Plastic is a revolutionary material that was created to make our lives "better" back in the early 1900s. With plastic, it seemed like things were easier: you could take meals to go, have a dinner party without having to wash dishes or utensils, and buy clean filtered water anywhere you went.
But plastic is a material the Earth cannot digest. Every day in the U.S., we throw out 88 thousand tons of plastic which eventually ends up in our landfills and oceans. We use 17 barrels of oil to make plastic - which can fuel a million cars each year. But do you know what's even scarier? Plastic pieces on the ocean surface now outnumber sea life 6 to 1, and this plastic often gets confused by marine life as food.
To give you a visual of the severity of the plastic pollution problem, we would like to share this 4 minute video that really impacted us and made us want to start changing. It's a bit graphic, but it's reality -we encourage you to watch it.
Less Pressure, More Effort
Plastic pollution is a pressing issue, and change had to begin decades ago. However, sometimes putting too much pressure on ourselves leads to frustration and can be counterproductive. Start small - choose something plastic you use and dispose of every day and find a plastic-free alternative to that.
It isn't always possible to avoid plastic completely, especially during this pandemic. Some places are refusing customers' reusable containers to reduce chances of spreading the virus. In these situations, make sure to at least recycle the plastic you use correctly. You can learn more about how to recycle different types of plastics here.
Where to Begin
One suggestion we would make to anyone looking to cut down on their use of plastic is to look at their daily routines. When is it that you use plastic the most and dispose of it the quickest?
Take something as simple as dental floss. Those dental floss picks that hold floss so nicely make life easier, so you don't have to hold it yourself with two hands - revolutionary! To be honest, it's one of the things we stopped using the fastest because we realized how much damage we were doing merely due to laziness. It is also, without a doubt, one of the plastic things we miss the most - but hey, sometimes we have to make sacrifices for those we love (Mother Nature). The moral of the story is - the satisfaction of doing less harm to the planet makes the sacrifice worthwhile and, after a while of forming new and better habits, you'll get used to it.
Let's not stop there - did you know that floss itself is made of nylon? That's right - plastic! Try for a more eco-friendly option, like bamboo floss or silk floss, which often come in plastic-free packaging. This option is made with bamboo fibre, activated charcoal, candelillia wax, peppermint essential oil, and tea tree essential oil.
We don't mean to make this post all about floss, though, so let's move on to some other great alternatives to your everyday essentials.
The $500 billion per year global personal care industry relies heavily on plastic. Shampoos, liquid soaps, and creams, to name a few product categories, are sold in stores around the world in plastic containers that are often unrecyclable. Why is this such a problem? Because we go through these products quickly, and go back to the store to buy a brand new plastic bottle when the time comes.
Fortunately, environmentally conscious brands do exist, and they are redesigning the way we purchase, use, and dispose of these products.
A great place to start swapping out plastic in the personal care space is with shampoo and conditioner. Not all shampoo bars are created equal, though. One of our favorite brands in this space is No Tox Life. They create high quality and package-free shampoo and conditioner, among other great vegan body & home care products. Our favorite thing about them is they list every ingredient they use to make the bars, and a short description as to why they use it. They also sell this adorable moso bamboo soap shelf (pictured below) to rest your shampoo bar after use.
For face soap, we love Vita Vibe Organics, a small Miami-based business which has some great plastic-free options, from their lip balm to their soap bars. My personal favorite is their Rosemary and Rose Salt face soap bar. A much better (and more natural) alternative to liquid facial soaps that come in plastic containers.
Cleaning & Laundry Supplies
Cleaning supplies is another product category that heavily relies on single use plastic. Luckily for us, there are many new brands that are tackling this problem.
Try online brands like Blueland that are sold in reusable containers, and order refills when needed. With Blueland's products, you simply pop a cleaning or soap tablet into your reusable container with water and boom - your cleaning product is refilled. The refills are the size of a nickel, which makes it a very eco-friendly product to ship.
Food & Groceries
Grabbing food to eat on the go? Make sure to let the restaurant know you don’t need their plastic utensils and straws! An easy way to reduce plastic use when eating on the go is carrying reusable utensils with you. We love this Picnic Bundle from Bamboo Switch.
Picnic Bundle from Bamboo Switch
Another area where plastic gets used heavily is packing food to go from home or storing leftover food. Did you know the average American uses roughly 500 plastic sandwich bags a year? Simply switching to paper bags, glass storage containers, or reusable snack bags like these Stasher bags can make a big difference.
Swapping out plastic wrap is also a great way to start your plastic-free journey. Try using reusable beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap to store leftovers or to pack that PB&J to go.
Beeswax Wrap from Zero Waste Store
You're probably going to the grocery store more than ever these days, so this is another great way to start! This market kit has everything you need to help you stay away from plastic bags, like reusable produce bags and a couple of Maison jars to pack bulk goods like nuts and grains.
Market Kit from Package Free Shop
Your clothing could be made of plastic, too! Try staying away from clothing made of virgin Polyester, which is not only bad for the planet, but also for your body. Because polyester is essentially plastic, it requires more chemicals in the dye process for the color to penetrate.
Aside from the environmentally damaging production process of polyester, the life cycle of this material continues to do harm to our planet. Every time we wash clothing made with synthetic fibers, microplastics are released into our oceans. As mentioned above, these tiny plastic particles often end up in our food supply when they are ingested by marine wildlife and eventually humans.
Consider the Full Package
The other day, we ordered matcha on Amazon and it came in a big plastic bubble wrap bag 10 times bigger than it needed to be. Lesson learned. Where you buy your products from matters. Ask companies how they ship their products before ordering, and try avoiding companies that use single-use plastic in their packaging. If you make the mistake (like we did), make sure to recycle the packaging correctly or find creative ways to use it.
At Half Asleep, we use biodegradable and compostable transparent bags made of cassava starch to protect our sleepwear. Our packaging is plastic-free, and all materials used can be composted or recycled. You can learn more about our packaging and efforts towards sustainability here.
What better time to start than Plastic Free July? Plastic Free July is a movement that encourages people around the world to refuse single use plastic. It's not always easy - or possible - especially during this pandemic, but the idea is to start somewhere and do something. Ok, we’re more than halfway through the month, but this movement is not meant to be limited to just July. Start getting into the good habit of refusing plastic whenever possible today – we promise you’ll feel good with every small step you take!
Below, you can find a list of 10 zero waste/bulk shops that sell their products online. Some have physical locations in addition to their online store.
10 Zero Waste Shops Across the US & Online
Verde Market - Online + Miami, FL
Package Free Shop - Online + Brooklyn, NY
Zero Waste Store - Online
EcoRoots - Online
Bamboo Switch - Online
Wild Minimalist - Online + San Anselmo, California
Well Earth Goods - Online
Tiny Yellow Bungalow - Online
Zerovana - Online
Non Tox Life - Online, vegan body & home care brand
Bee Joyful - Online + Kalamazoo, Michigan
We hope you find these resources helpful. We'd love to hear your tips on reducing our use of single-use plastic and other great zero waste brands or stores in the comments below!