How To Avoid Plastic This Summer

Green Living expert Aida Garcia-Toledo shares tips for a plastic-free summer

stainless steel water bottle

As summertime approaches, so do long hot days spent playing and entertaining outdoors. Summer essentials include sunscreen, bug spray, beach and pool toys, simple portable snacks and dish ware. What should summer not include? Cheap plastics that leach nasty chemicals.

Having a non-toxic summer can be easy; but it just takes a bit of planning. 

While it may be tempting to buy your kids inexpensive plastic beach toys since, let’s face it, many of them get lost and need to be replaced, it’s important to know how toxic these items can be. Plastic beach toys can often contain industrial-strength endocrine disrupting chemicals. What’s more, these toys sit in the hot summer sun and saltwater, which increases the chances of them deteriorating and leaching chemicals into the air, or if you have little kids, into their mouths. 

Plastic beach toys are not only harmful for humans, but they are also bad for the planet — they don’t biodegrade and end up as landfill or clogging our oceans. 


Plastic Beach toy alternatives


When choosing beach toys, choose higher quality, eco-friendly toys. Earth-friendly brands are developing fun beach toys made of 100% recycled safer plastics and newer bio plastics, a percentage of which are made from plant based materials or bamboo like the Ekobo Sand Bucket Set. 

Go one step further and consider recycling things around the house to use as beach toys! Old cups, toys, bowls and measuring cups are great alternatives.

Pool Floats and Toys


It seems like almost everything that’s meant to be fun and placed in the pool is usually made from PVC. Also known as vinyl, this popular plastic is a known human carcinogen that can also expose you to lead, a known neurotoxin, and endocrine disrupting phthalates. Vinyl chloride, a building block of PVC, is a known human carcinogen. These items are easily identifiable by a very strong ‘plastic smell’ which is actually the plastic chemicals off gassing into the air. Unfortunately, even older products that no longer smell can still be hazardous since the sun and chlorine can accelerate the leaching of toxic chemicals.

So a better option for pool time fun is pool noodles which are usually made from polyethylene foam, which is PVC-free and considered safer.

Other safer alternatives include items made of non-toxic EVA or polyethylene foam like some non-PVC kickboards and other pool accessories.


Plastic Wet bags


Wet bags are used to transport wet clothes, towels and swimwear without getting everything else in your bag soaked. Many wet bags are made from transparent PVC that, as mentioned above, can expose you to endocrine disrupting phthalates, lead and cadmium. 

Less toxic options are available and work just as well. Look for bags that have an interior lining made of leak-proof polyurethane. Alternately, simply wrapping wet things in a towel will also work.


Flip Flops


Inexpensive flip flops that are readily available in big chain stores, supermarkets and convenience stores are often made of PVC. Consider switching to flip flops made of natural rubber or  safer PCU plastic. 


Portable serving ware


Whether it’s in your backyard, at the beach or at a picnic, summer is the time for outdoor meals. Many of us have become reliant on using disposable plastic plates, cups, straws, plastic ziplock bags and utensils. It’s time to stop. Single use plastic is one of the biggest contributors to the pollution of our environment. It’s also the least safe option for our families.

Plastic dish & utensil alternatives:

  • Stainless steel, glass protected with silicone, paper products and bamboo are all great safe alternatives 
  • Switch out plastic straws for reusable stainless steel, bamboo, compostable paper or even glass straws. Don’t worry, as the latter are really durable and hard to break
  • Reusable bags made of silicone or fabric are great substitutes for plastic bags. If you need something disposable, compostable PFC-free paper bags are great


Water bottles


We all know how important it is to stay hydrated, especially during hot summer months. That’s why you should always have a water bottle with you (and your child) to avoid buying single use plastic water bottles. Globally, it is estimated that we are now using more than one million plastic water bottles a minute and 91 percent of them are not recycled. It’s a sobering statistic. So carrying your own reusable water bottle this summer can and will make a difference. 

When purchasing reusable water bottles, try to avoid plastic. Some of the plastic water bottles with your little one’s favorite cartoon character on it might say they’re BPA free but they most likely contain similar substitute chemicals that can still disrupt our hormones in the same way BPA would. 

Plastic water bottle alternatives: 

  • Stainless steel or glass water bottle (protected with a silicone sleeve)


Tot Tested Summer Fun Picks


Here are a few our favorite beach-friendly plastic-free picks for summer.


Ekobo Sand Play Set


Ekobo Animo Sand Bucket Set






PlanToys Sand Play Set

PlanToys Sand PlaySet






Explore Nook Wooden Toy Boat Canoe

Explore Nook Wooden Toy Boat Canoe







PlanetBox Stainless Steel Water Bottle

PlanetBox Stainless Steel Water Bottle



Available in more colors




PlanetBox Rover Lunch Box

PlanetBox Rover Stainless Steel Lunchbox





Aegi Ceramic Containers – Multi Color

Aegi Ceramic Storage Containers – Multi Color





Austin Baby Collection Silicone Bento Box Set - Camper SageAustin Baby Collection Silicone Meal Set – Camper





Thinkbaby Sippy of steel


ThinkBaby Sippy of Steel





Continue exploring