10 Practical Ways to Fight the Plastic Habit in Your Home

Even if your family is super-diligent about recycling, there are still lots of ways to cut back on your waste. Reducing our dependence on plastic is a great place to start. The EPA reports that in 2013, only 9 percent of plastics were even recycled. Yikes!

If we want to cut back on the amount of plastic in our landfills, we’ve got to be more strategic about what we bring in to our homes. Shopping smarter and following these practical tips can help your home fight the plastic habit for good.

1. Say, “No bag, thank you!”

This one is easy for the whole family—even young ones. When you’re out shopping, try to remember that you don’t need to use the store’s bag. It’s especially easy to skip the bag when buying a single item, like a book or a new pair of shoes.

2. Invest in reusable grocery bags

Consumers are getting more and more conscious about bringing their own bags. You can encourage the trend at your local grocery store by investing in a bundle of reusable cotton bags. (And if you tend to forget your bags when heading out the door, just assign one of the kids to “bag duty.” They can be in charge of returning the bags to the backseat of your car after errands.)

3. Stop buying plastic baggies

Swap out the disposable baggies for quality, reusable containers. Shallow square shapes are perfect for lunchboxes and sandwiches. Commit to the one-time purchase, and you’ll find yourself saving money in the long run.

4. Avoid single-serve packages

It’s estimated that 50 percent of our plastic is a one-time use item—like those individually packaged yogurt and fruit cups. Whenever possible, choose the larger serving options when shopping for groceries. You can divvy out portions in your reusable containers to reduce waste.

5. Buy more dry goods in bulk

You can eliminate other unnecessary waste in your home by purchasing dry goods in bulk. Rice, beans, nuts, and granola are often cheaper when bought in bulk because they don’t require the extra packaging. You can be even “greener” by getting your own reusable bulk food bags . (Most cotton bags print their weight on tags, so you can deduct the bag weight at checkout.)

6. Go digital with media purchases

Why pay for the plastic packaging and manufacturing costs for music and movies when you can purchase downloadable content? Plus, all-digital media helps cut back on extra clutter in the home.

7. Dispose of electronics properly

Here in Indiana, we’re working to keep e-waste out of our landfills. (It’s actually prohibited to discard of old televisions and a lot of other electronics.) Before you toss items in with the trash pickup, review your local government’s process on how to get rid of e-waste the right way.

8. Carry reusable utensils

Instead of picking up the “disposable” plastic forks at cafes or other group gatherings, find a more permanent solution. Keep a set of reusable utensils in your purse or lunchbox so you’re always prepared to avoid plastic ware.

9. Skip the straws at restaurants

Straws might be one of the most superfluous plastic items, and they’ve been cited as one of the top 10 items left as litter on beaches. Make an effort to forgo straws, or bring your own glass or metal straw to help cut back on plastic.

10. Ban disposable water bottles

No surprise here—this is definitely our favorite way to kick the plastic habit! A total ban on disposable water bottles at work and home can significantly reduce our plastic waste. In the U.S. alone, a massive 60 percent of our 50 billion plastic bottles end up in the trash every year. We think that’s crazy.

Purchasing bottled water is extremely expensive for consumers, too. Just making the plastic bottle is costly, not to mention the transportation. In fact, bottled water requires about 2,000 times the energy needed to produce the same amount of tap water.

Filling up with a reusable water bottle is probably the easiest way to reduce your plastic waste on a day-to-day basis. Installing a home filtration system can give you high-quality water for a fraction of the cost of bottled, and hooking a bottle-free cooler up to your water line can give you the same delicious results in your workplace.