I have talked previously about why single-use plastic is so damaging to our environment, oceans and wildlife. Recycling is great but reducing and reusing is much more important in tackling our global plastic pollution problem. Please see this post for a more detailed discussion of this topic.
This year I took part in Plastic Free July for the first time. I was already pretty conscious of my plastic consumption after watching A Plastic Ocean earlier in the year (highly recommend!), but wanted to see if I could manage a whole month without any plastic. It started off really well, and my determination allowed me to say no to anything packaged in plastic. I found out where my nearest zero waste store was and became a regular customer. As the month went on, I did find my enthusiasm waning, and eventually gave in to a few items packaged in plastic (which I couldn’t find alternatives for). That said, I think I did pretty well overall. Here is a picture of all the plastic waste I produced in July.
I will definitely be implementing the changes I made in the month of July permanently, and will keep exploring alternatives for the things I want to continue buying but where there are no zero waste options right now.
The biggest lesson I learnt by taking part was to be more confident when making my zero waste requests, like asking for food in my own jars/tupperware or for no straw. I used to feel like a bit of an inconvenience, and that people thought, "Here we go, another eco-warrior who thinks they are making a difference but really they’re not". However, the vast majority of people were more than happy to, for example, put olives in my jar instead of a single-use plastic box, or give me my loaf of bread without a plastic bag wrapped round it. In fact, it seemed like most people understood exactly why I didn't want the plastic. Particularly at food markets, where they immediately hand you a plastic bag, they were unfazed when I said "no thanks".
My favourite plastic free find from the month was toothpaste tabs - what a great alternative to endless tubes of toothpaste! Lush has a range of these or you can get them at most zero waste stores or order them online.
Based on my Plastic Free July experience, I have put together six first steps to going plastic free. Ultimately it's all about being more aware and any small changes you can make to reducing your plastic consumption will go a long way!
Start with the easy switches
There are some everyday items which can be pretty easily switched to reusables, as there are great alternatives already widely available. This includes: a reusable coffee cup, a reusable water bottle and a bamboo toothbrush. Here are my favourite picks for each of these (click for link!):
Say no to all plastic bags
One of the first steps to going plastic waste is to stop using plastic bags altogether. They are one of the easiest things to ditch and stick to, as most supermarkets around the world have either banned them or charge you for them. Invest in a few foldable shopping bags or canvas bags and keep one in each of your handbags/backpacks. This applies to high-street shopping too!
Avoid pre-packaged fruit & veggies
Most supermarkets will give you the option of buying prepackaged produce or loose produce. It’s as simple as saying no to packaging. Packaging is completely unnecessary and you’ll often find buying loose fruit and veg ends up being cheaper. If you like putting your items into plastic bags, then think about investing in some reusable produce bags. Even better, why not check out where your nearest farmers market is and buy your produce there? Then you are guaranteed to avoid plastic packaging and you'll also be supporting your local farmers - win, win!
Soap bars are your friend
One of the best ways to avoid plastic in the bathroom is to switch to soap bars. Start with buying a bar of organic soap next time you run out of body wash, and then explore shampoo bars. Lush has a great range of shampoo and conditioner bars. If you really can’t live without liquid shampoo, you can buy this at most zero waste stores and just BYO bottle, or Lush does have a recycling scheme for their plastic bottles.
I don't know about you but I love being creative and making things. I needed a new moisturiser during the month of July, so I decided to make my own. I used the Trash is for Tossers recipe and made some amazing body butter. I'll admit that the two main ingredients (organic cocoa butter and shea butter) were expensive, but I should be able to make about four or five batches of moisturiser - which makes it not that more expensive than store-bought moisturiser. Plus, it's great to know exactly what I'm putting on my skin!
Don't get disheartened
Plastic has infiltrated almost every aspect of our modern day lives and it's not always easy to find plastic free alternatives to the things you like. There are some items which are particularly difficult to find, for example, I found plant based milk or yogurt challenging. I eventually gave in and bought a tub of Alpro (it's not finished yet which is why it's not pictured above!). You don't have to be perfect and I think it's ok to allow yourself to buy these things, as long as you recycle them in the end. One tip would be to buy in these sort of items in bulk where you can and avoid small tubs/cartons.
Ready to take the plunge into plastic free living? Ok, it may still seem pretty daunting. Start with just one thing from this list and then take it from there. You'll find it's incredibly rewarding to have less plastic in your life, and the small, plastic free wins are so satisfying.
Questions? Get in touch and I'll be happy to help :)