Here’s the thing: you don’t have to spend a lot of money to live a plastic-free lifestyle. As a student, I know the struggle and I understand that most people don’t have the luxury to switch to a plastic-free lifestyle overnight. And you know what? That’s okay. If you are interested in going plastic-free, there are many small changes you can make to use less plastic without spending a cent!
I have been struggling for years to reduce the waste I produce. I try to be conscious about the things I purchase, but there are times when convenience outweighs sustainability only because it’s cheaper. So I have come up with seven tricks you can use to participate in the plastic-free lifestyle without breaking the bank.
- JUST SAY NO, THANK YOU – If you don’t need to use plastic, refuse it. There are a lot of instances where plastic is unnecessary (i.e. packaging in products) so I opt for items that are unpackaged, made out of sustainable materials or recyclable packaging. Whenever I buy something that is in a plastic bottle or in a can, I collect them and drop them off at a bottle depot to be recycled. It can take some time, but I assure you, it is worth it.
- PACK YOUR OWN LUNCH – Bringing your own lunch not only saves you money, but it is healthier than buying fast food. Also, who wants that unnecessary takeout container and plastic cutlery anyway? If you do happen to order takeout, it’s always good to have your own cutlery so you don’t have to use plastic. Some takeout containers are also reusable and can be washed and reused to pack your own lunch next time. Read more on Plastic-Free Lunch ideas!
- BE A CONSCIOUS SHOPPER – We live in a disposable society where we often buy items because of a low price tag, but we don’t really need them. Often these cheaper items have shorter lifetime and in the end, these items are often tossed out in the garbage. It is true that the majority of plastic-free alternatives may have a higher front-end cost, but you will find they have a less expensive long-term price. Before you buy anything, think for a second, does this item have a purpose and will it sustain me for a long time? If the answer is no, then you don’t need it. Opt for item that use less packaging or comes in reusable packaging, especially in the grocery store (see point #5). Avoid produce that are wrapped in plastic, buy local or fair trade products, and most of all, be mindful of your choices. Using less plastic means producing less trash.
- SECOND-HAND SHOPPING – Buying items second-hand is a great way to reduce waste and to save money at the same time! Check out the consignment stores, garage sales, and even Kijiji for second-hand items before buying a new one. There are many items that are often disposed of or not been used to its full potential. Most of them are in fairly good condition and are sold at a cheap price. There are a lot of hidden gems inside a thrift store that needs a new home, give them the second chance they deserve.
- REUSE, REUSE, REUSE – Did you know that you can only recycle an item for a certain number of times until it finally ends up in our landfills? Before tossing an item in the recycling bin, think about reusing it first. You can reuse pasta jars that often comes in a glass as containers for flour, spices, beans, and other items you can buy in the bulk section. Next time you go grocery shopping, skip the plastic too, and bring your own reusable bags instead. You can even make your own cloth bags from old shirts with this tutorial.
- LEARN HOW TO SEPARATE YOUR TRASH – A lot of us, including me, mindlessly throw their trash in bins. It’s important to learn how to separate trash properly. While many may think that mixing trash and recyclables is no big deal, it does in fact has a big impact. Did you know that you have to make sure there are no liquids inside cans or bottles before putting them in the recycling? If liquids are left and they spill, it will contaminate everything inside the bin and those recyclables will then end up in the trash anyway. Before you put anything in your recycling bin, check out what goes where.
- CLEAN AS YOU GO – Picking up after ourselves does not cost anything. Next time you are out, pick up any trash you come across (using gloves whenever necessary) and dispose of the items in the proper bins. Lately, “plogging” is making headlines all over the community. Plogging simply means that you are picking up litter while you are out on running or doing exercise outdoors. It’s a great way to stay active, and at the same time, it keeps our environment clean. You could also join clean-up events in your city. We host a handful of clean-ups and we would like YOU to join us – be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay informed of all our events. Let’s be mindful of our environment and keep our communities clean.
Switching to a plastic-free lifestyle doesn’t have to be expensive and it does take time. Change doesn’t happen overnight. The main point of being plastic-free or zero waste is to be mindful of what we consume and to avoid producing unnecessary waste. I still find myself using plastic, but I am taking these small steps to live a more sustainable lifestyle.