We’ve all seen the heartbreaking video of scientists pulling a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nose, and the depressing photos of dead wildlife with plastic in their stomachs or caught around their bodies. Living a vegan lifestyle certainly helps to cut down on personal waste drastically, but there’s still so much we can do as individuals to try to live as sustainably as possible—especially in our current environmental climate. Follow these 10 vegan and eco-friendly, plastic-free steps to help animals.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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1. Carry a reusable water bottle
Always, always, always carry a sturdy, reusable water bottle with you (preferably one made of bamboo or stainless steel) to cut down on the hugely wasteful practice of buying plastic water bottles from the store. Not only is store-bought water vastly overpriced (water should be free!), but all those bottles sure do pile up. Load up your bottle with some adorable and fierce vegan stickers and stay hydrated!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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2. Create homemade household cleaners
Many household cleaners are tested on animals, packaged in plastic, and carry harsh chemicals that are environmentally damaging, but a handy (and green!) solution is to mix up your own using ingredients you probably already have on hand. For example, combine olive oil with coarse sea salt to scrub your cast-iron skillets shiny clean.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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3. Ask for no straw in your drinks
While this might seem like a small act, we waste approximately 185 million plastic straws a year (ending up in landfills or waterways). Ask for no straw when you order your drink, but take it to the next level by investing in a stainless steel or glass straw you can carry with you for when the need arises. The sea turtles will thank you!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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4. Shop the bulk section
Say goodbye to wasteful packaging by learning how to shop the bulk section like a pro. Simply bring your own mason jars and cloth bags (if using a jar, ask a cashier to take the initial weight of your container and write the tare weight on the lid so that you’re not charged for the container’s weight). Fill your containers with all the plant-based goods you need and make a note of the price look-up (PLU) code on the bin before checking out.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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5. Make your own face masks
Yes, those trendy, single-use sheet masks may be all the rage on Instagram, but they also create a lot of waste. Make your own skin-clearing, healing mask at home by combining 1 tablespoon bentonite clay with 1 tablespoon filtered water. No animal testing, simple ingredients, and easily customizable with additions like cacao, turmeric, and tea tree essential oil make that a win in our book.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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6. Take your animal companion’s waste biodegradable
Even your furry family members can join you on your green journey. Swap out plastic dog poop bags and cat litter liners for biodegradable ones to easily cut down on pet related waste. P.S. Did you know that vegan dog food is a more sustainable alternative to animal-derived varieties? Check out V-Dog and Halo!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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7. Never forget your reusable grocery bags
Stow a few reusable bags in your car and at work for unexpected trips to the grocery store (or even a Target run!) and avoid getting those judgemental stares at the Whole Foods checkout. Get a few with cute vegan messages to spread some subtle (or not so subtle) messages while stocking up on your fresh produce and vegan burgers.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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8. Swap your body care essentials for plastic-free alternatives
Everyone has staple products they use for basic hygiene practices: razors, loofahs, hairbrushes, and toothbrushes (to name a few). Instead of always rebuying and using short-term products, swap for long-lasting, cruelty-free, environmentally safe options, and your beauty routine will be an eco-friendly dream in no time.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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9. Don’t throw out your produce—freeze it
Do your spotty, brown bananas have you considering tossing them? Stop! Peel and freeze them instead! Then make one of these delicious smoothie or smoothie bowl recipes. And wait before you toss out your vegetable scraps or wilting carrots! You can also add those to a container in your freezer to turn into delicious homemade vegetable broth. Homemade alternatives are always package-free and fresher!

 

 
 
 
 
 
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10. Meal prep
Spend your Sundays (or any day of the week) making simple meals or staple items like baked tofu, roasted veggies, and cooked grains that can be thrown together in a pinch. Not only will this help your wallet when lunchtime rolls around, but it cuts down on wasteful take-out containers and utensils. Plus, if you live or work in an area that’s not very vegan-friendly, you’ll always be prepared with something to eat.

 

Sarah McLaughlin is the New Products Editor at VegNews and is always looking for easy ways to eliminate plastic.

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