Plastic Free July is coming to an end folks! However, that doesn‘t mean a plastic free lifestyle has to. There is no bad time to talk a bit about sustainability and living a less wasteful lifestyle.
Plastic has taken over the world. It is in the majority of the products we buy, and is actually quite a versitile material as it is affordable, resistant, and a major player in food preservation. However, over 8 MILLION TONS of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year. 50% of that comes from single-use items (items used briefly by us, but live for hundreds of years on our planet).
However, it’s important to remember the goal of reducing waste begins with reducing our overall consumption. Minimalism is a huge part of this. If we are thoughtful and conscious consumers, and try to remember less is more, we might learn that we are just as happy and fulfilled with fewer things in our lives.
Another very important point I’d like to mention before sharing these swaps – sustainability is a privilege. Not everyone has access to this lifestyle. I highly recommend listening to No Trash Talk Podcast’s episode on Intersectional Environmentalism to learn more about this topic. It’s important to remember that the problem does not go away when we simply stop purchasing plastic products at the consumer level. It definitely helps not add to the problem, but it does not entirely solve the problem.
Plastic free is not an option for everyone. You do not have to incorporate all these swaps in order to be a conscious and sustainable consumer. Instead, uncovering the companies we buy from and choosing the more humane and environmentally conscious brand is a great way to be a more thoughtful consumer.
In order to make this post more widely accessible, I have included some lower cost (if not zero cost) sustainable practices, as well as swaps for people willing to invest in some long term items.
Without further ado, here are my 10 favourite plastic free swaps and tips!
1. Reusable Water Bottle or Coffee Mugs
For those that don’t have access to clean drinking water, plastic bottles are a necessity.
However for those of us that do have access to clean water, this is one of the simplest swaps you can make.
I like to bring a water bottle with me everywhere I go, so that there’s never an excuse to buy or use a disposable cup!
TRAVEL TIP: Bring an empty water bottle on airplanes and instead of using the disposable cups they offer, ask the staff to fill up your bottle. Be polite and most of the time they do! For road trips, if you need to stop at a coffee shop or cafe, instead of buying a plastic water bottle kindly ask the staff to fill up your reusable bottle or mug!
2. Shampoo & Conditioner Bars
I switched to shampoo & conditioner bars last year, and it was one of the best swaps I’ve ever made! At first I was overwhelmed and thought I’d be sacrificing quality and ease, but let me tell you – it was quite the opposite. You get so used to using them (all you do is swirl the bar in your hair and/or suds in your hand) and my hair has actually benefited from switching over. It seems to be even cleaner and doesn’t get as oily as it used to! They also last very long; one shampoo bar lasts me around 3 months, and one conditioner bar lasts almost 4-5 months.
I use a local Edmonton brand, Jack49 Body Co. I highly recommend them! They are devoted to sustainable practices and use very minimal packaging – cardboard if anything. They also sell reusable tins that are perfect for travelling and storage!
- Of course if these are not in your budget, I would recommend buying shampoo and conditioner in the largest bottle you can find so that you don’t have to buy as many individual plastic containers. This will end up saving you money as well!
3. Mesh or Canvas Produce Bags
This swap is one of my favourites. Those disposable plastic produce bags at grocery stores are not only flimsy, but extremely wasteful!
The same goes for plastic grocery bags. Bringing your own bags is such a simple thing to do, and is relatively inexpensive.
Grocery Store Tips
It can be difficult to avoid packaging when grocery shopping, and that’s okay! No one is perfect – I definitely am not. If you must buy products with packaging:
- Try to pick cardboard, metal, or glass over plastic. You can use the glass containers to store salad dressings, dips, sauces, and bulk items in the future!
- Buy the largest items you can (similar to the shampoo and conditioner bottles) so that you don’t have to buy as many individual plastic containers
- Do not use bags when buying produce with thicker skins (bananas, avocados, oranges, zucchini, squash, potatoes, onions, ginger)
4. Beeswax Wrap or Fabric Covers
It’s no question that plastic wrap is a convenience item. Yes it helps preserve food, and don’t get me wrong, sometimes a little plastic wrap is necessary for a recipe, but for everyday storage and use, beeswax or fabric covers can come in handy.
Beeswax or fabric covers are great alternative to plastic wrap! Use them just as you would plastic wrap – cover bowls, plates, or cups, and wrap snacks or miscellaneous items.
- Make your own covering by placing a dish towel or other fabric over the bowl and securing in place with a rubber band
- Cover bowl with a plate of similar size! I use this one a lot.
- If you must use plastic wrap, I suggest washing and reusing it as many times as you can!
5. Bamboo Toothbrush & Toothpaste Tablets
Bamboo toothbrushes are a super simple swap to your conventional plastic toothbrush! They can be composted as well, so that’s another plus.
Toothpaste tablets are a great alternative to toothpaste! Simply chew and use like you would normal toothpaste.
- Use your old toothbrush for other purposes around your house! Use as a marker for your garden, for painting, scrubbing/cleaning shoes, the possibilities are endless! Here is a great blog post on 9 uses for a used toothbrush.
6. Compostable Floss
The price is around CDN$12-15, so a bit expensive for floss. HOWEVER, I only purchased the two refill spools that came in one package (I did not buy the glass container), and it has taken me an entire YEAR to get through both of them! So you get quite a lot of value out of one box. Just keep that in mind!
7. Metal Razor
This is one of my favourite swaps for sure! I used to go through disposable plastic razors like crazy, and now this high quality metal one is all I need!
It takes a couple uses to get used to the single blade, but I’m telling you, it is 100% worth the switch!
I bought this Eco Roots safety razor at Re:Plenish in Edmonton! It’s super easy to use, comes with 5 blades, and I could not recommend it enough. It is a bit of an investment, but worth it as it will last you a long time.
8. Bar & Dish Soap
This is another super simple swap! Liquid soaps sold in plastic bottles are just not necessary when all you really need is a bar of soap.
If you are dead set on liquid soap, there are many places that will refill your own bottles for you. Re:Plenish and Carbon Environmental in Edmonton are great places to do this at! You don’t even have to buy a new fancy bottle, just bring your old soap bottle and they will fill it for you! Soap So Co. also sells great liquid soap in glass containers. If you want a dispenser, they recommend using an old one from a plastic soap bottle.
There are lots of options for plastic free deodorant. You can buy from brands that use glass packaging (like Routine pictured here), metal packaging, or cardboard.
You can even make your own DIY deodorant! There are a ton of recipes on Pinterest.
- DIY deodorant is an easy, budget friendly option! Simply look up a recipe on Pinterest or online. They tend to only have a few household ingredients!
- Don’t wear any!
10. Period Underwear
Okay, I hear you. You’re probably thinking that this sounds ridiculous, crazy, and slightly terrifying. But if you think about it, it is incredibly ingenious!
One person goes through around 11 000 disposable pads and/or tampons in a lifetime. That’s just one person. Multiply that by everyone who has a period on this planet… that’s a LOT of waste! Not to mention the materials in these products are not only harmful to the planet, but can be harmful to our bodies.
This swap is definitely an investment. The prices run quite high, but if you have the means to it is a great investment!
Other Period Swaps:
- Menstrual cup
- Reusable pads
- DAYE tampons – biodegradable packaging that dissolves in water (so cool!) and no plastic applicator
- Non-applicator tampons
Thank you for reading!
I hope these swaps are helpful for you, and that they have inspired you in some way to live a more sustainable lifestyle – whether that be researching and choosing brands with more humane/environmental practices, or reducing your plastic at a consumer level.