7 Ways to Reduce Plastic Consumption at Home

While there are lots of articles on ways to reduce plastic consumption, I thought I’d show you some of the ways we’ve done this over the years so you can see what it looks like in real life, rather than product ads…

RP-bigbulk
As many know, the bulk aisle is my BFF! But it isn’t exactly truly green if you are still toting everything back in plastic bags, or popping everything into (fossil fuel) petroleum-based plastics that leach chemicals into your food. So a few years ago, I invested in these 100% glass containers by Anchor Hocking that are all Made in USA and each hold 5 lbs of dry goods. They are awesome, and unlike a lot of dry goods containers, you can easily sink an entire 1 cup scoop into it, not to mention they fit easily into the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Fred Meyer (Kroger) and others sell these and frequently have coupons for housewares so I acquired them slowly but surely (they usually retail around $13-14 apiece). As far as labeling, I’ve discovered personally that I don’t like permanent labels because I don’t always keep the same ingredients all the time, and like to more specifically identify what’s in there (“flour” is meaningless when you bake a lot of bread! as you can see I have 5 types on hand right now!), so I use a dry-erase market to label them all and that way they just wipe right off when it’s time to put something new in!
RP-bulk
For smaller bulk items, simply use your canning jars with some metal lids and fill them with bulk aisle goodies! We love half-pint jars for things like curry and mustard seed as we go through them too fast for a little spice jar, not to mention for items like baking powder and arrowroot.  We use quart jars for the majority of our other dry goods bought in the bulk aisle, from beans to salt to nuts & seeds.
RP-spices
And my last note on bulk…!  Invest in $2 spice jars with metal lids (I got mine many years ago at World Market and ordered the dishwasher-safe labels online) and everything can go in the dishwasher, plus you can take the jars when they are empty to the bulk spice aisle (even Fred Meyer/Kroger carry Frontier organic spices these days, woo hoo!) and refill in the exact amount right into your jar (just make sure to get the tare weight first!) for WAYYYY cheaper than buying new jars. I’m always stunned that prepackaged spices can cost upwards of $9-10 while in the bulk aisle you can refill your jars often for under a buck.
RP-soap
And in this day and age where obsessive hand-washing is encouraged, it’s super easy to DIY liquid soap / body wash and use one of these awesome mason jar toppers (beware of the super cheap ones that break easily!), plus I think it’s super cute! Here’s the recipe we use: * 3/4 cup Dr Bronner’s castille soap
* 3/4 cup honey (for non-beekeepers, buy in bulk aisles at natural grocery stores)
* 1/4 cup castor oil (in the health food section of most major grocers)
* 1/4 cup organic olive oil (refill your glass container in the bulk aisle as well!)
* 20 drops of your favorite essential oil (DIY or buy the ones in glass containers)
RP-coffee
If there’s one trend that really angers me, it’s the Nespresso “coffee pod” with their plastic pods, packaging, etc. (and don’t believe the hype about ‘compostable packaging’ – it only degrades if it goes into an industrial composter, and most of us in the US do not have curbside composting service, not to mention. As if coffee was hard to make before? It’s so insanely wasteful, y’all. If your household drinks a ton of coffee, get a gold reusable filter in your standard coffeemaker, or if you’re like us and only one person drinks it? Buy a stovetop Bialetti (yep, they even come in induction-stovetop-safe versions like ours pictured here on the left!) or a French press!  No filter to buy, takes just a few minutes and you’ve not used any plastic! PS – when we buy coffee in bulk, we reuse a small brown paper bag rather than buy prepackaged (read: non-recyclable) and then just grind it at home and store in a mason jar).
RP-yogurt
When you go into a store, there is a massive Wall of Plastic, as I call it, in the refrigerated section. Nine million types of yogurt, 99% in plastic tubs where the lids are not-recyclable and where the tubs, while recycling companies take them, are NOT technically recycled. (Please learn about DOWNcycling which is what happens to plastic – i.e., one yogurt container does not get made into a new one) Fortunately, the good folks at White Mountain make a killer Bulgarian yogurt (similar to Greek-style) that comes in medium and large size glass jars – woo hoo! Ask your grocer to carry it if they don’t already. Remember, it’s your choice to ingest food that comes in plastic – and your choice to speak up and ask retailers to do better.
RP-beeswrap
By now most of us have heard of beeswax wrap, right? Please say you have…. Anyhow, while these are getting more and more popular (our local co-op carries it now), the part I’m most happy about is that they come in MANY sizes now, including this monster size one for loaves of bread. Love it!  PS – when these finally do reach the end of their lives, you can cut them up and put them in your compost pile. Woo hoo!

There are so many more involving packaging I could go on for days…and the truth is this: if it comes in plastic packaging, don’t buy it. Most plastic-packaged things at the grocery store you don’t HAVE to buy – rather, you CHOOSE to buy them. Ask yourself these questions when you are considering a purchase that involves plastic:

  • If it’s not a whole food, ask:
    • Can I make this at home? (you’d be surprised how much better the homemade alternative can be – my husband and I did this with these Peruvian burritos we loved and will never buy the prepackaged one again!  same goes for non-dairy milk…which is also pennies on the dollar compared to the prepackaged cartons!)
    • If “no”, is there an alternative that is packaged in an infinitely-recyclable material, like glass or aluminum? (there usually is – condiments, I’m talking to you!)
  • If it is a whole food, ask:
    • Can I put it in my cart without a bag? (Y’all, bananas and apples and such do NOT need to be bagged!)
    • Can I put it in a reusable bag or container? (great for bulk items, greens, meat, etc.)

Some food for thought I hope helps take you “next level” when reducing your plastic consumption!

What are some of the biggest ways you avoid plastic in your home?

9 thoughts on “7 Ways to Reduce Plastic Consumption at Home

  1. I am in awe of all of your glass jars, I want glass jars so bad for EVERYTHING when I move out and finally get my own place. 😍 I try to be more conscious with what I buy in stores now, but the one thing I refuse to buy not sold in plastic bags are noodles. It seems that every other time some kind of noodles are bought in a cardboard box, it always has those rotten little bugs in them (and I only discover them when I dump the noodles into the boiling water and see the bodies). They crawl in when the boxes are in the big warehouses and feast on the dried noodles, only to have us open them and be grossed out at all of the dead bodies and loose out appetites. 😝 So for now, my noodles are still being bought in plastic..

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    1. Thanks! I got a lot of the mason jars for free over the years as someone seems to always be deciding to give theirs away, which makes it great.

      As for pasta, have you tried making your own? Even if you don’t have one of the $50 pasta makers, you can still roll it out in sheets for lasagna or cut it into noodles (our fave is 2 cups semolina flour, 3 large eggs, dash of salt…mix, let sit in a ball for 20 minutes, then roll out, and cook for 3 minutes in boiling water). Alternately, a lot of natural grocers have it in their bulk aisles nowadays so you don’t have to buy the boxed/bagged versions 🙂

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      1. Haha, pretty sure all those people giving away their mason jars are going to regret that now that they are coming back into use/practice. As for whether I’ve made my own pasta before, I have made it with the help of my grandmother, but not in quite a few years. And as good as homemade pasta is, it’s not very practical to make every time you want soup. :/ Sadly, the closest place that sells bulk stuff is quite a little trek away, so I guess for now I am stuck with what I’ve got. Someday I’d love to buy everything at bulk stores or make it myself, I just don’t have the resources where I’m at now.

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      2. Are you familiar with Azure Standard? It’s a pretty cool way to get bulk things and there are drop points in the remotest of places (you can go onto the website and input your address to see where the nearest one is). It’s kind of like Costco for organic bulk items, except you order it online and regular people set up their homes/businesses as “drop points” where a big truck comes and brings everyones’ orders. Before my husband worked at the co-op that’s how we got our bulk pantry items 🙂

        PS – with pasta, if you make up a whole bunch and cut it into noodles, you can then hang them on clothes hangers to dry and bag ’em up and they store for a long time! It is sooo much cheaper 🙂

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      3. PS – I was thinking maybe you should write an “advice to newly homeschooling parents” post as there is definitely a one-size-fits-all concept out there from the newbies at home due to CV about what is needed to do it…

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      4. I checked out Azure Standard and it sounds amazing, almost like one gigantic Co-op! Although I’m sure they are getting swamped with orders right now with everything going on. 😛 I did know that you could dry and save homemade pasta, although I wasn’t sure how until now..
        Also, that’s a great idea for a blog post! Thanks for the suggestion! Although my mother would know more about it from a parents point of view than I would, so I’ll have to see what I can do about writing that post with her. I was actually JUST talking to my mother about the fact that a ton of her friends are now asking for her advice on what to do now that they have to ‘homeschool’ their kids.

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      5. That’s a great idea doing a blog post together showing both perspectives! I just had a lady and her granddaughter at my house who have been trying to get into k-12 and are having a lot of trouble with the bureaucracy and was trying to remind them that there are many ways kids can learn at home beyond a formal program 😊

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      6. Oh my gosh yes, there are SO many more ways people could be homeschooling their kids today besides the ‘traditional’ way! Have them pick up a classic book and read it! Teach your kids to cook if they don’t already know how! Let them play games like ‘scrabble’ or ‘math games’ to sharpen their skills and still have fun! I realize that parents who are used to sending them off to public school are probably not going to recognize those things as ‘actual learning’. But it lets so many kids learn in a different way, and therefore causes them to think outside the box of traditional learning and will help them in the long run! I mean yes, you should still have them do whatever it is they are learning about in school right now so that they aren’t behind when they eventually go back.. But also remember to give them breaks and let them do stuff that is FUN and that they don’t even realize is learning! Because THAT is the stuff that will stick in their heads!
        (Goodness. I had more to say on the subject of homeschooling kids than I thought I did.. Maybe I better get writing that blog post.. 😅)

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