Single-use plastics may afford us a certain faux luxury – the illusion that they are saving us time and convenience. Yet, after their purpose is served, they become far from luxurious and even downright deadly.

The pollution problems that plastics are causing are mounting. Scientists estimate that roughly 8.8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year. What’s more concerning is the fact that coastal communities are expected to only increase in their contribution of plastic pollution, meaning more and more of these materials will find their way into the oceans where they pose a serious threat to marine life. Currently, more than 700 marine species are being threatened with extinction due to plastics in the oceans and if we continue to dump plastic into the marine environment, this number will rise.

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Luckily, in recent years, there has been a rise in efforts to reduce the use of disposable plastics in the form of plastic bag bans as well as plastic microbead bans.

Now, plastic bag bans certainly have their place, and the general embrace of reusable shopping bags has been very helpful in fighting our problems with plastics. However, the fight goes far beyond just the plastic bags that litter our roadways and oceans. In reality, there are a variety of plastic materials polluting our environment and the only solution is to get rid of them. If you consider the fact that the average American throws away 185 pounds of plastic a year, that boils down to about half a pound per day. Getting to the bottom of that half a pound of daily plastics means taking a step back and evaluating all of the different forms of plastic we might encounter on a daily basis and look for reusable alternatives.

We all have the power every day to take control over our personal plastic use and we’re here to help you do it. Here are seven plastic-free go tos that can help you avoid unnecessary plastics wherever you might encounter them in a day!

1. Plastic-Free Produce Bags

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The roll of plastic bags in the produce section at your grocery store may be easy to ignore if you’re only buying a few apples or a bunch of bananas. But if you need something to keep the loose brussels sprouts and green beans in one spot, produce bags can come in handy. Luckily you can purchase reusable produce bags that’ll serve you time and time again. Just keep them with your shopping bags and you’ll be prepared for each and every run to the grocery store!

2. Reusable Food Containers

Plastic has a habit of showing up in food storage in a variety of places. Whether it’s a plastic take-out container for your leftovers in a restaurant, or the plastic bags you use to tote your sandwich and pretzels to work or school, single-use plastic can end up getting used and thrown out on a daily basis. Investing in some more permanent food containers can help you out of this plastic rut. Stainless steel canisters and even glass jars can come in handy when you’re trying to avoid unnecessary plastics but still need to take your food on the go.

3. Carry Your Own Eating Utensils

Plastic spoons, forks, and knives can be commonplace whether you’re dining at a fast food or casual restaurant, or if you’re taking food with you to eat away from home. They are convenient in that they avoid dish washing and can be tossed once the meal is done. But that is no convenient situation for the environment! To avoid getting caught in a debate between eating a salad with your fingers or utilizing another single-use piece of plastic, consider keeping a set of reusable silverware on you. If could be an extra knife, fork and spoon from your kitchen, or a set of bamboo utensils you purchase specifically for away-from-home meals when you encounter plastics.

4. Refillable Water Bottles

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Getting your H2O on doesn’t have to involve a pile of single-use plastic water bottles. When you’re on the go and need to take your water with you, consider investing in a reusable water bottle. Fill up at a drinking fountain, tap, or water cooler and you’ll easily be able to avoid a nasty habit that has you tossing plastic out on the daily.

5. Multi-Use Insulated Cups

The reusable water bottle is great, but what about when you want hot coffee or tea or maybe even soup? An insulated cup is a great way to go to avoid paper cups that often carry those obnoxious plastic lids with them. They’re also more likely to keep your hot drinks hot longer so there’s no lukewarm coffee or tea to toss out.

6. Reusable Straws

Plastic straws are everywhere if you buy any beverage that comes in a cup. And while you may be able to avoid the straw altogether in some situations, in others, a straw just makes things easier. For those times, you can keep a reusable straw made of metal or biodegradable paper ones on you as a substitute. You’ll only be using the straw until the beverage is consumed, so why use a piece of plastic that’ll take an eternity to degrade?

7. Reusable Coffee Pod

The single coffee cup machines that have become quite popular over the last few years are, understandably, not popular with environmentalists. Each coffee pod is another piece of plastic that’s used once and thrown away. Luckily some manufacturers have caught on to the desire for consumers to brew a single cup of coffee at home without all the waste typically involved. Reusable coffee pods are now on the market, allowing you to brew up a single cup of your own ground beans but without the waste involved with the conventional model. These little cups are a must to keep plastic out of your daily java routine.

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8. Go To Glass Jar

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Glass jars are certainly seeing a surge in popularity of late. The Mason jar has been embraced in a variety of DIY projects from food storage containers, candle holders, salad shakers, mugs, and drinking glasses. Whether you buy a new jar from the store or simply choose to re-purpose an empty jar you already have, the possibilities with it are endless and there’s really no limit to its power in helping you kick plastics. In place of single serve beverage or yogurt containers, you can refill your jar over and over again. It can also replace a plastic water bottle or paper coffee cup with a plastic lid. Keep a jar on you when you’re out and about and it’ll help you MacGyver your way out of a variety of plastic holdups!

Got any other tips, Green Monsters? We want to hear from you in the comments! 

Lead Image Source: Matt/Flickr