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After a couple of years of my zero waste journey, I still buy certain things in plastic. Yikes – I feel a little weird and hesitant to say it, but it’s true.
The whole zero waste movement can look aesthetic and dreamy with all the pretty reusable jars, containers, and metal straws. However, that isn’t the entire picture. Zero waste has its “ugly” and wasteful side, too.
At the beginning of my journey, I was obsessed with producing as little trash as possible. I was becoming very upset over getting tea in a plastic bag from coffee shops, or getting a straw in my drink (after asking to get it without).
But the more time passed, the more I realized that not everything is under my control, and as much as I try, I can’t live a perfect 100% zero waste life – and that’s okay.
In this article, I will share 11 things I still buy in plastic. I want to show you that I’m far from zero waste, and I hope this list will make you feel a bit better and less worried about not being “perfect,” too.
11 Thing I Still Buy In Plastic:
1. Tofu & tempeh
While I would LOVE to learn how to make tempeh and tofu by myself, at this stage, I still buy them from the shop.
When I was living in Denmark and Spain, I found tofu and tempeh in glass jars, which was awesome, because 1) they were plastic-free, and 2) I was reusing the jars afterward.
But it isn’t that common to find those foods plastic-free, and now I purchase them in plastic packaging.
Low waste tip: Buying tofu once in 2-3 weeks, and tempeh – even less frequently, to reduce overall waste.
2. Plant-based yogurt
Another one that I want to start making at home. I already tried making homemade plant-based yogurt, but I failed both times. Ugghhh
Low waste tip: Learning (soon) how to make delicious homemade plant-based yogurt!
2. Plant-based milk
I try to make my plant milk at home (now it’s even easier since I got a Plant milk machine), but honestly, the homemade milk doesn’t work that well with coffee. That’s why I sometimes still buy it for my coffee.
(if you have tips on how to make plant milk non-slimy, and non-watery, please share them in the comments!)
Additionally, I don’t have the time or equipment to DIY homemade milk if I travel somewhere, so I buy Tetra Paks.
Low waste tip: Making my plant-based milk whenever possible.
4. Certain legumes, nuts & seeds
I rarely buy legumes, nuts, or seeds in plastic; however, sometimes, I need specific ones that I can’t find plastic-free currently, such as soybeans and walnuts. Thus, I buy those in plastic, when I need them.
Low waste tip: Whenever I can, I choose legumes and nuts that I can find plastic-free.
I try to be prepared almost always, but sometimes, unexpected things occur, or it just happens that I want to try a product in plastic packaging. Most commonly, it is small snacks like energy or protein bars. Or ice cream.
Low waste tip: Whenever I have the chance, I pick plastic-free snacks like these:
6. Reduced food
Did you know that globally about one-third (1.3 BILLION tons) of the food produced never gets eaten?
Wasting food means wasting resources, fertilizers, cropland, freshwater, and energy.
Furthermore, when food decomposes in a landfill, it produces methane gas – a greenhouse gas that’s 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The worst part is that the biggest component of landfills is food.
If buying reduced food means saving it from the landfill – I think it’s worth it, regardless of the plastic. I don’t do it often, only when the reduced food is actually something that I eat and like.
Low waste tip: In short, saving food that’s expiring soon it’s the better option, even if it means bringing plastic into your home.
If it is something unavoidable and related to my health, I buy it, even if it’s in plastic.
Low waste tip: Always look after your health, and eat a variety of wholesome foods, like legumes, veggies, and fruits.
And if I start feeling a bit sick, I try to prevent feeling worse by eating a lot of garlic, ginger, lemons and drinking lots of tea. Most times, I feel better the next day already.
While it generates non-recyclable waste, it prevents an unwanted pregnancy, which I think is worth the “waste.”
Low waste tip: If possible, I try to purchase sustainable condoms made with natural latex in paper packaging (locally, I can find a german brand called Einhorn).
9. Online orders
I order things online, and sometimes it happens that the items come with unnecessary plastic wrapping. This can be pretty frustrating, especially if you order from a “sustainable” company.
It happened to me twice; once I ordered a dress, and another time a swimsuit from two different sustainable brands. I got pretty disappointed when the items were in plastic bags.
I contacted the brands, but they gave me some vague answers that didn’t make much sense.
Low waste tip: I often write an email before ordering to ask how they ship the products. I also ask if they could avoid using plastic packaging for my order.
(I didn’t for the swimsuit because I was assuming that since it’s a sustainable brand, it will come plastic-free.)
10. Ingredients for DIY-ing products
Usually, I find MOST ingredients plastic-free or in bulk. However, sometimes I can’t find a specific ingredient, so I buy it in plastic packaging (for example – kaolin clay).
Low waste tip: I always try to look locally (and online) for low waste alternatives and substitutes to the ingredients I need. Sometimes, I find plastic-free options, but other times I don’t.
11. Little parts from random stuff
Receipts, fruit stickers, plastic seals in lids of bottles, plastic tags of clothing, toothbrush bristles, etc.
Low waste tip: Less frequent shopping (to avoid receipts), shopping from local food market (to get 100% plastic-free veggies and fruits), etc.
In short, planning ahead and trying to choose and find the most sustainable option whenever possible.
Do I feel guilty about buying things in plastic?
Sometimes. But as I mentioned in the beginning – the more I think about it, the more I realize that living 100% zero waste is hardly possible (here’s why).
After all, we all produce trash, one way or another (have you heard of “invisible waste?”).
Additionally, most of the time, I purchase these things just because I don’t have another option.
I know I’m doing my best, and I’m focusing on what works for me at this stage of my life. And I believe everyone should do that, too.
Things that I USED TO buy in plastic, but I found low waste alternatives:
- Plant-based protein powder – I found PLENTY of excellent, plastic-free & vegan protein powder options. My favorites are – Vitally Vegan, Form Nutrition (US) (UK), and the nu company.
- Toilet paper – I purchase toilet paper in bulk, which comes in a carton box, and lasts almost a year. The last time I got bamboo toilet paper from A Good Company.
- Vitamins – I also found a vast range of supplements and vitamins in glass jars, aluminum containers, and compostable wrappers! You can find the list of low waste supplements here.
- Snacks – I love snacking, and as much as I enjoy making sweets at home, I like to treat myself with eco-friendly & plastic-free snacks.
It isn’t realistic to rely on a few people living the “perfect” zero waste life; we need personal change on a global scale.
When more people show interest in eco-friendly, reusable items, this can also encourage systematic change.
And when we demand change, businesses and politicians must meet the needs of the public by coming up with sustainable and better solutions.
Remember that zero waste is not about deprivation and sacrificing things you want to have in your life.
It is about balance, making better choices, learning what you can do better, and striving to improve along the way.
All in all, do as much as you can, but always remember that everyone’s journey is different, and don’t compare yourself with others.
Feel free to share below what are the things you still buy in plastic. Don’t be shy; we won’t judge. 🙂