I stepped out the other day and a fluttering sound interrupted my daydream. Caught in the uppermost branches of a tree, silhouetted against the steel blue of a cloudy late December sky, was a plastic shopping bag. Winter images in my mind would have the bag replaced with a crow, or other winter-residing bird, not a ragged plastic bag blowing in the wind. It was wrong, it didn’t belong.

With Christmas Day past us, and the jump into the new year just ahead of us, thoughts invariably turn to changes we would like to enact for the new year. The making of New Years’ resolutions seems to be innately programmed into us; this desire to improve. My resolutions this year are a handful of small and large goals for myself, Cub and Maus, but also some changes to the way we do things. Chief amongst the changes is meal-planning. I will get the hang of successful, efficient meal-planning…but that is a post in itself.

Next to meal-planning is greater thought in the products that come into this house. The ideal of reducing plastic may seem lofty, or better suited to those with greater disposable income, but I don’t believe either. To my mind it just requires a bit of forethought in planning, and a greater conscientiousness while shopping. Some ‘convenience’ may be lost, but I’m beginning to think that such convenience was an artificial construct in the first place.

We will still have plastic in our home (some brilliant pieces of which are played with almost daily), but little-by-little we’re reducing the plastic we don’t need. I’ve made a list. Some things we already routinely do (cloth diaper), some things I strive towards (the planning to be able to effectively buy in bulk), and others are for a rainy day (making dish soap).

Having said all of that, here are 14 ways to reduce plastic use:

  1. Reduce the use of plastic bags by using reusable cloth bags for groceries, produce and bulk foods.
  2. Reusable lunch containers go a long way to help reduce plastic. Go even further by using stainless steel or glass containers (although glass may not be such a good idea for kids!).
  3. Buying in bulk when possible helps to reduce the plastic packaging of smaller amounts. Bulk products will also often be available in paper bags.
  4. Products will also sometimes be available with alternative packaging. Buy products packaged in cardboard, glass jars or cans when available.
  5. Avoid excessive packaging.
  6. Make/use homemade cleaners and keep them in glass jars.
  7. Keep a reusable water bottle with you and never buy another plastic bottle!
  8. Use a reusable coffee cup, and reduce the number of plastic cups and lids ending up in the garbage.
  9. Use washable cups, plates and utensils for parties, and if the thought of so many dirty dishes makes your head spin, limit yourself to paper plates that can later be composted.
  10. For those with little ones still in diapers, cloth diapers, reusable swim diapers and cloth training pants help to keep a significant amount of plastic out of the landfill.
  11. Increasingly it is becoming easier to find natural alternatives to plastic toys. Buying used toys and passing loved toys on to family and friends also helps to reduce to ecological impacts of plastics.
  12. Microbeads in some face/body washes are accumulating in freshwaters and wreaking havoc with aquatic organisms. They are just not necessary. Choose conscientiously when buying face and body wash. 
  13. Even simple clothing choices can have an impact. Polyester fibres from clothing have been found on beaches globally. These fibres are separated during wash cycles, and are too small to be filtered out in water treatment plants. Impacts of these fibres on marine life are still unknown, but it’s certainly something to consider.
  14. Feminine hygiene products as well are not without plastic issues (both in packaging and applicators), but nor are they without alternatives either. Reusable silicone cups and cloth pads are both readily available alternatives, and will keep extra plastic out each month.

Clearly it is something to work towards, and my goal is not to be completely plastic free, but rather to be more mindful about what is coming into our home and reducing unnecessary plastic.

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