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5 EASY WAYS TO CUT SINGLE USE PLASTIC OUT OF YOUR LIFE

Zero waste living does not have to be a complicated or expensive endeavour to embark, and if you’re an experienced zero-waster you may know that the journey is about simplifying and removing any unused extras. But don’t get this confused with replacing things you already have. For example, if you wanted to make the switch from liquid shampoo in a bottle to bar shampoo, you wouldn’t throw your current bottle away without using it just to be “zero waste”. By throwing out something that works perfectly fine, you would defeat the purpose of using less. I made the switch from liquid to bar soap back in April of this year, and slowly transitioned between them to make sure the bar soap still worked the way it should (because not all of them do). Once my bottled soap was finished I then completely switched over to bar soap and continue to use and enjoy that method. 

These five ways to cut out single-use plastic are not the most fancy, and they don’t require you to break the bank. They are simple ways you can reduce the plastic you use just by being more aware of the things you already do. 

#1 REMEMBER YOUR REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS

That’s right, I said remember them, or maybe just in case, keep a few back up bags in the car. Reusable bags help us make a small dent in the 500 billion plastic bags used worldwide every year. If you used 15 bags per shopping trip each week (yes, that’s the average for one household), by using reusable bags at the grocery store you’d save on 780 bags per year. That’s a lot of bags. And not only are reusable bags better to save plastic, but they are more comfortable to carry, they are stronger, and you can organize them better so your groceries don’t get squished. 

#2 AVOID PRODUCE PACKAGING

Produce at the grocery store often comes prepackaged… peppers, cauliflower, mushrooms, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, carrots, apples, you name it! But these vegetables all have packaging free options, and sometimes this actually means that you are buying more seasonal vegetables. In the fall, for example, squash, zucchini, and pears are in season and come packaging free (check out more on seasonal produce here). I guarantee you will always find vegetables and fruits that aren’t packaged, even Walmart carries spinach, carrots, and lettuce unpackaged most of the time. Avoiding produce packaging also means that you should try to avoid putting your produce into a plastic bag from the reel at the grocery store. Not all produce needs a bag, like these bananas found left on a shelf.

Bananas already have a form of natural packaging to protect them, and they come pre-bundled for easy transport. Some items, unless you are an expert juggler, need a form of containment to help you carry them. That’s where produce bags come in! The ones I use I hand make, but if you don’t currently have produce bags, you could easily use your smaller regular fabric grocery bags, make your own no-sew or easy sew bags, or just be careful when you are moving your items from cart to shopping bag. The important thing to remember and take away here is the idea of refusing to buy fruits and vegetables that have packaging. There’s nothing wrong with a shopping cart that looks like this!

A shopping cart full of plastic free produce!
No plastic shopping!

#3 SKIP THE STRAW

Straws are the third most common item found washed up on beaches all over the world. They can’t be recycled because they are too small and fall through the machinery at recycling plants, and they are only used for a few minutes before discarded, followed by a life in our natural world for hundreds of years. The good news is, this is a really easy single-use plastic to cut out of your life. There are many great sustainable alternatives to plastic straws such as metal, glass, bamboo, and silicone. But the simplest way is to drink from the rim of your cup (I know, sounds difficult!). If you only use a straw for the mere convenience, it’s time to make the switch and skip the straw!

#4 TRAVEL MUGS

My fourth tip to simply cut out single-use plastics is to invest in a good quality travel mug, or if you already have one, use it as much as you can! Make sure you bring your travel mug with you when you go out, just in case you stop somewhere for a beverage. Personally, I love yeti’s. They are great quality, insulated, have a drinking spout that is magnetic for easy cleaning, and come in many different sizes. Whatever cup you choose to use is up to you, but the takeaway here is to remember to bring your cup wherever you go. Every time you do, it means one less cup in the landfill. 

Carrying my yeti with my knitted cup cozy

#5 BE AWARE AND ASK QUESTIONS

The last one is being aware and asking lots of questions when you go out. At restaurants ask about straws and be very clear about not wanting one. At fast food places ask about their packaging before you buy and ask questions about how they make orders. For example, when you use your travel mug, ask what they will be using to stir your beverage if your order contains sugar. Some Tim Hortons locations will stir personal cups with plastic straws or stir sticks instead of the regular metal spoons. Although it’s less common, some vendors at farmers markets or local stores will also wrap food in plastic. Asking if they have options without plastic not only raises a point of your awareness, but also may be able to get you plastic free veggies! In general, be aware of what companies do and don’t do, feel empowered to ask questions to make yourself more knowledgeable, and take note of places that try their best to reduce their waste. 

I hope these 5 simple ways to cut out single use plastics are helpful in your journey to living a zero waste lifestyle. There will be more tips to come on other ways to make your journey a smooth one. Thank you for following and making a pint sized impact! 

SOURCES

http://plasticoceans.org
http://oceanconservancy.org
Laura Parker. “Plastic Food Packaging was Most Common Beach Trash in 2018”. Planet or Plastic, National Geographic, 2019. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/09/plastic-food-packaging-top-trash-global-beach-cleanup-2018/

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