6 Simple Steps to Reducing Plastic Trash

reducing plastic trash

Reducing your plastic trash can seem daunting. Milk, yogurt, cheese, and even fruit come in plastic. Bread comes in plastic. Meat is double wrapped with plastic and a styro container. Go out to eat, and your leftovers get put into a styro container. At a group dinner? Plastic tableware is sure to be there, right? Well, here’s 6 simple ways to help reduce your plastic trash, all without changing your life drastically!

Bring Reusable Bags

This usually goes without saying, but having reusable bags, especially at the grocery store, means that you aren’t taking more of the plastic shopping bags out. I know that when I have them at home, I never remember to return them to the recycling. Of course, it could be argued that you can reuse them, but I want to reduce the amount of plastic usage overall. These really cute chico bags (from my affiliate partner) clip on to the side of your purse for easy carrying all the time. I have three of them on my purse strap, and they don’t really get in the way at all. But, you could always tuck them inside the purse or backpack or other bag as well. And, they store well in a glove box too.

Bring tableware and Napkins with you

Nothing uses more plastic than a potluck dinner or outdoor picnic with multiple families. It used to be a hassle to carry our own flatware and bring cloth napkins, cups, and plates with us, but now it’s second nature. Sure, I am still doing dishes each time, but we have set a trend with some of our friends, and they now bring their own, too. Reducing the amount of plastic table ware, styrofoam plates and cups needed also reduces the cost for the group. Our Boy Scout troop likes that they don’t have to spend $40 each time they have a special dinner for the families. This cute bamboo tableware is easy to store, carry and each set has lasted our family well over two years and running.

Bring a Container for Leftovers When Eating Out

This one was by far the hardest for me to remember. We don’t eat out very often, but when we do, taking an extra pyrex dish with us for leftovers eliminates the need for a stryo to go container. You don’t need anything fancy, just a container with a lid. Once you get the hang of remembering the container, it’s pretty easy. I leave one in our van, washed and ready to go, like this one. It’s stored with other reusable bags in my trunk so I always have one handy.

Bring Containers to The Store

At first, it was really odd for me to hand the girl at the deli my quart jar for her to fill with potato salad, or for sliced cheese. One even had to call the manager to “get approval” to use outside containers. But, once I got used to it, getting bulk hamburger, cheese, dried teas, dried beans, or other bulk items is easy without plastic. What you need to do is have them weigh the empty container and with a piece of masking tape and a sharpie, write the TARE weight on the jar so the checkout cashier can remove that from the total weight of your purchase. Just make sure each jar has a lid before you go, okay? Trust me on that one…nothing is worse than spilling a pound of black tea leaves all over your van right after you cleaned it out because you were “sure” it would get home okay this one time. I just use mason jars like this on a regular basis.

Bring your Own Cup/Mug

It’s easy to remember your own coffee mug when you go out all the time for coffee, right? Well, maybe. Hubby and I take our own coffee mugs to Starbucks now, and as a result, we get $.10 off each drink. We only go there once in a while, but that does add up. Plus, on those rare times we get the lattes with whipped cream, having our own mug means that it’s not smooshed all over the lid.
I also have a quart mason jar in my computer bag for when I go to the coffee shop to write. I use it for tea, water, or whatever. My kids get quart mason jars during the summer for drinks on the road or at the park, or whatever. You may worry about broken glass, but to be honest, we have never dropped one, and I’ve been doing this since my kids were 10, 8, and 4. You can grab some cute lids for them here or make your own here.

Buy in Bulk VS. Packages

Buying from the bulk bins at the grocery stores, like dried beans, rice, or nuts and putting them in cloth bags will save you from using little plastic produce bags. Your apples don’t really need to come in a plastic bag, do they? You can get the same exact thing and put them in the cart directly. Don’t have a bunch of little cloth bags? No worries…your apples and broccoli and bunch of carrots will get along just fine in the big reusable bag until you get home. I wouldn’t add bananas, though…they can be bullies ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, you can see that it’s fairly easy to reduce the amount of plastic you need in your life by just making a few simple changes. What changes have you made to reduce your plastic?


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  • Deez

    Great article. I live in a county where there is no landfill. Everything is recycled. I’ve been contemplating making reusable produce bags and since I buy spices, herbs, pasta, beans, etc in bulk, making my own bags just makes sense. I use my plastic containers from stores at least twice then they go to the waste recycling center. More power to your creative side. :)

    • http://www.glacierbearlodge.com BrookeO

      Where is that?! I want to live there ๐Ÿ˜›

  • http://www.ecokaren.com ecokaren

    Very reasonable and simple actionable steps. Love it! I have a folded reusable bag in my purse all the time for small purchases like greeting cards, gifts, picking up mail from my post office, etc….Reusable bags are NOT just for grocery stores. Great post!
    ecokaren recently posted…Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Chili with Sauteed GreensMy Profile

  • http://eco-mothering.com Donna @ Eco-Mothering

    This reminds me to get back to bringing our own leftover containers. We used to do that, but I’d either forget to bring them into the restaurant or forget to put them back into the car after washing them!

  • http://timbercreekfarmer.com Janet Garman

    these are very attainable goals too. I need to follow more of these suggestions. My favorite is to bring my own mug or travel
    coffee cup.
    Janet Garman recently posted…Eco Glow Brooder Giveaway!My Profile

  • http://mirandabee.com Miranda

    Great tips! I love that most of these are just easy things. Don’t require too much effort, so you are more likely to follow through with them on a regular basis.
    Miranda recently posted…Guest Post Monday: Tips for Freezer CookingMy Profile

  • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky Striepe

    Great list! I especially like buying in bulk: less plastic AND less money!
    Becky Striepe recently posted…Blood Orange Martini. Stirred, not shaken.My Profile

  • http://mixedbagmama2013.blogspot.com/ Alicia Owen

    Huh…I would have never even considered most of these! It always appalls my husband and I how much trash we have when we have relatives stay with us. I thought we made too much trash until we started having visitors! lol
    Alicia Owen recently posted…Keeping Your Toddler BusyMy Profile

  • http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/ lisa lynn

    Great ideas :) I don’t buy nearly as much stuff from the grocery store as I used to, which is a very good thing. :) I find that ordering from a buying club cuts down on a lot of packaging! Thanks for the tips!
    lisa lynn recently posted…Chick Fever Giveaway ~ Win An Eco Glow Brooder & Poultry Fount!My Profile

  • http://www.mindfullyfrugalmom.com Sarah

    I love the idea to bring a container when eating out! I never think of that!
    Sarah recently posted…Top 10 Free Kindle Books โ€“ 3/3/14My Profile

  • http://www.eco-novice.com/ Betsy (Eco-novice)

    We have a plastic bag ban in San Jose now and I love it! It works even for a greeny like me, b/c I’m so cheap and can’t stand to pay 10 cents per paper bag (as required by the law). I was good about remembering my reusable bags before — not I’m religious about it. I’ve also brought my own containers places (including Jamba Juice!). Absolutely worth doing if you frequent particular places often enough.
    Betsy (Eco-novice) recently posted…How to Eat Less MeatMy Profile

  • http://www.naturemoms.com/blog Tiffany (NatureMom)

    I never remember to bring a to-go container. :(
    Tiffany (NatureMom) recently posted…Amazing Health Benefits and Uses for TurmericMy Profile

  • http://anoterote.blogspot.com Pamela R

    Super tips I do a few—I’m not comfortable enough to b ring my own dish to the deli yet—but we rarely buy sliced meat.
    Pamela R recently posted…Vitamin C Serum BEAUTY REVIEWMy Profile

  • http://www.triplezmom.com Triplezmom

    Excellent tips! I always bring bags, but I hadn’t thought of bringing a container when eating out. That’s a great idea!
    Triplezmom recently posted…An Open Letter to Dove, From A Jersey GirlMy Profile

  • http://littlehouseliving.com Merissa @ Little House Living

    Thanks for these tips! This is something that I want to work on this year since we no longer have a garbage service and I’m more conscious of what we are using.

  • http://www.schummexplosion.com Allison

    These are great tips. I hadn’t thought of some of them! I’m definitely going to have to change a few more things!

  • http://www.allternativelearning.com Kara @ ALLterNATIVElearning

    Yes! We do all these things because we definitely hate trash. Way to go spreading the word on being more sustainable and lower impact!
    Kara @ ALLterNATIVElearning recently posted…{Instant & Healthier} Hot Chocolate RecipeMy Profile

  • http://ftmlosingit.blogspot.com Michelle F.

    Great tips. I use reusable bags and buy in bulk.
    Michelle F. recently posted…Quiet Book How To Series: Picture and Number Page #TutorialMy Profile

  • http://frugalfarmwife.com Elise

    Bringing tableware and napkins with you is a great idea! Especially if you’re concerned about BPAs. I always forget my reusable bags hen I go shopping. Grr. I’ll have to look into the purse clips.

  • Pam

    I keep my cloth shopping bags in my car so I always have them on hand. On the occasion I do get plastic bags, we always reuse them by lining the trash cans, or to take out the kitty litter. My daughter also uses then when she cleans her pet cages.

  • http://www.krystalbernier.com Krystal Bernier

    Great ideas, I avoid plastics as much as I can. It’s tough though in a plastic world. They contain so many toxins and chemicals that disrupt our hormones and make us sick.
    Krystal Bernier recently posted…The Nutritionist’s Guide To Pregnancy TeasMy Profile

  • http://www.glacierbearlodge.com BrookeO

    This is an awesome post. I’m sharing! I also think buying glass straws would help! You can get them from SimplyStraws.com or Glassdharma

  • http://www.glacierbearlodge.com BrookeO

    Also, I used to work for Disney, and they offer plastic re-usable clam-shells for cast members. It hasn’t taken off yet, but they are trying hard. Sodexo is the one running the cast eateries, it was nice knowing we had options!

  • http://www.happy-mothering.com Chrystal @ Happy Mothering

    Great idea to bring a reusable container for leftovers at restaurants. And I never would have thought to bring my own container to the deli. Great tips!
    Chrystal @ Happy Mothering recently posted…Little Gems Silicone Baking Cups GiveawayMy Profile

  • http://www.acouponaddict.com LLisa Jones

    Your So Good Thank You For The Great Tips!!

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  • http://motherhoodcommunity.com/ Kassondra from Motherhood Community

    I never thought about bringing my own containers to the store before. That’s a fabulous idea!!!
    Kassondra from Motherhood Community recently posted…The Cloth Diaper Compendium – Choosing Cloth DiapersMy Profile

  • http://www.mrsdshomestead.com Mrs. D

    Great tips. I do some of these. Started with the containers for bulk items and cloth bags for produce and bulk items, but the stores I go to do not allow the cloth bags and I got frustrated with always having to look for someone to do the tare weight before I filled my container. I do buy in bulk and repackage in my own reusable containers at home.

  • http://areturntosimplicity.com Angi

    I do several of these all the time, but there are a couple here I had never thought of! We rarely eat out or get coffee’s out, but I will be making sure we bring our own containers when we do! I also never thought of bringing mason jars for bulk items! Awesome!
    Angi recently posted…Creating Holiday Decor From NatureMy Profile

  • http://www.mamabananasadventures.com/ Jeanette E.

    We have a local dairy that has returnable glass bottles for dairy items, and makes their own butter and ice cream too! Plastic and Styrofoam from take-out is rough. I stopped for a much needed salad the other day and cringed at the giant plastic clam shell it came in. While I like to recycle, thinking about the chemicals, energy and fuel used to transport plastic like that really irks me. I wish every restaurant would consider packaging.
    Jeanette E. recently posted…How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables; From Scratch Pancake Recipe; Here Are Your Pancakes…Vegetables IncludedMy Profile

  • http://www.afulfilledmommy.net Farrah

    I love your tips! We definitely try to reduce our use of plastic in our home on top of recycling everything we can.
    Farrah recently posted…Pregnancy Update: The REAL Week 12 (Baby #5)My Profile

  • http://mrsgaeul.com Autumn

    These are great tips! I already do some of these but I need to incorporate more. I try to keep my reusable bags in the car but I often forget them for non-grocery trips like buying clothing or shoes. Another way I try to do my part is buy things that are normally in plastic in glass because it is guaranteed to be recycled. For the things that I can’t get in bulk, that’s the best I can do!
    Autumn recently posted…Chinkasai Fire Festival NYE MiyajimaMy Profile

    • Heather

      Each step we all take makes a bit difference ๐Ÿ˜‰