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Want to Use Less Plastic? Here Are 5 Simple Ways to Cut Back on Waste

Learning to use less plastic is easy with these tips. Here are five ways to switch up your everyday routine for the better.

Written by
Kristine Nguyen

Up for an eco-friendly challenge this summer? July is officially upon us, which means Plastic Free July is soon to be in full swing. In the latest episode of Good Together, Brightly co-founders Laura Wittig and Liza Moiseeva discuss what the movement is and simple tips for using less plastic in your everyday life.

First of all: What's Plastic Free July? Every year, Plastic Free July—a nonprofit organization that hails from Australia—helps millions of people around the world reduce plastic waste. While people are often told most plastic is recycable, the ugly truth is not all types are accepted in curbside bins. Because so much of it gets tossed out, it ends up in landfills where it can take up to 100 years to degrade. Or, out in nature where it can hurt the planet and its inhabitants.

The best way to fix the problem is to avoid plastic whenever possible. Oftentimes, that simply means changing some of your habits, from how you buy food to the way you do laundry. This month, make it your mission to start making some of the changes below. After a couple weeks, you'll never want to go back to your old ways again.

5 Ways to Use Less Plastic

1. Buy Bulk

Instead of grabbing another product packaged in single-use plastic, try buying it in bulk. You can find just about anything in bulk, from food to beauty supplies.

"One thing I like to get is tea tree oil. You can choose to get it in single-use pump-based systems, or you can buy a really big version of it that doesn't come with a pump. It's just like this giant container of face cleanser," says Wittig. "It actually ends up being cheaper because I'm not paying for a bunch of single-use packaging. Then I just refill."

When you're constantly using and refilling the same container rather than purchasing new products every time you need them, you're saving plastic from sitting in a landfill for years.

2. Grow Your Own Food

Who needs produce wrapped in plastic when you can grab something fresh out of your own garden? "It's very easy to grow your own herbs," says Moiseeva. Whether you start a big garden in your backyard or grow some goodies in your windowsill (seriously—you can grow celery, green onions, and more!), nothing beats eating fresh options.

Not only is growing your own food a whole lot better for the environment than buying produce that's been packaged and shipped out, but it really does taste better when it's homegrown. You'll be reducing your carbon emissions and plastic waste, as well as getting a fun new hobby.

3. Shop Local

Whether you're purchasing food or other goods, shop local whenever possible. The produce at your local farmers' market, for instance, is more eco-friendly than what you'll find at supermarkets because it doesn't have to travel as far to get to your table.

"Shopping locally and not having to ship anything to you and not having to buy anything in plastic packaging is huge," says Moiseeva. It also allows you to reconnect with your local community. "Especially now that we're hopefully able to do it safely."

4. Avoid Microplastics

There are plenty of common products we use all the time that contain microplastics. From facial cleansers to the clothes we buy, they're everywhere. Clothing made from synthetic fabrics is one of the main culprits.

"There are definitely companies now that are using recycled plastic in their synthetics, which I applaud because it's one way to take plastic waste and reuse it. However, when you wash it, there's still opportunities for microplastics to enter into the water source," says Wittig. "If you do buy it, you can buy products that help catch microplastics before they go into the water supply when you're washing them."

If you already have some clothes made of synthetics, you can help stop microplastics from entering water sources by investing in a Cora ball or Guppyfriend Washing Bag. These products are dropped into your washing machine with your laundry load and catch some of the microplastics before they get the chance to wash away into the water.

5. Pay Attention to Packaging

Being mindful of what you're buying—and what those products come packaged in—is an important part of reducing your single-use packaging waste.

"There's a lot of waste in packaging. You can actually now find more and more companies innovating in this space by offering refillable products or offering their products in metal," Wittig says. "We've had so many episodes and articles on Brightly about recycling. So we understand that, you know, even metal-based recycling isn't perfect, but it's better than plastic in many instances. So look for that. Start paying attention to that packaging in general."

We can't always be completely zero-waste, but weighing your options and choosing the product that contributes the least amount of harm is always a good way to go about it.