Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US in March, we’ve seen many facets of our lives transform in an effort to keep us safe from infection. The way we do things has changed, and in many cases it’s come with a cost. We’ve been in survival mode, trying to find the best way to keep ourselves and others safe, but in some cases this has meant hurting the earth. Businesses have suspended reusable bag and beverage container policies to avoid contamination, meaning more waste gets produced. Takeout and delivery have both become essential to our day-to-day routines, resulting in more styrofoam containers and plastic silverware ending up in landfills. Altogether about fifty government policies meant to reduce single-use plastic have been rolled back by cities and states during COVID-19, putting more plastic bags, straws, and other single-use plastic into circulation. Overall we’re also producing more waste as we stay at home; sanitation workers have seen household garbage increase by as much as 40% in certain parts of the country.
While there are some things we can’t control as we wait out this pandemic, there are still plenty of ways to reduce plastic in your home, being kinder to the earth and, a lot of the time, kinder to our own bodies as well. In addition to the damage that plastic can do to our environment, specifically the ocean and marine life, it can also do harm to us, as plastic containers for food and water might release harmful chemicals over time. We interact with so much plastic on a daily basis that it can become a blind spot for us, but the truth is that so many of these products have safer, healthier and more environmentally friendly counterparts. Just a handful of substitutions can immediately reduce your plastic footprint and save you money. Here are a few easy ways to use less plastic in your home.
Lose the bottle
Have you ever thought about how much plastic it takes just to keep buying the same cleaning products, soaps or shampoos over and over again? Many products, like multipurpose sprays and hand soaps, are mostly made of water, meaning that it’s not hard to create the same product at home while skipping the extra plastic and the price tag.
You can buy soap capsules from subscription companies like Blueland and then simply add them to some water in a glass bottle, sparing yourself a trip to the store and a single use container. Purchasing laundry detergent powder instead of liquid can take one more plastic bottle out of the equation. There are many formulas online for multi-purpose cleaners that use household ingredients like white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and essential oils, giving you the ability to make more whenever you want and store it in a reusable glass spray bottle.
Many of the products we use in the shower also have no-plastic counterparts. Several companies sell shampoo, conditioner and body wash all in bar form, no plastic packaging required! Products like refillable deodorant, lotion bars and tooth powder are even available, making a plastic-free bathroom more possible than ever.
Environmentalists also recommend opening your eyes to products being sold in glass or cardboard instead of plastic; getting a cardboard box of pasta or a glass jar of sauce instead of products that come packaged in plastic bags or bottles is an easy shift to make.
Replace Disposable Items With Reusable Ones
If you depend on your Keurig to start your morning on the right foot, consider buying a reusable K-cup, which you can fill with grounds of your choice, and keep hundreds of K-cups out of landfills. If you’re a fan of iced beverages, a handful of metal or glass straws on hand will save you from needing plastic ones that will never biodegrade. Going reusable for your leftovers has never been more possible; a roll of beeswax wrap or bowl covers, silicone ziploc bags or glass food containers will last longer and reduce waste.
So many regular household products have permanent replacements that can save you money and reduce waste. Reusable dryer balls can provide the same benefits as dryer sheets while lasting longer. Bamboo toothbrushes are entirely compostable after you throw them away, making them a kinder option for the earth than regular plastic toothbrushes. Investing in a menstrual cup instead of traditional sanitary products can save dozens of trips to the store for sanitary products and prevent a lot of waste.
Watch Out For Microplastics
For years we’ve known that certain products release tiny pieces of plastic into our water supply when we use them in the sink or shower; these can end up in the ocean and sometimes might even make their way back onto our plates in the fish we eat. One easy way to avoid products with microplastics is to look for facial cleansers that use microbeads for exfoliants. Many brands like St. Ives and Burt’s Bees use natural alternatives like ground peach stones and walnuts for exfoliators, making them safer to use and more natural.
Many household sponges are made of a mixture of cellulose and either polyester or nylon, which aren’t biodegradable and can’t be recycled. When we use these materials to scrub dishes, it can release nonbiodegradable plastic fibers. Using a natural sponge cuts out these fibers altogether, and all you have to do to keep it clean is let it soak in a mixture of water and baking soda for fifteen minutes every few weeks.
Sometimes it can be overwhelming to realize how much single-use plastic we encounter on a daily basis. However, with every small choice you make toward sustainability, you can keep dozens of plastic items out of a landfill.