1. Bring food containers with you when you eat out.
Society has taught and trained us to pack up leftover food from eateries in single use containers to bring home. I've never second guessed this until recently. Every time you bring home a to-go box, whether it be styrofoam, paper, or plastic, it is additional waste you're sending to the dump yard. It only takes a tiny additional effort to grab a container from home as you're headed out, or even easier, just leave a container in your car! Yes, you might get stares when you whip out your reusable food container, but think of all that trash you saved. That's one less plastic or styrofoam container used. The more often we all bring our own containers, the more normalized it gets! Win-win-win.
2. Carry Re-usable cutlery and straws.
Another easy way to immediately reduce plastic waste is to keep a set of cutlery and reusable straws where you will always have access to it when you're out and about. Plastic silverware and plastic straws are admittedly super convenient, but single use plastics are horrible for our environment. If you go to a restaurant that only uses plastic utensils, you are going to use it once for maybe 30 minutes or less, and it's going to end up in the trash and eventually in our oceans. Purchase a cutlery set like this or even just a pouch like this that you can stash a set of your at-home silverware in, then keep it in your car or purse!
3. Keep your reusable grocery bags in your car.
I cannot believe how many people I still see walking out of grocery stores with plastic bags. Reusable grocery bags are so easily accessible nowadays. I get a new one almost everywhere I go, and even then, there are available for about $1 at most grocery stores. Keep all your bags in your car, and after you come home from the grocery store, keep them by your shoes and keys so that you don't forget to put them back in your car for your next run to the store.
4. Invest in reusable produce and bulk bags.
Yes, buying reusable produce and bulk bags is more expensive than the free plastic bags they have at the grocery store, but a handful of bags that will last you for a long time and reduce plastic for less than $25 is basically priceless, right? Here is a great option for reusable bags from a great eco-friendly company committed to reducing plastic and waste.
5. Buy from the bulk section at the store.
After you get your reusable bags, start shopping in the bulk section. HEB and Sprouts both have great selections. I'm not 100% sure about HEB, but Sprouts lets you bring your own bags and containers and will even tare the heavier containers too if you want to bring jars!
6. Stop over-ordering.
If you're like me, your eyes are always bigger than your stomach. The easiest way to reduce food waste and to-go container waste is to stop over-ordering! Share plates if you know you can't finish a whole entree on your own and skip ordering an appetizer to save room for your meal.
7. Meal plan before going to the grocery store.
Plan out your meals for the entire week so you know exactly what you need at the store and stick to your grocery list. It's so easy to go to the store without a plan, grab a bunch of unnecessary items, and end up having to throw away a bunch of leftovers.
8. Look in your refrigerator before going out to eat.
Along the same lines as the tip above, when you're about to head out to eat, look at what you already have in your fridge. If you don't eat it now, you might end up tossing what you don't finish in there.
9. Start composting!
Composting sounds like a huge, inconvenient ordeal, and after composting for almost half a year, let me tell you - it is no cake walk. It gets smelly and gross, but if you're going to throw food away, you might as well put it to good use.
10. Utilize your freezer and keep a list of what you are storing.
If you know you won't get to eat something before it goes bad, put it in the freezer. Pyrex containers and silicone reusable ziplock bags are great for freezer storage. We use them religiously and highly recommend them. Make sure to keep a list of what you have in your freezer so you don't forget!
Living a low waste lifestyle isn't always easy. It can be time-consuming, inconvenient, a little more costly, and even sometimes embarrassing, but you have to remind yourself of the bigger picture. These simple changes can make such an impact on our planet, especially if we all make the extra effort.