A decade ago, I was working at Greenpeace International in Amsterdam and easily living a sustainable lifestyle. I cycled everywhere, shopped locally from my neighbourhood zero waste store and due to the insanely high price per square metre of flat rentals, never bought anything unnecessary to clutter up my tiny apartment.
Since moving back to the UK with two small children in tow, to my dismay, our footprint as a family steadily increased. I thought that I was doing my best to reduce our consumption, but last year when I started working with a new client, managing the Instagram account for the No Plastic Shop, my research into plastic pollution and reading the news that plastic waste has been discovered in the deepest points of our oceans, I realised that my attempts were not going far enough. I vowed to cut plastics from my life with these 10 ways to go plastic free.
I have found out that the only time that I end up buying single use plastic bottles is when I am unexpectedly out and about. I have put together a small travel kit that I take with me and keep back ups in the car. It consists of a reusable water bottle, bamboo cutlery, a tote bag (in reality this is the ridiculous number of Bags For Life that I have accumulated over the years) and a couple of reusable containers.
Look To The Past
This year I am going to be channeling my grandma. No, not by having a small sherry with lunch, but by using handkerchiefs, cleaning cloths and reusable makeup removing pads instead of tissues, disposable wipes and cotton balls. The environmental costs of washing these frequently is far less than the costs associated with the production and distribution of their throwaway alternatives.
Buy In Bulk
I am not lucky enough to have a zero waste store near me (please somebody open one of these in West Devon), so I am reliant on supermarkets and local health food shops. I have been looking at what I use most often and buying the largest bag that I can, also opting for brands, like Ecover, that offer refills on their products.
Make My Own
I am going to try and cross some items off my shopping list altogether. Cleaning products and hand washes can be easily made at home using natural and readily available ingredients, like white vinegar and essential oils. I have been experimenting with a lavender and tea tree hand wash which smells amazing.
Going plastic free does not mean purging your house of existing plastics, but rather finding ways to repurpose what you already have and committing to generating as little new plastic as possible. So I am looking at what I can repurpose at home before heading to the shops.
I have used old pump dispensers for my homemade hand wash, old tea tins to grow herbs on my window sill and I have a kitchen drawer full of old jam jars for storing vinaigrettes, stock and spice mixes (surely everyone has at least one kitchen drawer full of mismatched odds and sods?). If every container gets a second life, it’s impact is lessened.
Ban Bottled Water
Single use water bottles are a highly visible reminder of our plastic pollution problem. I have been keeping my thermos mug and tea bags in my car and trying to lose my natural British inhibition about asking for top ups or requesting tap rather than bottled water.
Last year, I realised that at least 50% of our household plastics waste was coming from carbonated water bottles, so I invested in a Soda Stream with a glass carafe. We now have plastic free fizz in the fridge at all times.
Look At The Labels
Hidden plastics pop up in the most surprising places and have been found in many unexpected household items. It may seem overwhelming, but I am trying to educate myself on the best plastic free goods on the market and make the switch where possible. Luckily Pukka tea bags are plastic free as I pretty much live on their Three Mint tea, but just by changing the brand of tea that you buy, you could be reducing your plastic consumption.
Plastic Free Periods
With the average woman throwing away more than 10,000 sanitary items over her lifetime and with sanitary towels containing more than 90% plastic; tampons and sanitary liners are a large contributor to ocean plastics pollution. There are alternatives on the market, from menstrual cups to absorbent underwear and reusable tampon applicators.
Subscribe and Save
Zero waste shopping requires a little more planning than just popping in to your nearest supermarket for the weekly shop, so I am looking at subscription services that deliver regular items to our door. We already use our local milkman for milk in glass bottles, Riverford for vegetables and I have just signed up to Who Gives A Crap for a regular delivery of plastic free, recycled toilet paper (and they donate 50% of their profits to build toilets in the developing world too).
Build A Plastic Free Community
Since I have tried to reduce my plastic waste, it has really hit home that this is an ongoing journey not an immediate change. I am building myself a network for advice, encouragement and inspiration, so I don’t lose momentum.
If you have any great recommendations for people to follow on social for plastic free inspiration or you have a great tip to reduce your plastic consumption, I’d love to hear them and of course, you can follow the No Plastic Shop on Instagram and say hello there.
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