Share on facebook
Share on pinterest
Share on twitter
Share on email

Thinking of Going Plastic Free or Zero Waste

Yes, It’s Plastic Free July. Yes, I’m participating…you can check out why here.

I’ve been cutting back on plastic use, particularly single use plastics for a years now. I’ve read innumerable books and blogs, listened to podcasts…and I’ve eliminated a lot of plastic waste.

That said, I do have a few cautions if you are just getting started.

Embrace the imperfection.

In our current paradigm plastics are inescapable. Our systems are set up to create products, get them to consumers where they will be used then move on to a landfill. We live in a linear system. Nature is a circular system. Until we move to more circular systems in our business models, waste, including plastic waste will be unavoidable.

Because of this, unless you move off grid and live a completely self-sufficient lifestyle, there will be some plastic. Even if you are obsessive, plastic will sneak into your life. A medical emergency, dental work, or medications will involve plastic, bulk stores receive their goods in plastic containers, computers, phones, cords etc…all make use of plastic. Added to that, there will be the server who, despite your request for no straw, sticks one in your drink, or there will be plastic stickers on fruit.

Completely eliminating plastic use in our system is unrealistic.

I bring this up because many people just give up because it’s too hard. But it’s only too hard if your expectations are perfection. If you have realistic expectations it’s far more likely you’ll continue to make changes and stick with them.

Eliminate perfectionism and judgement and be kind and gracious to yourself and others.

Plastic is not the enemy, the overuse of plastic is.

Framing this conversation correctly is critical. Nuances matter. When it comes to plastics a black/white, good/bad approach is not helpful.

Plastic is truly a remarkable invention and, when used appropriately can improve our quality of life. The excessive use of plastic, particularly in the form of single use plastics (cups, forks, straws, ziplock bags, water bottles etc.) or limited use plastics (lotion bottles, yogurt containers, toothbrushes etc.) is at the center of the battle.

When we name our enemy correctly…the overuse of plastic…we avoid a lot of silly arguments and unfounded guilt.

Cutting back on plastic is not a competition.

If you are using a reusable grocery bags, awesome. If your family of four only produces one jar of trash in a year, awesome. If you have started carrying a water bottle, awesome.

Not everyone has access to the same things, has the same lifestyles, or priorities. It’s not a competition or a race. There is no checklist or set of rules.

Every change you make is a win. Take inspiration from others, but realize that everyone’s journey will look different.

Don’t throw away the plastic already in your house.

Going plastic free does not mean throwing all of your plastic out and purchasing all new, cute, wood items…despite the pictures on Pinterest and Instagram. If you have plastic containers you should use them until they can’t be used anymore, then recycle or repurpose them. Best to get whatever use you can from them first.  (Many of my old plastic containers, squirt bottles etc. have gone into the outdoor play bucket for my toddler granddaughter as our tiled patio isn’t glass friendly.)

If you have shampoo, liquid soap, and cleaners in plastic containers…use all of that stuff up before you shop for alternatives. And, keep and repurpose the containers if they are still in good shape.

Bamboo toothbrushes are a great swap…but not if you have a drawer of brand new plastic ones. Either use them first, or donate them to a homeless shelter.

I’ve read complaints that plastic free or zero waste living is for rich, white, millennial girls. Nothing could be further from the truth. Living sustainably is far cheaper in my experience, but only if you think before making impulse purchases.

Start small and build one habit at a time.

Small changes that you stick with over time will have a greater impact than going all out for 2 weeks and then giving up. The easiest places to start are with single use plastics.

Likely, you have a water bottle and travel coffee mug somewhere in your house. Get in the habit of keeping them with you and using them. Simple, but significant.

Look through your trash and assess which swaps you could make that would have the greatest impact, then choose one or two changes to focus on. When those become a habit, try something else. Slow and steady wins the race.

Not a ‘to do’ list, but a ‘to be’. 

We are all busy and have long lists of things to do. Convenience is the major reason people overuse plastic, and the idea of moving away from plastic seems like it will add dozens of items to your ‘to do’ list. I get it.

For me, I had to get clear on why I wanted to change my lifestyle. Much of my thought process was on lining up my values with my actions. Having grandchildren challenged me to consider the world I’m leaving them, being a person of faith challenged me to consider how I was caring for creation.

Who I want to be, the relationship I want to have with creation is what I think about. I don’t obsess about a checklist of things to do, or the occasional plastic that comes into my life. Instead I try to be aware and intentional, and to think a bit differently about my relationship with material possessions.



Subscribe to KellyBagdanov

Join a generous group of people who help me continue to serve teachers and lovers of art. Click the button below and become a patron!

Top Posts

Who are we? is a rich source for educators who are interested in integrating Art History into their teaching model. You can find Art History Curriculum and Resources for teaching here.

Kids at Home while Schools are shut down?

Wondering what to do with all the time your kids have now that they are home? WE have a solution for you. Fun, interesting, and learning all built into a great educational activity.

Grab “An Overview of Western Art” today.

50% off through April 19 use coupon code:  coronavirus

Affiliate Disclosure

Disclosure: Some of the links on this site are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Download Your Free Curriculum

The Grand Tour Art History Curriculum

Compare 4 works of art from the Italian Renaissance with 4 works from the Byzantine era to begin building the framework we will build on in future lessons. This download will introduce you to the overview portion of the Grand Tour Art History Curriculum

More Articles

Lent – Penitence and Preparation

Although many Christian traditions no longer observe Lent, I’ve found preparing for the celebration of Easter deepens the experience. Combining my research in art with Lent I’ve created a Visual Lent Devotional. I’d like to invite you to join me on my journey, exploring the Art of Christ’s Passion. These devotionals will begin on Ash

Read More »

Introducing Children to Art and Art History

Art and art history have been a part of our school life from the time my boys were toddlers, both producing art and enjoying works by others. This reflects a strong belief in introducing children to art and art history – art is interesting, expansive, and leads a well rounded education.  I enjoy art and

Read More »
shakespeare's england

Shakespeare’s England

The ability to place Shakespeare, the man, into his historical context can enrich our reading and understanding of his plays. While dealing with universal themes that will resonate with modern audiences, there are portions that will yield richer rewards if we are able to place the plays in their context. Shakespeare was born during the

Read More »