Reduce plastic use: sand with plastic trash arranged in rainbow-like colors.

How to Reduce Plastic Use

Choose plastic-free alternatives and properly recycle existing plastic

Learning how to reduce plastic use in your life can take some time and effort, and sometimes it is just plain unavoidable. Do what you can; I know sometimes there are no perfect options. Recycle what you can, but don’t rely on recycling alone to mitigate the impact of this difficult waste stream. Most plastic isn’t recycled, for numerous reasons. The best practice is to avoid plastic at all costs.

Start today by taking note of what the items in your home are made of, then assessing whether a more environmentally-friendly option can be purchased in the future. On this page, I have listed common plastic items people might have in their homes, good alternatives to try instead, and how to properly recycle those items if possible. Click to review the different types of plastic.

To read about the effects of plastic on the environment, head over to the Plastic Pollution page.


Go Green: Use other decorating options

Balloons are a fun, traditional party item, but no true eco-friendly, biodegradable balloons exist. Use other decorating options instead. And definitely don’t release them into the air.

As an alternative to water balloons, I purchased Tlitlimom’s reusable water balloons on Amazon. To fill them, you simply submerge the open silicone balloon under water and then it closes securely with a magnet. My kids thought they were great. My Kiddo Care offers a similar product that they claim is biodegradable, but they don’t list what they are made from on their site so I would treat them as if they weren’t.

Are balloons recyclable?

No, balloons are not recyclable and must be disposed of in the garbage.

Beauty & Personal Care Products

For information on how to reduce and recycle plastic beauty packaging waste, head over to the Clean Beauty page.

Toothbrushes & toothpaste tubes

See Eco-friendly oral care page.

Feminine products

The average menstruating woman disposes of approximately 10,000 feminine products, which is around 300 pounds worth, in her lifetime.

Click here to learn all about eco-friendly period products.


Click here for sustainable razors.

Cotton swabs

Cotton swabs are a sleeper item….it may surprise you to know that they among the top ten items that wash up on beaches.

Go Green: Skip cotton swabs with plastic sticks

Do not buy swabs with non-biodegradable plastic sticks. Purchase 100% cotton swabs with paperboard sticks, such as Q-Tips. You can also buy swabs with bamboo sticks, such as BOONBOO Cotton Swabs. This company is a certified B Corp, Climate Neutral, and 1% For the Planet member. Also available on Amazon.

Last Swab reusable cotton swab

Try out a reusable swab such as Last Object’s LastSwab. I decided to give it a try, and it is not as gross as it may seem and is surprisingly very easy to clean. The one thing I will say is I wish the texture was a little softer. Although it adequately cleans ear wax, it is not absorbent and doesn’t help dry out water in the ear canal, which for me is a big reason I like to use them after a shower. They do make a swab specifically for beauty that looks softer, so if you use swabs for makeup touchups that would also be worth a try. Also available at Grove / Zero Waste Store.

Swabs made from 100% cotton or bamboo are compostable.

Go Green: Stop buying bottled water

PLEASE stop buying bottled water! Plastic beverage bottles are the third most common item found littering coastal areas, behind cigarette butts and food wrappers/containers. I think this is one of the simplest items to eliminate from our lives, yet Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour, and each of these bottles takes around 450 years to decompose.

Rethink buying soda in bottles too. Coca-Cola has been the world’s largest plastic polluter for five years in a row, followed by Pepsi Co. and Nestle.

I know there are times where we might forget to bring our water with us, especially when beginning a new habit. And there may be some instances where using bottled water might be hard to escape, such as at large event or in places where the water isn’t potable, but for the most part, we should be eliminating plastic water bottles from our lives altogether.

Some companies have started selling water packaged in alternative packaging, such as Liquid Death’s Mountain Water in an aluminum can. This is a better choice when in a pinch, provided it is available. I have also seen water offered in a carton, such as Just Water or Boxed Water is Better, and while these are not plastic, they are not easily recycled.

Besides the large role that plastic water bottles play in global plastic pollution, there are health implications as well. Study results released in January 2024 reported that a one liter bottle of water contains approximately 240,000 tiny pieces of plastic. And plastic contains a wide variety of chemicals, some of which are known endocrine disruptors and even carcinogens.

Reusable water bottles

Hydroflask reusable water bottle

At home, drink from a glass or reusable water bottle filled with tap water, filtered water from your fridge’s dispenser, cold water from a pitcher kept in the fridge, or buy a filter that can be installed on your sink. If you don’t want to drink tap water, fill a 5 gallon jug with water at the grocery store. With all these options, there’s absolutely no reason to drink bottled water at home.

There are an infinite number of great reusable water bottle options. I prefer stainless steel, as it is durable and keeps liquids at the temperature you want them to be.

Top brands include:

  • Kleen Kanteen is a Certified B Corp that is Climate Neutral certified and a 1% for the planet member. Their 18/8 stainless steel water bottles are made from 90% post-consumer certified recycled steel and are free of BPA, lead, phthalates or heavy metals.
  • Hydroflask is another great choice, using a minimum of 80% recycled stainless steel in their water bottles. Their paper packaging comes from FSC certified forests and is printed with soy ink, and the company is working to decrease their overall emissions. They collaborate with non-profits to make a positive difference, including their Parks For All program, which supports nonprofit organizations focused on building, maintaining, restoring and providing more equitable access to parks. Finally, participating in Hydroflask’s trade-in program will net you $5 off your next purchase. They even have the capability to recycle the lids, too.
  • Yeti is a great brand, creating water bottles from 18/8 stainless steel, which is third-party tested for the absence of BPA, phthalates, or lead. Their in-store buy-back program gives you $5 off a purchase when you bring your beat up bottle in for recycling.
  • For a fraction of the price, you can go with the Thermoflask bottles sold at Costco. In my experience they perform as well as the more expensive brands.

And for the love of God, please refrain from participating in the Stanley craze going on. Having a few reusable water bottles on hand is great so there is always a clean one, but buying a hundred of them in order to have certain colors defeats the entire purpose of reusable. This is a classic display of overconsumption.

Get in the habit

Do what you need to to remember to grab your bottle when leaving the house. Put it by your keys, purse, or backpack. Get used to taking a bottle everywhere you go: to work, school, a friend’s house, running errands, and events. There are fill stations all over the place. I take my empty bottle to college football games and fill it up inside the stadium. Carry one in your car, purse, backpack, gym bag, or briefcase.

Plan ahead, like when you know you are going to be sitting in the hot sun for your kid’s football or soccer game. Take them on road trips and refill at gas stations or restaurants; take an empty bottle when you fly and fill up after going through security. It might take you an extra minute or two, but it’s worth saving a couple extra dollars while using less plastic.

How to recycle water bottles

Bottles are made from #1/PET plastic, which is universally recyclable everywhere. Curbside recycling programs will accept them, as well as any drop off recycling bin.

Brita water filters, bottles and caps, and packaging can be recycled for free with Terracycle. There are also free programs for Hydros and Zero Water brand filters. Or you can buy a water filter pouch or box for any size/brand from Terracycle. I have been unable to find a recycler for refrigerator water filters.

Bread Tags

Go Green: Bakery bread

Bread from a bakery will save you both a plastic bag and plastic bread tags since they usually come in paper bags. Better yet, bring your own bread bag. Plus, what’s better than fresh bread? Without preservatives to boot.

If you’re up to the task, learn to bake your own bread. If you already know how, try to set aside time to do it. I know easier said than done. I’ve really been trying to stay on top of bread baking so that we don’t have to rely on store-bought bread.

What to do with bread tags

When you finish off a loaf of bread, see if you can find a reuse for them. Here are some ideas on how to utilize bread tags around the house.

Bread tags are generally not recyclable, but you can mail them to a non-profit based in Indiana called Danielle Cares For Chairs that collects bread tags, sells them to a specialty recycler, and use the proceeds to buy wheelchairs for people in need.

Plastic cards

This includes items like plastic gift cards, ID cards, membership passes, credit cards, and hotel key cards.

Go Green: Go digital

These can be hard to avoid, but if you can, opt for digital gift cards, museum passes, etc. For business owners, utilize non-plastic gift cards.

  • Reload gift cards to give to someone else.
  • Return hotel key cards to front desk so they can be reprogrammed and reused for other guests.
  • Use around the house, like to scrape dried gunk off your kitchen countertops, or to get air out from under wallpaper.

Can you recycle plastic cards?

Plastic cards are made from PVC, which is not an easy or common plastic to recycle. If you can find a PVC recycler in your area, you’re set. Otherwise, you’ll have to through them in the trash, unless you are willing to pay to recycle them. Terracycle’s Plastic Card Zero Waste Pouch is a hefty $48 for a pouch that holds around 50 cards. If you can find friends that will donate $1/card, it might make it more feasible. I have a Terracycle Plastic Packaging Zero Waste Box and was told by the company that plastic cards are acceptable to add to it.

More credit card companies are transitioning to metal cards. I recently had to have an AmEx card replaced, and with the new one I got an envelope to send the old one back for recycling. Hopefully other companies have that option.

And lastly, if all else fails, you could eat the card. After all, it is estimated that we ingest 5 grams of plastic every week, which is about the equivalent of a credit card. Yum. (Please don’t.)

Cigarette Butts

Go Green: Kick the habit, or at least toss them in the trash.

Ha, the nurse in me wants to climb on my soapbox…but if you must continue, consider an eco-friendlier brand.

Are cigarette butts biodegradable?

No, cigarette butts are not biodegradable. Why? Because the filters in nearly all cigarettes are composed of plastic. This isn’t great considering cigarette butts are the #1 most littered items in the world!

Are cigarette butts recyclable?

Terracycle offers a FREE mail-in recycle program for any brand of cigarette butts. I am not aware of any other options.

Go Green: Use your own mug

Bring your reusable drinkware of choice when you make your morning coffee run. The Yeti tumbler is my husband’s absolute favorite. Try a STOJO collapsible coffee cup that you can store in your bag and keep handy for the times you might need an unplanned caffeine boost.

If you need to purchase single use cups, go with compostable ones made from plant-based materials. However, these are not backyard compostable and require processing in a special facility.

Can you recycle coffee cups?

Disposable coffee cups and lids are generally not recyclable. Even though the cups may be made of paper, they have a waxy plastic coating and it is difficult to separate the two types of materials. Subaru dealerships have a partnership with Terracycle to accept them for recycling, in addition to plastic and styrofoam cups, straws, coffee pods, creamer capsules, and candy/snack wrappers. You can check for other participating dealerships.

Coffee pods

Go Green: Reusable coffee pods

Single-serve coffee makers are very convenient, but the pods and capsules required are expensive and they create a lot of unneccessary waste. Coffee pods will average out to be anywhere from $20-40 per pound, compared to less than $10 per pound for bulk fresh beans.

Instead, go with a single-serve coffee maker or French press.

If you already have a coffee maker that uses pods, then purchase some reusable pods. There are plenty of both reusable Nespresso pods and reusable K-cup pods to choose from. I realize that these might be a bit of a pain to clean, but you can take an extra minute or two to do it.

Given the choice between the two major coffee pods brands, I would definitely go with Nespresso over Keurig. Nespresso is a Certified B Corp and has much more in the way of sustainability initiaves, including working with the Rainforest Alliance to source sustainably-grown coffee. Their pods are made of aluminum, which doesn’t contribute to plastic pollution and are infinitely recyclable.

Keurig is a bit ambigous about their coffee origins, stating that 100% of coffee is responsibly sourced, and is “grown and sold in adherence to a credible sourcing program that aligns with our Company Supplier Code of Conduct.” Their pods are made from plastic.

Coffee pod recycling

Nespresso capsules are made from aluminum, so they should be able to be recycled with other aluminum items. Or, with each order Nespresso will send you a free pre-paid envelope to return your coffee pods for recycling. There are also multiple collection points across the globe.

Keurig pods are made from #5 (PP) plastic, which is recyclable, but not everyone has access to recycling of this material. They do offer K-cycle bins, a box to collect empty K pods for recycling. However, the cost is $120 for a box that holds 175 pods, or $170 for a box that holds 450 pods.

Subaru dealerships have a partnership with Terracycle to collect coffee pods, as well as straws, plastic and styrofoam cups/lids, creamer capsules, and candy/snack wrappers. Check for participating dealerships.

Go Green: Use regular cups

It’s time to add a new party acronym: in addition to BYOB, let’s BYOCup. Try this Ball Aluminum Cup that keeps your drink cold, or browse the myriad of options from Yeti. Again the STOJO collapsible cup is an easy portable option. If you have enough cups for entertaining, use your own, even if that means an extra dishwasher load.

For situations where disposable cups are needed, try Ball aluminum party cups.

Are plastic cups recyclable?

Recyclability depends on what type of plastic the cup is made from & what is accepted by your local recycler. It is likely that cups made from #1, #2, and #5 will be recyclable in most areas.

Terracycle does have a free mail-in program for rigid #6 plastic cups (think red solo party cup); they can be any brand.

Subaru dealerships have a partnership with Terracycle to accept plastic and styrofoam cups/lids, as well as straws, coffee pods, creamer capsules, and candy/snack wrappers. Check for other participating dealerships.

Plastic straws are another top 10 waste item found washed up on beaches.

Go Green: Skip or sip on reusable straws

reusable metal straws and a straw cleaner lying on a napkin

Go straw free as much as you can. Decline them when you go out, or bring your own. Many reusable straws come with storage bags that you could easily bring with you.

There are lot of options for reusable, plastic-free straws. They can be found in a variety of materials, most commonly stainless steel, bamboo, glass, and silicone. When you’re on the go, try a collapsible straw, such as the FinalStraw, a reusable stainless steel straw with an inner platinum silicone and a case made from post consumer recycled plastic.

Stirrer options include products like these stainless steel stirrers, ones made from silicone, or find a fun design like these glass ones on Etsy.

If you must use a disposable straw, go with compostable, plant-based ones such as Bambu’s Disposable Bamboo Straws, which are USDA certified organic. Repurpose Compostable Marine Degradable PHA Straws are another solid choice.

For compostable stirrers, try these bamboo ones made by Mini Skater.

Can you recycle straws?

Straws are generally not recyclable. The only option is to drop them off at a Subaru dealership, which have a partnership with Terracycle to accept straws, as well as plastic and styrofoam cups/lids, coffee pods, creamer capsules, and candy/snack wrappers. Check for participating dealerships.

Trash bags

Go Green: Recycled or compostable trash bags

The best way to reduce trash bags? Create less waste. Otherwise, it turns into a guessing game at which type of bag is the most ecofriendly.

You can go with compostable trash bags: If You Care, Green Paper Products, and Amazon have several options. However, compostable bags for collecting garbage that will end up buried in the landfill doesn’t make a lot sense to me, as they require they high heat of a commercial composting facility to break down. I suppose they might decompose faster and with less byproducts than their plastic counterparts. An article from the Columbia Climate School suggests the bags mummify along with the waste they hold.

The other option to consider is trash bags made from recycled materials. Grove, Seventh Generation, and If You Care all have tall kitchen options. For larger bags, If You Care makes a 30 gallon option. Glad makes one as well, although it is only composed of 50% recycled materials.

Of course, you can always skip purchasing bags and reuse old grocery bags to line trash cans.

Go Green: Reusable utensils

Buy a convenient little set like this SENHAI flatware set I purchased years ago. It has a stainless steel spoon, knife, fork, and chopsticks that come in a zippered neoprene pouch. I also have this great To-Go Ware Bamboo Utensil Set. I keep a set in my work bag for lunch, and another in my purse, and another set in my son’s lunch box and he hasn’t ever lost one (knock on wood). They’re also great for travel, picnics, or camping.

When you order take out from home, make sure the restaurant knows you don’t need any utensils. If you’re entertaining, consider using your own silverware if you have enough. Doing some extra dishes is worth producing less waste.

If do you need disposable, go with Bambu’s compostable bamboo cutlery. Another choice is Repurpose cutlery, which is certified biobased but only commercially compostable.

Are plastic utensils recyclable?

Regular plastic utensils are not recyclable and must be discarded in the trash.


Disposable diapers have a significant environmental impact, starting with the numerous resources required for production. Nearly all disposable diapers contain plastic, namely polyester, polyethylene and polypropylene. In addition, they also contain wood pulp and/or cotton.

But even worse, a 2021 study stated that, “Unfortunately, disposable diaper manufacturers are reluctant to present their exact chemical composition, claiming that their trade secrets apply. However, several reports show that disposable diapers of well-known brands, “store” brands and “bio” brands may contain a number of toxic compounds.”

Even if made with recyclable or compostable materials, the stinky contents means disposable diapers go to the landfill where they will not biodegrade. And considering a single baby will probably go through between 5,000-6,000 disposable diapers before becoming potty trained, that’s a lot of waste. In fact, the EPA reports that in 2018, an estimated 4.1 million tons of disposable diapers ended up in landfills, 1.4% of total waste for that year.

Go Green: Reusable cloth diapers

Reusable cloth diapers generally have a lower environmental impact than single-use diapers. Cotton is resource intensive, but buying organic cotton helps to lessen this factor. The biggest ongoing impact from reusable diapers comes from the water and electricity used to launder them. Despite this, I think it is a good trade off compared to their fossil fuel-based, possibly chemical laden, and non-biodegradable counterparts.

These impacts can be lessened by adopting certain practices.

Amazon has lots of reusable cloth diaper choices, as does Etsy. Here are Babycenter’s favorite cloth diapers. Ask around for a local diaper service recommedation.

Plant-based disposable diapers

For various reasons, reusable diapers may not be the most feasible option for you. Eco-friendlier disposable diapers minimize plastic use and use responsibly harvested tree pulp for their fluff.

  • Dyper diapers – Certified USDA BioPreferred 55% Product, Certified OK Biobased certified by TÜV Austria, OEKO-TEX certified. These diapers contain FSC certified bamboo and are the most expensive of the disposable diapers at around $0.56 per diaper. However, they are the only company that offers recycling of their products, as described below. I have a friend who loves these diapers and the service they provide.

The following diapers are comparably priced around $0.35 per diaper. (For reference, the very cheapest brands I found online were around $0.17 per diaper.)

  • Honest Company Clean Conscious Diapers – tree fiber harvested from FSC certified forests in North America; free of latex, fragrance, or parabens; cruelty-free. OEKO-TEX certified. Diaper boxes are made from 100% PCR post recycled consumer cardboard.
  • Eco by Naty Eco Diapers – contain 0% oil-based plastic, FSC certified wood pulp, TUV Austria OK Biobased certified, vegan, OEKO-TEX certified

Can disposable diapers be recycled?

They are not recyclable, with the exception of Dyper brand diapers. The company offers a curbside pickup program that operates in 20 cities across the country. For $20/pickup, their drivers come every other week and take soiled diapers and wipes for composting. Read about their unique process. If you don’t live in one of their pickup areas, you can purchase their return bundle to send the soiled items to them for processing.

Baby wipes

Go Green: Reusable baby wipes

Many of the baby wipes on the market are actually not made from plant-based material. Instead, they are usually composed of polyester or polypropylene, both fossil-fuel based non-biodegradable plastics.

Using a reusable cloth instead of single-use disposable baby wipes is the greenest choice, as well as the most economical. Simply use a damp washcloth as a reusable wipe, such as Burt’s Bees Baby 100% Organic Cotton washcloths, which are GOTS certified. Available on Amazon.

Compostable baby wipes

Reusable wipes may not be feasible in certain situations, especially when you’re on the go. 100% plant-based, compostable baby wipes are the best choice.

  • Caboo Bamboo Baby Wipes
    • 99.3% naturally derived ingredients, plastic-free
    • Unscented
    • MADE SAFE certified
    • Available at Amazon
  • Dyper Simply Kind Baby Wipes – 99% water
    • Certified USDA BioPreferred 95% product
    • Sourced from FSC certified bamboo and
    • Certified by OEKO-TEX.
    • Hypoallergenic and unscented
  • The Honest Company Clean Conscious Wipes – 99% water
    • USDA Certified Biobased Product
    • EWG verified
    • National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance.
    • Free of plastic, fragrances, parabens, and chlorine processing
    • Available at Target / Amazon
  • Water Wipes – 99.9% water
    • Self-proclaimed “Purest wipes in the world” contains only two ingredients: water and a drop of fruit extract.
    • National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance,
    • vegan, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, cruelty-free.
    • Packaging is made from low density polyethylene and contains 30% post consumer recycled polyethylene. Boxes are made from recycled cardboard.
    • Available at Target / Amazon
  • Eco by Naty –  98.4% water
    • Unscented
    • OK Compost TUV Austria certification
    • Available at Amazon

*Do not flush any wipe even when it claims to be ‘flushable.’ They are likely to lead to clogs pipes.

Can you compost baby wipes?

It is possible to compost wipes made from natural fiber if they were used to clean hands and face, surfaces etc.; if used to change diapers, they should be tossed in the trash.

Are baby wipes recyclable?

Baby wipes are not recyclable, with the exception of Dyper brand wipes (and diapers). They have a curbside pickup program that covers 20 cities across the country. For $20/pickup, their drivers come every other week and take soiled diapers and wipes for composting. Read about their unique process. If you don’t live in one of their pickup areas, you can purchase their return bundle to send the soiled items to them for processing.

Recycling baby wipe packaging

Recycle cardboard boxes. Most plastic packaging for baby wipes is made from #4/LDPE, which can be recycled with other plastic film.

Plastic toys

See Going Green with Kids page

Plastic packaging

Food packaging & wrappers

Go Green: Buy in bulk; eat less processed foods

Cut down on packaging by buying refillable products or buying in bulk. Winco has a large selection of foods, candy, coffee, and pet food available in bulk. Take your own containers to a local bulk shop fill them with a variety of foods and personal care products.

We could all stand to eat less processed foods and more fresh, home cooked meals and snacks.

Read more about plastic packaging in this article by National Geographic.

Recycling food packaging

Recycle plastic packaging as accepted by your local recycler.

Kroger has a partnership with Terracycle offering a free mail-in recycling program for their brand packaging.

Chip, candy, and snack wrappers that have foil-lined wrappers are very difficult to recycle since they contain metallic elements in addition to plastic. Terracycle has a wrapper zero waste box if you are willing to fork out the cash. Or you can drop them off at a Subaru dealership; they have a partnership with Terracycle to accept wrappers; they also accept styrofoam, plastic cups/lids, straws, coffee pods, and creamer capsules. Check for participating dealerships.

Ridwell is a the only hard-to-recycle collection service I’ve come across that takes all kinds of packaging, including multi-layer packaging, frozen food packaging, and snack wrappers. Unfortunately they aren’t in my neck of the woods but maybe they’re in yours.

This material is particularly nefarious. Styrofoam items, especially takeout containers, are generally not great for reuse, and except for a few cases, they are not at all recyclable.

Some places may recycle block styrofoam, such as Marko Foam in Utah. Many online sources say that UPS stores will take your packing peanuts, but the locations I have contacted told me they do not, and one told me UPS has banned packing peanuts altogether. So for the most part, styrofoam belongs in the trash; do your best to avoid it as much as possible.

Go Green: Bring your own

Consider taking your own containers for leftovers when you go out to eat. These Stasher bags would be easy to…stash…in your purse or glovebox, although they are a little spendy. I have this great silicone STOJO Collapsible Bowl. Here’s a great list of other collapsible options.

Some takeout containers, especially the ones made from aluminum or heavy plastic, are very sturdy and can easily be washed and reused for food storage. Deli containers are also great for storing food and other random things; they came in handy when the kids when through a slime-making craze and I didn’t want to store that gunk in our regular food storage containers. I also use them when I am hosting people for dinner and sending them home with extra food.

Recycling to go containers

Depending on the material and local recycling availability. Aluminum containers are recyclable; the plastic lid might be. Plastic to go containers are most likely not going to be recyclable. Styrofoam takeout containers can’t be recycled, nor can coated paper products (think Chinese takeout).

Go Green: Reduce use as able

What is plastic film?

Plastic films are made from polyethylene (PE), either high density polyethylene (HDPE), which is #2, or low density polyethylene (LDPE), #4. These are very difficult to avoid as they are found everywhere. Plastic films are not always labeled with the plastic resin code, but are easy to identify: think of the thin, stretchy plastic you find enclosing numerous products.

Do your best to avoid purchasing products that utilize plastic film packaging. There are plenty of alternatives to many products, including those listed above, that use plastic-free packaging. If you have favorite products that come wrapped in plastic, I encourage you to message those companies and let them know how you feel about their packaging. It’s become enough of an issue that I think that if enough people take simple actions like this, businesses just might listen.

Plastic wrap

Check out this article about plastic wrap by National Geographic.

Go Green: Reusable wrap

Switch out your cling wrap for reusable beeswax wraps, which last for approximately a year and can be composted at the end of their life. Beeswax wraps come in various sizes or rolls that you can cut to the desired dimensions. My favorite companies include:

  • Bee’s Wrap, a certified B Corp and 1% for the Planet partner. Their wraps are composed of organic cotton, beeswax, organic plant oil, and tree resin. They also have a vegan line of wraps that uses coconut and soy in place of beeswax. According to the company, the wraps can be composted or used as a natural fire starter at the end of their life.
  • Meli Wraps, a Hawaiian-based company that uses only local Hawaiian beeswax, natural tree extracts, and 100% GOTS Certified Organic Cotton in their wraps.

Compostable plastic wrap

There are compostable plastic wrap options for times when reusable wrap might not be feasible.

  • Zefiro Compostable Cling Wrap – BPI certified compostable cling wrap made from PLA and Biobased PBAT is made to naturally biodegrade or can be composted in a home or industrial compost facility
  • Full Circle – Plant-based compostable plastic (PLA & PBAT) that must biodegrade in municipal or commercial composting facilities

Go Green: Reusable plastic bags

Let’s curb our love affair with Ziploc bags. I get it, they’re convenient. And I acknowledge that sometimes they might be the only realistic option. Even in those cases, there are better options, starting with washing and reusing plastic bags, if you are willing to do so, although it is not recommended if they were used to hold raw meat.

You can get away with using much less disposable zip top bags than you think; since I purchased reusable bags, I don’t think I’ve used any ziplocs.

variety of reusable zip top bags
  • Stasher bags are a very popular choice and I have to agree with their popularity. They are very sturdy and easy to zip up. However, they are quite pricey. Stasher bags can be recycled through a free Terracycle program. Available on Amazon.
  • (re)zip is another popular brand that is on my list to try. In addition to having bags that seal closed like other zip top bags, they also have some that close with an actual zipper. And like Stasher, they have a free recycling program that you can ship to them or directly to Terracycle.
  • I do own a couple other brands: these SPLF gallon-size bags and this set of Qinline assorted sizes. They are also great, but if I had to pick, I would go with the Stashers.
  • Lunchskins reusable food storage bags are made from Lunchskins are made from a proprietary quick drying fabric that is coated with a food-safe polyurethane liner, similar to pastry bags.

I will admit, nobody in my house loves washing the reusable bags, but this Marbrasse drying rack helps the process. For a plastic-free drying rack, try bamboo, such as the Zefiro drying rack, or stainless steel, like Grove’s Multi-Purpose Drying Rack.

Compostable plastic bags

Paper snack and sandwich bags are both recyclable and compostable. Try some made by If You Care or Lunchskins. Both are made with FSC-certified paper.

There are compostable plastic options out there, such as BioBag brand products, but be aware that nearly all ‘compostable’ plastics are not appropriate for backyard composting. They require processing under very high heat in a commercial composting facility, which are few.

Go Green: Reusable produce bags

Skip using the thin plastic produce bags. Buy loose produce, and if you are only getting one item, or even a few, you don’t necessarily need a bag for it.

Many grocery stores carry reusable mesh produce bags in the produce section, or there’s plenty of great choices online.

Go Green: Reusable bags

Have you wondered which is worse when you’re asked, “Paper or plastic?” This is just as complicated as you thought. In a nutshell, despite using petroleum, production of plastic grocery store bags actually creates less waste, emissions, and harmful byproducts compared to the production other types of bags. In addition, they are recyclable, although most aren’t actually recycled. Downsides are that they are so lightweight that they easily fly away and clog machinery in recycling facilities, and they eventually and break down into tiny microplastics, infiltrating soil, water, air, and even our bodies.

By comparison, paper bags are easier to recycle and in addition to being compostable. But unless made from recycled paper, a tree was cut down to make it. Additional resources like water, pesticides, and fertilizers must also be accounted for. Because of this, manufacturing a paper bag takes about four times as much energy as it takes to produce a plastic bag, and studies have shown that a paper bag would have to be used anywhere from three to 43 times to make up for its environmental impact.

It’s complicated

The solution to the conundrum above is to choose neither and bring your own reusable bags They can be found in many different materials, and the environmental impact of these materials varies. Of course this isn’t straightforward either.

One study found that cotton bags have to be reused thousands of times before having a comparable environmental footprint to plastic bags. At first that may seem surprising, but consider the resources that go into growing, harvesting, and producing cotton before it becomes a bag. Personally, I still like the idea of a natural material over plastic when given the choice.

Materials other than cotton, however, perform much better in sustainability metrics. Nonwoven polypropylene (PP) is a popular option. Made from a more durable kind of plastic, these bags need to be reused around eleven times to break even with the impact of conventional plastic.

The best choice is to shop with bags you already own; there’s a good chance you might already have reusable bags hanging around. If you have sewing skills, you can upcycle old clothing to make your own bags. If you need to, purchase new bags dedicated for this purpose. Many grocery stores sell them. I like to have some bags designated for groceries, and others for other types of purchases, like clothing.

You can go with bags made from recycled materials, like these made by Earthwise. Find all kinds of great styles and material options on Etsy.

Keep reusable shopping bags in your trunk so you always have them when doing errands. I also keep a Chico Bag Tote in my purse so I have a bag handy for any impromptu shopping when I’m not using my car. I love these shopping bags because they fold into a small pouch and are very easy to use. BeeGreen bags are another great option.

6-Pack plastic rings

6-pack plastic rings, or soda ring carriers, are made from #4/LDPE, so they can be recycled along with other plastic films. Another option is to send them in a pre-paid envelope to Ring Recycle Me.

Plastic film recycling

Unfortunately, plastic film can NOT be put into your mixed recycling bin because it clogs facility machinery. There are many locations where you can drop off these items, usually located in store entrances. Make sure everything is clean and dry. Search for the nearest drop-off location here. Some sites may differ on exactly what films are accepted. National locations include stores like Kohl’s, Target, Walmart, or Winco.

Another option, also through Terracycle, is a mail-in program for plastic packaging recycling. You purchase a box from them, complete with a shipping label, and when you have filled it, you return it to them for recycling. It is very convenient and accepts rigid plastics in addition to plastic film, but it is spendy.

Recyclops services some areas by picking up harder to recycle items from your house, including plastic films. Textiles, light bulbs, and batteries are also included; styrofoam and clamshell pickup is available for an additional fee.

Ridwell is another option for hard-to-recycle items. They also collect plastic films, along with an extensive list of other items.

Plant Pots

Go Green: Reuse your plant pots

I always save various sizes for repotting plants. Check with your local garden center or nursery to see if they will accept them back for reuse. Many smaller nurseries or growers will be glad to take them back.

Usually plant pots are made from #5 (PP) so you can recycle them if your local recycling accepts that type of plastic. Or you can take them to Home Depot or Lowe’s for recycling. (There’s a good chance the employees are not aware of this.)

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