Globe Magazine

6 tips for cutting down on plastic

Tips for beginners who want to replace plastic in their daily lives.

FOR MAGAZINE. Dorchester, MA 9/3/2008 Recyclables shot in the studio on Wednesday, September 3, 2008. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff) Section: Magazine Slug: n/a Reporter: n/a Library Tag 09282008 Magazine
Globe File
One way to start cutting plastic from your life: Bring reusable bags to the store instead of taking plastic ones.

Environmental advocate Sarah Atkinson shares tips for beginners on how to bid adieu to the persistent plastic in your life.

1. Audit your trash. Evaluate your own waste generation to get a picture of what kind of — and how much — waste you’re producing.

2. Make easy switches first. Bring reusable grocery and produce bags to the store. Carry a reusable water bottle, mug, and utensils with you when leaving the house. Try to buy items in glass containers rather than plastic.


3. Phase out items packaged in plastic. And switch to reusables where possible. Use up what you have and research alternatives. Swap liquid hand soap in bottles for bar soap that is often unwrapped or wrapped in paper. Use cloth dinner napkins instead of paper ones.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

4. Buy in bulk. And bring your own bags or jars when shopping. Find local stores that sell bulk teas, spices, grains, beans, flours, snacks (nuts, granola, trail mix), olive oil, liquid soap (hand soap, dish soap, laundry detergent), and toilet paper. Feeling especially ambitious? Ask your local store if they would be willing to start carrying bulk items.

5. Evaluate your buying habits. Do you need everything you buy? Could you buy things used? Could you repair certain items? Could you start composting and recycling more at home? Do you often let food go to waste? Could you share items with your friends? If you can’t completely phase something out, can you reduce your usage of it? Parents, start using cloth diapers only during the weekends. Limit store-bought deodorant to your most active days.

6. Be patient. Accept that you can’t be 100 percent zero-waste (yet). Let people in your community know what they can do to reduce their waste, too, and why it matters.

Janelle Nanos covers retail for The Boston Globe. Send comments to Get the best of the magazine’s award-winning stories and features right in your e-mail inbox every Sunday. Sign up here.