6 rolls – we use the larger ones to line our kitchen waste bin (whatever is not compostable) and the smaller ones to line the small waste bins around the house – we do not dispose of the smaller ones when we empty the smaller waste bins into the larger one to take to the transfer station – we do try to make use of them as many times as possible.

    Keeping this list to inspire me to do better. Mahalo nui, Kris!

    • Kris Bordessa May 26, 2015 @ 8:24

      I love that so many organizations/groups here suggest bringing our own dinnerware to avoid that waste!

  • Peggy Gilges May 26, 2015 @ 7:31

    Wonderful post!
    Like you, some dairy products I buy are in plastic wraps or containers, which I would avoid if I could. Fortunately, I can buy milk in reusable half gallon glass bottles and cream in reusable glass pint size bottles. There’s a $2 refundable deposit for milk and cream packaged this way. Some yogurt now comes in glass bottles, too, but they don’t take back the containers for reuse. I’ve started buying sliced cheese at the deli counter and everyone is always accommodating when I ask them to wrap it in paper only, “no plastic please!”
    Little by little we can learn to avoid unnecessary packaging, bring our own reusable bags or containers, or wait for just the right thing secondhand; your post is a rousing cri de coeur! Thank you.

    • Kris Bordessa May 26, 2015 @ 8:25

      I requires being ever vigilant, doesn’t it??

  • Janet Garman May 26, 2015 @ 7:20

    this is very convicting. I am making some steps in the right direction, mostly because I hate the thought of my food touching all that plastic. But it’s everywhere I look, even at the “environmentally friendly grocery stores” Baby steps and a little more every week. I also have invested in plenty of plates and cheap flatware for when we have a crowd. It really doesn’t take that much time to wash up the real dishes. Better than filling three trash bags just from one gathering of friends. thanks for all the wonderful ideas

    • Kris Bordessa May 26, 2015 @ 8:25

      We’re all about baby steps around here, Janet.

  • Ronnica, Striving Stewardess May 24, 2015 @ 17:30

    Thank you! I’ve only recently starting really considering how to use/dispose of less plastic, but was overwhelmed not knowing how to get away from it. I’ve already stopped using disposable plastics at home (except for reusing what I already have) but wasn’t sure what to do next. These are great places to start!

    • Kris Bordessa May 26, 2015 @ 8:26

      It’s a matter of 1. Paying attention and 2. Breaking habits. Neither of which is easy. Like you, I continue to strive to “better.” 😉

  • Shelly May 24, 2015 @ 11:42

    Thanks for more ideas! Little by little I’m getting there. 🙂

    • Kris Bordessa May 26, 2015 @ 8:26

      Inch by inch…

  • Angi @ SchneiderPeeps May 22, 2015 @ 4:38

    ouch! We’ve been slowly working on getting rid of plastic but I don’t think we’ll ever be completely free of it in our home. For instance, I use zippered bags in the freezer for freezing fruits, pancake and biscuit mixes and snacks for my kids. We do reuse the bags and some (the pancake and biscuit mixes) I’ve used the same bags for 2 years.

    We like to entertain, so I’ve been slowly buying restaurant style (plain and cheap) silverware at Sams so when we have people over we have enough for everyone…plus I don’t have to get too upset if someone accidently throws it away. I also have several dozen canning jars that I keep just for drinking out of when we have people over. We use chalkboard stickers and chalkboard pens to write names on them. Now that I’m writing this I’m thinking the stickers are probably plastic. But it’s a step in the right direction, right?

    • Kris Bordessa May 26, 2015 @ 8:27

      I’m a big fan of “moving in the right direction.” Even if sometimes it’s a very circuitous path.

  • Stephanie May 21, 2015 @ 15:12

    Oh. My. Word. Actually i have none. i never thought it through and it feels horrible to realize how thoughtless i have been 🙁

    • Kris Bordessa May 21, 2015 @ 15:43

      Easy, sis. 😉 The fact that you’re here and reading shows that you care. Join us on the adventure. That’s what we’re here for – to help get people on the path!

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