The amount of plastic in our oceans is simply unbelievable. I have gone scuba diving in various places, and it is rare that I end a dive without picking up a piece of plastic from the ocean. It is always devastating to witness firsthand the negative effects of plastic on our marine ecosystems.
While participating in dive and beach clean-ups, I realized that if I wanted to help save our oceans from plastic, it wasn’t going to happen simply by picking up rubbish. If anything, at that point, I am already too late. I was essentially cleaning up a mess that I could have easily prevented in the first place.
The plastic pollution problem started long before any of the waste entered our oceans. If you track where all the garbage was coming from, you will be able to trace it back from me and you. It began when we made that choice to use plastic in the first place. This is why it’s so important that we say no to plastic right from the start.
When we say yes to use plastic in our home, at school, or at work, we contribute to plastic pollution. Every time we say yes to plastic while eating out, shopping, or traveling, we are choosing to be part of the problem.
But, it is not too late. While we have created this problem, we have the power to solve it. We are capable of making better choices. We are capable of changing. We are capable of taking action.
So, if you want to help save our planet and our ocean, then continue reading to learn why you should say no to plastic and the 101 ways how you can.
Why say no to plastic
Humans are so addicted to plastic. We use it on everything because it is easy, cheap, and convenient. There is no doubt that plastic has made our lives better. We use it in different industries for packaging, clothing, transportation and more.
But while we have enjoyed the benefits of having plastic in the past several decades, our reliance on plastic has become out of control. While some plastic has been instrumental for our progress, we can’t deny that many plastics that we produce today are simply wasteful. In 2015 alone, the majority of the plastic produced was because of packaging.
Each year millions of plastics produced are items like plastic bags or containers. These are uses only once and then are thrown away. This is what we call single-use plastic or disposable plastics. We love exploiting our natural resources to make something that we can easily dispose of after one use. Because of our wasteful habits, single-use plastic has become one of the biggest contributors to plastic pollution today.
Plastics, which are made of extremely durable polymers derived from natural materials, are impossible to break down completely. This means that it can last for many centuries. Even when you’ve long been gone from this world, the plastic you threw away will still be around.
Since the invention of plastic over a century ago, every piece of plastic that has been produced still exists today in the same form or another. It is estimated that more than 380 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year. This data is from 2015, so we can only assume that 6 years later we are producing even more plastics based on this trajectory.
If you’re not able to imagine how much 380 million tonne is, it is equivalent to 1.9 million blue whales which is the biggest animal on earth. A blue whale weighs approximately 200 tonnes.
380 million tonnes is also equivalent to 844.44 times the weight of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building on earth. Burj Khalifa weighs approximately 450,000 tonnes.
That’s how much plastic we are producing in a year.
A sh*t ton of plastic if you ask me. This is why, like any addiction, there is a need for an intervention.
Humans live in an out of sight out of mind mentality. Unbeknown to most of us, the plastic that we have been using once and throwing away still continues to exist somewhere in the world today. Because plastic is difficult to break down and degrade, it is rapidly accumulating in places around the world.
It’s so easy for us to throw our trash in the bin and wash our hands from the responsibility. The garbage man will take care of it after all. And fingers-crossed it will get recycled somehow. We all want to think it will magically disappear. But, it won’t and it hasn’t.
In fact, one of the most massive and still growing accumulations of trash sits in the ocean- out of sight, out of mind. Known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it is estimated that this trash vortex spans over 1.6 million square kilometers. This garbage patch is just one of the 5 gyres on our planet.
Gyres are essentially the ocean’s currents system. While they circulate the waters around the globe, they draw in the plastic pollution that we release. Like slow-moving whirlpools, the gyres create these massive trash depository. And because the oceans are connected, trash you throw in the United States could potentially end up in the Philippines and vice versa. It could also sink to the bottom of the ocean.
So, no, plastic doesn’t magically disappear.
We’re so addicted to the convenience plastic brings us, but we do not think of its long-term repercussions on us and on our planet earth. From the moment you were born and up to to this very moment, every piece of plastic you’ve ever used is sitting somewhere in a landfill or floating in the ocean somewhere. It’s so easy for us to use something once, then forget about it.
And while we live our merry lives, somewhere out there plastic is literally choking the life out of many animals. Every year, thousands of marine wildlife are killed after ingesting plastic or getting entangled in it.
Here’s a snippet lifted from the documentary Plastic Ocean. It shows the horrible effects of plastic on sea birds in Lorde Howe Island. If you want to learn more about Plastics in our oceans, I urge you to watch the full documentary.
What’s also disturbing is that plastic has also made its way into our bodies through the form of micro-plastic. These are basically tiny plastic particles that have broken off from bigger plastic that we have discarded in the past. Because plastic doesn’t decay or biodegrade, it simply breaks up into smaller pieces of plastic.
Commission by WWF, No Plastic in Nature: Assessing Plastic Ingestion from Nature to People suggested that people are consuming about 5 grams of plastic which is the equivalent weight of a credit card. Microplastic can be found in the water we drink, the food we eat, and even the air we breathe.
This is another reason why we should say no to plastic. Whatever we throw away will always come back to us.
How can we save the ocean from plastics?
We have caused this plastic problem, and so the solution starts with us. When we say no to plastic everyday, that is how we can save our oceans from plastics.
It all starts with the little things that you do each day. When you say no to single use plastic at home, you are helping save our oceans. When you refuse to use plastic at work or at school, that’s one less plastic entering our oceans. While on vacation or on the go, and you choose to be plastic free, then you are helping save our planet.
The change starts with you and you can start now.
If you want to help save the ocean, here are 101 easy and actionable ways to reduce the amount of plastic you use every day.
How to say no to plastic at home
The easiest way to help save our oceans is to start at your home. This is where you spend much of your daily life in. From sleeping, eating, bathing, you do your basic essentials at home. Many of your possessions are also in your home. If you make an assessment of everything you ever owned most likely you will find plastic everywhere. This is why change should begin at home.
Plastic Free Bathroom
- Replace your body soap that comes in a bottle with a bar of soap in a box.
- Swap to shampoo and conditioner bars to reduce your plastic bottle waste. Check this article for the best plastic free shampoos and conditioners.
- Use a natural deodorant that comes from a paper tube, tin, or jar.
- Swap from lotion plastic tubes to lotion bars that come in a box. You can also find body and face lotion bars in tin can that you can reuse.
- Change your shaving routine by using metal razors instead of plastic disposable ones.
- Use shaving soap instead of using shaving cream from a plastic tube.
- Swap out your plastic toothbrush with one that’s made of bamboo. While a bamboo toothbrush is not 100% plastic-free, it is definitely a better alternative since most of it is biodegradable.
- Stop using toothpaste from tubes and get plastic-free toothpaste tablets instead.
- Start flossing using organic bamboo floss. You can get one in a reusable container too.
- Use mouthwash tablets so you can avoid using single-use plastic bottles.
- Change your skincare routine and enjoy the benefits of coconut oil. Coconut oil is great to remove makeup or help moisturize your skin. You can buy coconut oil in glass jars.
- Stop using bath and body products that contain microbeads. Microbeads are made of plastic and you literally wash it down the drain every time you exfoliate.
- Use bamboo cotton swabs to avoid using cotton swabs with plastic stems.
- Shower with a biodegradable loofah instead of scrubbing your body with a plastic sponge. You can also get this sisal back scrubber for hard-to-reach areas.
- If you need to replace your brush, don’t get a plastic one. Take care of your hair using a wooden brush or comb.
- Prone to getting cuts and scratches? Cover up your wound with bamboo bandaids.
- Replace your plastic over-the-counter lip balm with lip balm in a paper tube.
- Need to stock up on toilet paper for the next pandemic? Start stocking up on plastic-free bamboo toilet paper. You can also install a bidet in your bathroom for a cleaner toilet experience!
- Swap your menstrual products with a menstrual cup or reusable menstrual pads. This will radically reduce the amount of plastic you use from feminine products each month. For more ideas on how you can use less plastic while on your period, check out my post on zero waste feminine products.
- Consider switching to zero waste make up options. There are independent beauty brands that care about the environment as much as you do.
How to reduce plastic waste in the kitchen
- Say no to plastic bags by using reusable grocery bag when shopping for your food.
- When buying meat or fish, ask the vendor to place your produce in your own reusable container like this reusable silicon freezer bag. The butcher or fish vendor can weigh your container and deduct the container weight from the price so you’re still paying for the correct weight.
- Avoid pre-packed frozen food. Enjoy food when they are in season rather than buying frozen and preserved options.
- Bring your own produce bag for your vegetables and fruits so you can say no to plastic bags. Buy directly from farmers or independent fruit and vegetables stands. Many groceries are notorious for putting tags and plastic on all their fresh produce.
- Buy food supplies from zero waste bulk stores where you are encouraged to bring your own food containers like a cotton muslin bulk bags or mason jars.
- Buy fresh bread straight from the bakery. There are many places where you can buy freshly baked bread and they will allow you to use your own container.
- If you love snacking, opt to buy your munchies in bulk instead of the small, individually packed option. This will reduce your plastic waste.
- Quit buying plastic bottled fruit juices and soda. It’s almost always not worth the calories anyway. If you need your orange juice every day, grab yourself this 100% recycled aluminum juicer. It’s completely plastic-free and you get your OJ fresh!
- For coffee drinkers, consider switching to reusable coffee pods for your Nespresso coffee machine. You can also switch to using a French press to lessen your plastic waste.
- For tea lovers, did you know that some teabags could actually contain plastic! So, you should consider getting a reusable filter or tea infuser. You can buy loose tea leaves in bulk so you can brew your own tea.
- Instead of getting an electric kettle, buy a stainless steel stovetop kettle instead. These stovetop kettles last decades.
- Invest in durable and long-lasting containers like glass bottles and jars, and metal food containers.
- Stop using plastic wrap to cover your food. You can use alternatives like beeswax food wrap which you can keep reusing. You can also store food in glass storage containers with lids that can be used over and over again.
- Swap out your sandwich bags and other ziplock plastic bags with reusable silicon bags. While it is still made of plastic, it will drastically reduce the amount of single-use plastic you will be using.
- Make your own energy bars or snacks instead of buying.
- Stop buying every new kitchen gadget that comes out in the market. You most likely don’t need a kitchen gadget to help you remove an avocado pit. Nor do you need a plastic tool to cut your banana in perfect equal sizes.
- If something gets broken, find a way to repair or repurpose it.
- Start composting to reduce the plastic trash bags entering the landfill and oceans. You can get a compost bin and start segregating your compostable at home.
- Segregate your waste so you can practice proper recycling. If you don’t have recycling in your area, check out this Terracycle system. It is a service that will allow you to ship your recyclables to a recycling facility so you can reduce the amount of plastic that enters the landfill.
- Instead of buying dish soap in a plastic bottle, swap to plastic-free dish soap block.
- To clean your pots and dishes, use natural kitchen brushes and an eco dish sponge in lieu of plastic sponges.
- If you use a dishwasher, you can replace your dishwasher detergent with plastic-free dishwasher detergent pods.
How to have a plastic free laundry and cleaning
- Change your laundry detergents and softeners to ones that come in more sustainable packaging. You can also get detergent refills from the nearest zero-waste store near you.
- Stop using dryer sheets that may contain plastic. Use wool dryer balls instead to help dry your clothes. Or better yet, dry your laundry directly under the sun.
- Use Guppyfriend, a laundry bag to prevent microplastics in your clothes from entering the sewage system.
- Use a wooden hamper or plastic-free laundry basket . It’s better for the planet and looks prettier too!
- Whenever possible, use wooden hangers and clothespins made out of natural and organic materials.
- If you frequently have your clothes dry cleaned. Bring your own garment bag to the dry cleaners to say not to single-use plastic bags.
- Replace your cleaning sprays with a refillable glass spray bottle and cleaning pods. The cleaning pods are mixed with water so you can make your own cleaning sprays at home. This will eliminate the need to keep buy cleaning agents in plastic bottles.
- Use organic and plastic-free brushes. You can find toilet brushes and cleaning brushes made from wood and natural fibers.
Saying no to plastic when you have children
- Swap your diapers with reusable diapers or cloth nappies.
- Let your child play and learn by using sustainably made toys. You can find toys made from wood instead of plastic.
- Make your kids some ice pop treats using popsicle sticks and popsicle metal molds.
- Grab some plastic-free soap, shampoo, and bamboo toothbrushes for the kids too.
- Get a bamboo dining set for your child for an eco-friendly eating experience.
- Prepare snacks in reusable containers instead of buying snacks in small single-use plastic packets.
- Avoid baby wipes that may contain plastic! Grab these reusable cloth wipes for easy cleaning and wiping.
How yo can saying no to plastic when you have pets
- Play with your dog or cat with plastic-free toys.
- Give your dog a bath using this shampoo bar.
- Afterwards, use a wooden dog brush to groom your pet.
- Reward your dog with plastic-free organic dog treats.
- Buy dog food in bulk and feed them using this gorgeous bamboo bowl.
How to have plastic-free celebrations
We all love celebrating milestones and special occasions in our lives and when we do we tend to go all out. In the process, it generates a lot of waste. When partying you can still have fun while being eco-conscious. Here are some ways where you can have fun celebrations while saying no to plastic.
- Stop using balloons and stop releasing them into the air. No, they do not go to heaven. They end up in our oceans where turtles can eat them and die. Use colorful paper lanterns or paper pom poms to brighten up your space. These decors can also be reused for the next celebration.
- Send a plastic-free invitation and announce that your party will be plastic-free as well.
- If you are open to receiving presents, encourage friends and family to give sustainable, eco-friendly and plastic-free gifts. If you are giving gifts, do the same.
- Skip anything with glitter. These tiny sparkling things are tiny plastics that just go everywhere!
- If you need to throw confetti, you can make or buy your own biodegradable confetti.
- Serve finger food to lessen the use of plates. Appetizers like veggie sticks, cheese slices, and sandwiches are easy to grab and eat.
- If you need to serve meals, cook your own or get food platters. For the potluck, asks your guests to not use single-use plastic or to put food in their own Tupperware. Avoid individually packed meals served in plastic containers or styrofoam.
- Use real plates, cups, and utensils instead of plastic disposables. But if it is not possible, choose compostable food ware.
- Prepare goodie bags or souvenirs that are plastic-free. For example, you can give kids a paper bag with plastic-free gifts and snacks. Make sure to give something useful that will not end up in some trash bin. Or just don’t give anything at all.
- Don’t forget to save the wrappers and ribbons and reuse them for your next celebration. Avoid buying plastic ribbons and find creative and eco-friendly ways to wrap presents.
Say no to single-use plastic outside your home
When you are not at home, it is even more important that you learn to say no to single-use plastic. Everywhere you go, you will encounter establishments and people who are not even aware of the plastic problem. This makes it even more challenging to refuse plastic as they are simply everywhere. The upside is that during these moments, it can be a good opportunity to raise awareness about the plastic problem. Every time you refuse single use plastic, your unconventional requests can spark a conversation and get other people thinking.
How to use less plastic at school or work
- Bringing your own food in plastic-free lunch containers. This will stop you from buying takeout that’s usually packed in single-use plastic. You will save a ton of money too.
- Have your own reusable food ware that you can use in case there’s food to be shared. If you have an office pantry, get your office to provide real dining ware like plates, cutlery, and coffee mugs. No disposables.
- Use a pencil when possible or swap out your pen with one that can be refilled. This fountain pen can even eliminate refill tubes altogether.
- Buy supplies that are plastic-free. Nowadays you can find office or school supplies that are more eco-friendly and sustainable- like these cellulose plastic-free tape and potato starch glue in a tin!
Saying no to plastic when eating out at restaurants and cafes
- Opt to dine-in instead of getting take-out so you can say no to plastic bags that are often needed to pack food for take away.
- If you need to order take out, make sure to bring your own reusable food container. You can request the restaurant to pack your meal in it. Remind them to not include any other disposable utensils.
- When ordering drinks, immediately inform your server that you don’t want your beverage served with a plastic straw. Use your own bamboo or metal straw when you have to.
- Take your own cutlery set and refuse any disposables.
- Request for drinks to be served in a real glass or mug instead of plastic cups.
- Bring your own tumbler if you intend to buy drinks to go.
- In an ice cream shop, when asked to choose between a cup or cone always go for the cone. It’s more fun to eat ice cream this way. And, it will reduce your plastic cup and spoon waste.
How to use less plastic while travelling
- Stop buying water in single-use plastic bottles. Invest in a reusable water bottle that you can refill and take everywhere you go.
- Say no to plastic bags by taking a reusable eco-bag with you at all times. These foldable ones are light and easy to store in your bag. Simply take it out when you need to do some shopping.
- Swap your chemical sunscreen bottle with a zero-waste reef-safe sunscreen. Here are my top 10 plastic-free sunscreen recommendations.
- Shoo the bugs and mosquitos away with a plastic-free insect repellant.
- Wear a reusable face mask or a face cover when required during travel.
- Practice good hygiene and bring single-use paper soap so you can wash your hands wherever you go.
- Skip the airline food for short-haul flights.
- Refrain from using or taking home any of the complimentary hotel toiletries.
- Pack your own zero waste travel kit so you can take your plastic-free travel essentials wherever you go.
How to avoid plastic in the digital age
Going digital can help you eliminate much of your plastic waste but it can also add more. Here are ways on how you can curb your plastic in this digital era.
- Go for paperless billing when possible. This will stop companies from sending you brochures or coupons that may contain plastic laminates. It will also prevent companies from sending you bills in envelopes with plastic windows.
- When buying online, consider how your package will be shipped. As much as possible, shop from the same seller so items ship together, this will reduce your carbon footprint and also the amount of plastic packaging the products.
- Buy from zero-waste and plastic-free shops when possible.
If you are in the Philippines, here’s a list of sustainable lifestyle stores you can support.
- Support brands that have good sustainable and ethical business practices. Avoid companies that might be greenwashing.
- Buy from ocean-minded businesses that are doing good for the ocean.
- If you’re a heavy reader, consider buying your books and magazine subscriptions online.
- Stop the urge to buy the latest gadget every time a new model comes out.
- Check marketplaces for second-hand items. You don’t always need to get everything brand new.
- Likewise, you can list your items for sale online. Your trash is someone else’s treasure.
While I did list several ways on how you can reduce single-use plastic, these are just suggestions. As a good rule to follow, only buy or substitute when you absolutely have to. Remember that the most environmentally friendly product is the one you didn’t buy.
When replacing single-use plastics with long-term sustainable alternatives make sure that you are able to use the substitutes many times over. If you continually purchase alternatives, you could potentially be increasing your environmental impact in other ways. Keep in mind that when you make these easy zero waste swaps, you are still consuming the earth’s resources. Even if the products are “more sustainable,” it still requires energy, water, fuel, and the likes.
Need help getting started with your zero waste journey? Check out this list of best zero waste starter kits and bundles.
You may also sign up for one of these best zero waste subscription boxes to help you start living plastic free.
To help you get started, you may check out these sustainable online stores that ship plastic-free.
USA: EarthHero | EcoRoots | Life without Plastic | Zero Waste Store | Zero Waste Outlet | Me Mother Earth | Bamboo Switch
Canada: Zero Waste MVMT | Etee Shop | Smile Boutiques | Plantish Future
UK: Battle Green Box | Plastic Free Zone | Bambootique UK | Jungle Culture
Australia: Biome | Dirty Hippie Cosmetics
For more recommendations, you may also search my List of Eco-friendly Shops Online to help you on your plastic-free journey.
How can you get others to say no to plastic?
While saying no to plastic starts at a personal level, real change happens when more people do the same. When more and more people speak up and take action against plastic, it put pressure on governments and policymakers.
When consumers start questioning businesses about their products and manufacturing processes, companies are forced to make changes for the better. If you’re looking for ocean-conscious brands to support, check out my list of ocean companies saving our seas. These companies are finding ways to stop plastics from entering our oceans.
One of the biggest challenges of saying no to plastic is when even your own family or the people you live with are not fully on board with the idea. It can be frustrating when you’re trying to eliminate plastic and the people around you are not exactly supportive. If you want to create a bigger impact and influence others to say no to plastic, here are some things you can do.
Lead by example
It is important that you yourself practice what you preach. While it doesn’t have to be perfect, what’s important is you are doing the best you can to say no to plastic. Show others how to save the ocean from plastic through your own actions. When people see why and how you are doing it, this can inspire them to do the same.
Share your journey
Social media is a powerful tool. When used correctly it can influence change. If you are on these platforms like Instagram or FB, use it for good. Even if it is just one follower, grab that opportunity to talk about the important message of refusing single use plastic. Raise awareness and get your followers to also say no to plastic.
Never ever shame
Remember that each person’s sustainability journey is different. You cannot expect everyone to say no to plastic especially when our life experiences and circumstances are all different. Hold your judgments and seek to understand first. Always respect other people’s choices.
Find their motivation
Do not expect the conversion to happen overnight. So be patient. People will be set in their ways and some will probably won’t even care. But it doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Continue engaging in discussions and conversations. Each person’s motivation for doing something is different, so find out what will motivate them to say no to plastic.
Say no to plastic slogans
One of the helpful tools to get people to stop using plastic is by using slogans. Catchy slogan help people remember and can get your message across? Here are some say no to plastic sayings you can use on your social media accounts. Use these say no to plastic slogans to inspire action.
- Keep the sea, plastic free.
- Plastic on hand, pollution on land.
- Choose to Refuse.
- Stop dropping trash where we splash.
- Reduce Reuse Recycle, we only have one planet.
- It’s just one plastic, said 8 billion people.
- Plastic is not fin-tastic.
- Choose to reuse.
- The solution is less pollution.
- Refuse single-use.
Here are more posters to inspire you to say no to single-use plastic:
Loved these say no to plastic slogans? For more inspiration, you can also read my article on plastic pollution quotes.
Pin this for later
I hope that this post has given you concrete examples of how you can save the ocean from plastic. Don’t forget to pin this for later and share to your friends!
The fight against plastic cannot be won if it is only you or a few who are making these changes. To drive urgent and impactful change we must collectively work together not just as a nation but as a global community. The plastic problem isn’t isolated in just one part of the world. It affects all of us. Say no to plastic because our future depends on it.
What is one thing you will do starting today to say no to plastic? What challenges do you have when it comes to saying no to plastic? Leave a comment below!