The best ways to reduce plastic usage at home and when you travel

Plastic changed our lives and so the planet but sadly, not for the better. The amount of garbage that ends up in landfill and in our oceans is inconceivable. To make our earth a cleaner place, learn some easy ways to reduce plastic in your home and when traveling! Following these tips, changing old habits and with a little effort, we all can make a difference and going (almost) plastic-free!

Why you should reduce plastic

Plastic never decomposes, only degrades, meaning it gets smaller and smaller. A plastic bottle can break into 10.000 tiny pieces, so-called microplastic, which might be not visible for the naked eye, but stays forever in the environment, and sooner or later ends in the ocean.

plastic bottle in the sea
Plastic bottle in the sea

Ocean plastic pollution affects all of us. There are more than 5 trillion plastic pieces floating in our oceans that are not only killing marine creatures, corals and animals that live near the seas, but also has impacts on human health. The long-term hazards of the presence of microplastic in our waters are still unpredictable. But it is already proven, that most fish and seafood contain microplastic and this is what we eat.

Cleaning the seas is an urgent matter, but it is even more crucial to find ways to reduce your plastic usage dramatically, switch to biodegradable products and make your travel more sustainable!

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15 easy ways to reduce plastic in your everyday life

Plastic is a modern world’s invention. This cheap yet durable material meant to be applied in situations where others can’t be, but because it is lightweight and versatile, quickly became widely-used over classical packaging materials like glass, cardboard and metal.

Plastic waste near the road
Plastic waste from household

Nowadays manufacturers force us to buy our daily necessities wrapped in tons of plastic and make us think we can’t live without it. But if you pay closer attention to your everyday habits, you will realize that most plastic can be easily eliminated from our everyday life, or replaced with natural materials. Going green is easier than it seems at first sight!

Zero-waste life essentail items
Zero-waste life beginner kit

Following some of these tips below you can significantly cut down your plastic footprint and reduce the waste you create at home and when traveling!

Use canvas tote bags

Reusable canvas tote bags are not only cool-looking and environment-friendly but also stronger and more durable than the ugly plastic bags. Using your own canvas bags when shopping is very simple yet one of the most powerful ways to reduce plastic in your everyday life.

Reusable canvas bag
Reusable canvas bag

The heavy-duty plain ones are ideal to use for shopping, but one can find also stylish canvas bags with zipper and practical pockets that you can use as an eco-friendly handbag too. Once you start taking canvas bags when going to the supermarket you will quickly realize how easily you can skip the use of single-use plastic bags. Keep some in your handbag, in your car and put one in your luggage when you leave for holiday so you can happily say in all situations: No plastic bag, thanks!

Extra large heavy-duty cotton canvas grocery bag

  • durable 12 ounce cotton canvas with strong handles
  • extra large size, 20 x 14 inch
  • stylish, strong and eco-friendly
  • multi purpose use

Search for packaging free items/ zero-waste shops

Do you remember traditional grocery stores where the rice, flour was sold from barrels, there was no pre-sliced cheese or meat and the milk came in reusable glass-bottles? Nowadays convenient supermarkets operate without respecting the environment and creating tons of rubbish on a daily basis.

But fortunately, consumers are aware of the plastic problem and realize how we pollute our environment and the oceans. Conscious shoppers increase the demand for zero-waste shops where you can get most of your daily used items from the bulk or just simply packaging-free.

Packaging-free shopping
Packaging-free shopping

If there is no zero-waste shop where you live, do your best and find alternative ways to reduce plastic usage when going to the supermarket! Take a reusable produce bag for fruits and vegetables! Tell the deli counter assistant that you want to use own container! Buy bread in paper wrap! There is so much we can do for a green sustainable world!

Shop locally, buy seasonal products

Choosing local products and services over import goods is important because of ethical and environmental reasons. If you get your daily needs from farmers and small business owners, it means you are not only supporting the local community, but this behavior is one of the best ways to reduce plastic waste!

Plastic free shopping tips

The transportation of goods is not possible without packaging which protects the food from contaminants and pests as well as preserves it to be able to stay longer fresh. But why would you choose oversea products that spend weeks in refrigerated containers and come with a lot of packaging if you can buy freshly harvested fruits and veggies locally without creating waste?

Besides shopping near your home, we encourage you to eat more seasonal food and reduce the consumption of imported non-seasonal. Locally grown seasonal fruits and veggies are less likely end up wrapped in useless plastic. Take your own containers when heading to the market!

Get a reusable water bottle

It is a shocking fact that more than 1 million plastic water bottles are used every minute in the world and only 8% of them gets recycled. Frankly, buying bottled water is a luxury if you live in a country where the tap water is potable.

Avoiding bottled water and using a reusable water bottle is definitely one of the best things you can do for the environment! It can be stainless steel, glass or durable plastic, the result is the important: find alternative options to reduce plastic in your everyday life!

Woman with metal water bottle at the beach
Use an eco-friendly water bottle!

In fact, drinking tap water is often safer than bottled water. Government has stricter regulations on water quality than water bottling companies who are interested in profit only. Don’t let marketing slogans lead you!

Only some bottled water comes from groundwater sources or mountain springs and the majority of bottled waters is double or triple-filtered tap water. Studies show that often phthalates, microbes, arsenic or mold can be found in plastic bottles. Moreover, the rumor has that hormone-disrupting chemicals can get into your drink if the single-use plastic bottle is exposed to heat or frozen. However, this theory is not proved yet, but why would you risk your health if you can solve the situation with a simple action?

Vacuum insulated stainless steel water bottle

  • double walled, suitable for cold and hot drinks
  • premium stainless steel with durable matte finish
  • leakproof
  • dishwasher safe

I agree, it can be difficult to get your water refill when traveling to countries where the tap water is not potable. But luckily, even in these places there are more and more refill stations, moreover often restaurants offer free water-refill. Walk around with open-eyes to find these places! Do yourself and for the environment a favor and get a reusable water bottle!

Carry a reusable coffee cup

Takeaway coffee cups make a significant part of the garbage in our environment and seas. Only the UK throws away more than 2.5 million takeaway cups per year and the recycling rate of them is extremely low, less than 1%.

You might say that you skip the plastic lid and get your morning coffee from your favorite coffee house in a paper cup which is compostable, but let me inform you this is far from the truth. Commonly used paper coffee cups have an inside plastic layer that makes them difficult the recycle: the plastic layer needs to be removed which is a long and pricey process.

Reusable coffee cup
Reusable coffee cup

With this in mind, it is clear that skipping takeaway cups is one of the best ways to reduce plastic in your everyday life. Make your own coffee at home and take it with you in a reusable insulated coffee cup. If you can’t give up on real coffee house experience, luckily, there are shops that operate following the ‘Bring your own reusable coffee cup principle. Search for them and support businesses that are taking care of the environment!

Insulated stainless steel coffee mug

  • robust yet sleek design
  • sweat-free, smooth-to-touch finishing
  • splash proof closable lid
  • 2 steel straws, cleaning brush

Switch to glass and metal food containers

Plastic-free food storing solutions are getting more and more popular and it is easy to find containers that are durable and BPA-free. (BPA is an industrial chemical used in many products like plastic bottles and container and can release dangerous toxins into your food or drinks)

Glass food containers
Use glass/metal containers to store food!

To decide which one is better, glass or stainless-steel containers, take a look at their advantages and (some) disadvantages! Stainless steel food containers are stylish, lightweight and durable, but not microwaveable. Glass food containers are but heavier and can break, but can be used in the microwave and in the oven too (if made from tempered glass). Investing in a few sets of glass and steel food storing sets is a big step towards reducing the use of plastic in your household.

Bring own cutlery when traveling/eating out

Americans use more than 100 million plastic cutlery every day. The usage of disposable spoons, forks and knives can be easily eliminated with a little care. However, the best way is to cook and eat at home, but of course no one is asking you to give up on eating out.

Zero-waste cutlery and bowls
Wooden cutlery and bowls – stylish and eco-friendly!

When ordering food for delivery, express clearly that you don’t need plastic utensils. If buying snacks on the go, set an example and bring your own eco-friendly travel cutlery set! It can be your everyday fork and knife from home, but you can buy compostable wooden, reusable bamboo utensils or plant-based biodegradable cutlery. Going plastic-free begins with such small steps!

100% organic Bamboo cutlery set

  • non-toxic, recyclable  and eco-friendly
  • comfortable texture that doesn't warp or scratch
  • spoon, fork, knife, straw and chopsticks in practical canvas travel bag
  • extra charcoal bamboo toothbrush

Skip plastic straws, use bamboo, metal or silicone

Plastic straws are one of the most found litter in our oceans and beaches. According to the latest statistics, people use 500 million plastic straws every day only in the US. Recycle machines can’t handle the small and lightweight straws, therefore they usually end up in landfill and then in the ocean. The best is of course to say no to plastic straws, but if you really need them, buy alternatives!

Coconut drink with bamboo straw
Coconut drink with bamboo straw

The best eco-friendly straws:

  • Bamboo straw: sustainable, compostable, biodegradable, but difficult to clean
  • Silicone straw: doesn’t change the taste of liquids, plastic-like properties, easy to clean, durable
  • Metal straw: stylish and durable, metallic taste can occur, cleaning needs extra attention, gets warm from hot liquids
  • Glass straw: good-looking, transparent so it is easier to clean, can break when dropped

Try beeswax food wraps

If you are looking for ways to reduce plastic in your kitchen, a good alternative is using eco-friendly beeswax wraps instead of non-recyclable cling wrap. Beeswax food wraps are cotton towels treated with beeswax and pine resin. These cool-looking, colorful towels are not only super sticky and seal extremely well, but also keep the food longer fresh. Perfect to cover any leftovers in the fridge or wrap your snacks when you travel!

Zero Waste beeswax food wraps

  • 3 pack set in different sizes
  • wrap cheese, vegetables, bread and to cover leftovers
  • washable, reusable, compostable
  • only eco-friendly ingredients

Beeswax wraps are reusable! To clean them, just wash simply with cold water and gentle liquid detergent. The wraps last up to 1 year if you regularly refresh them by ironing between 2 pieces of baking paper in every 1-2 months. Besides these eco features, they are biodegradable too, meaning you can put them in the compost.

Switch to solid shampoo bar and packaging-free bathroom products

Shampoo and shower gel bottles made from HDPE is one of the most easily recyclable plastics that most recycle centers accept and can handle. But don’t let this fact keep you calmly buying your ordinary shampoos and shower gels. In fact, only a small percentage of those ugly bottles gets recycled so it is crucial not to buy them if there is an eco-friendly solution.

Packaging free solid shampoo advantages

The first was popular solid cosmetic product was definitely the Lush shampoo bar, but nowadays several manufacturers offer various beauty products in solid form like body butter, scrubs, deodorants, moisturizers, conditioners. The best is to choose handmade, all-natural, organic, vegan and cruelty-free products!

Advantages of solid bar cosmetic products:

  • Packaging-free
  • Small yet concentrated
  • More natural, SLS and paraben-free
  • Doesn’t contain preservatives
  • Convenient when traveling, don’t leak
  • Last longer than liquid products
Ethique shampoo bar

  • equivalent to 3 bottles of normal liquid shampoo
  • soap-free and palm oil free
  • cruelty-free and vegan
  • compostable packaging

Get a biodegradable toothbrush

Millions of used toothbrushes end up in landfill each year and are one of the most common rubbish in beaches all over the world. Changing your plastic toothbrush to a biodegradable bamboo one is one of the easiest ways to reduce plastic in your bathroom with an immediate effect.

Eco-friendly toothbrush
Eco bamboo toothbrush

However, it is difficult to find the best plastic-free toothbrush. Check if the brush handle is biodegradable and investigate if the packaging is plastic-free, eco-friendly too!

A bamboo toothbrush with nylon bristles is a good choice. The handle is compostable, while the bristles are BPA-free high-quality nylon. Bamboo toothbrush with charcoal bristles that are great for whitening teeth too.

Make your own natural cleaning detergents

Frankly, most of the plastic-bottled detergents we store in our kitchen and bathroom are unnecessary. Moreover, the chemicals in those aggressive cleaning products are dangerous for humans as well as to the whole ecosystem. Why would you poison yourself and the planet if you can make your own natural zero waste detergents?

Baking soda, lemon and essential oils
Natural home cleaning kit – Baking soda, lemon and essential oils

Best natural cleaning detergents:

  • Bicarbonate of soda: removes odors and stains
  • Lemon: a natural bleach, removes rust, stains, brightens whites
  • Vinegar: the best eco-friendly glass and window cleaner, removes lime-scale (buy it in glass bottle!)

To go zero-waste in terms of your laundry detergents, switch to biodegradable organic soap nuts and reusable natural fabric softener balls!

Cocoboo organic soap nuts

  • hand-picked and sun-dried soap berries
  • chemical-free and hypoallergenic
  • multi-purpose household cleaning solution to was clothes, dishes, body and face
  • 240+ loads

Avoid synthetic clothes, choose natural fabrics

Synthetic fibers such as polyester, acrylic, rayon, nylon and microfiber are made from plastic and oil byproducts. They contain chemicals that can enter our bodies, are not breathable and hold bacteria. Besides these, they release hundreds of thousands of plastic fibers into our waters.

Plastic free natural clothing to choose

More than 2900 tonnes of microplastic enter the waterways only in the UK as the result of washing syntenic clothes. Microfibers are so tiny that they move through the washing machine’s filter and even the sewage water filtering system. Since they are not biodegradable, they remain in our oceans forever. There, planktons, sponges and small microorganisms eat them and like this, they and make their way through the whole food chain. Consider buying natural clothing and stay away from synthetic fast-fashion items!

Natural fabrics to choose:

  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Hemp
  • Silk
  • Wool

Repair things when they break, buy less

We live in a consumer society where the most important is buying and selling goods continuously. Modern life makes us to buy way more products than we actually need and somehow, we forgot that the majority of our household goods are reparable in most cases. Keep this is mind and when something breaks in your home, try to fix it first! You might just need to order some new parts or do a little repair. If you can’t fix the problem at home, ask help from a professional handyman!

Things you should repair to reduce waste

When buying new items, do your research and choose products has good reviews, come with long warranty period and an extensive after-sales and service network. Following this mentality, you will save money and cut down your waste!

Reuse and recycle

The waste management’s mantra is reduce, reuse and recycle. The most important part of this process is definitely the reduce part, but it is also crucial to learn how to reuse and recycle on the right way.

You might have already changed a lot on your buying habits in order to go green, but I’m sure you still have some plastic items in your home that you need to handle. The best advice is, think about reusing first! Reusing means that you use the same item again and again in its original use or in a creative way. Allow your creativity to flourish and you will see there are thousands of various opportunities to reuse waste items! Besides saving a lot of money, the creative process of reusing can be a fun family event too! 

On the other side, recycling means transforming the waste into a useful item. This includes various steps from collecting the rubbish separately to treat it on the right way in order to give the products a new life.

Both the reuse and recycle processes offer a great opportunity to decrease the use of new materials and minimize energy-use and pollution that all can contribute to creating a cleaner, greener environment.

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tips to reduce plastic waste

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Anett Szaszi

Anett is a certified scuba diver, freediver and an expert in snorkeling with more than 10 years experience. She fell in love with the ocean when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea in 2008. Since then , she is traveling all over the world to discover our waters. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. Visiting mega-cities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. She is interested in sustainable traveling and marine conservation. She is hoping to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!