Craig and I have been on a journey towards living a more sustainable and toxic free lifestyle for several years now. It’s a process, at times a frustrating one, but we’ve gained a lot of knowledge along the way. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is the best way to set us up for success is to make one change at a time and stick to it for a few weeks. This way it becomes a habit and we don’t have to think about it anymore. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but taking practical and realistic steps will help move you on a path to cutting back on plastic. You might even be surprised by how many of these things you’re already doing. Slowly but surely we’ve cut way back on unnecessary waste, especially when it comes to single use plastic. These are some of the plastic-free swaps we’ve made over time. Let me know if you have any other suggestions for zero waste or plastic-free swaps in the comments!
20 Easy Plastic-Free Swaps For Everyday
Buy in Bulk (mason jars, cotton bags)
Whatever you can, buying in bulk will eliminate lots of single use plastic and just general packaging waste. I know this can be difficult if you don’t have a store near you where this is an option. We have several local grocery stores that have nuts, seeds, rice, etc. available in bulk. And I know Whole Foods has this as well. Bring your own mason jars or cotton bags.
Make your own juice & dairy free milk
It was definitely an investment upfront to get a juicer and an Almond Cow (use code JESSICAKIRBY for $15 off) but it was worth every penny. We have eliminated so much waste making our own juice and nut/oak milk. With the Almond Cow you can also use the leftover pulp to make granola, use it in baking, etc. Their website has tons of recipes.
Plastic Free Produce
Skip the produce that’s wrapped in plastic. It drives me crazy when I find this at the grocery store. And oftentimes it’s the organic produce wrapped in plastic. I use these reusable cotton mesh bags for all my produce. Occasionally it’s unavoidable, but just being more mindful and seeing if there’s an alternate option for something you need is a great way to get into the habit. Another great way to avoid plastic-wrapped produce and reduce your carbon footprint, shop at your local farmer’s market.
Make your own granola
I eat a lot of cereal and granola and I hated how much packaging I was throwing away every week from it. If you can find oats in bulk and use your own jar or bag it’s a super-easy way to cut down on packaging waste by making it at home (here’s my recipe). Even if you buy a huge thing of oats it’s less waste than buying granola every week.
Reusable coffee filters
We’ve been Nespresso fanatics forever and to be honest, I miss it sometimes. But I just didn’t feel great about the amount of waste it created (I know you can recycle the capsules but between the boxes, packaging and shipping it still felt like a lot). We decided to stop using it and switch to pour over coffee with the Chemex using a reusable coffee filter. We can also compost the grinds so it’s a very low waste option.
Make your own nut, seed and oat milk. Use code JESSICAKIRBY for $15 off.
A reusable organic cotton coffee filter made in the USA.
Reusable organic cotton bags for produce, oats, coffee beans, etc.
Swap Plastic Storage Bags for Reusable Silicone
This change is just a no brainer. Stasher bags are easy to clean, they have tons of different sizes and they’re 100% non-toxic. You’ll absolutely save money in the long run too vs continuously buying plastic bags.
Swap plastic wrap for Beeswax Wrap
I like this brand of beeswax wrap in particular because it’s a Certified B Corp and they used GOTS-certified organic cotton. Make sure to wash in cool water and these will last a long time.
Cut down on sponges and paper towels with Swedish Dish Rags
Anyone that got a gift from me this Christmas got a set of Swedish dishcloths. They’re super absorbent and can last for a really long time which helps cut back on paper towels and sponges. They’re also biodegradable so you can compost them when it’s time to replace.
wool dryer balls
Not only can you reuse wool dryer balls over and over again, they help cut down on static and drying time, and most importantly they’re all natural and non-toxic. Traditional dryer sheets contain chemicals that aren’t good for the environment or for you.
Swap regular dishwasher detergent for dish tabs
I’ve tried so many different non-toxic dishwasher detergents and tabs and while some have been pretty good, all have had wasteful packaging. I discovered these natural dish tabs on Amazon and not only do they work really well but the only packaging is a cardboard box. They have no bleach, dye or fragrance, are not tested on animals and have plant-based ingredients. I haven’t tested these but I like this brand and they’re also non-toxic and have minimal packaging.
Will help you cut way back on paper towels and sponges, plus they’re biodegradable.
Made in the USA. Comes with a cleaner and you’ll never need a single use plastic straw again.
Great alternative for food storage instead of plastic bags.
Personal Hygiene Swaps
Bamboo Floss in a Glass container
Most regular floss is made from nylon, a non-biodegradable, petroleum-based material. I recently discovered Lucky Teeth’s bamboo floss which is 100% biodegradable and comes in a glass jar (you can purchase refills as well). It’s also really good floss!
Reusable Cotton Pads
These bamboo cotton rounds are such an awesome alternative to disposable cotton balls or makeup remover pads. They’re super soft and come with a mesh bag for washing. Use them to remove your make-up, apply toner, etc., and throw them in the wash again and again. The packaging is also plastic free.
Shampoo Bars and body soap
Instead of plastic shampoo bottles and soap, an easy way to cut down on waste is with shampoo bars and body soap. I’m currently testing Chagrin Valley Ayurvedic Herb Shampoo Bar which comes in plastic free packaging and is organic, cruelty free, sulfate free and palm oil free. I’m also a big fan of Ursa Major’s bar soap (use code JESSANNKIRBY15 for 15% off).
TOOTHPASTE IN A metal tube
Right now I am loving David’s Natural Toothpaste. It’s flouride and sulfate free, comes in recyclable metal packaging and includes a free metal tube roller/squeezer so you don’t waste any toothpaste.
Biodegradable floss that comes in a refillable glass ja and plastic free packaging
Sulfate and flouride free toothpaste in a recyclable metal tube.
Reusable bamboo cotton rounds that come in plastic free packaging with a mesh laundry bag for washing.
reusable water bottle
When we’re traveling Craig and I always bring our Larq Water Bottles. I don’t even remember the last time I bought a plastic water bottle. It’s a self-cleaning, purifying water bottle that operates with a rechargeable UV light (no filters needed). When I’m on the go and don’t need something as compact, I also love my Hydro Flask.
reusable coffee/tea mug
Bring your own mug and skip the throw away coffee cup (even better save money and make your own). Some coffee shops offer discounts when you bring your own mug too. The Yeti Rambler is a popular choice because it keeps beverages hot for a really long time.
reusable grocery bags
I’ve never actually had to buy any reusable grocery tote bags because so many brands and stores seem to give canvas totes for free with purchases these days. I keep some in my car and in the house so if I forget them, I always have back up. These are a good option for organic cotton reusable tote bags.
Cut down on the number of trash bags you use by significantly reducing the amount of garbage you create every week. I wrote a blog post here about how to start a compost with some additional resources for composting in a city.
Switch to paperless billing
A super easy way to cut down on unnecessary waste is signing up to receive your bills electronically. Some companies even offer discounts if you opt-in for this. If catalogs are driving your crazy, check out CatalogChoice.org. It’s free and it works! When you create an account you can track what you’ve unsubscribed from and I’ve noticed a HUGE reduction in the number of catalogs we receive.