Alternatives to Plastics: Easy Ways to Make a Difference

The following is a list of alternatives to single-use plastic, starting with the worst offenders. These products are most often found in the ocean and are easy ones to replace:

1. Plastic Bottles

In the US alone, 1,500 plastic water bottles are discarded every single second. Let that sink in. Every single second! We send over 38 billion to landfills and into the ocean every single year. This is completely unnecessary! In the developed world we have access to clean water, filters, and reusable bottles. Let’s start using them.

Instead use:

  • A reusable water bottle in place of disposable ones
  • Your own water,smoothies, fresh juice, or teas from home brought from home
  • A water filter in your home instead of having to buy water (This investment will save money overtime too.)

2. Plastic Straws

Straws have been in the news lately and many people are already choosing to opt out. Just say “no thanks” to straws in general, or use Eco-friendly alternatives instead.

Instead use:

  • Stainless steel straws or even glass straws (just be careful with them)
  • Silicone straws

3. Disposable Cups

Polystyrene (styrofoam) cups and disposable coffee cups (which are also lined with plastic) are very prevalent as well. Just like with bottles, these are an easy switch to make and often lead to healthier alternatives to beverages too.

Instead use:

  • A glass and silicone hot or cold beverage cup (this one is completely plastic-free and is a favorite here at EarthWise)
  • An insulated beverage cup that can keep drinks hot or cold for up to 24 hours
  • Any cup or mug you already have if you make these beverages at home instead (and you’ll save money too!)

4. Plastic Grocery Bags

We use the average bag for mere minutes before discarding it. In several places, officials have said plastic bags contributed to flooding by clogging drains and keeping the water from abating. And these types of plastic leach BPA and other compounds into our food and our skin.

Instead try:

  • One set of super strong reusable grocery bags (they can replace literally thousands of disposable grocery bags)
  • For Aldi/Costco shoppers, Lotus Trolley bags fit perfectly into carts and make shopping really easy

5. Produce Bags

Produce bags are easily replaceable too. While the plastic ones in the store are so easy, some inexpensive reusable bags are actually much more convenient and save a lot of plastic exposure in the long run. As a bonus, they don’t rip and drop all of your produce if you pick them up the wrong way!

Instead try:

  • Drawstring produce bags
  • Washable produce totes (Especially good for heavy items or things you buy in bulk)

6. Plastic Containers & Food Wrap

If we’d all just stop buying anything that comes in a plastic container, I think we’d all see our health and our planet change almost immediately! But since that is a really tall order, we can start with some baby steps like reducing packaging formerly processed foods, storing our leftovers in reusable glass or stainless containers, and using non-plastic wrap.

Instead try:

  • Beeswax food wrap (yes they are washable and work great!)
  • Glass and bamboo food containers
  • Stainless steel air-tight food containers

7. Plastic Soap Containers

Many types of antibacterial soaps actually harm the skin microbiome, and they come in single-use plastic containers.

Instead try:

  • Picking out bar soaps from a local soap maker
  • Making your own reusable foaming hand soap instead of discarding the container

8. Bottles of Cleaning Products

In the same way, cleaning products are often just a small amount of the effective ingredients diluted in a lot of water and sold in a big plastic bottle! Many of these cleaners carry the same risks as antibacterial soaps and there are natural options that work much better.

Opt for non-toxic and safe natural cleaning concentrates and use these to make everything from foaming hand soap to all-purpose cleaner and laundry soap. The concentrate comes in a single plastic bottle that is recyclable and I use this to fill reusable glass or stainless steel pump or spray bottles for use around the house. This reduces the need for dozens of other plastic containers!

Instead use:

  • Branch Basics cleaning concentrate which is plant-based, biodegradable, non-toxic and non-GMO
  • Reusable glass spray bottles

9. Food Packaging

Most processed foods come in plastic packaging, and most of them aren’t great food choices anyway. Skip the packaged food and make meals and snacks at home to reduce packaging(and your body will thank you too).

Instead try:

  • Buying foods in bulk whenever possible
  • Joining a natural foods co-op
  • Supporting local farmer’s markets
  • Using stainless steel containers for school lunches

10. Gum

Might not be the first thing you think about when you think of plastic, but most gum does contain plastics and a lot of it ends up in the environment each year.

Instead try:

  • Sipping on a minty herbal tea or fresh juice instead
  • Chew a natural alternative like Glee

Take the No-Plastic Challenge for a Month

If you’re as concerned as we are about how plastic is affecting our health and our planet and want to make a difference, please join us in avoiding single-use plastics for a month. The rules are simple and we’re on the honor system, but here’s how to do it:

  1. Make a plan for how you’ll avoid or replace these single-use plastic items. Carry a water bottle and reusable coffee mug. Stock your car with some reusable grocery bags, and meal plan to cook foods at home instead of ordering takeout. And swear off drinks in plastic bottles entirely!
  2. Get any necessary supplies to have on hand instead.
  3. Let us know in the comments when you’restarting and how it goes!