When beginning a lifestyle change, it's easy to immerse yourself in all the information out there--and there is a lot. Immersing yourself can often lead to getting bogged down and then feeling immobilized. Information overload. Guilt overload. "I'm doing too many things wrong. I don't know where to start. My efforts won't make a difference. Why bother?"
There are many different personalities out there: some like to dive in and some like to test the waters and ease in slowly. My own personality is the latter. I pick just a few changes at a time, focus on those until they become habit. I then adopt a few more things to try. I know it will take years for the shift to happen, but, for me, that's best way for me to make those changes permanent.
With that in mind, I offer you a choice of three items on the Beginner's Menu: Cloth Edition. Try one, two or all three. None of them is expensive. None of them is drastic. All of them reduce waste. All of them can cause a ripple effect in your circle of influence.
1. Refuse bags. Bags are ubiquitous. Everywhere you shop, cashiers will bag your purchases. Even tiny items. If the item can fit in your purse/bag, if you can just carry it in your hand, or if you have a reusable cloth bag/tote with you, politely refuse the bag. That way, you don't get stuck with yet another plastic bag, and the cashiers and other patrons will see what you've done and start thinking . . .
2. Cloth napkins. Whether store-bought or home-sewn, cheap or expensive, cloth napkins will cut down on your garbage, free up storage space (no more jumbo packs of paper napkins), and save you money. It's not difficult to toss a few napkins in with your regular wash. And, during most dinners, napkins are hardly touched so you can throw them back in the drawer--you do not need to wash them after every meal. You could choose one color/design per person to distinguish. Or if you have uniform napkins and wish to subtly differentiate, you could sew a small loop of different washable ribbon (or similar) to one corner of each napkin. (We have uniform napkins that are not assigned; sharing has worked fine for us.) Note: I personally don't see the point in fancy silk napkins. I would be afraid to use one; that defeats the purpose.
3. Cloth towels and rags vs. paper towels. We bought a Costco-sized pack of paper towels years ago. And then I started using cloth towels and rags instead of paper. We still have 3 unopened rolls of paper towels in our storage. I don't know how long it will take us to get through them--several years, maybe. The only time I really use paper towels is if I'm draining oil-cooked food. And, when it's done draining, the paper towel goes in the compost. My cloth towels are not fancy--I got a bag of woven cotton "shop rags" (yes, years ago at Costco). I use them to clean the counters, as back-up napkins, at picnic lunches, pretty much anywhere you might use a paper towel. They, like the napkins, can be tossed in the wash without much effort or impact on your laundry routine.
Relatively simple, cheap and effective. You don't have to do everything. But you can do something.