The extent of the damage wrought by plastic on our environment is increasingly well known. Yet, this harmful material permeates the majority of the consumer items we buy and use. Mounds of trash, garbage islands in the ocean and the suffering and death of countless fish, birds and other animals are just some of the negative consequences of our collective plastic waste on the planet.
Recent reports have revealed that biodegradable plastics don’t degrade in most scenarios and that a mere nine percent of recyclable plastic actually finds its way to a recycling plant. No matter how briefly we use it for, a plastic item never fully goes away. It seems the only solution to the plasticalypse now upon us is to stop buying and using the material entirely — or at least, to reduce our plastic usage as far as we can.
Giving up plastic doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, in giving up something harmful, you can gain a wealth of advantages you never considered — better health, a cheaper and simpler life – plus an increased knowledge of how the products we use and consume are manufactured and marketed.
Here are seven people who have mastered the art of plastic-free living and are sharing their experiences, impressions and tips to make the task a little easier for the rest of us.
1. Erin Rhoads, aka The Rogue Ginger
Plastic-free for over two years, Erin Rhoads details her journey to a zero-waste lifestyle on her blog, the Rogue Ginger, which contains useful tips and advice on “quitting” plastic and producing as little trash as possible. She outlines her reasons for going plastic-free — including the impact on wildlife and the environment and local communities — and recommends a number of helpful books and movies on the topic.
Her tips for switching out plastic from personal care include buying soap bars, using essential oils such as almond and rosehip in lieu of various toiletries — body and face moisturizer, perfume… — and making your own. Where groceries are concerned she has gone back to practices our grandparents relied on: from cloth bags and baskets for shopping at the market to stainless steel containers for storing food and for bringing it home from the bulk store.
Erin has been delivering talks, workshops and cooking demonstrations in different locations around Victoria, Australia recently and is currently working on a children’s book to introduce kids to the concept of a zero-waste lifestyle. Though she hasn’t calculated exactly how much money her new lifestyle has saved her, she estimates that living plastic-free is considerably cheaper than our modern waste-happy ways. She also writes about it having improved her health, with processed foods having vanished completely from her diet and her house.
2. Lindsay Miles, author of That’s a Wrap
Lindsay Miles decided to become plastic-free after watching the documentary Bag It! as part of a Plastic Free July event. She describes the revelation she experienced as “a lightbulb moment. A realization that plastic was a problem” on several levels yet that it was a problem she “could do something about.” Her blog Treading My Own Path is full of anecdotes and advice on living a zero-waste plastic-free and minimalist lifestyle.
As she explains, minimalism is not about owning nothing, but about knowing how much stuff is enough. Her advice on a minimalist lifestyle centers around committing to reusables, learning to make food staples and essential toiletries from scratch, avoiding the supermarket and making use of the sharing economy: i.e: by visiting the library and buying items and clothing second hand.
Last year, Lindsay published an ebook titled “That’s a Wrap: Practical Tips, Tricks and Inspiration for Living Plastic-Free.” A guide to reducing plastic usage, it contains inspiration and guidance on removing plastic from daily life, changing consumption habits and making sure they stick.
3. Beth Terry, author of Plastic Free
Running her blog “My Plastic-Free Life” (previously “Fake Plastic Fish”) since 2007, Beth Terry is somewhat of a pioneer of plastic-free living. Starting off as a simple blog, her website has grown to include a wide and comprehensive array of information and resources on reducing plastic’s hold on us.
Not only does Beth strive to minimize her footprint by replacing plastic with alternatives in her own life, but she is also involved in targeting large companies in order to “demand change from the corporations that produce the stuff.” In 2008, she spearheaded the successful “Take Back the Filter” campaign which resulted in Brita filters being rendered recyclable.
Mary Kat focuses her plastic-free efforts on food, an initiative that began when she realized that most of the trash she generated was originating from the kitchen. She now uses ingredients that contain no packaging of any kind, plastic or otherwise.
Alongside tips for a plastic-free kitchen, her blog contains a plentiful collection of recipes using package-free ingredients. She provides information on making basics such as baking powder, almond and coconut milk, and pita bread, among others. The blog features a straightforward recipe for vegan pesto, as well as plastic-free methods of storing the constituent ingredients — keeping basil leaves fresh by wrapping them in cloth napkin and putting them in a glass container, for instance.
5. Taina Uitto, Plastic Manners
Through the REFUSE! Challenge outlined in her blog, Taina aims to encourage readers to rethink their bad plastic manners. She provides information on plastic — its harmful consequences on the environment as well as its unhealthy components — and lists some alternatives to plastic in daily life. As a new mom, Taina offers some particularly useful suggestions for plastic and waste–free baby care.
She also identifies a number of benefits to her new-found plastic freedom, namely health improvements, money savings, increased self-reliance, more meaningful connections with people, kicking her expensive and unhealthy makeup habit, discovering a new sense of leadership and individuality, and of course simply “owning less junk.”
Seeing the success of the Plastic Manners blog — aided no doubt by the attention-grabbing motto “Keep it real. Puck flastic” — Taina and her brother decided to produce a documentary entitled “From the Waste Up – Life Without Plastic” exploring six families’ quest to reducing their plastic usage for a year. According to Taina, the “ongoing fun challenge” that is living plastic-free has brought more value and beauty to her life and allowed her to feel like a better role model for her baby.
6. Lauren Singer, from Trash is for Tossers
Lauren Singer is the Zero Waste blogger behind Trash is for Tossers, where she explains the ins and outs of her zero waste and plastic-free lifestyle. After learning about a California family and their Zero Waste Home, Lauren decided to take her concern for the environment to the next, tangible level. In an effort to live sustainably, she has focused on producing the least amount of waste and plastic trash possible — her website shows two years of trash fitting in a mason jar — and educating others on how to live a waste-free life.
Aside from a useful list of Zero Waste alternatives, Lauren offers readers advice on reducing their trash output through two main steps. These are: evaluating how much trash you produce and why you would want to reduce that amount, and transitioning by beginning to downsize on what you own and subsequently throw out. Lauren also founded an organic cleaning product company, called The Simply Co. and she certifies that the detergent sold is vegan and cruelty-free, it is also plastic-free.
7. Jack Johnson
While technically not a blogger, Jack Johnson is behind the All At Once campaign which promotes sustainable local food systems and plastic-free initiatives. Best known for bringing us musical wonders along the lines of Banana Pancakes and Good People, the singer has also been rather active in encouraging individuals and companies to use less plastic. He is very dedicated to marine conservation as well and supports many environmental organizations and ocean preservation societies.
The singer has publicized his top 10 plastic-free tips on the All At Once website. These include basic ones like packing waste-free lunches and remembering to order drinks straw-free and more proactive actions such as getting active in legislation and encouraging businesses to take responsibility for the products and packaging they put out into the world.