Reducing Plastic Consumption

The previous owner of my house left behind a plastic-laminated dresser, which I kept for storage. The dresser recently tipped over and met its demise. My husband put the broken frame in the trash, but I took the undamaged drawers to donate to a thrift store.

Sadly, both the local Habitat for Humanity Restore and ARC Thrift Store turned them down. The man who helped me at ARC offered to take the drawers off my hands and put them through their trash crusher. He assured me that the trash would be sent to a landfill in Wyoming (I live in Colorado) and nature would do its business to take care of that plastic-laminated dresser. He was awfully kind, but not reassuring.

Contrary to what he said, plastic does its “business” on nature, not the other way around. Although plastic has many valuable applications, it’s too commonly used and brings with it huge environmental disasters and health issues.

It’s nearly impossible to eliminate plastic in our modern life, but steps can be taken to reduce its use and consumption. Here’s a list of actions I’m taking.

  1. Reduce single use plastic. Moving towards a zero-waste life has made a big difference in my consumption of single use plastic, but I still have some problem areas to work out. I’ll be giving those special attention this year.
  2. Replace and avoid synthetic clothing. You may not realize it, but synthetic clothing is plastic. In some applications, such as outer wear, synthetics can out-perform natural fibers. Most clothing, however, is just better when made from 100 percent natural fibers.
  3. Replace and avoid plastic in the kitchen. Due to the health concerns of BPA, a chemical used in plastics, most companies have removed it from food and beverage containers and cooking tools. There continues to be concern that BPA’s chemical replacements have their own health concerns. I’ve eliminated most plastic from my kitchen, but still have a few replacements to make.
  4. Avoid plastic toys. The market is saturated with plastic toys, but I can tell you from experience that wooden and natural fiber toys are widely available. Wooden toys can be expensive, but my approach has been to buy less, buy used and make my own.
  5. Replace and/or avoid buying any household items that have plastic. I’ll admit that some of my drive to replace plastic is for aesthetics. To me, natural materials are more attractive than their synthetic counterparts. It can’t be done overnight, but I’ve slowly been eliminating plastic and looking for natural alternatives in household items.

There’s not much I can do about that plastic-laminated dresser, or for any of the plastic waste I’ve already contributed to the landfill because of my purchases, but I can choose differently today. As I find plastic-free solutions I’ll be sharing them here in a new series titled “This, Not That.” If you have ideas for plastic-free replacements, I’d love to share your story. Please email me at and together we can create a plastic-free world.

If you’re looking for more information on the subject, a few books I can recommend are Plastic Free, Zero Waste Home and Plastic Purge. Also, Life Without Plastic has a wealth of information on their website, including links to other organizations and websites.


7 thoughts on “Reducing Plastic Consumption

  1. If you’re looking for alternatives to plastic things, has alternatives for almost everything. But (another hard question coming up!), what do you plan to do with the plastic things you are replacing? This is my conundrum and the reason we still have plastic things in our home, even though I really dislike them.

    1. That is a question I wrestle with often. When it comes to plastic in my kitchen that comes in contact with food, I replace without hesitation. It may seem wasteful, but when I purchased the item I wasn’t aware of health risks from BPA and plastic. If I find a second-hand replacement for an item, I also don’t hesitate to make the switch. If a new purchase is required, I’m likely to wait until the item is broken, worn out or I find someone (not just the thrift store) who can use the item. To be responsible in these efforts it can take years.

  2. I just finished the book Plastic Purge, and have also been rethinking the plastic items I still have in my possession. Unfortunately, I still have plastic storage containers in my kitchen, and I’ve been slowly replacing with pyrex. What do you think of pyrex? AND, YES, WHAT TO DO WITH MY SYNTHETIC WORKOUT CLOTHES???

    1. I have a fair amount of Pyrex food storage containers with plastic lids and I have to say I’m not a fan. I find the lids become brittle and crack easily. I’ve bought replacement lids, but found they don’t fit perfectly and tend to break even quicker than the original lids. I did pick up some glass Pyrex containers that have glass lids at the thrift store and they are my absolute favorite.

      As for workout clothes, it’s been at least four years since I’ve bought new ones. I’d love to replace many of my items but I’m holding off until they just don’t work for me any more. It’s hard to find natural fiber replacements, but they do exist. And perhaps workout clothes are like outerwear where exceptions can be made. Rarely are the answers simple.

      1. Like you ladies, most of my workout clothes are currently synthetic. But in the future I’m planning to purchase cotton ones instead! They’ll still likely have some synthetics in the elastic, but hopefully I can find 100% cotton leggings and shorts (and, of course, t-shirts are easy). Let’s keep each other posted!

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