Plastic footprint is staring us right in the face, with eyes as big and unfriendly as Godzilla’s through a broken skyscraper window. Many of us choose to turn away, not with fear but with complete apathy and the nonchalance of John Wayne walking into the sunset.
“Forty per cent of plastic packaging waste is disposed of at sanitary landfills.”The Guardian
“80% of plastic in our oceans is from land sources.”World Wildlife Fund
The figures should be sending a shudder through our collective spine. But human indifference is an equally frightening beast.
If we continue this way then one day Godzilla will do more than just stare at us.
Here are 50+ little ways in which you can reduce your plastic footprint. Some of them you may already know but this one’s a jumbo list that I have tried to make as comprehensive as possible.
Let’s begin with the impact of plastic in our kitchens and food products.
Kitchen and food…
1. Invest in earthen or cast iron cookware
They are more durable and look classier than plastic cookware. If you already own plastic cookware, take care of them and ensure they last a good number of years. Here’s why cast iron cookware is an essential addition to an eco-friendly kitchen.
2. Eat fresh produce
Say no to pre-made food if possible. Fresh vegetables and fruits can last a long time. Try this healthy option than opting for packaged snacks. If the weather is cool enough then there is no need for refrigeration; rather store them in damp burlap bags.
3. Make your own fruit juice
Following on from the previous point, why buy frozen juice at a high cost when you have the healthier option of a home-made fruit juice. Buy fresh fruits and squeeze every ounce of goodness from them.
4. Avoid frozen food if possible
Frozen foods come in plastic containers or TetraPaks which cannot be recycled. Even cardboard boxes are coated with plastic.
5. Try loose tea
Do teabags contain plastic? The short answer is Yes. There are microplastics present in them. Opt for the safest option – loose tea. Or you can make your own tea bags with coffee filter paper or muslin cloth.
6. Make your own post-workout energy bars and drinks
Doing this brings down your plastic footprint as you are not using plastic bottles or wrappers. Making your own drinks and snacks are also fun and easy to achieve.
(Also check out how to create an eco-friendly fitness routine.)
7. Say no to bottled water
Don’t purchase bottled water. Filter your own which may actually be safer. Not everything the industry says is gospel.
8. Say no to coffee cup lids
Every little action counts. They may press it upon you as protocol but as a customer, you have a right to refuse.
9. Bring your own cutlery to the streets
This may require some bravery but bringing your own forks, knives or containers to restaurants or takeaways can contribute to reducing down your plastic footprint.
10. Eat in restaurants
Ordered food is often packed in plastic containers. The simplest way to avoid this is to eat in restaurants. Plus, a little walk and fresh air will do you no harm.
11. Buy from butcher shops
Buying your meat from butchers is more sustainable than buying meat from stores, which is wrapped in plastic. Just ask your butcher to wrap the meat in paper.
12. Use your own containers and buy in bulk
The kitchen is the biggest culprit regarding carbon footprint. So, instead of bringing more of the gremlins into your space, visit stores with your own non-plastic containers and buy from the bulk section.
13. Stay away from single-serving sizes
Buy a large quantity than visit the store several times in the future. This is cost-effective and reduces your plastic consumption and also carbon footprint (no frequent car travel).
14. Use wine bottles with natural cork
Planning to stock your wine cabinet? Buy bottles that have natural cork stoppers. The rest are not biodegradable.
15. Use the milk delivery service
If the milkman is an option, use his services. Clear plastic bottles are hard to recycle and cartons end up the landfill.
16. Make compost of food waste
Fashion a compost bin in your backyard and make compost from wet food waste. If you are a city dweller, invest in an indoor compost bin.
17. Plant a vegetable garden
This is cost-effective and benefits your health. It also negates the need to visit commercial stores, reducing your plastic and carbon footprint. If you are new to gardening and don’t have time, you may want to start with an indoor herb garden.
For more personal benefits you can even give garden ecotherapy a go.
18. The curse of the chewing gum
Gums are made from plastic which renders them not very healthy and non-biodegradable. Plus, there is the issue of the wrappers. Bottom line, they harm the environment. Single bag mints are a great alternative.
Before we continue, plastic footprint is not the same as carbon footprint
Plastic Footprint vs Carbon Footprint
Plastic footprint is the amount of plastic you use and discard in your life. Example: Single use plastic products like bottles or bags.
Carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases emitted through your lifestyle. Example: The use of energy sources like electricity, gas and petrol in making one piece of apparel.
Moving on, here are more ways to reduce our plastic footprint.
Cosmetics, bathroom and sanitary products…
19. Use cotton buds with paper or wooden stems
Cotton buds do a good job of cleaning your ears but the ones with plastic sticks end up dirtying the environment. Paper and wooden stems are better alternatives.
20. Bamboo toothbrush
These brushes are natural and way cooler looking. You can throw them away after use without any guilt.
21. Avoid soap in plastic bottles
Buy bars instead. Same goes for shampoos and conditioners. A lot of shampoo bars in the market have high pH so pick ones that are gentle and moisturizing and have pH between 5 and 7. Many of these products are also available in powdered forms.
22. Exfoliators contain plastic
Micro-beads in exfoliators have micro-plastics that are destroying ocean life. These days many companies are coming up with biodegradable options.
Speaking of microplastics, even synthetic clothes have them which make it to the ocean through laundry. You can use a wash bag to capture these particles. Here are more tips on how to create an eco-friendly laundry routine.
23. Use a razor where you have to just replace the blade
This way handles can stay off the landfill.
24. Use the menstrual cup
The thought of it may seem uncomfortable to some but menstrual cups are a very good sustainable alternative to disposable pads due to their reusability. Plus, they are handy while traveling.
25. Use cotton pads and wipes
Commercial wipes are mostly made of plastic and do not decompose. Never flush them in the toilet. Reusable cotton pads are a much better option and cost-effective too in the long run.
26. Try cloth diapers
Babies have a massive plastic footprint. Here’s an alarming stat for you! The third largest consumer items in landfills are disposable baby diapers.
27. Cut down on plastic toys
While toys can last generations, it does not mean that they don’t make the journey to the landfill at some point in time. These days, there is the option of toys made from sustainable material, for the environmentally conscious.
Bringing down plastic footprint in and around the house…
28. Green clean
DIYs can bring down plastic bottle consumption when it comes to cleaning your home. A simple combination of water and vinegar can work wonders on glass and other surfaces. Here’s a simple guide for more DIY home cleaning products. Or get concentrated cleaners that you can mix with water on a reusable bottle.
29. Try eco-friendly ways to get rid of closet odor
There are also some amazing eco-friendly ways to maintain the freshness of you closets, which do not require any plastic use. You will find them in this article, How to get rid of closet odor naturally.
30. Make your own shampoo
DIY shampoos negate the need to buy hair products that come in plastic bottles. Here’s a recipe for an all-green DIY ayurvedic shampoo.
31. Shopping bags
Opt for reusable tote bags. Of the trillion single-use plastic bags used annually, less than five percent make it to recycling. Most of the rest find their way into the oceans where marine animals consume them and die.
Off with the cling wraps. They cannot be recycled, foil can. Beeswax wraps are popular and extremely viable alternatives.
33. Plastic trash bags
Opt for small ones to take out the slimy stuff. The dry garbage can be dumped in the bin without a liner.
34. Wire hangers
We used to have wire hangers till plastic ones infiltrated then dominated the market. If you use plastic hangers, shift back to wire hangers, or metal hangers that happen to be 100% recyclable and far sturdier.
Wooden hangars are another alternative. You can use essential oils on them to combat the musty smell of your closet.
Other tips on reducing plastic footprint…
35. Buy from your local markets
Doing this not only improves the local farming business but it also does away with the packaging in commercial stores. It’s a great method to reduce plastic footprint. Plus, you will be doing your bit to slow down the rate of imported goods.
36. Carefully go over the ingredients list
Daily-use products such as toothpaste may contain microplastics. Look out for polyethlene or polypropylene or, worse, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Polystyrene which may take up to 1000 years to biodegrade.
37. Rent than buy
Instead of buying products with plastic in them or items made of materials that cannot be recycled, why not rent? Electronic items, tools and a lot more can be rented from places like Craiglist or you can share stuff through exchange sites.
38. Opt for a minimalist lifestyle
The concept of minimalism is to do away with unnecessary and unhealthy spending. It stresses on only purchasing quality items of value that’ll last for a long time.
39. Purchase fewer clothes and don’t wash them too much either
Adopting slow fashion and buying fewer clothes help to reduce your carbon footprint. Moreover, synthetic clothes contain fibers that have plastic in them. Every time we wash them, these toxic elements end up in our waterways.
40. Buy reusable gift paper
Those refulgent glittering wrapping papers are amazing to look at but they are a nuisance to recycle. There are other options to wrap gifts, like newspaper, cloth or you can reuse pages from old books .
41. Give eco-friendly gifts
Try gifting your loved ones items that are eco-friendly and sustainable and which they can use for a long time. With more and more companies going the eco-friendly route you are spoilt for choices.
42. Have sustainable parties
Banners and fancy table cloths that you buy from the store are not easily recyclable and are hardly reused. Next time, try reusable party goods. There are tutorials in abundance to get you started. Plus, glitter contains micro-plastic, but the good news is that there is plenty of eco-friendly glitter in the market.
43. The balloon is a hazard
Balloons are fun and a fixture of parties but they inevitably end up in the oceans where they harm marine life. There is an option though, in the form of biodegradable latex balloons.
44. Get yourself an authentic Christmas tree
These offer sustainability besides a great smell. Just make sure you recycle them once the season is over. If you are already using a synthetic tree, ensure that it lasts a long time. Further, ditch the harmful tinsel and plastic décor and invest in some DIY using paper, fabric and pieces of wood.
45. Refuse headphones on airplanes
Politely decline them. I know they are free but you are just adding to the plastic footprint by taking them. Bring your own pair instead, which may anyway be of a higher quality.
46. Do a plastic audit
Count the amount of plastic you’ve collected over a set period of time. This could be a couple of weeks to a month. You may be surprised at the plastic products in your house that you do not use more than once. This is a great way to check your plastic footprint.
47. Use matches
Avoid plastic lighters. If you are a smoker or require something to light a fire, use matches instead. Or use a metal lighter that will serve you for a long time.
48. Avoid single-use plastic
Plastic straws, forks and spoons that are thrown away after one use are a major contributor to the landfill. Try carrying your own utensils with you or you may use sustainable alternatives that come in paper, bamboo or stainless steel forms.
49. Avoid hotel wash products
The free stuff you get in hotels is free for a reason. They are superficial and no way near as good as the ones at home. If you want hotels to stop giving them away, simply stop taking them.
50. Be careful of the dreaded BPA
Bisphenol A (BPA) is added to plastic to harden them and is a common fixture in many items. This compound has been linked to health conditions such as obesity, reproduction problems, and even cancer. The risks were considered grave enough for France to ban the use of the chemical in food packaging. Read about toxic plastic and avoid them at all costs. When buying cans, opt for BPA-free cans.
Be the change…
51. Donate to environmental causes
Every little contribution helps to fight plastic pollution. There are many environmental organizations around that could do with some help.
52. Be the garbage man
Take a recyclable, non-plastic bag and gloves and pick litter when you are on a walk. How about the Scandinavian concept of plogging, where you pick up litter whilst jogging? Another fun idea is to take part in clean-ups where you can meet up with like-minded people.
53. Let businesses and the government know your stance
Write to your local businesses or the government and let them know where you stand regarding their plastic footprint. Rwanda has banned all plastic and only producing brown paper bags. If you are loud and persistent enough, you will be heard.
Plastic footprint is not like global warming where skeptics can sprout non-valid but semi-sustainable arguments. It’s a real threat and there for all to see.
There’s no perfect green product right now but we can still do what we can to fight for our and the planet’s health.
So which tip are you going to try first? Do you already implement some of these tips to reduce your plastic footprint? Is there anything you wish to add? Let us know in the comments.