Do you cringe every time a store clerk hands you a crinkly plastic bag? Do you beat yourself up a little bit every time you toss a plastic cup, straw or fork into the trash? Do you hate the fact that so many of your favorite restaurants pack takeout meals in plastic containers?
If you’re looking for ways to be more environmentally friendly, there is some good news:
There are dozens of plastic alternatives out there so that you never have to use a disposable piece of plastic again.
Ready to rid single-use plastic from your life? Here are the best alternatives to eliminate one-time use plastic in your home.
Why We Need to Move Away From One Time Use Plastics
So what exactly are one-time use plastics? They are plastic materials made from fossil fuel-based chemicals designed to be used once and then immediately tossed. They include plastic items such as grocery bags, cups, straws, takeout containers and sandwich bags.
As with all of the garbage we produce, single-use plastic items end up in landfills — but they also end up in our oceans. They can harm and destroy wildlife and ecosystems. Plus, plastic production emits greenhouse gases, causing our air to be more polluted and contributing to climate change.
And while you may not be able to eliminate single-use plastics from your life entirely, there are lots of ways to cut back on your consumption. Not sure where to start? A Drop in the Ocean is one place to get some inspiration and eco-friendly products, ranging from home goods and cleaning supplies to razors and lotion candles. (We didn’t know lotion candles were a thing either.)
Alternatives to Plastic Grocery Bags
Depending on where you live, your local grocery store may have already banned plastic shopping bags. And if it hasn’t happened in your town yet, the ban on plastic bags is probably headed your way soon!
Luckily, there are dozens of easy and affordable ways to ditch those plastic shopping bags once and for all. All you need to do is buy yourself a few reusable or biodegradable totes that won’t harm the environment.
Paper bags are an excellent alternative. As long as they don’t tear or get wet, you can reuse them several times.
But the better option for carrying groceries and other store purchases is fabric tote bags. Reusable shopping bags made from organic cotton, canvas, jute and non-woven polypropylene can be used forever!
Just be sure to wash your reusable shopping bags from time to time to keep them clean inside and out. They will collect dirt and gather bacteria, so look for bags that can be wiped down or tossed into the washing machine.
So what should you do if you forget your reusable totes or if your local store packs your purchases in a thin plastic bag? At the very least, try to use those bags at least twice.
Plastic shopping bags are great to use as trash can liners in small office trash cans and bathroom wastebaskets. And if you have a pet, they’re perfect for poop-scooping dog poo or emptying kitty litter.
Alternatives to Plastic Sandwich Bags
It’s so easy to stash leftovers and pack snacks in one of those little Ziploc sandwich bags. But there are better ways to store food that doesn’t require the use of one-time plastic bags.
Reusable bags made from silicone are the perfect alternative to disposable sandwich bags. Youmna Rab, the founder of Sustainably-Yours, uses these bags for freezing foods like beans, meat or leftovers. You can also use them to pack snacks and sandwiches for lunch, and even toss them in the dishwasher to clean them. Like plastic bags, they come in different sizes, making them perfect for use at home and on the go.
Mason jars also make for great storage containers. Stainless steel containers and glass containers that can be washed and reused multiple times are also smart options.
Need a way to perfectly cover any item of any size? Instead of using clear plastic wrap, opt for beeswax wrap. Beeswax wrap is a sustainable option that can be used to cover all sorts of food products, including fruit, sandwiches and snacks. Rab also adds that beeswax paper is biodegradable, so when your wrap has wrapped its last goodie, you can compost it!
How you purchase food also makes a difference. Rather than buying individual snack bags, purchase snacks in larger quantities. Then put the specific amount you need into one of your own containers.
Alternatives to Plastic Straws
We all know that plastic straws can be deadly to turtles and other types of marine life. If you haven’t already made the switch away from plastic straws, it’s time to do so now.
There are many alternatives to plastic straws – the most economical one being paper.
Paper straws do get soggy and soft the longer you leave them in a drink, but they’re the best disposable option for on-the-go drinking. At home, opt for straws that you can reuse time and time again, such as ones made from bamboo or stainless steel.
Silicone straws are another great option. These reusable silicone straws come in all sorts of fun colors, so they’re perfect for kids. They also come with four little brushes that make them super easy to clean.
Alternatives to Plastic Takeout Containers
It’s common for restaurants to use plastic packaging for takeout containers, and sometimes, there’s no way to avoid it. But there is something you can do to limit this waste:
Cook more meals at home!
You can also make it a point to support local businesses that pack takeout in paper, cardboard and other biodegradable materials.
Does your favorite restaurant still use styrofoam clamshell containers or plastic boxes? Tell them you’d like to see them make the switch to something more eco-friendly. The more customers that make a request, the more likely they are to do so!
If you do end up with a plastic takeout container or two, rinse it out when you’re done and try to reuse it (at least once or twice).
Alternatives to Plastic Utensils
It can be quite convenient to toss a plastic fork and knife in a lunch bag and throw them away after eating. Yet it’s time to make plastic cutlery a thing of the past.
A great alternative to plastic cutlery is bamboo or wood cutlery. Wood cutlery is disposable, sturdy, and biodegradable, so it won’t live forever in a landfill or at the bottom of the ocean.
Whenever you’re dining at home, use actual metal utensils. Not wanting to do dishes or wash off a few utensils is no excuse for creating unnecessary waste!
Alternatives to Plastic Water Bottles
Yes, you can recycle plastic water bottles, but it’s better to avoid using them in the first place.
The more water you drink each day, the more important it is to use reusable water bottles. Brands such as Yeti, Hydro Flask, and Swell make excellent stainless steel and silicone bottles that you can fill up over and over again.
Plus, buying large gallon jugs of spring water as opposed to small individual bottles will save you a few dollars on your grocery bill. (Water packaged in smaller quantities almost always costs more!)
It’s also time to say goodbye to plastic cups. The next time you’re having a party, instead of buying those red plastic cups, buy paper ones instead. Or, better yet, serve your guests their drinks in actual glassware.
Can You Rid Your Life of Single-Use Plastic?
Unless you live completely off the grid, it’s nearly impossible to live a life of zero waste. But you can drastically reduce your use of single-use plastics by choosing more eco-friendly alternatives instead.
From plastic straws to disposable utensils to plastic grocery bags and even q-tips, there are plenty of alternative options to one-time use plastic. Make those choices today, and you can help to make our planet better for tomorrow!
You might also be interested in: 15 Sustainable Living Tips [That You Can Start Today]