“I hate plastic,” I complained to my friend Sue. “I want to get it out of my life.”
“But it’s ubiquitous,” Sue answered.
“So’s crime,” I told her.
Ever since we had that conversation, Sue and I have been trying to pare down the plastic crap that invades both our lives.
Do you want to rid your life of plastic?
There are so many ways to rid your life of plastic, big and small.
I honestly don’t know how much it helps, in the long run. But I do know I have to try to rid my life of plastic. We can’t keep destroying the reefs, polluting the oceans, and clogging the landfills.
I don’t want humans to end up polluting ourselves out of existence but if we keep destroying the environment the way we have been.
We need big policy changes from the top down.
To commit to the end of the plastic nation.
But we can’t wait for our legislators to fix what we’ve broken. We can start now.
Even if it feels like spitting in the ocean, you can rid your life of plastic.
The plastic nation’s time is up.
If New York City can greatly reduce its crime rates, can’t we greatly reduce our plastic consumption?
Here are 5 ways to get started on your journey to rid your life of plastic. Remember everything you do to rid your life of plastic, no matter how small, will help.
1. Bring your own spoon
I have 3 espresso spoons in my purse.
I use them every day.
If you carry your own small spoon you’ll never need to use a plastic spoon again.
2. Don’t buy plastic trash bags. You don’t need them!
I thought this was a weird idea too, when my friend Myra first suggested it. But our family stopped using plastic kitchen bags and black plastic garbage bags several years ago.
Turns out you don’t need a plastic trash bag for the trash in your kitchen.
You don’t need any plastic garbage bags in your life.
Go commando in the kitchen.
And then dump the trash from the waste receptacle in your kitchen directly into your curbside garbage bin, if your county permits it (most in Oregon do). Not using plastic garbage bags saves you money and saves the environment.
And, voila!, you rid your life of plastic.
Some municipalities do not allow commando garbage. Check with your city officials to find out. And start a campaign to change the policy if going commando is not allowed.
3. Buy in bulk
It’s easy to buy in bulk, once you get in the habit of bringing your own mason jars.
Nearly every grocery store has a bulk section these days.
Think of the thousands of tons of plastic packaging saved.
We do our best to buy the following in bulk:
Flour of all kinds
4. Forget the plastic produce bags
Even if you’re not quite ready to commit to bulk buying or bringing your own jars, you don’t need to put bananas in a produce bag.
Or vegetables like broccoli and bok choy.
If I had a dollar for every time someone used a plastic produce bag when they didn’t need it, I would be a rich lady today.
Granted it’s trickier with mushrooms and kumquats.
But can we please all agree to never use plastic produce bags when we don’t need them?!
As I wrote about on social media, I was so glad in 2019 when the Ashland Food Co-op started charging just .02 cents per plastic produce bag. Overnight consumers changed their habits based on this new negative incentive. You can too!
5. Wrap presents in reusable gift bags, old newspaper, or maps
Did you know that wrapping paper is often made with plastic?
To say nothing of the single-use plastic film that coats the roll you just bought.
Never buy wrapping paper again.
Use old calendars, magazines, and maps to wrap presents.
Or, best of all, put your gifts in reusable cloth gift bags that are completely plastic free.
Buy organic cotton gift bags on-line or, better yet, make them yourself out of old clothing and fabric scraps.
Do you feel like plastic has invaded your life? What are you doing to rid your life of plastic?
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I feel the same way. I start shaking when clerks, without a clue, start filling a plastic bag at the check-out counter. Then I explain I always bring my own and whip one out, but cannot resist explaining why, how renegade plastic bags are killing sea creatures in the ocean nearby, that the plastic breaks up and the fish eat it, that it has collected in huge gyres. They just stare at me. The store clerks in town never give me plastic. When clerks do ask if I need a bag, I thank them. I think there’s an education curve and we are still climbing.
Jennifer Margulis says
I agree Alexandra. But I am baffled by how those who DO know better and ARE educated resist change for so long and don’t improve. I have been petitioning our local food co-op to charge for produce bags. Five cents per bag would mean that people would instantly–overnight–stop using them unnecessarily. You don’t need a bag for bananas! Or for apples! Or most things, really. It’s just a bad habit. But though I’ve gone to the board, written the suggestion, talked to the managers twice, they don’t want to do it. They don’t have a reason! Just resistance to change. Isn’t that sad?
Washington, DC, implemented a five-cent charge on plastic grocery bags (over loud protests from the usual suspects), but it’s been great so far. The Anacostia River (which had been choked with old bags) is getting cleaner, the city is generating revenue, and reusable-bag usage has shot up. They even enforce it in the cafeteria at Children’s Hospital. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve slooooowly walked back to the CICU with my hands full of food — anything to avoid using plastic!
sarah henry says
That cartoon is hilarious. While not all those items can be replaced, I do find washable wrappers a good way to store lunch and snack items.
Bring on the glass! Plastic is so declasse!!
Sallie Bernard says
Hi Jennifer, great topic for a blg. A few more ideas –
Bring your own bottle/cannister for the fountain drinks and coffee rather than the plastic/paper cups and straws.
Buy Lunchskins or similar brands (they are available all over) re-usable baggies rather than plastic ziplocks. They can be washed in the dishwasher or washing machine.
In addition to a spoon, carry a fork and knife too.
One problem is that the really good salad stuff comes in pre-packaged plastic and not in bulk. How to get around?
Question: how does the store measure the weight on mason jars to get around not paying for the weight of the jar?
Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D. says
Love all these ideas, Sallie. And seeing your name here makes me so happy! There’s a push in Ashland right now to get the local businesses to STOP using disposable straws, which I think is great. I wonder about the salad stuff too. An imperfect solution is to wash and recycle the plastic–our local recycling center is going to start taking “soft” plastic bags again. But that’s not the best fix. For mason jars, at the Ashland Food Co-op and Shop N Kart, and everywhere that offers BULK food, there is a scale for you to take the weight of the jar. Then you write the tare on the lid and at the register they subtract that weight. It’s a very good system. My son figured out that brown paper bags these stores supply also have a small tare and we started taking note of that as well, when we forgot to bring jars, so we weren’t paying for the weight of the paper bag either!