How to Go Plastic Free Without Turning Your Life Upside Down

plastic bottle on the beach & how to go plastic free


If you’ve landed on this blog you’re probably aware plastic is… not great. 


You’ve seen headlines like: 

  • “By 2050, There Will Be More Plastic Than Fish in the World’s Oceans, Study Says”
  • “Plastic Pollution Found Near Summit of Mount Everest”
  • “Microplastics Detected in Human Blood” 

And they probably make you feel a bit sick to your stomach… 


Plastic has existed for a little over 100 years. That means in just a single person’s lifespan, plastic has spread so far and wide that it has been detected everywhere from the Mariana Trench to Mount Everest. 


Plastic truly is the crisis of our lifetimes… but luckily it’s one that we can do something about. 


I don’t want to make this blog all doom and gloom — you can read about how terrible plastic is elsewhere. 


Here, I’m going to give you real, actionable advice for how to go plastic free. 


You hear a lot of stories in the news about people who have managed to go plastic free for 5 years straight, and it’s easy to get a bit overwhelmed. Do we have to move to Alaska and live in a log cabin in order to be plastic free? 


The truth is, most of us will never truly reach 100% plastic-free living. I mean, even this keyboard I’m typing on is made of plastic. My computer mouse is too. But we can still make a difference by trying. Joining the plastic-free movement doesn’t mean you should never ever touch plastic again. It just means you support eliminating as much plastic as is realistically feasible for you.


If we work hard to reduce plastic in our lives where it’s unnecessary, we can massively affect how it is treated in our world.

How to Go Plastic Free in 3 Actionable Steps

single use plastic litter on a tropical beach


The trick for going plastic free is incremental, sustainable change. 


In this case, the term sustainable just means “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.”1


Whatever changes you make in your life, you must be able to maintain them in order to make an impact. You might have heard of Plastic Free July — a month-long challenge to live plastic free. But while it’s a good exercise to notice and replace the plastics in your life for one month, you’ll make more of an impact by reducing your plastic consumption by just 20% all year long than you would if you eliminate plastic in July and go back to your regular habits the rest of the time. 


I promised you actionable steps for how to go plastic free so here they are, in the most effective order: 

1. Start by eliminating single-use plastics which cause the most harm. 

The useful lifespan of plastics is alarmingly short compared to the time it will take to break down. And really… we’re not even sure some plastics will ever decompose. Often, they just break into millions of microplastics that live on in our ecosystem, causing irreparable harm.2


Plastics like water bottles, cutlery, straws, stirrers, floss, and grocery bags are often used for a timespan of MINUTES, but they will take anywhere from 20-500+ YEARS to break down. 


The most effective place to focus your efforts to go plastic free starts with single-use plastic. 


You often don’t even realize how much single-use plastic is in your life. 


Here are some quick, yet effective ways to reduce your single-use plastic: 

reusable mesh produce bag holding vegetables is a plastic free alternative to single use plastics
  •  Tell your server you don’t need a straw
  • Bring your own cup to the coffee shop or soda fountain
  • Bring your own reusable cutlery with you
  • Bring reusable containers to dinner rather than taking a to-go box
  • Carry your own reusable bags or totes
  • Shop at farmers markets and/or don’t bother bagging your produce
  • Choose whole food like fruit instead of single-portion snacks wrapped in plastic
  • Get your bread from the bakery and use a cloth or paper bag
  • Bring your own container to the butcher (they will cancel out the weight of your container and fill it with your meat or cheese choice)
  • Take the time to prep foods at home rather than buying pre-chopped fruits and veggies

If you really can’t decide where to start, consider conducting a trash audit. A trash audit helps you clearly see where your weak points are so you can concentrate on those first. 

2. When you need to replace something, check if there’s a reusable, non-plastic version.

Replacing products as you need them is an effective and easy way to change your habits in a sustainable fashion. With this method, you’re not focusing on anything in particular until you run out and require a replacement. 


Also, this helps make the change gradual, which is the key to not feeling overwhelmed and yet still making progress. 


Out of toothpaste? Try a plastic-free tablet version. 


Nalgene finally cracked? Grab a metal bottle this time. 


With the rise of the eco-friendly movement, there are now thousands of products available to replace your plastic go-to’s. Here is a quick list of common non-plastic replacements, but if you’re looking to replace something not listed here, give it a Google search — you’ll likely find what you’re looking for. 

Common non-plastic replacements:

hand holding reusable safety razor helps reduce single use plastics from disposable razors
  • Toothpaste tubes → toothpaste tablets
  • Synthetic floss → natural silk floss
  • Plastic toothbrushes → bamboo toothbrushes
  • Bottled shampoo or conditioner → bar shampoo or bar conditioner
  • Bottled lotion → bar lotion
  • Deodorant in plastic applicator → deodorant in cardboard applicator
  • Plastic Q-tips → cardboard Q-tips
  • Phone case → biodegradable phone case
  • Pens/mechanical pencils → refillable fountain pens/newspaper pencils
  • Plastic serving spoons → bamboo or metal utensils
  • Milk jug → refillable glass bottle
  • Watch band → cotton or leather band

This list could be infinite, but you get the idea. Search engines will be your best friend here, but remember, just focus on replacing one item at a time. 

3. Inventory the remaining plastic items in your life and record how you can replace them. 

If you’ve been finding alternatives whenever it’s time to replace your plastic items, you won’t have a ton of plastic left in your life. 


But when you get to the point that it’s no longer a hassle to choose plastic-free replacements, you might be ready for the final step. 


Take a few minutes at the end of your week to inventory all the things you interact with that are plastic, and brainstorm how you might someday choose a plastic-free alternative. 


The trick here is you don’t necessarily want to go throwing out every plastic thing you own just because it’s plastic. If it’s still useful, it’s better to use it for its total lifespan than to throw it away while it’s still useful. 


When you look around you’ll be shocked how much plastic is in your life. Your computer, your car, your microwave, your lawnmower… so many items in our lives have plastic components now. And it’s incredibly difficult to replace them all, but the point is simply to try. 


Take the time to investigate if there are alternative options. You’d be surprised how many solutions there are. 


volunteers picking up plastic trash on beach

Don’t Forget to Pay Attention to Packaging

Finally, I want to remind you not to forget about packaging when it comes to eliminating plastic. 


According to National Geographic, about 40% of the world’s plastic consumption is single-use packaging.3


And unfortunately, nearly everything comes in plastic packaging. One of the largest culprits is our food, but keep in mind many items come in plastic blister packs or wrapped in bubble wrap. 


At Cloud Paper we promise to keep plastic out of our products — and that includes wrapping and shipping. All of our packaging is recyclable and biodegradable, so if you’re looking for plastic-free toilet paper and paper towels, try Cloud Paper today!