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Living environmentally friendly can be a challenge to get started. The concept is very easy and once you know where to start it is very easy. However, sometimes it’s that knowing where to start part that keeps people from starting at all. No one can be perfect 100% of the time. If you mess up, don’t get discouraged. The fact that you’re trying is better than nothing at all. I know that starting that journey to more zero waste is overwhelming and so I’ve put together 10 easy ways you can start living a plastic free life or enjoy plastic free travel. These are all things that apply to both areas and maybe even more so to on the road because you’re likely to be eating out more and what not.
Say No to Plastic Straws Forever
I’m about to throw a statistic out that is going to blow your mind. Are you ready? Americans use 500 MILLION plastic straws EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. No one thinks of these straws though, right? We’ve been using them our whole lives to the point that you probably wouldn’t even think about the fact you’re using a straw until it isn’t there.
It also takes 200 years for plastic straws to decompose. So, 500 million each day take 200 years to decompose. Do the math. Will we ever catch up? I don’t think so. And, in those 200 years – the straws wreak havoc on marine and other animal life.
So, the best option is to either go straw free completely or buy a reusable straw. You can purchase a pack of 4 stainless straws (with a brush for cleaning) here for less than $10. And, you never have to use another plastic straw again!
Use a Refillable Water Bottle
Bottled water has pretty much the same concerns as plastic straws or any other form of plastic. It’s harmful to the environment, it is a HUGE waste of money and it’s been proven that the quality (the main reason most people buy it) is not any better. If you’re traveling to a country where the tap water is not safe to drink, don’t think that means you must buy bottled water. I’ve regularly seen water filling stations at the hotels I’ve stayed at as well as convenience stores. Additionally, you can use a lifestraw or water purification tablets. These are great for using for water and even hot drinks as well.
Take Your Own Coffee Cup to Cafes
How many cups of coffee do you drink? How many of those are in disposable cups? Even if you’re not paying for that cup of coffee. You go to the doctor office and they have free coffee. You pour a cup, you may not even drink it because it’s usually nasty and then the cup goes in the trash. How many times do you do that? That’s why having a reusable coffee cup is great and don’t be embarrassed to ask cafes to use it! Most of them even sell reusable cups so it’s not a big deal at all. This one is great – however it is not leak proof so I’m still looking for the perfect travel one.
Carry a Utensil Set with You
This is probably my favorite and easiest change aside from plastic straws. It’s super small so easy to carry everywhere and you can even stick your straw down in this pouch too! Keep from using all those terrible disposable plasticware sets that break every time you use them anyway! This is the one I have and they came in all sorts of colors!
Use a Diva Cup
This one is for the ladies, but it’s super important! Pads and tampons are both typically bleached with chlorine and cotton is typically sprayed with tons of chemicals and all of this is getting absorbed directly into your bloodstream or your skin. Even if you buy organic tampons or pads, you’re still contributing to a ton of plastic waste and honestly, spending a ridiculous amount of money. I started using a Diva Cup before I even knew about the harmful affects of tampons and pads because of the convenience and I highly recommend it. It is also nice for traveling because you don’t have to carry a ton of feminine hygiene products with you and/or search them out when traveling (which often proves to be way more difficult than you’d might imagine).
Use Reusable Bags
I’m the worst at buying reusable bags but always forgetting them when I go to the store. The key is to keep them in your car. If I go but forget them, I just carry out my items. I love getting fun reusable bags because why not? Here are a few I like. Plastic bags are terrible for the environment – for the same reasons highlighted above – and also for wildlife (specifically marine wildlife). Animals, such as sea turtles, often mistake floating plastic bags for jellyfish (which they eat) and instead of consistently consuming plastic bags.
Use Reusable Produce Bags
Produce bags are often overlooked. Everyone seems to have at least started thinking about plastic grocery bags but don’t forget the produce bags! Often, I just let my produce go naked and don’t use a bag at all because I’m going to wash it no matter what but if that freaks you out a little, these are great. They can be used for more than just produce too.
Switch to Bamboo Toothbrush
Toothbrushes are not biodegradable and will never go away. It is estimated that Americans send at least 850 million toothbrushes to the landfill every single year. The easiest way to fix this is switching over to a bamboo toothbrush. Inexpensive and environmentally friendly! Plus isn’t is so much cooler to say you’re toothbrush is made from bamboo instead of crude oil? Gross.
Say No to Disposable Razors
Talk about a money waster. Disposable razors are a freaking joke. I seriously don’t even want to think how many I’ve gone through in my life but I bet it’s sickening. Switch over to a safety razor. It’s a minor $25 investment that will last you forever if you take care of it. It also makes for a better shave.
Change to Bar Soap & Solid Shampoo
Shampoo, conditioner, soap and many other hygiene and beauty items use a lot of plastic, water (most of these items are predominately water) and then there is the microbead factor. Microbeads are basically tiny balls of plastic in many, if not most, beauty products. These are inevitably flushed into water systems which make their way to marine life. A great way to fix this problem is start using bar soap and solid shampoo. Lush has great solid shampoos that I use and they last forever! The bar route is also nice for traveling because you aren’t worried about your stuff breaking and leaking onto everything else!
Check out my entire ‘plastic free’ shop here to find all my favorite ways to live more consciously. Check out more about information a plastic free lifestyle.
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This Post Has 23 Comments
This is so cool! I never knew about most of these things. I live under a rock apparently.
These are great tips!! I am proud to say I never use straws. Don’t like them. And prefer tap water to bottled. But I’m not sure about the Diva cup. Being conscious of all this is important — especially on the road where we often look for convenience.
haha I wasn’t sure about the diva cup either but it’s pretty awesome once you get used to it!
I kind of didn’t even know you could take your own coffee cups to cafes….duhhh I love that idea!
I know! I used to be shy about things like that but now I’m like, who cares?!
All great suggestions! I rarely use straws, and I’m a big fan of reusable bags and my own water bottles. I use bar soap, but I have to admit — I’d never thought about the fact that’s another way to avoid plastic. And I’ve never seen a non-plastic toothbrush. Yay Ashley!
I’m lucky enough to have lived in California for a long time where plastic grocery bags are not allowed. That definitely forced a transition in my life. I want to try the bamboo toothbrush! So many people like the Diva cup that’s also something I want to check out.
Good suggestions! I already use reusable water bottles and soap bars so not doing too shabby haha 🙂 never heard of that alternative to disposable razors, will look into it!
These are great tips! I switched to the Diva cup last year and it has totally changed my life. I love it so much I want to tell every woman I meet! Yes, it cuts down on so much waste, but also is so much healthier, and so much easier. Love it when I find ways to cut down on waste and make my life better!
Living in California, we have gotten used to not using grocery bags and that’s a relatively simple change. Like most simple changes, you have to believe in the solution and have the will power to follow it through. The first step is realizing that there is a problem.
Since reading your post, I’ve definitely taken more care to do things like bring my reusable bag to the grocery store. In California, I used to be so much more in tune with the environment… thank you so much for this much-needed reminder 🙂
These are all great suggestions to be more green! In Taiwan, everyone keeps a set of utensils in their bag. I think we need to make a habit of that in North America! Or, not ask for plastic utensils when ordering for delivery!
Totally agree with you on the plastic free life! I have my reusable Starbucks cup and straw so I don’t have to use their disposable ones every time.
I was born in Taiwan too and I echo Cat with the self-brought utensils! I’m shocked at how much waste there is here in Vancouver at restaurants. I’ve heard of the Diva Cup but I’m still a little iffy on the whole concept 😛
Wow! That straw statistic got me. It never occurred to me people use that much straw.
Love it! We do pretty much all of these but I’ve been too trepidatious to switch to a diva cup and I know I need to/want to!
I just got a reusable coffee mug and was looking at the one you had but ended up going with a collapsible silicone one and it’s amazing! I highly recommend it because you can just collapse it and throw it in your bag when you’re not using it. It has a little lip that attaches to the opening and so it’s also leak proof. Baristas are definitely a little weirded out by it but always think it’s cool when they see how it works!
Sam, I would love to know which one you use! I’ve been looking for a leak proof one as even though the Keep cup is awesome, it’s not leak proof.
Sidenote – make the switch to the Diva cup – once you get used to it (only took a couple times for me), you’ll be so thankful to stop spending money on feminine hygiene products or lugging them around in precious luggage space 🙂
I got a Mooncup today actually so we’ll see how it goes! Eep! I can’t wait to love it – this has been far overdue! And I have the “Arestech Travel Collapsible Cup” as my travel coffee cup, though there are some other brands that make similar ones. It’s awesome! I just converted another barista using it yesterday. =D
Dear readers who are not yet perfoming at least 8 out of 10 things here: It is totally possibly to realise and it really does not take much time to make the switch – promised!
I say 8 out of 10 because I currently struggle with 2 of those options myself: disposable razors and the tooth brush.
I did even buy a safety razor, but after I got many wounds in my first trial to shave my legs, I put it aside for when I’m brave enough to try it once more. (I did watch a youtube ‘how to’…) Thus using my regular razor with exchangeable blades.
I bought a bamboo tooth brush from a German company called ‘Hydrophil’ but the head feels to small. I saw they have a different brand in Canada but I can’t find them anywhere in Germany (it might be the same that you linked to). Have to read more about the options in Germany… If someone has a lead, let me know!
I have never heard of solid shampoo before. I’ll have to look into that.
It’s seriously never occurred to me to put toothbrushes in the disposable category before, but of course they totally are! Bamboo is a great idea (I do reuse my plastic toothbrushes by turning them into grout scrubbers, etc before I finally throw them out…but I bet scrubbing grout feels fancier with a bamboo toothbrush ;))
I’m already doing more than half. Even though I don’t carry my own utensils, I rarely end up eating at places that serve plastic forks.
Good to promote these. I will do at least 8 of these.