By request, here are my top tips for reducing plastic usage. Many of these are new habits, and habits must be acquired over time. So if you are trying to follow these tips, be kind to yourself!
1. Stop purchasing and drinking bottled water. Drink good old tap, filtered if you must. Use a regular glass or a re-usable bottle. I have two-- a knock-off Sigg and a Kleen Kanteen.
2. Stop purchasing and drinking other beverages that come in plastic, especially in single serving containers-- sodas, iced tea, juices, etc.
3. Use re-usable shopping bags. Also, carry small purchases in your knapsack or just carry it in the open.
4. Use fabric produce bags, like these from EcoBags. For larger produce items like whole fruits and veggies, you don't need a bag at all.
5. Take a look at the processed foods you buy- breads, chips, cereals, condiments...basically anything that came from an inside aisle at the store. Most of it comes with plastic, right? Try to find plastic free alternatives.
6. Purchase loose bulk food items, and use your fabric produce bags. Loose bulk includes things like oatmeal, rice, beans, nuts, dried fruits, popcorn, granola, flour, sugar...all kinds of things.
7. Buy used. Books, clothing, CDs, home items, whatever. If you need it, consider getting it used. Used means no plastic packaging, and it keeps stuff in circulation and out of the landfill.
8. Get to know your local recycling situation. What exactly goes in your city's curbside recycling? Are plastic bags recycled locally? What other programs are available in your area? These include Gimme 5 for #5 plastic items, Aveda's bottle cap program, Best Buy's electronics recycling program, other area electronics recycling events. Once familiar, recycle everything you possibly can. This doesn't mean go buy new stuff because you can recycle it-- recycle what you already have!
9. Acquire re-usable to-go ware. Coffee mug, utensils, foldable fabric bag. Carry them. Use them.
10. Stop eating take-out. Eat in, on real plates! Enjoy your food! Take-out involves a lot of plastic, so just stop. If you like taking leftovers home, some people take containers with them to the restaurant-- I haven't done that yet, but have at it.
10a. I confess to being lazy and not packing my lunch nearly as much as I should. So tip 10a is to learn which take out places offer food in paper-- like Subway, delis, etc.
11. Eat naked food! Basically, this means stop buying processed foods that come in plastic and buying whole foods that come in their own skins. Also, get to know your mongers, if you have them: fish mongers, meat mongers, cheese mongers-- they'll wrap your naked food in paper if you ask.
12. Discover your local bakeries. Bread isn't meant to come with preservatives, pre-sliced, and bagged in plastic. Really.
12. Get used to saying things like: "I dont' need a bag with that, thanks!", "No straw with that, please!", "Can you wrap this in paper, and skip the plastic? Yeah...no...NO...no plastic! Ok, thanks!" "Do you have any real mugs back there behind the counter?" (This last one is when you are stranded on the Upper East Side, land of no good coffee houses, and go into Starbucks).
13. Learn to prep for shopping trips. In addition to making a list, pack your fabric produce and shopping bags.
14. Start looking at the other plastic in your life-- cosmetics, toiletries, home accessories, storage containers, etc. As they are consumed or wear out, can you recycle them? Can you replace them with something that can be re-used, lasts longer, and is more sustainable?
15. Using plastic containers in the kitchen? Me too. Someday I want to replace them with glass refrigerator containers. Until then (here's the tip), I'm keeping them out of the microwave. Heating plastic means risking that bad stuff from the plastic will transfer to the food.