Okay, so we now know that plastics are suboptimal, at best. They contain toxics, are not easily recyclable, do not degrade and are an increasing pollutant in our waters and soils.

Now the good news. As awareness of the harms created by plastics continues to grow, better alternatives will become available. For example, I was recently in a remote part of Mexico and the local restaurants were using metal straws and had posted signs about the harm created by plastic straws!


We can all do our part to make a difference. First there are many alternatives to toxic non-degradable plastics that are coming to the market. Keep an eye out for them and, even if they cost a bit more at the start, buy products that are packaged in, or made out of, better alternatives to plastics. 

A Swan's nest, partly made out of plastic pollution - we can fix this!

Second, here are some tangible things we can do (from treehugger.com):

  1. Bring your own shopping bag

The usefulness of these thin and easily ripped bags is extremely limited, yet according to one estimate, somewhere between five billion and one trillion plastic bags are used each year around the world. Although free to shoppers, these bags have a high environmental cost and are one of the most ubiquitous forms of garbage. In addition to bigger carryall bags, you can further reduce waste by bringing your own reusable produce bags or skipping them entirely.

  1. Stop buying bottled water

Unless there’s some kind of contamination crisis, plastic water bottles are an easy target for reducing waste. Instead, keep a refillable bottle handy.

  1. Bring your own thermos to the coffee shop

Speaking of refillable, bringing your own thermos for to-go coffee is another way to reduce your plastic footprint. Disposable coffee cups might look like paper but they’re usually lined with polyethylene, a type of plastic resin. In theory these materials can be recycled, but most places lack the infrastructure to do so. Then there are lids, stirrers, and coffee vendors that still use polystyrene foam cups—which can all be avoided with your own mug.

  1. Choose cardboard over plastic bottles and bags

Generally speaking, it’s easier to recycle cardboard than plastic, plus paper products tend to be compostable or biodegrade more easily without adding a lot of weight to the product the way glass or aluminum can. So, when you have the choice, pick pasta in the box instead of pasta in a bag, or detergent in the box instead of the bottle. Even better would be to check for companies that source their cardboard sustainably or have a strong stance on deforestation.

  1. Say no to straws

Whether for home use or when you’re ordering a drink at a bar or restaurant, plastic straws are often a single-use item that's just not necessary.

  1. Get the plastic off your face

Much of the plastic that’s polluting the oceans is microplastics, tiny chunks that are next to impossible to filter out. These plastics can come from bigger items breaking down, but they are also commonly added to consumer products like face wash and toothpaste. These little beads are intended to be exfoliators, but many wastewater treatment facilities aren’t able to stop them. There are many biodegradable alternatives, so avoid items with “polypropylene” or “polyethylene” on the ingredients list or consider making your own.

  1. Skip the disposable razor

Instead of tossing a plastic razor in the trash every month, consider switching to a razor that you just replace the blade or better yet, get a straight razor.

  1. Switch from disposable diapers to cloth

If you’ve got a young baby, you know how many diapers can end up in the trash each day. TreeHugger writers are pretty big fans of the the reusable cloth option, read Michael Graham Richard’s experience with them as a new dad and Katherine Martinko’s recommended brands.

  1. Make your period waste-free

There are a number of non-disposable options out there to cut down on period waste, from the Diva Cup, to the Ruby Cup to DIY-with-pride reusable pads. All these choices reduce incredible amount of packaging that most pads and tampons are encased in. If you’re not in a situation where giving up tampons is an option, consider skipping brands with plastic applicators.

  1. Re-think your food storage

Plastic baggies, plastic wrap, and plastic storage containers are worth re-evaluating. Instead of sandwich baggies, why not pack a bento box or a cute tiffin (shown at the top of this post) for lunch? Instead of throwing away plastic zipper bags or wrapping things in Saran wrap, why not use jars or glass containers in the fridge? When it comes to carryout, these types of containers be used instead of disposable ones—although it can definitely take a bit of courage and some explaining to help your local restaurants to understand.

  1. Shop in bulk

For many households, the majority of plastic waste is generated in the kitchen. So one of the best ways to reduce the packaging waste madness is to bring your own bags and containers and stock up on bulk foods. Shopping with jars is a great option, and keep your eye out for brands with refilling stations, like Ariston oils and Common Good cleaners.



And from Sustainablebabysteps.com: 

Common Plastics Used:

Alternatives to Plastic:

Art supplies

Consider homemade play dough, paint, etc (to store in glass or metal); choose items such as colored pencils and charcoal or pastels that come in cardboard boxes instead of plastic containers

Baby bottle

Glass or stainless steel, and silicone nipples

Bags, food storage (i.e. Ziplock)

Glass or stainless steel containers

Bags, shopping

Canvas or reusable shopping bags (homemade or bought)

Beverage container, store-bought

Drink water instead; Homemade beverages stored in glass carafes; buy milk in glass containers or from a local farm

Brush, scrub or bottle

Tampico fiber or Horsehair brushes

Brush, toilet

Pig-hair wooden toilet brush


Bamboo calculator

Carpet (much of it is plastic-based)

Natural wool carpet, real wood floors, sealed concrete

Computer keyboard

Bamboo keyboard

Cooking utensils (spatulas, spoons, etc)

Invest in wood (naturally antibacterial!), stainless steel or silicone when necessary

Cups, drinking

Glass or stainless steel for toddlers

Dishwashing soap

Skip the store-bought and make your own homemade dishwashing detergent to store in a glass jar or stainless steel container.


Sweep out the door or use a stainless steel dustpan

Food storage

Glass and/or stainless steel containers

Hard hat

V-Gard GREEN Helmet (non-petroleum "plastic", made from sugarcane)

Ice cube tray

Stainless steel is best; also silicone, or natural rubber (if you're using an automatic ice cube maker, you're out of luck)


Look for a metal lighter, such as a Zippo

Lint roller

Wooden and natural rubber lint brush


Fabric lunch bags or stainless steel

Media cases (CDs, DVDs, etc)

Purchase digital through iTunes or Amazon, or watch online through Amazon Instant Video or Netflix

Microwave cover

Ditch the microwave, or just clean up the few splatters to save yourself from the plastic off-gassing

Office supplies

Check out paper tape (skip the dispenser); Many pens come with metal shells; you can often find all-metal scissors at craft stores (check the sewing department); choose moldable or square erasers (as well as single pens) from bins instead of in plastic packaging; look for metal thumb tacks, etc.

Popsicle mold

Stainless steel and silicone molds

Razors, disposable

All-metal razors and blades (non-disposable)

Rugs (much is synthetic polyester or recycled plastic)

Natural wool, help, jute, or cotton; choose a silicone non-slip pad underneath

Seasoning containers

Choose seasonings that come in glass with a metal lid, recycle the plastic topper inside, and consider growing and drying your own in the future

Shower curtain

Choose cloth, bamboo, or hemp instead

Skin care containers

Use coconut oilessential oilshomemade sunscreen, and other homemade skin care options.


Glass or stainless steel; be sure your order includes a free straw brush for easy cleaning


Plastic-free wooden toothbrushes


Make your own homemade toothpaste and store in a glass or stainless steel jar.

Toys, misc

Replace with wooden, cotton, hemp, porcelain, metal, and other natural materials (tip: search "Waldorf" or "natural toy ______" to find specific alternatives

Trash bags

First be sure to precyclecompost, and recycle. With the small amount left, try going without a bag, using paper bags, or compostable bags (such as BioBags).

Utensils (especially when eating out)

Choose bamboo carry-out utensils and keep them in your vehicle

Water bottle, drinking size

Stainless steel, or glass with silicone or padded case to prevent breaking (these usually only come with plastic lids; if you find a quality bottle without any plastic at all please let us know!)

Water bottle, 5 gallon

5 gallon glass carboy

Water filter, refrigerator

Instead of the fridge filter, use a stainless and charcoal filter, such as Berkey filters

Yoga mat

Bamboo, hemp, jute, or natural rubber mat


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  • Excellent article! Thank you.

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