24 Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Use in 2024

Look around! Wherever you are right now, plastic is likely in your sightline. But it doesn’t have to be so! While going entirely plastic-free might feel impossible, adopting small changes adds up to make a real difference. Here are 24 tips for Plastic Free July 2024 to help you reduce plastic use and contribute to a healthier planet!

 1. Perform a Waste Audit to Analyze Your Habits

The first step in tackling any challenge is to examine the problem! To start reducing your waste, take a look at what you’re purchasing, using, and throwing away.

Use the Waste Audit worksheets in our free How to Quit Plastics Guide to walk you through the process!

2. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle and Coffee Cups

This is a well-known, but impacting step. Invest in a stainless steel or glass water bottle and steel travel mug. These simple swaps prevent countless plastic bottles and plastic-coated coffee cups from ending up in landfills.

 3. Bring Your Own Shopping Bags

Keep reusable shopping bags in your car, purse, or bag so that you always have them when heading to the store—this can really go a long way in preventing plastics! For example, as large Colorado retail stores phased out plastic bags in the past year, more customers brought their own reusable bags, avoiding the use of over 1.5 BILLION plastic bags!

 4. Use Cloth Produce Bags

Instead of grabbing a plastic produce bag in the produce aisle, bring your own cloth bags—they’re reusable, washable, and perfect for fruits and veggies! Or place produce loose in your cart until you’re home and able to store items in your own containers!

 5. Say No to Plastic Straws and Utensils

If you don’t need a straw, let your wait staffer know when you order your drink. When ordering take-out, opt out of plastic utensils, napkins, and condiments. Better yet—make your own Zero Waste on-the-go kit using tips from our How to Quit Plastics Guide!

6. Switch to Solid Soap and Shampoo Bars

Eliminate plastic bottles from your bathroom by using solid soap and shampoo bars. They last longer than bottled versions, and come in minimal to no packaging.

 7. Make Your Own Cleaning Products

DIY cleaning products using natural ingredients (like vinegar, baking soda, lemon, and essential oils) are nontoxic, and can be made inexpensively and stored in glass or other reusable containers, reducing the need for new plastic bottles.

8. Buy in the Bulk Aisle

Purchase items like grains, nuts, dried fruits, and candies in the bulk aisle of your local grocery store using your own reusable bags to avoid plastic packaging. Find more tips on Zero Waste shopping in our guide, How to Quit Plastics!

9. Opt Out of Junk Mail

Avoid the plastic windows and other plastic materials (such as credit card promotions) that are mailed to you by following our Stop Junk Mail instructions! This is a great way to reduce unnecessary plastic production as well as deforestation. 

10. Opt for Reusable Food Wraps

Replace plastic cling wrap with reusable beeswax or vegan wax wraps. They’re great for covering bowls, wrapping snacks to go, and storing leftovers.

11. Pack Lunch in Reusable Containers

Ditch single-use plastic bags and opt for stainless steel or glass containers, or reusable silicone bags to wrap up your lunch and snacks.

12. Shop at Farmers’ Markets

Buying fresh produce from farmers’ markets or farm stands means less packaging and more opportunities to use your reusable bags!

13. DIY Snacks and Meals

Make your own homemade snacks and meals instead of buying pre-packaged ones to reduce plastic waste. For example, breads, crackers, and granola are typically sold in plastic packaging, but can readily be made at home!

14. Use Cloth Napkins and Towels

Switch to cloth napkins and towels instead of single-use paper ones and avoid the plastic packaging they’re sold in.

15. Choose Plastic-Free Cosmetics

Select cosmetics that come in glass or metal containers, or those sold in refillable packaging.

16. Avoid Microbeads

Choose skincare products without microbeads, which are tiny plastic particles harmful to marine life. Check the label and avoid products that list “polyethylene” as an ingredient.

17. Buy Secondhand

Each new garment typically comes in its own plastic garment bag (known as “polybags” in the apparel industry) that is removed before the clothing item goes on the sales floor. Opt for secondhand clothing, as well as household items, to reduce the demand for new products and their plastic packaging. 

18. Support Plastic-Free Businesses

Visit a local Zero Waste store where you can purchase hundreds of items—including food staples, shampoo, and cleaning supplies—using your own reusable containers or with reusable/refillable containers supplied! Locally, check out stores like Simply Bulk in Longmont and Nude Foods in Boulder and Denver. 

19. Ask for Reusables for Your To-Go Order 

Single-use disposable plastics aren’t a necessary evil. Businesses like r.World, DeliverZero, and OZZI are helping restaurants, campuses, and community events go Zero Waste with reusable food and beverage to-go containers. Ask your favorite restaurant if they have a reusable to-go container option! If they don’t, ask for your to-go order to be plated “for here” and then put it in your own to-go container to avoid plastic and other single-use disposables. 

20. Repair and Reuse

Mend broken items instead of replacing them or find creative ways to repurpose old items. Instead of purchasing a new electronic item, shop for reused/refurbished instead.

21. Refuse Receipts

Many people don’t know that some paper items, including receipts, are coated with plastic polymers and aren’t recyclable. Choose digital receipts instead—or no receipt at all!

22. Consume with Care

Some plastics are more recyclable and less toxic than others. Avoid buying anything packaged in #3, #6, #7 plastic—learn about the environmental and health risks of these plastics here.

23. Recycle What You Can (and Buy Recycled Content)

If you do buy products packaged in plastic, be selective about what you are purchasing. Try to limit your purchases to products that really don’t have other packaging options available, and when possible, buy plastics that are recyclable (check with your local guidelines) and/or are made from recycled content! 

24. Support local, statewide, and national policies that address plastic

Communities across the nation are taking a stand against the proliferation of plastics. Support efforts at the local, state, and national levels to reduce plastics, such as policies to put a fee on plastic bags, invest in reuse systems, and phase out toxic, unrecyclable plastics!

Plastic Free July can be a powerful catalyst for examining our daily choices and their impact on our health and the environment. By implementing some of these 24 tips, you can see how much plastic you can refuse this July and beyond—and inspire others to do the same! For extra credit, use our How to Quit Plastics Guide to help you transition toward a more sustainable, less plastic-dependent lifestyle!