In honor of Earth Day, I'm excited to share this guest post from The Millennial Blogger on 7 easy ways to use less plastic in your life! Reducing plastic is something I'm really passionate about as an ocean lover. Everytime I go to the beach, I pick up at least 5 pieces of plastic. The changes Kelley has made and shares in the post are awesome ways to use less plastic in your everyday life. You may also like these posts eco-friendly posts afterwards:
7 Easy Ways to Use Less Plastic in Your Life
I grew up in the age of plastics (didn’t we all?). It wasn’t even a thought. Buy something, unpack it from its plastic casing and toss it out. Not long ago, I interviewed the founders of The 200 Year Project and became aware of all the plastic in my own home. It was overwhelming at first. The giant trash bag full of things I took out every night became a little source of anxiety for me- where would these things end up? Was I contributing to the greater problem of pollution with my mindless plastic use? Did it even matter in the long run?
Thankfully, there are a million ways to become more conscious about our own waste today. Many companies are doing what they can to cut down on their own plastic usage as well as make it easy for customers to choose more sustainable options.
Last year I stopped freaking out over my trash can and started looking for easy solutions to make my life a little more sustainable, and a little less plastic. Here are seven easy switches you can make right now to eliminate half the waste in your life:
Put these balls in your washing machine.
Walking around your home, plastic is everywhere. In your bathroom, your kitchen, your bedroom- and in the laundry closet as well. Those giant bottles of Tide take up a lot of room, are heavy and use a LOT of plastic to make.
I originally stopped using laundry detergent (I know, it sounds crazy) not because of the plastic issue, but because I attended a seminar on all the carcinogenic compounds we have in our homes. Most laundry detergent is chock full of chemicals that while good for cleaning stains, are very bad for your health as it soaks into your skin all day and night.
The solution I found hit all the marks- no questionable chemicals, no plastic bottles and no extra work for me.
Turns out BERON makes these amazing magic balls. Yeah, I said BALLS. Simply throw one into your washing machine with your dirty clothes and watch the magic happen. I even had my two year old spill beet salad on a white dress shirt and put in the wash with the balls as an experiment, honestly thinking the shirt was destined for the trash. To my amazement, the washer ball removed the stain completely!
If you enjoy having clothes that smell good, you can put a few drops of essential oil onto the center of the ball before you wash. Otherwise, the clothes just come out smelling like clothes. Don’t ask me how they work, I really have no idea. But they really clean and one ball will last you about a year. Amazon sells them for $14 here so there really isn’t a single downside to trying them out.
Use cloth rags instead of trees to wipe the counters.
This was the toughest one for me. I’d spill something, wipe it up and throw away what was once a glorious tree now soaked in pasta sauce. I hated my dependence on paper towels but couldn’t fathom another way to clean my counters.
Cloths are not always fun. They get sticky and gross and thankfully my laundry room is attached to my kitchen so I can just toss them into the wash when I can’t stand to touch them any longer.
It took some getting used to (and I still keep a few rolls for the really nasty stuff) but now I’m a cloth girl and it's really not that bad. Buy some cute, quality ones and they’ll last for years. I have a friend that uses her kid’s old tattered clothes as rags if you really wanna turn the dial up for sustainability!
Personally, I like cellulose cloths like these.
Ditch the plastic shampoo bottles.
They line my bathroom shelf and taunt me with their bright green labels and thick plastic shell- shampoo bottles were my first target when I started looking at the waste in my house. Two months of washing and the bottle was empty and destined for a landfill somewhere.
Thankfully, there are a few companies who provide excellent shampoo and body wash solutions! I personally tried a few and settled on Ethique. The shampoo and conditioner is formed into a bar, much like soap always has, and comes in a biodegradable package you don’t feel bad tossing out. Just lather up from the bar and wash your hair. Easy!
You may have to try a few brands to find what works for you, but because they’re focused on sustainability, they’re also cruelty free, paraben free and overall just better for your hair.
I have mine on auto-order from Amazon. and I’m never going back.
Buy a biodegradable toothbrush.
Bamboo isn’t just for pandas anymore. Although toothbrushes seem small and insignificant, when you start looking at the global problem of sustainability you realize how many toothbrushes the world is going through every day. You’re supposed to change it every three months according to most dentists and if you multiply that by every person in the modern world- yeah, thats a lot of plastic.
This was the easiest fix because it takes absolutely no getting used to. I searched eco-friendly toothbrushes and found ones made from bamboo that biodegrade and won’t stay in landfills forever. The bristles are often still made from plastic but they’re so tiny, it’s still a big win for the planet.
I like The Brush Brand, but there are many others to choose from. They’re also cheaper than regular plastic toothbrushes in the long run- win for the planet and your wallet.
Get a diffuser.
I have a dog, a kid, a cat and a sometimes-smelly husband. I clean my home but sometimes I just want it to smell like… not my home. I used to have an entire drawer dedicated to all the smell-good products- aerosol sprays, plug-ins, candles and those things that spray you with Hawaii every time you walk by.
But when I took down my plastic blinders, I noticed how disposable those things are. For a month I didn’t throw them away, just put them back in the drawer to get an idea of how many I was using. It wasn’t pretty.
I still buy candles (in recyclable glass containers) but I ditched the other stuff with one purchase- a diffuser.
You just put it in a room and fill it with water and any essential oil combination you want. The benefits go so much further than not wasting plastic. My home smells great and I’m not being bombarded with questionable chemicals just for a pleasant smell. There are even health benefits that come along with diffusers- some are for calming you down on a stressful day and some help with allergies and bacteria.
This is where my money saved from paper towels and toothbrushes go. Do some research before you buy essential oils. Some brands are more reputable than others (sadly, the more expensive ones are usually more pure). The purer your oil, the better the benefits.
Don’t answer the “paper or plastic” question.
This is something that takes a bit of getting used to. Plastic grocery bags are the bane of sustainable living. I saw the photos of turtles stuck inside them, fish swimming beside them and all the ones littering the side of the highway. Honestly, we should ban them. But until then, I’ve been working on adjusting my habits to make sure I never say “paper or plastic” at the checkout line.
Buy the reusable ones. They’re cheap, cute and come in many sizes. The tough part is remembering them when you go into the store. And even tougher is going back out to get them when you forget instead of the old “eh, next time.”
I leave mine in the car. A few in the front seat and a few in the back. And if I forget, I go back out and get them or just carry the items I bought.
I don’t know how much of a difference this makes in the grand scheme of things. But I like to think if we all started ditching the plastic bags, they might just stop making them.
Check under the sink.
Most of the solutions I found for limiting my plastic waste also provide other benefits- less potentially harmful chemicals in my home, less money spent, etc. Cleaning products was a big one.
I had no idea the things under my sink contained such powerful ingredients- some of which are even considered carcinogenic. You can look up how toxic the products are under your sink here. You’d think clean would mean clean. That coupled with the plastic bottles they come in meant they had to go.
At first I bought ready-made cleaning supplies in glass bottles. But this was proving to be expensive. So I bought my own bottles and started making cleaner in my kitchen. I could see exactly what was in it and reuse the bottle indefinitely. I make big batches now to refill and use my newfound essential oils to add pleasant smells and bacteria-destroying power.
Here are recipes for two of my most-used cleaners. Most of the ingredients you probably already have in your house.
-2 cups water (distilled is best so there’s no residue)
-one tbsp cornstarch
-1/4 cup distilled vinegar
-7 drops essential oil of your choice
-1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
-3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
-1/2 cup distilled white vinegar (not for use on stone surfaces like marble or granite)
-15 drops essential oil (orange is effective on 22 common bacterial strains)
-2 cups water
Having a zero-waste household is such a crazy concept. To never throw out anything in a world where everything you need to survive is wrapped in plastic seems impossible. And on some level, for most of us, it is. Unless you want to build yourself a cabin in the woods and live off what you can catch or grow, eventually you’re going to buy something you know you’ll have to throw away. And that's ok!
Sometimes I let my anxiety and perfectionism get in the way of progress. But it’s important to remember that every little bit counts. In this capitalist world, we vote with our dollars and supporting companies that take sustainability into account can really make a difference.
Plus, less trash to take out at the end of the day.