We've been working on a comprehensive list of plastic free and zero waste swaps to help inspire people to make positive changes in their lives. The list was getting pretty long so (it just goes to show how many changes are possible!) so we've split this post into 4 parts. Here are the first 25...... (in no particular order!)
1. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle
When out and about make sure to carry your own reusable water bottle. Drinking water is so much better for your health than sugary drinks and it will save you LOADS of money in the long term.
It’s worth noting that even though it might be possible to recycle drinks containers in your area, most bottles and cans are made from virgin material so each drink purchased is still contributing to the amount of plastic on the planet.
2. Ditch the Coffee Cup (or sit in)
If you are the type of person that likes to grab a coffee on the way to work, then get into the habit of taking your own reusable coffee cup. Reusable cups keep your drink warmer for longer (some up to 24 hours), look so much better and helps to reduce waste. Some companies even offer you a discount for bringing your own cup too. Alternatively sit in and ask for a mug – most places have them (Starbucks and Tim Hortons certainly do).
3. Refuse the Straw
When out at a bar or restaurant make sure to let the server know that you don’t need a straw or stirring stick. If you (or your kids) prefer drinking with a straw, why not purchase a reusable one? We always carry a silicone one for our little girl but there are plenty of other options available too - glass, bamboo and stainless steel straws are also widely available.
Refusing a straw when out with friends is a great way to casually bring up the issue without being too ‘in your face’ too!
4. Take a Packed Lunch to Work
Buying lunch ‘on the go’ almost inevitably leads to unnecessary plastic waste. Why not invest in a bento box or other reusable container so that you can take your lunch with you? It’s cheaper and so much better for the environment! Between our bento box and our bamboo cutlery set we can usually account for any possible eating out scenario too!
5. Create a Meal Plan
Fail to prepare = prepare to fail!
Since we started planning our families weekly grocery shop, not only have we cut down on those impulsive buys, we have also been able to plan exactly where we need to go to buy things plastic free. Give it a try you’ll really notice the difference!
6. Shop at a Bulk Store
In Canada we are lucky enough to have Bulk Barn which is a great store that allows customers to bring their own bags and / or mason jars (provided that they are clean). They simply tare your jar at the counter and then charge you based on the weight of the goods you buy. Search out what is local to you!
7. Challenge Stores to Change Their Packaging!
If there is a product that you really want to buy, but you just can’t get past the plastic packaging, then reach out to the store and let them know. I’ve found that vendors are usually receptive to changing the way they package their products (if at all possible) if they think it is going to lead to more sales, so let them know! For example our Beard Oil and Bubble Bath is sold to us in custom packaging without plastic!
8. Buy in Bulk (and Freeze)
In Canada it is almost impossible to buy fresh fruit ‘plastic free’ during the winter, so we often keep our eyes peeled for big boxes of fruit when it is on sale. We’ve done this successfully with mangoes, blueberries and local BC grapes, but this should work with almost any fruit. We freeze ours individually on a baking sheet and then store in a jar (if you don’t do this they will all stock together). Great for smoothies or adding to pancakes or muffins!
9. Buy Milk in Glass Bottles
Milk is typically sold in supermarkets in either a cardboard carton or a plastic container. Depending on where you live, it may be possible to recycle the packaging, however milk is almost always packaged in virgin material.
The best option is to buy milk in glass bottles as they can be washed out and reused indefinitely. Check to see if there is a local milk delivery service in your area! If you don’t have a service in your area, try your local organic store or farmers market to see what is available. Typically, you pay a $1 deposit for the bottle that is refunded when the bottle is returned.
Ultimately though the best possible thing you can do is to cut down your milk consumption. Why not give making your own nut milk a try? Here is a wonderful recipe for vanilla oat milk by Viva @wandering_wild_home
10. Use Mesh Produce Bags
I always find it amazing how many people I see at farmers markets taking their own tote bag but then filling it with fruit and veggies unnecessarily wrapped in plastic! There really is no need to even bag most produce, but for things like green beans, mesh bags are great! They are see-through (so there are no issues at the checkout) and allow the produce to breath.
11. Forgot Your Produce Bags? Use Mushroom Bags!
Have you ever popped into the store on the way home from work and forgotten your mesh produce bags? It’s happened to us. If at all possible, try to carry everything out the store loose, however If you really do need a bag (for example bulk cashew nuts), reach for the paper bags by the mushrooms. Paper bags can be recycled or composted as opposed to the plastic bags which cannot.
12. Use Wax Wraps Instead of Cling Wrap
Have you tried beeswax or soy wax wraps yet? Beeswax wraps are definitely becoming more popular in mainstream stores, but soy wax wraps are a great alternative for vegans. Great for using instead of cling wrap for saving food! We use ours for covering leftovers, leftover fruit and vegetables and even wrapping up sandwiches. Comes with the added bonus that it makes your fridge look pretty too!
13. Use a Dish Washing Block
Have you seen these amazing dish wash blocks from No Tox Life? We switched to one of these a few months back and absolutely love it! It’s not ‘bubbly’ like many commercial options but it does a great job of cutting through the grease. These bars last around between 3 - 6 months too which makes it pretty economical too. We often combine with this liquid dish soap from Essentials by Nature (a great option for those who don’t want to use a soap block). These have been our best seller since launching.
14. Use an Unsponge for Washing the Dishes
Traditional synthetic sponges break down easily and get ‘stinky’ pretty quickly, causing us to throw them away. Did you know that unsponges are a great way to cut down on waste? They can be washed to freshen them up (meaning they last a LOT longer) and usually can be composted after use!
15. Use a Swedish dishcloth
Swedish dishcloths are a great eco-friendly option in the kitchen as they are so versatile! They can absorb 15x their own weight in liquid so are great for cleaning up spills, washing dishes or even cleaning the shower! The best thing or all? They are are reusable and completely compostable at the end of their life!
16. Switch to ‘Unpaper’ Towels
Have you heard of unpaper towels? They are an amazing eco-friendly, reusable form of towel that can completely replace paper towels in your kitchen! They are usually made cotton and flannel and the great thing is that you can absolutely make these yourself using scraps of fabrics or old clothes!
Use exactly the same way you would a regular paper towel, except you just throw it in the wash continually reuse!
17. Reuse Ziploc Bags
Most people starting out on a plastic free lifestyle will likely have some Ziploc or other plastic bags in a drawer somewhere. Don’t throw them away! We haven’t bought any plastic bags for ages and are still using Ziploc bags for storing frozen fruit. We just wash out and continue to use.
18. Make Your Own Bread
Making your own bread is so much easier than it looks! Flour, yeast and water is all you need to get started! We have gotten into the habit of making our own loaves of bread at the weekend, along with bread buns for sandwiches and homemade naan breads for eating with our favourite curry! If you want to get adventurous, give sourdough a try!
19. Ideas for Using Stale Bread
How often have you accidentally left the bread out of the bread bin and it’s gone stale? If it isn’t too far gone, sprinkle it with a little water and pop briefly into a warm oven to revive your stale bread!
Here are a few other ideas to use up stale bread:
- Make bread & butter pudding
- Make breadcrumbs
- Make croutons
- Use in stuffing
- Make eggy bread
- If all else fails, compost!
20. Switch to a Safety Razor
Did you know that safety razors used to be the norm back in the day? Unfortunately, like so many things, cheap plastic ‘throw away’ options were massed produced and the safety razor was largely discarded.
Thankfully, safety razors are making a comeback and for good reason. You get a cleaner shave, it’s actually enjoyable to shave, you save LOADS of money (Gillette blades are typically $2-5 per blade versus $2-3 for 10 safety blades) and of course you are no longer contributing to the millions of disposable razors thrown into our landfills every day
21. Use a Shaving Soap Bar
If you’ve decided to take the plunge and invest in a safety razor, you should definitely consider using a shaving soap bar too! They are so easy to use and in just a few minutes you can whip up an amazing lather that smells amazing. All you need is a wide cup or bowl and a shaving brush to get started.
22. Buy a Natural Deodorant Plastic Free
There are so many benefits to switching to an all natural deodorant! You know exactly what ingredients are used (many are vegan), they can be better for those with sensitive skin, and of course there is less plastic waste.
Most natural deodorants are sold in either a compostable tube or a recyclable tin or glass jar. There are even some companies that offer refill options so check your local options!
23. Switch to a Zero Waste Toilet Paper
We switched over to a zero waste toilet paper by Who Gives a Crap. The rolls are individually wrapped in paper so there is no plastic packaging at all. The wrappers are all custom designed so the rolls look fantastic stored in your bathroom too. WGAC donate 50% of all profits to charity which an amazing thing to do.
24. Switch to a Shampoo and Conditioning Bar
Most traditional hair care products are sold in non recyclable plastic bottles. Shampoo and conditioning bars are cheap, easy to use, and a great way to cut down your waste. If you are struggling with transitioning to a shampoo bar why not try a liquid shampoo sold in a glass bottle instead?
25. Embrace Vinegar and Baking Soda for Cleaning!
Vinegar and baking soda are the ‘dream team’ when it comes to cleaning! So simple, yet so effective, they are great for cleaning sinks, bathtubs and basically anything (except for marble and granite)! Both are affordable and can often be found plastic free! I love the idea from @plantedinthewoods of creating infused vinegars https://www.instagram.com/p/BxANPEMn4k-/ to make your cleaning products smell amazing too!
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