Remember that the first rule of zero waste and Plastic-free is USE WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE so there's no need to throw everything you own and buy new things. It's a process and it takes time, so I advice to first take a look in your house and use what you have and then when you run out, find the Eco-friendly Plastic-free option for it. If you roam through your drawers and bags, I am sure you have tons of freebies, travel sizes and samples you haven't use, so first of all use all that!
I am going straight to the point to let you know 20 changes that I've made so far to be more plastic-free:1. I take my reusable bags EVERYWHERE, not only the grocery store but also to the mall (for clothes or shoes or whatever), to the farmers market, thrift shop or to any place that might require a bag. I even have a foldable one that I keep in my purse "Just in case". Between my husband and me, we have a cool collection of bags and produce bags
2. Changed the shower curtain made of PVC (highly toxic and not recyclable) for a fabric liner (got it at Walmart, nothing fancy) that I can throw in the washing machine when it starts to get a bit gross. The one I got is a year old, still doing great even though is made from Polyester. I'll keep using it as long as it lets me.
3. Bar Shampoo was one of the first commitments I made when I decided to be plastic-free, and I have to warn you, it is not easy to find a bar that works for your specific hair type on the first try. It took me 3 different brands and bars to find one that helps. I personally recommend this Rosemary-Mint-Charcoal Bar that works wonders.4. Bamboo Toothbrush is also a really good way to cut the plastic use of hard to recycle plastic toothbrushes. I chose ones that are 100% compostable including the bristles, that way I don't have to wonder what to do with the nylon bristles after I am done with it, I just put it in my backyard composter
5. I have been using bar soap since I was born, so that wasn't a change for me, but I have to mention that my husband used body wash most of his life, lots of plastic and also way more expensive than normal bar soap, so that was a change for him. We got to save some money, not a lot! but you know every penny counts.
6. I didn't want to keep buying "Recycled Eco-friendly Toilet paper and paper towels" wrapped in plastic and that's all I could find in the grocery store. so I researched and found Who Gives A Crap Which is 100% recycled plastic-free tree-free toilet paper with a social mission of providing toilets to people that needs it. They also have tissues.
7. Powder Detergent was my first choice to stop buying plastic bottle detergent. It comes in a box and It lasts a very long time, but I have to say that powder detergent only works for top load washing machines. I just dissolve it in water before putting it in the load so it doesn't clump in my clothes. I recommend for front load machines Dropps Which are zero waste plastic-free pods.
8. Dishwasher Detergent, same as the previous point. I bought the powder version that you can find in ANY grocery store, but I changed to Dropps because the powder doesn't wash off that well. Also, we are trying to not use the dishwasher as much to save energy, so we just wash by hand.
9. Chapstick or Lip Balm was a big change! I was totally addicted to the medicated chapstick and then I discovered that it is because of some of the ingredients in it. I used to have chapsticks everywhere and I also had EOS, Blistex and others, a huge collection of plastic that is also hard to recycle because of its size. So I changed to Natural Plastic Free Lip Balm and my lips and the environment have never been happier.
10. Brita Filter and Water Bottle combo. We got the Brita Filter 3 years ago, way before I started all this journey because I love drinking water but I have never liked plastic water bottles. We have the one that filters 1.13 gallons of water in our fridge and it works amazing. And of course, we have a few reusable bottles that we take with us everywhere. Some were gifts and are just stainless steel with screw cap, I have a "Contigo" insulated big coffee mug that acts as a water bottle too.
11. I stopped buying clothes. Yes, it sounds simple and logical but most people don't know that a lot of clothes is made of synthetic materials (plastic) like Nylon, Polyester, Elastane and that these fibers in our clothes are poisoning our waterways and food chain on a massive scale. on top of wasting a ton of water and resources in the making process. So I realized that I already have enough clothes and shoes and I am just using what I have, and if for some reason I REALLY need something I'll get it second hand and hopefully Natural fibers to avoid supporting Fast Fashion and be sustainable.
12. We (my husband and I) stopped buying meat in styrofoam containers wrapped in cling plastic film. We are not vegan and yes I know the impacts of the meat industry, but we are all different and we are all trying our best for the planet so please don't judge. We started buying our meat, poultry, and fish wrapped in paper, mostly in Whole Foods, Shaws and local butchers and farms when we have the chance. In a side note, I stopped eating fish recently (my husband never did) but I did because of all the microplastic and toxins and unsustainable/illegal fishing destroying the ocean on top of the plastic pollution.
13. We started buying cheese from the deli using our own containers. I mean Plastic containers like "tuppers" because like I mentioned before, we USE WHAT WE HAVE first, and I already owned a set of plastic containers like I bet you do too. So we bring them to Stop n Shop and ask the guy to put the sliced cheese or deli meats in it.
15. ZIPLOC bags are insanely wasteful. I still have some in my house that I don't use but they just keep appearing out of nowhere from external sources because people use them for EVERYTHING. For Example, my mother in law sends me leftovers in that, they appear filled with screws and nails, cables, etc. And yes I know you can wash them and reuse them but they are not resistant and end up being trash, and the fact you used them twice is no excuse to keep buying them. You buy, they keep making them. Simple. So I replaced mine with a set of Silicone bags That will last, are dishwasher safe, keep fruit and veg fresh longer and are also good for trips to the beach to keep my phone dry and have some snacks without the waste.
16. Cloth Napkins, Rags, Instead of paper towels and paper Napkins are an extremely easy swap to do at home. old shirts become rags, and I got some beautiful cloth napkins in a local thrift shop. I mean, fancy restaurants have cloth napkins, so why won't I right? I'm kidding, but yes, it is way nicer to have cloth napkins also for guests and have tons of rags to clean everything!
17. This is not a swap but a piece of advice. EAT SEASON FRUITS AND VEGS. I love berries of all types and cherries but they are not available all year long and most of the times they come in plastic shells. So I eat whatever is available and lose depending on the season. Also, freeze your own vegetables and fruits to avoid buying frozen plastic bags. Yes, I know frozen bags are easy for the lazy folks, but not so much for the environment. I just buy a lot of strawberries when in season and then freeze them so they last for a few months.
18. Straws. I need it to mention it because not everything applies to everyone. I don't use straws for pretty much anything. But in the real world straws are one of the biggest offenders when it comes to plastic pollution if you need a reminder but I didn't feel the need to go and buy a set of stainless steel straws or bamboo or glass because I don't need it! which is the second point of being low-waste; Don't buy things you don't need. Eventually, I got a stainless steel straw as a gift and I carry it in my purse and it has been helpful twice. But if you do like to drink with straws then for sure get a set of any material that you like.
19. Deodorant There are many options for plastic free for deodorant. Some in glass and some in stick form for those who don’t like getting the product on their fingers and both work amazing. I am currently using the stick form and I swear I don't smell like a hippy.
20. Last but not least, milk. The milkman is missed these days but fortunately, there are more and more glass milk options popping around grocery stores that you can return for a deposit and also local farms have that option too. I personally don't drink that much milk, I like almond or soy milk that I make myself, but I never ever buy either milk cartons (Not recyclable) or plastic jugs (recyclable but plastic)
I'll talk in another blog about bulk buying because it is a longer topic and I'll include an updated list of places to buy bulk in Massachusetts.
Remember that every simple change you make has a huge impact but you don't have to do it all at once.
I am a stubborn woman and I refuse to buy plastic but that is my personal decision, and I also know that I am privileged for being able to do so much in the first place. I encourage you to do as much as you can, and I thank you for even trying.
Here's an educational video with more examples on how to reduce single-use plastics