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21 Ways to Ditch Plastic, Reduce Waste, and Lead a More Eco-Friendly Lifestyle in 2021, Part 1

It’s safe to say that 2020 was a difficult year for most people. We’ve seen things that most of us have never seen before in our lifetimes. 

We’ve also learned a few things along the way. Things like:

  • We can work from home and get the job done
  • We can be schoolteachers to our kids
  • We can make bread from scratch
  • We can food shop without leaving home
  • We can video chat a doctor's visit
  • We can watch extraordinary amounts of TV
  • We can survive without Starbucks (for a short time anyway)
  • We can Zoom with our co-workers, friends, and family with ease, except for the occasional “you’re muted” or the highly dreaded “you’re not muted.” Nooo! 

We’ve also learned how our behaviors affect planet Earth and how the environment can quickly recover when we change our behaviors. With the majority of us hunkered down at home in the earlier part of 2020, we watched urban waterways cleanse themselves and animals roam free within cities. We saw the skies clear and were able to view the abundance of stars we forgot were right above us, behind the usual layer of smog. We literally watched as our planet cleaned and mended itself. 

Are we the first humans in history to have witnessed such occurrences? I couldn’t help but think of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax as I looked at photos of fish you could clearly see in rivers that were opaque only a month before. 

Looking ahead, it’s clear that our throwaway culture will not sustain us, but we can change our trajectory. If we stop buying plastic and other disposable materials, companies will stop using those materials in their production and packaging. We—the consumers—need to be the change we want to see in the world!

When you make your New Year’s resolutions for 2021, consider resolving to make this the year you ditch plastic and reduce your waste. Leading a zero-waste lifestyle is possible if you make a genuine effort. To that end, we have compiled 21 simple product changes that can help you live healthier and have a positive impact on our planet. Here are the first 10 suggested changes you can make. 

(Note: All of the products listed here, and many other zero-waste and sustainable items, can be found at the websites shown at the end of this post)

1. Laundry detergent and dryer sheets

Stop buying plastic bottles and instead use fully dissolvable detergent pods made from plant enzymes for your laundry. We recommend Dropps.* While you’re at it, replace those single-use, nonrecyclable dryer sheets with reusable wool balls and get great results without the waste. *Note: we do earn a small referral bonus from anyone who signs up for Dropps through the link above.

2. Hand soap 

There are so many bar soap choices out there that are made sustainably with natural ingredients, no animal testing, and compostable packaging materials, eliminating plastic 100%. 

3. Toothpaste tablets 

An estimated 400 million toothpaste tubes are thrown out in the US per year! Save the planet by switching to toothpaste tablets. They come in a glass container and refills come in compostable packaging. 

4. Bamboo toothbrushes

While you’re improving your toothpaste game, why not upgrade your toothbrush? Bamboo toothbrush handles are compostable and biodegradable, and the bristles are recyclable.

5. Body soap 

Bar soap is where it’s at in 2021. No more plastic bottles. There is an array of amazing choices out there—this isn’t your mom’s bar soap.

6. Shampoo and conditioner bars 

While you’re buying bar soap for your body, consider purchasing shampoo and conditioner bars too. They’re natural and healthy for your hair, produce no waste, and get really great reviews! 

7. Moisturizers 

You have endless options when it comes to face and body moisturizers that are plastic-free and come in either compostable or recyclable (glass/metal) containers. And with a little research, you can find the perfect ones to suit your needs.

8. Reusable bags  

Always, always, always bring reusable shopping bags with you to the store. Keep them in your car, keep the ones you can fold into small shapes in your bag, but just keep them on hand! Reusable bags hold more, are easier to carry, don’t rip, and reduce plastic waste and fossil fuel consumption.  

9. Cotton mesh produce bags

While we’re talking about reusable bags, don’t forget about produce bags. Instead of using the plastic ones at the supermarket, bring your own and kick plastic to the curb. They’re super durable and washable.

10. Reusable coffee cups and water bottles

Find yourself a stainless-steel travel mug from the huge assortment available and keep your coffee hot, your water cold, and your planet clean! In fact, you can support Keep Massachusetts Beautiful by purchasing one of our reusable water bottles

With this first batch of upgrades, you will be well on your way to becoming a zero-waste, plastic-free, planet-saving superhero in 2021. Stay tuned for 11 more upgrades in the Part 2 blog post coming in February. Wishing you a healthy, safe, sustainable, and Happy New Year!

You can also read more tips on how to achieve a zero waste lifestyle.

Keep Massachusetts Beautiful

Massachusetts Zero Waste Grocery Guide

Zero Waste Resources for the Boston Area

Zero Waste/Bulk Massachusetts Directory

Zero Waste Boston

Pebble Magazine

Going Zero Waste