Get started living plastic free

Disposable plastic items are so common that it’s easy to not notice them. But disposable plastic is everywhere—the ubiquitous plastic bottles of water or soft drinks; the plastic straws delivered in our drinks; the plastic bags offered to us at stores; the plastic cups, bottles and utensils at nearly every social event; the plastic packaging of nearly everything in the supermarket. Once you see it for what it is—plastic pollution—it’s simple to just REFUSE it. Here are some tips to reduce your plastic footprint.


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1. Unbottled water

Bring a stainless steel water bottle rather than drinking water out of disposable plastic bottles. Purchase a cool water bottle at Life Without Plastic, or grab one at select markets and hardware stores. Choose stainless steel or glass over aluminum. Don’t have your stainless steel bottle with you? Buy a glass-bottled drink. When you finish that beverage, reuse the bottle.

2. Bring your own bag

Always bring your own bags whenever you shop, not just for the supermarket. By bringing your own bag, you alone can avoid using 500 to 700 plastic bags per year. There are lots of cool tote bag companies out there. Just a few options:

3. No plastic straw, please

Consider some easy alternatives to the ubiquitous plastic straws that come in nearly every restaurant glass:

  • REFUSE it. Do you really need one?
  • Carry your own stainless steel straw. You can purchase these from Life Without Plastic.
  • Use an elegant glass straw in many sizes and designs. Some options include Simply Straws and Glass Dharma.
  • Straws made from paper are more and more common. Bring your own or support restaurants that offer them. Options include Aardvark straws.

4. To-go cups

Bring your own stainless steel or ceramic mug. Carry one in your car. Some coffee shops will even reward your thoughtfulness with a small discount on coffee or tea. Hot drinks always taste better in durable ceramic, anyway. Like milk cartons, those cardboard cups often have a plastic lining, so in effect they are plastic. All to-go cups have that plastic lid, a major contributor to plastic pollution.

5. To-go food containers

Whether you prepare school lunch, order takeout, or go out to eat, take along your own reusable containers for sandwiches, snacks, and leftovers. Some of the sites where you can purchase one:

6. To-go utensils

Bring along your own spork, or lightweight bamboo utensil set, or carry utensils from home. They’re much sturdier, cleaner, and better for you than plastic knives and forks. Add a reusable straw, and you’re all set. These handy carrying cases can travel with you in the car, on the airplane, in your backpack; wherever you go. 

7. Refillable lighters

Rather than buy plastic disposable lighters, consider investing in a refillable multi-use lighter. The oceans of the world will thank you, as will all those birds and marine life who mistake their bright colors for food. Disposable plastic lighters are one of the most common items found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch trash analyses.

8. Milk or juice

Where possible, buy your milk or juice in a glass returnable/reusable bottle. It may seem old fashioned, but it tastes great, and it’s better for you. You may have to look for it, but many local shops and even some larger ones carry glass-bottled milk and juice. Those oh-so-common cartons may look like cardboard, but they have a layered plastic lining which is a problem not only for disposal and recycling, but also for your health.

9. Choose alternative wrap

Wax paper is an excellent substitute to the ubiquitous stretch plastic wrap we have been told is essential for cooking and preserving foods. Choose natural, alternative wax paper to wrap sandwiches, place on top of foods warmed up in the microwave, or when storing food in the fridge. Yes, it doesn’t stick to foods like the plastic wrap does—but that’s exactly what’s good about it. Some options:

10. Ready to do more?

Here are 100 ways to live plastic free, by PPC contributor Beth Terry, author of Plastic Free