Want to know what the most sustainable way to live plastic free is? I’ll give you a clue, it won’t cost you a cent. The answer is something I talk about a lot, and that is to ‘use what you have already!’

By training yourself to use what you have already you build up valuable skills like creativity, innovation, initiative, resilience, and adaptability. You increase your general knowledge and learn to see ‘waste’ as a resource. You consume less, so you waste less. Your everyday decisions and actions become more sustainable in all parts of your life.

So I’ve listed nine common items used by plastic free living advocates that you might be tempted to buy, with a suggestion of what you could do instead.

Keep Cup or Mason Jar: Are you sure you don’t already have some sort of travel mug in a drawer somewhere? If not, why not reuse a jam jar? Consider sitting down to enjoy your drink rather than getting takeaway.

Stainless steel or glass water bottle: Water bottles tend to be given away by companies so I’m betting you have a water bottle already. It might be plastic but you should use it instead of single-use packaging. My husband reuses a large glass ginger beer bottle as his water bottle.

Cutlery kit: Use the cutlery you already have in your kitchen drawer and wrap it in a reusable napkin. If you don’t have napkins, you probably have old linen or clothing that can be made into some. If you want to get a bit fancier, my DIY Cutlery Holders tutorial has two options you can try.

Reusable straw: Use your lips.

Stainless steel or glass tubs: Reuse a container you had already, for example, takeaway tubs that you saved, Tupperware containers, or reused jars.

Reusable shopping bags: Make bags from old clothing and other pieces of fabric from around your home. There are lots of online tutorials to help you. To learn how to make your own bread bags visit my Waste Free Bread post.

Reusable produce bags: Again, look around the home for suitable materials like old curtains or saved citrus bags. Check out what I did with a body sponge in my post Ditch the Disposable Produce Bags.

Beeswax wraps and other food covers: Use plates on top of plates, containers, and tea towels. If you really want to try beeswax wraps and can get beeswax somewhere, try making your own with scrap material.

Brushes and sponges made from natural materials: Sure, these things are aesthetically pleasing but they can be really expensive and easily replaced by rags and even egg shell as an abrasive. You can even knit your own wash cloths from spare yarn.

For more frugal ways to reduce single-use plastic and waste, read Our Plastic Free, Zero Waste Family Home. If you really do find it impossible to use what you have already, I strongly urge you to seek secondhand items first.

Can you add anything to this list? Share it in the comments below, or let me know your thoughts. How many of these things have you done, or did you buy everything new?

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14 thoughts

  1. Hi Tammy I was inspired meeting you last week at the permaculture group. You have certainly raised my awareness and I am now keeping my own jar of plastic lids…I think this is the biggest area that I have an issue with…even cardboard containers have plastic pourers and lids. Putting them in a jar on my desk will keep me motivated. I put a post about you on my blog to help raise awareness . if you could let me know the address of the bulk stores you attend that would be great. Thanks again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sue, the email I sent bounced back, so here is the info I sent you:
      The places where I get bulk are Wholesome Wholefoods Tooradin, Leongatha health food store, string and salt Warragul, udder and hoe in Kilcunda and Freedom organics in San Remo. Unfortunately none of these places are a one stop shop but if you are ever in those areas they are worth checking out. Hope this helps you.
      Also I tried to follow your blog but I couldn’t figure out how to do it.

      Like

      1. I’m pleased you have shared the location of these stores. We have a property in South Gippsland and pass through at least two of these towns on our way there. We shall definitely check them out on our next trip!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh my gosh, so many people have a connection to Gippsland, I love it! It is a great place. I’m trying to get all the businesses who can offer something to plastic free/waste free shoppers to contribute their information to my Where To Shop in Gippsland page, so hopefully this will become a great resource for you too. I am a South Gippsland resident.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Tammy, I concur with your recommendation that it is good practice to use what we already have rather than purchase new ‘sustainable’ products – there are certainly zillions of options out there designed to tempt us. While it is arguably better to buy goods that are sustainably sourced and produced, it does set up a whole new cycle of buying more stuff. I have been using teabags for quite some time now and last week I decided to break the habit so I’m using up the last packet and changing back to pots of tea. I haven’t quite changed to the extent of using herbs from our garden however For me I find that this behaviour change thing works better if I change habits as they become unacceptable. I could go cold turkey but…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like you’ve figured out what works for you. I did the same thing with my tea. I used up all the teabags I had then started buying loose tea in my own bags. I’m keen to make my own tea from the garden one day too.
      I just think that sometimes people haven’t made the connection that plastic is a waste issue and so is shopping, so to use one to solve the other is a bit counterproductive.

      Liked by 1 person

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