How to sustainably bust the habit of using plastic every day

There are many simple ways we can all take to help reduce plastic pollution. As more and more of us demand plastic-free products from the companies we shop with, the amount of plastic that is thoughtlessly produced and thrown away will finally decrease. Start with some manageable first steps that can significantly reduce your plastic consumption. 

Use plastic-free beverage containers. A long-lasting water bottle means you'll never have to buy a bottled drink or use a plastic straw again. Bringing your own reusable cup to your favorite coffee shop can eliminate the need for a cup, lid and straw. 

Eliminate plastic bags. One trillion plastic bags are used each year. Bring your own shopping bag and show others that you can shop without plastic with reusable shopping bags. Bring your own containers when you shop in the bulk bins so you don't need the plastic containers that are usually provided (which are sadly still being used by most shoppers). 

Switch to non-liquid soaps. Liquid soaps, shampoos and detergents have polluted the environment with enormous amounts of plastic waste. Go for bars of soap and shampoo for the bathroom and powders in recyclable containers for laundry and the kitchen. Some stores also carry liquid soap in bulk so you can keep refilling the containers, but the footprint of bar soaps is still smaller. 

Whenever possible, choose glass, metal or unlined paper like beeswax packaging. If you buy honey, oil, or dry goods, you will often find that this is a more environmentally friendly choice than plastic. 

25 Plastic Products to Replace Now

Here's a quick and simple list of the most common plastic items you use every day - and what you can use instead:


Disposable plastic shopping bags → reusable bags (to replace disposable plastic bags) or baskets

Disposable grocery bags → reusable tote bags for fruits and vegetables or leave your fruits and vegetables loose

Items packaged in plastic → If possible, opt for unpackaged items or choose glass or metal packaging

Plastic bags in the supermarket → Reusable cloth bags or containers from home

Eating out, picnic, party or BBQ

Disposable cups → eat at restaurants or take-out in reusable stainless steel or glass cups

Disposable cutlery → Eat where reusable cutlery is available, do not order food with cutlery or use your own reusable cutlery made of bioplastic

Disposable straws → reusable straws made of glass, stainless steel, bamboo or silicone

Plastic lunch baggies → Reusable lunch boxes or beeswax wraps

In the kitchen

Containers and bags for storing food → Silicone bags, metal or glass containers

Liquid soap → use a powder for the dishwasher and a bar of soap for washing hands. If you prefer liquid soap, you can make it yourself from a bar of soap

Detergent in plastic bottles: → make your own detergent from ingredients packaged in glass, metal or cardboard. Use baking soda or a kitchen stone for tough cleaning jobs

Plastic sponges and scrubbers: use a natural sponge, loofah or wooden brush

Disposable dishes: avoid disposable dishes and use wood, wheat straw or bamboo plates and cutlery

Plastic cutting boards and utensils: bamboo cutting board, wooden or bamboo spoons

Plastic plates and cups for young children: bamboo bowls, wheat straw tableware or wood and metal cups

In the bathroom

Liquid soap or shampoo bar soap or -shampoo products

Lotion in plastic bottles Lotion or oil in glass bottles

Disposable products for women: menstrual cup or reusable cloth pads

Plastic toothbrushes, razors, ear buds or makeup items: bamboo toothbrushes, earbuds, razors, bamboo fiber makeup remover

Disposable diapers: reusable diapers made of cloth, linen or bamboo fibers


In the Household

Plastic garbage bags: reuse paper bags, line them with newspaper, or skip the bag

Detergent in plastic bottles: try plastic-free laundry strips or powdered detergent

Fabric softener or dryer sheets: use dryer balls

Clothing, bedding, towels: choose organic cotton, wool, bamboo or hemp. If you wash synthetic fabrics, wash them infrequently in full loads, in cold water and on a slow spin cycle, and consider buying a bag to catch the fibers and keep them out of the wastewater

Start leading the way to a plastic-free future

By eliminating plastic in your life, you're not only reducing your own contribution to the waste stream, you' re also setting an example for those around you to live more sustainably. Celebrate your successes and help spread the word about the importance of rethinking our daily habits and our expectations of the businesses we shop with. As demand for more sustainable business practices grows, companies will continue to respond, and the massive increase in plastic consumption can be reversed - the sooner the better.