How to Replace Plastic Use in Daily Life

There’s a time and a place for plastic, but by and large there’s just too much plastic in the world. As a company, we do our part to reduce plastic use in our supply chain and use as much recycled polyester (i.e.: made from plastic bottles) as possible. But it’s an attitude that we can all adopt.

That’s the idea behind Plastic-Free July – a movement to inspire people to avoid most plastic items in your life for a whole month and replace them with a sustainable alternative. If you can do it for a month, you can make it a daily habit. Obviously, this July is a little different (PPE, take out, sanitizers), but there are some easy swaps you can make to reduce plastic pollution and use plastic alternatives well past July. Here’s our guide for how to reduce personal plastic use and what you can use instead of plastic.

Reusable cloth face masks

We’re all for first responders wearing the best personal protective equipment (PPE) available – plastic or not. BUT there are millions of us who are not first responders who have a much better chance at practicing physical distancing; we have more of a choice about where we go and who we interact with. We are the people who should consider making the switch from single-use PPE to reusable cloth face masks.

According to a recent study, an estimated 200 BILLION PPE items are going into global landfills each MONTH. That’s a massive number. Of course, it’s important to think about community safety, but consider the long-term safety of our oceans and environment as well. If you feel like you have enough control of your surroundings, we encourage you to switch to reusable face masks. Just be sure to wash them regularly and follow safety protocols.

Cloth & disinfectant spray instead of wipes

On a similar note, Covid or not, we’re big fans of using spray and rags instead of pre-packaged wipes. Think about how fast you go through a box of pre-packaged wipes. Now where do you throw your used wipes? You can see where we’re going here… every wipe you use ends up in a landfill. So, make the swap to an antibacterial spray and reusable/washable rags – you’ll save a mountain of trash from ending up in the landfill. As long as you’ve got enough rags on hand to never run out, the convenience of wipes is just as comparable. Create rags from old t-shirts, bath towels, and kitchen towels that have seen better days. Designate them as cleaning rags and give them a second life.

Metal or glass containers for leftovers or bulk storage

Is glass a good alternative to plastic? Yes! Metal and glass containers are a great plastics alternatives and they actually help you consume less plastic overall. When you make enough food to last you multiple meals, that’s saving you a trip to the market to get more ingredients, which, more than likely, are packaged in plastic. It’s a similar idea with buying in bulk. Bulk bins are *typically* the way to go to reduce plastic consumption, but even buying non-perishable wholesale items in bulk can really cut back on packaging.

Farmer’s Market vs. Grocery Store

Picture a farmer’s market: tents with open baskets of freshly grown food. Now think of a grocery story: aisles of stocked shelves. One has about a million times more packaging and plastic than the other. So, try to shop for as much as you can from your local farmer’s market. And look around for the items that are usually heavily packaged – lettuce, mushrooms, carrots, bread, pasta. Unpacked, local foods are zero waste products – especially if you compost!

DIY cloth and paper decorations

The funny thing about birthdays, anniversaries and graduations is that time is marching on, and they’re still happening – albeit, differently. Well consider this a great time to swap cheap plastic decorations for thoughtful, sustainable DIY decorations. Make a cute banner out of fabric scraps or sew your own pennant banner if you have some technical know-how. Have some construction paper lying around? You can make old-school birthday hats, a birthday crown, or a paper garland chain. Dive into origami and use thread to fly cranes from the ceiling. Single-use plastic is easy to avoid, and tapping into your creativity to find alternatives can be super fun. 

Good ol’ fashioned bars of soap

This is about as easy a swap as they come: bars of soap. Unlike all those big tubs of body wash, a bar of soap has little to no packaging. Look for bars of soap with paper packaging — sometimes you can find soap at your farmer’s market! If you are ordering a special soap online, we recommend at least buying bulk, so you minimize the footprint of the shipping (it’s always something, but hey we’re all trying). You can also find bars of shampoo and conditioner, and even toothpaste comes in a tablet form now. Do some digging and see what works for your skin type.

Reusable bags, bottles and straws

Yes, this is super obvious, but we have to say it juuuuuust in case someone was wondering why we should replace the use of plastic bags, plastic bottles, or plastic straws. The short answer: because they are everywhere and they are unnecessary. The long answer: Globally, 2.7 billion single-use plastic bags are used daily, 1.5 billion plastic bottles are purchased DAILY, and 500 million drinking straws are used daily. THAT’S. TOO. MUCH. Even if your part is a drop in the bucket, do your part to use reusable bags, bottles and straws EVERY time.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s an important list. Being sustainable is not about doing it perfectly, it’s about trying your best and making the swaps when you can. It’s about adopting new habits and passing them on to the next generation. And if we can find plastic alternatives today, we can start to get rid of excessive plastic tomorrow.

How to Have an Eco-Friendly BBQ

So you’ve got your organic cotton apron and your bamboo utensils and you stopped buying plastic-bottled beverages a decade ago. You’re off to a stellar start! Here are a few more ways to turn your BBQ/cookout/tailgate/meet-and-eat into a sustainable Iron Chef spectacular.

SUSTAINABLE GRILLING

Gas vs. Charcoal – We’ll stay out of the flavor debate, but we’ll pass on the facts about these fuel sources: Charcoal briquettes are typically made from a combination of lighter fluid, sawdust, and other chemical additives; when burned, charcoal briquettes can produce 105 times more carbon than propane and nasty little air pollutants called VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Propane, on the other hand, does come from non-renewable fossil fuels but produces fewer and cleaner emissions. So propane is the way to go, BUT here’s the catch: if you can find true charcoal (generally called lump or chunk charcoal), this fuel is made from a non-additive hardwood material and burning it is carbon neutral.

Cookin’ With the Sun  – If you’re in the market for a zero emissions option, go for a solar grill or oven. Solar grills are a renewable take on the traditional “electric” grill, while solar ovens magnify and maximize sunlight to do the actual cooking. Science is so cool.

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FOOD & DRINK

Get Local – There are about a million and one reasons to buy local food. To name just a few, buying local: reduces your carbon footprint thanks to short-distance transportation, supports local farmers, stimulates biodiversity in your ecosystem, and generally sidesteps all that plastic packaging you find in chain grocery stores. Co-ops, farmer’s markets, farm carts, community gardens, local grocery stores… we’d bet there are tons of great options near you.

DIY Dips – Do you know how easy it is to make hummus? REALLY easy. Say buh-bye to single-use plastic tubs and hello to your new party trick. Google your favorite dip recipes (we like these for hummus, salsa, and green goddess dip) and put that food processor to work. Twice as much dip for half the cost and 0% the amount of plastic. Wins all around.

DIY Chips – Potato chips, pita chips, tortilla chips, bagel chips, kale chips…there is literally no end to what you can slice and bake. Pick your base, toss with olive oil and salt (or other spices if you’re feeling, well, spicy) and bake low n’ slow. (Addendum: If you’re like our copywriter, Daisy, and “just loooove Doritos,” just make sure to repurpose that empty Doritos bag and reuse it as a trash bag. But also, the internet even has a DIY Doritos recipe… so no excuses).

Chill Properly – This one is tricky, but we understand ice is useful (hello, margaritas). When buying ice, opt for one big bag instead of multiple smaller ones. Reuse the bag as a trash bag or dry out before recycling (BTW, here’s a quick rundown on what’s recyclable and what’s not). If you have a bucket or a cooler to keep cold, fill it with cold water and ice packs.

The Bottle and The Can – We know you know, but it’s a good reminder: Cans and bottles are the best materials to recycle, with clean plastic next, but avoid juice boxes or things that come in cartons – they’re coated with a thin film on the inside that renders them unrecyclable.

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SUPPLIES & MATERIALS

Plate & Wipe Responsibly – Skip single use plastic or styrofoam and look for paper plates and napkins that are made from recycled materials. When you’re done, toss in the compost or the fire. Don’t have a compost? Make one.

Get Real (With Real Utensils) ­– We challenge you to avoid single-use materials (even if they’re compostable and made out of corn oil…). Use the utensils you’ve got and ask a friend to bring all their utensils, too. If you host often, hit up a local thrift store and get a bunch of cheap utensils as a backup BBQ set.

Bees Have Your Back – Ditch plastic wrap if you know what’s good for ya! We’re big fans of reusable beeswax wraps that come in all different sizes and keep your leftovers just as fresh. You can find them in lots of stores now (even in Trader Joe’s), or you can make them yourself ­– just be sure to the get beeswax beads from a local store, not delivered via the interwebs!

Raise a Cup to Mother Nature –  Say it with us, “No more plastic cups!” Grab a 12-pack of mason jars (about $8 at the grocery store). Or just ask your friends to BYOC – tell them it’s just like camping.

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Spread the word with our No More Plastic Stainless Steel Pint

Happy BBQ-ing – save us some leftovers!