Plastics—bags, bottles, toys, packaging—are one of the biggest threats to the environment. Even though many hardworking, thoughtful folks are out there trying to figure out ways to increase how much people recycle plastic materials, too much of it still ends up in landfills or discarded elsewhere in the environment.
The commonsense solution is to avoid using plastics in the first place. However, living a life free of this material is not only challenging, it can feel downright impossible at times. To make it easier to avoid plastics, use the following tips:
- Use candles instead of air fresheners.
Many people turn to air fresheners in plastic containers to revive the scent of a room, but lighting a scented candle can accomplish the same thing. The natural ones made from beeswax or other natural materials will keep the room smelling delightful for hours, and they don’t create any waste afterwards. Typically, these products come in a glass container that you can later reuse or recycle.
- Choose toys made from natural materials.
If you have children, you know that it’s nearly impossible to escape plastic playthings in this day and age, no matter where you shop. However, it is possible to purchase less plastic if you pay close attention to what you are buying. Opt for wood, fabric, paper, and rubber toys whenever possible, and buy recycled books, coloring journals, and paintbrushes with natural fibers. Another way to avoid plastic is to replace markers with crayons, and whatever you do, stay away from toys housed in 5 lbs. of industrial-strength plastic.
- Leave the packaging at the store.
If your child absolutely, positively must have that toy, buy the item and leave the copious plastic packaging behind at the store. That’s right: unwrap the toy right there at the register and leave them with the hulking plastic container. They can figure out what to do with it. Yes, it may end up in landfill, but just imagine what would happen if every customer did this! Stores would eventually be forced to pressure manufacturers to find a better packaging alternative.
- Choose non-disposable grooming products.
Looking around the bathroom, you can find many unnecessary plastic items—razors, toothbrushes, even hairbrushes. You can easily replace all of these plastic grooming items with wooden, aluminum, or hard rubber ones that will likely last longer and won’t end up in a landfill.
- Use matches instead of lighters.
Especially in the winter, sitting by a fire is a cozy and comforting activity. Most people light their fires with long, red plastic lighters. However, these lighters run out of lighter fluid eventually, leaving you with plastic waste. Consider buying long wooden matches instead. They produce no waste, you can even burn the box when it’s empty.
- Look for paper tape.
During the holidays, people purchase yards and yards of clear plastic Scotch tape to wrap their presents. You may not know it, but there are other ways to wrap your gifts. Consider using paper tape instead of plastic. This is a great way to get creative and embrace the environment while making those around you happy.
- Buy clothes made from natural fibers.
Sometimes it’s easy to be misled by the feel of a fabric. These days, synthetic fibers are cheaper and more prevalent than ever, and they often feel like a natural material. But, in fact, many of the clothes you see on the racks contain polymer microfibers referred to as rayon, nylon, or Lycra. As hard as it is to give up your comfy Lycra yoga pants, you should opt for natural fibers—linen, cotton, hemp, wool, cashmere, bamboo— whenever possible. All of these fibers will benefit you and the planet as well. However, if you really want to wear some plastic, you can support these entrepreneurial fashionistas in India.
- Buy loose-leaf tea.
Think about buying your tea in loose-leaf form, using a reusable container, and steeping with a metal strainer. This process avoids tea bags, boxes, and plastic liners, all of which will end up as waste later.
- Don’t filter your water.
Many people enjoy filtered drinking water in their quest to avoid using bottled water. However, this can lead to a great deal of waste. Several companies make handy pitchers that filter the water as you pour it, but when the water filtration cartridge needs changing, what happens to the old one? To reduce plastic waste, you should check with your municipality about the status of your tap water. Chances are good that it’s fine to drink as is.
- Just keep your eyes open.
No one is expecting you to avoid plastics altogether, but even a few small gestures can considerably reduce our waste problem and offer a brighter future to all.