How to Unweave Plastic from the Fabric of our Lives

Seedlings growing  home-made plastic terrarium
Seedlings Aboard!

The other day I watched a plastic bag float up into the sky like a balloon.   As it disappeared out of site, I was sadden by the prospect of the bag’s remaining life to  hang from a tree,  on a bush, or stuck in a ravine for years to come.  This darling of our modern world that reduces breakage and freight costs comes with an added price.  Plastic is littering our Earth and clogging up our landfill.  Creating plastic reduces a natural resource, petroleum oil. To make matters worse, some plastic leaches into our food, and it takes forever to biodegrade.  So, how do you balance our need to reduce plastic consumption with our fast pace lifestyle?

Just say No

I love salad bars; however,  the local supermarket only supplies #6 food grade plastic containers for its salad bar. I can’t recycle them and  cringe every time I use them. Inevitably, I take home the plastic and try to find a use for it. I  always vow to keep a clean one in my car.  Some how I always forget.   With over a dozen plastic containers in my house,  I am always looking for somewhere I can recycle them or re-use the containers  in some way.

One day I snapped.  The plastic issue was just to much for me to bear.  Here’s what happened:

I was at the local supermarket with my husband.  As he reached for the container, I just couldn’t follow suit.   He asked if I was going to eat and I told him that I couldn’t.  Why, he explored? I replied that I just couldn’t take another one of those plastic containers home, nor could I throw them away. The guilt was so overwhelming.  He chuckled and said, okay and went ahead to make his salad.  He knew that I was dead serious. He also knew that there was no budging me.  When I draw the eco-line, that’s it. No crossing it.

My plastic  mentor, Beth of Fake Plastic Fish, has taught me how to reduce my plastic consumption as well as provided me with alternatives to consider in its place.  So, instead of eating salad, I settled for  a slice of pizza on a white paper plate.  At least I could recycle the plate. So, how can you just say no to plastic or reduce your consumption?

  • Buy products that contain minimal plastic packaging.
  • Buy only products made of post-consumer  plastic that CAN BE recycled if a glass alternative is not available or too expensive for your budget.  In my area only #1 and #2 plastic bottles can be recycled.  Everyone I speak to thinks just because the container has a #1 or #2 on the bottom, they can pitch it in the recycle bin.  Guess what happens to it at the recycling center?  It gets pitched into the garbage.  So, check your recycling information provided to you by your recycling center as to what can go in the bin.
  • Make your own and save it in glass bottles or containers.  See Beth’s home-made mustard and mayo articles. Two of my favorite articles.
  • Bring your own containers to restaurants for left overs.
  • Ask for silverware in lieu of plastic forks and knives. I always ask for silverware and given the same without any problem.
  • Take your  own  shopping bag to the market.
  • Teach by example at work.  Bring your own silverware, cups, plates, etc for your meals in lieu of using plastic.
  • Buy glass or stainless steel straws
  • Use stainless steel reusable bottles in lieu of plastic water bottles.
  • Pack your child’s lunch using re-usable containers rather than plastic bags.  See Laptop Lunches , Project Kool, and Kids Konserve for lunch bag alternatives.
  • Buy in bulk to reduce the amount of plastic. Single servings are a plastic nightmare.  You also pay more for the convenience.
  • Opt to send online gift certificates rather than give someone a plastic gift card.  Unless you are going to re-use your credit card as I indicated here, the gift credit card goes in the trash.  Personally, I prefer giving cash for birthday gifts  when kids get older so they can get what they want.  Check out ECHOage for those who wish to create a birthday party that offer  a group gift consisting of one meaningful birthday gift and one gift for charity.
What happens if I can’t say no?

Plastic is everywhere and it can be hard to avoid. I feel like  a plastic foster parent since all orphan plastic comes home with me.  As I said before, I can’t throw it away.  Here are some ideas:

  • Take home your plastic whether it is plastic forks, bottles, or containers.  Recycle what you can as in the case of bottles or whatever your recycling center will take.  Re-wash and re-use your plastic or donate it to your school for the teachers.
  • re-purposing plastic straws for bulb markers

  • Re-purpose what you can. I re-use my straws for bulb and seed markers. See picture here.  I re-use those salad containers as mini terrariums or paint containers when I am spot painting.  (See picture above at the beginning of the Article.)
  • I wash my containers and give them away to people who can use them.  Freecycle those take out Chinese containers (meaning offer them for free on this online source!)
  • Schools love small containers for paints.  Art teachers are amazingly creative and welcome many different items for projects.  I give my art teacher my empty cream cheese containers after learning that she was taking the yogurt cups we were collecting for a eco-fundraiser .
  • Find out who else recycles your  plastic that you can’t but in the local bin. The Gimme #5 program takes plastics with a  #5 on the bottom Aveda takes the caps of bottles.  Most supermarkets take back plastic shopping and dry cleaning bags.   You can even recycle the plastic fertilizer bags where you drop off your shopping bags.  Just clean them out first.
  • Have Ziploc bags?  Either re-wash them and re-use them or cut off the zip lock top and throw the plastic in the shopping bag bin.
  • Terracycle has  a program that it will be rolling out nationwide which will take the non-recyclable plastics. Presently, it is only in select NY and NJ stores.

These are some of my ideas how to either reduce your consumption or use the 3Rs to keep plastic out of the landfills.  What are your suggestion?

This post is part of the Green Mom Carnival being hosted by Beth at Fake Plastic Fish on plastics.  Go over to her site and check out all the different perspectives about our plastic consumption and add yours as well. Next month’s topic is gardening and will be held at Sommer’s Green and Clean  Mom.

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  1. 4


    I was just reading Fake Plastic Fish and heard of a project where people were sending plastic packaging back to the companies that produce it. If your super market knew you (and others) wouldn’t buy salad because of it’s packaging, I’m sure they would likely look for alternatives. The link to the site didn’t work, but I just like the concept. I have written to a couple of companies myself and would love to join a large project of this type.

  2. 6


    Wow, can I relate to this post. Please be aware that you should call your local Whole Foods about the Preserve program. When researching a similar post for my blog, I called all of the stores in and around Philadelphia, PA and none of them participate in this program. You can only recycle containers that you buy from the salad bar/buffet at their stores.

  3. 7


    Yup, sometimes you just have to put your foot down and say no. Great idea from the Minimalist, would love to see a link for that project as well. Nice garden markers!

  4. 8

    Jordan says

    I’m not fond of plastic either. I did find it ironic when you said you bought a pizza instead of a salad because of the plastic! The best way to stay away from plastic is to grow your own food. Just my two cents.

    • 9

      Green Talk says

      Jordan, you absolutely are correct. It is best to grow your own food.

      In this case, I was out doing errands and was hungry. I choose the least of two evils. I do in fact grow my own food. See the picture at the beginning at the post? It is seedlings growing in my homemade terriarum.

      Visit again! I write alot about gardening. Anna

  5. 10


    Today, plastic is in use less than before because it can not be recycled. When I buy food, I get it in the paper plate and paper bag. In the shop I get paper bags, too.

  6. 16


    I am always looking for ways to avoid plastic, but face the realities of modern life with three kids and a dog (I do use bags). However I still find plastic everywhere, from our bread, to items I find I have to buy for school (napkins, pre packaged snacks required at preschool).

    But my other concern is when people turn to biodegradable products made from GMO and heavily sprayed crops……you think you are doing the right thing. But I will keep on trying. And I hope all of you do to. It is the consumer that has a lot of power.

    • 17


      Alexandra, I so agree. I don’t use biodegradable products since to me they end up in a landfill anyways. Most places don’t have commercial composters. I see your website, Louis saves the earth, in your email. Tell me about your website. Anna

      • 18


        Hi Anna,

        Thanks for asking! I have a series of childrens books I wrote and illustrated, “Loui Saves the Earth” is the first in the series (I’m looking for an agent/publisher to publish the whole series). I am promoting simple everyday ways to help the planet to empower the individual, especially children.

        Through my book I have started a workshop for kids (soon adults) called “How to Be a Superhero for Planet Earth” and a blog for kids to tell their stories. I also started a monthly e newsletter, CLUB LOUI, for kids and families that focuses on one tip of the month to help kids and families help the planet.

        Any help in getting the word out is greatly appreciated! You can reach me at


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