It is said that charity begins at home. This is literally true when it comes to living a plastic-free life. At home you set your own rules and there is no one to judge you. You decide to what extent you want to live plastic-free without fear or favour. You can take the transition to a plastic-free life slowly to not overwhelm yourself. Start small, but stay the course. When it really comes down to it, it is not impossible to live a plastic-free life, even in the modern era. You might have to make a few comfort and convenience compromises, you might even end up spending a little bit extra, but in the long run it will all be worth it.
The list below is a list of all the possible ways you can live plastic-free at home. It is by no means exhaustive. There are suggestions that may not work for everyone. There may be things you do or suggest not covered in this list. If so, let us know and we will populate it here.
1. Cut out sodas, juices, and other beverages packaged in plastic
Do you really need to consume harmful carbonated (and non carbonated drinks) that are not only harmful to you and your health, but also compound the environmental problem with their plastic packaging. Even if some packaging looks like paper on the outside, they might have a plastic lining instead between the packaging and beverage.
2. Buy fresh bread that comes in either paper bags or no bags
Walk a little beyond the friendly store you have been buying your groceries from. You might find a bakery that bakes fresh bread, cookies, cakes, etc. Buy your daily bread from there. Chances are they will pack it in a paper bag, even if they do not, insist that they do. Eat fresh bread, and keep the Earth clean of throwaway plastics.
3. Clean with vinegar and water
Vinegar (particularly distilled white vinegar) is a versatile, environmentally-safe alternative to store-bought cleaners that usually come in plastic bottles. Add one part vinegar to three parts water to clean counter tops. Mix vinegar and water equally to clean dishes. Make a mixture of one teaspoon of salt, half a cup of vinegar and enough flour to make a paste and then apply to tarnished metal and allow it to stand for 15 minutes. Rinse with water and polish with a dry cloth to get the sparkle back. A mix of vinegar and water will also clean windows, bath tubs, sinks, etc.
4. Baking soda is awesome
It can be used as a mouth freshener, as a natural toothpaste, it keeps your combs and brushes clean of oily residue. Add a couple of spoons in the baby bathwater to tackle diaper rash. Dip your feet in a bucket of warm water mixed with a couple of tablespoons to soothe tired feet. Mixing baking soda in water will also help clean floors and remove grease. Baking soda can be used effectively as a deodoriser for refrigerators, trash cans, toilet bowls, carpets, closets, etc. When you see the number of awesome uses, you will definitely replace all the expensive products you normally use, with baking soda.
5. Hand-wash dishes
Do you really need that dishwasher? Thankfully, in India dishwashers are relatively rare and due to the low cost of labour, the hired help hand washes the dishes.
6. Wash your dishes with soap
Do you really need that fancy detergent? Increasingly there is use of fancy dishwashing liquid. They may be good at washing dishes (or, are they, really?) but they are certainly harmful to the environment. Go back to your childhood days when dishes were washed with ash or sand or plain old soap.
7. Dump plastic scrubbers and synthetic sponges
Sure, the hired help is hand washing your clothes. Think of giving her scrubbers made of natural material instead of ones made of plastic.
8. Use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap
Despite what manufacturers tell you, a bar of soap will clean your hands just as well as that fancy liquid hand wash. And do not fall into the myth that soap is dirty because someone else used it. Soap is rinsed every time it is used and the germs too are washed away. If you are really that worried, have a different cake of different people in the house.
9. Give up shampoo in plastic bottles
Again, don't fall into the trap of manufacturer claims. A bar of soap will wash your hair just as well as an atrociously priced bottle of shampoo packaged in plastic. If you insist on using shampoo, find one in a glass bottle, or better yet, learn to make your own at home.
10. Baking soda is the best deodorant
Many people are concerned about the chemical effects of store-bought deodorants. And right they are. Deodorants almost always are made with some kind of aluminium in them. Try a mix of one part baking soda and six parts corn starch and dust a little of this mixture in your underarms. Baking soda has detoxifying effects and neutralises acidic or alkaline properties in the body. Other options are a slice of lemon or rubbing alcohol.
11. Use soap instead of canned shave cream
The only thing that shaving cream does is trap the moisture on your skin. The stubble becomes easier to shave due to the water in the lather and not so much the contents of the cream. A bar of soap can be used just as effectively ... or even plain water.
12. Switch from a plastic razor to a safety razor
A disposable razor needs to be replaced every few shaves. Same with old fashioned stainless steel blades. So, buy a metal razor and a bunch of stainless steel blades. Why throw away the baby with the bath water?
13. Use less plastic toothpaste
Rinsing your mouth thoroughly after a meal is as good as brushing. When a manufacturer tells you to brush twice a day, he is really doubling his sales, not necessarily adding to your dental hygiene. By the way, most toothpaste contain microplastics to brighten your teeth thanks to the abrasive qualities. Not just toothpaste, lots of cosmetic products contain microplastics. A study conducted by the United Nations Environment Program report can be viewed here.
14. Stop using toothbrushes
Replace that plastic toothbrush with a more eco-friendly one. There are bamboo toothbrushes in the market that work just as well and end up making you feel better about yourself.
15. Choose a glass blender
Plastic has replaced glass in many kitchen appliances. A blender, for instance. Even though a blender is not an item that will be discarded in a hurry, you can do your bit by banning it from your kitchen counter keeping the future in mind. It might be difficult, and possibly a bit more expensive, but you can and should find a glass blender to replace your plastic one.
16. Choose glass/stainless steel food storage containers
Most households have storage containers. Chances are they are plastic. Many people reuse plastic containers emptied of their original contents and use it as storage. This is certainly a good idea given that you are not throwing away the plastic container in a bin (and therefore further to a landfill or river), but since you are in the process of transitioning to a plastic-free lifestyle, your quantity of empty plastic containers should dwindle. Buy mason jars or other glass bottles to store kitchen items. Ideally buy products in glass bottles and then reuse the empty bottles for storage.
17. Learn to preserve foods without plastic
Many people from developing countries, and some from other countries, are die hard dehydrators. Dehydrated food lasts for a really long time and results in having the food for later, thus insulating against seasonal and price fluctuations. However, the dehydrated food is usually packed in plastic bags, ziplocked and vacuum sealed. You can avoid using the plastic bags and use metal cans or glass jars instead.
18. Choose natural fibers instead of polyester, acrylic, lycra, spandex, nylon, etc
All those wonderful fabrics are really various forms of plastic. Give them up and switch to natural fabrics like cotton or wool.
19. Avoid paper tissues
Sure, it is a bit more work to be washing soiled handkerchiefs. That is why the alternative of paper tissues looks and probably is so much more attractive. But with a bit of effort and a bit of discomfort, the world will become a cleaner place and there will be a lot less paper tissues in a landfill. Sure, paper tissues are not made of plastic (wet wipes are, though), imagine the number of trees that are felled to make tissues and the water required to make the tissues. You will save that wastage.
20. Learn strategies for green gift-giving
It is a global fad of wrapping gifts in colourful wrapping paper, usually plastic. A one-time use item, that has no further use, imagine the amount of wrapping paper that gets thrown away at every birthday, wedding, anniversary, promotion, or any other get together among friends. Wrap your gift (if you really have to) in newspaper or better still, kraft paper. When you are hosting a party and expect gifts, remember to tell your friends to either not give gifts, or to not wrap them at all. Of course, the gift itself needs to be as plastic-free as possible.
21. Throw a zero-waste party
Talking of gifts, why don't you throw a zero-waste party thereby not only be seen as an environment friendly person, but also becoming an inspiration to your guests to see how simple it really is to host a zero waste party.
22. Garbage bags
As you step into a plastic-free lifestyle your need for garbage bags should diminish. Most of the household rubbish will be kitchen waste that is compostable. Nevertheless, even them you can replace plastic garbage bags with bioplastic garbage bags.
Other ways to go plastic free
There are a lot of other things that you could do that will humongously reduce your individual carbon footprint and that of your family you share your home with. Many of these are easy to adopt, while others might take a bit ore effort. Do not tackle everything at once, go a step at a time so as not to overwhelm yourself. Some ideas are to use natural rubber gloves, use coconut oil as a lubricant, avoid non-stick cookware (which is coated with polytetrafluoroethylene a synthetic fluoropolymer), replace your plastic ice cube tray in the refrigerator with stainless steel trays, etc. Slowly as you adapt to this new lifestyle, you will discover other items that you can slowly replace. It can end up becoming an interesting family exercise.
While you are at it, you can stop buying things like chocolate syrup, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, etc, that usually come packaged in plastic bottles ... you can make them at home. Hugely more interesting, definitely healthier and certainly beneficial to the environment.
If there is something made of plastic that you absolutely have to have, call your friends and see if they have it and are not using it. Take it from them instead of buying a new one.
If you have green fingers, replace the plastic flower pot with a terracotta one.
Finally, don't throw things away unless they are really broken and unrepairable. You will be surprised at how simple it is to repair many "broken" items and will still provide you with a length of service you earlier thought impossible. Take care of the things you already own, knowing that if you do not and they become unusable, they will end up in a landfill. And when they actually do, recycle them into works of art and decorate your home with it.