Plastic-free living seems like a daunting, nearly impossible and expensive lifestyle. In 2020 it’s nearly impossible to avoid plastic. Wherever you go there is plastic packaging, bags, people, food… you get it.
I have been trying to transition to a completely plastic-free life since 2018 but I am nowhere close to being completely zero-waste. To be honest, I am actually quite proud of myself for the little changes that I have made in my lifestyle. And I have said many times before, the little things make a big difference.
If you are here to figure out where you can start cutting out plastic from your life, look no further. I made a list of 10 sustainable swaps for plastic in 2020.
10 Sustainable Alternatives for Plastic
- Shopping Bags
This is the most common single-use plastic item that pollutes our oceans and that animals suffocate on. It takes 20 years for a plastic bag to decompose. So, you can imagine how many plastic bags are being used by millions of people every day.
If you have a car keep one or two reusable bags in it just in case you forget to pack your bags at home. And if you use public transport or don’t have your own car, you can keep a reusable bag in your bag or backpack. Canvas bags are easy to fold/roll up so they don’t take up much space your bags. Or else you can buy those tiny tote bags that come in their own little pouches. Lastly, if you are just buying one or two fairly small items that you can carry, do you really need a plastic bag?
- Cotton Pads
Trying to make your skincare routine more sustainable? Switch from single-use cotton pads to reusable facial wipes or a muslin cloth. Cotton pads are extremely wasteful and toxic. Because of their bleached material and plastic lining, cotton pads take longer than 5 months to decompose and are essentially non-biodegradable.
- Coffee Cups
One of my must-have items is a reusable coffee cup. I had one when I worked full-time and one on campus as a full-time student, because coffee was my fuel. Unfortunately, coffee cups and their plastic covers take 30 years to decompose. Even those biodegradable, “eco-friendly” cups still take years to decompose and are wasteful.
Investing in a reusable cup not only saves the planet but it saves you money. I always get discounts for bringing my own cup. I prefer ceramic or metal cups as the drinks stay warm for longer. Glass and bamboo coffee cups are very common and affordable. I avoid glass because of my fear of breaking it!
- Face Masks
Never before 2020 have I thought that I would need to tell people to buy reusable face masks. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak face masks have become the norm. Unfortunately, this lead to an increase in plastic pollution. Too many people have used disposable face masks that are lined with plastic and have plastic holders. Animals run the risk of being tangled or choking on these plastic parts. Plus, it takes about 450 years for disposable face masks to decompose.
Wearing a reusable face mask not only saves you from infection but it also saves the planet. There are so many face masks available in different colours, patterns and materials, ranging from cotton to silk. You could also make your own if you have the time to do a DIY task.
It’s 2020 and people are still using plastic straws. The fact that plastic straws are still served is confusing to me. Now I know that you may think that plastic straws are unimportant compared to the waste that comes from over-fishing, but it’s all perspective. There are still millions of plastic straws out there. So, there are two alternative sustainable options for plastic straws: you can stop using straws and drink straight from the glass or you can keep your own sustainable wheat straws. Wheat straws are made from ethically sourced wheat and can be used several times before you compost them. The best wheat straws are from Little Green Panda. You can buy a pack at an incredibly low price and receive a further discount by clicking here.
- Produce Bags
Plastic produce bags seem to easily go unnoticed because they’re so useful. The irony is that people want to buy loose, fresh and organic fruits and vegetables to avoid plastic packaging, yet they use plastic bags to store them. The best sustainable alternative to plastic produce bags are reusable mesh bags. These bags are often sold in packs of two and can be used endlessly.
- Water Bottles
Another common plastic item that people can’t seem to let go of. Water bottles take more than 450 years to decompose. With all of the sustainable alternatives available making the switch is easier than before. I keep a glass bottle with me of course with a rubber handle to avoid it from slipping out of my grip.
Little useful items that clean our teeth but pollute the earth. Toothbrushes need to be replaced every three months so ultimately billions end up in landfills and will take 500 years to decompose. I switched to a bamboo brush months ago. Bamboo brushes are so easy to decompose and are highly compostable.
- Body Wash
Body wash is packaged in different plastic bottle pumps and tubs and squeeze bottles, but is it worth the waste if we have soap bars? Soap bars are essentially cheaper because they require little to no (zero-waste) packaging and can be bought in bulk. I have always preferred soap bars as I just feel cleaner. Make sure that the soap bars you buy are package free, like from Lush, or have compostable bamboo paper covers.
- Scrubs and Exfoliators
You might be wondering why scrubs and exfoliators are on this list. Scrubs and exfoliators that are most commonly used on the body, feet and face are consisted of tiny plastic microbeads which give the scrub that scrubby effect. Not only is this toxic for our skin but it also pollutes water systems and are easily digested by marine animals because of their tiny molecular size. Always make sure that the scrubs and exfoliators you use are plastic-bead free and contain more natural ingredients that can easily dissolve in water. I wrote a blog post where I explain more about the hidden plastic ingredient in exfoliators and show you my favourite plastic-bead free exfoliator.
Hopefully after reading this post you will realise just how easy it is to live more sustainably.