It’s fairly old news that the world is drowning in plastic, there is no better time than now to make small, medium and even some massive changes to assist in protecting the future of our planet. 🌍
📝 Note: Some of the following suggestions may be a little tricky with COVID-19 restrictions (such as taking your own containers into supermarkets) so just do your best. This article from Wired shows that people seem to be forgetting that the wider world exists, disposable gloves and masks being thrown away in the street is not helping the fight against plastic. Choose reusable where possible or at least dispose of them correctly.
How to do it
First things first, keep the 5 R’s at the front of your mind… Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Re-purpose, Recycle.
Refuse single use plastic – say no to the plastic bag at the checkout, say no to the plastic straw in your drink, say no to the excessive packaging on your fruit and veg – most of which come in their own ready made packaging anyway!
Reduce what you buy. Make sure you actually NEED something before you buy it. Can you make do with what you already have?
Reuse what you already have. I reuse any plastic bags/containers sooo many times… Plastic takeaway containers can be reused for packed lunches, as freezer containers and even as plant pots! If you really don’t feel like you can reuse plastic items – take them to a secondhand shop or donate to someone that can reuse them so they don’t end up in landfill.
Do beware of reusing plastic bags as bin liners though as they too would end up in landfill, have a look here for plastic free bin liner alternatives–>
Can you use something you already have instead of buying new? Perhaps you can have a rummage in a charity shop for those new clothes (some of my favourite purchases have been secondhand). Or maybe you can get a bit crafty (also a good hobby) and turn something you have into something you want. Jeans to shorts? Dress to cushion cover?
Have you had any crafting successes?
If the previous 4 R’s don’t work out – Recycle. Just remember to recycle correctly, here’s a guide to recycling symbols. Also, remember to buy recycled products where you can.
Ideas for using less plastic/going plastic free
First up – probably one of the most important points… Don’t buy plastic free for the sake of it. I know it’s tempting to have a big old clear out and create the perfect Insta-worthy plastic free home, but that kind of defeats the point as it would involve throwing away lots of perfectly reusable plastic items, sending them straight to landfill instead of them being used, reused or repurposed into something else. Use what you have first and when the time comes to have to think about replacements, THEN choose a more environmentally friendly option.
The following is by no means an exhaustive list, please feel free to comment and let me know some ways you have reduced your plastic use
- Shopping bags
With many supermarkets now charging for carrier bags, it’s easier than even to refuse them. Carry your own reusable bags (I have some fabulous ones from Nanobag, they fold up teeny tiny so can be popped into your pocket and they can carry up to a whopping 30kg! For extra environmental kudos – the company plants a mangrove tree for every bag sold! They come in some funky designs too – I absolutely LOVE mine!
- Water bottles
Having a reusable water bottle is probably one of the simplest, most impactful changes you could make. Here are just a few sorry facts about water bottles; they can take over 700 years to break down, 80% of plastic bottles never get recycled, it takes 3 litres of water to package 1 bottle of water. (source:https://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/Bottled_Water_Waste_Facts)
Chilly’s* and Manna* are particular favourites of mine, I have one of each and have never had issues with them leaking and they have both kept my water cold and green tea hot!
- Safety razors
Disposable razors are really difficult to dispose of in an environmentally friendly way. Why not give safety razors a try – it is more expensive initially but you more than break even in the long run because you keep the bulk part of the razor and just replace the blade (which can be bought in bulk, cardboard packaging for super cheap! – we use these Astra* ones)
Try and reuse/re-purpose/buy second hand where possible but if you do need to buy new, look out for more sustainable brands. A personal favourite is Bamboo Clothing – their socks in particular are super soft.
Fitness clothing is a tricky one – you tend to have to choose between moisture wicking fabrics and more environmentally friendly ones, although there are more and more brands on the market that offer fitness clothing that has been made in a more environmentally conscious way.
Have you come across any sustainable clothing brands – let me know in the comments below – It’s always good to get recommendations for the company’s that are doing good.
- Salt deodorant
The amount of packaging and chemicals in deodorants is ridiculous! Seriously, how long does a standard roll on deodorant last? A month? Two? Why not give a salt deodorant a try? I personally use this Ice Guard* deodorant and have been for the last 2 years! It will probably last me at least another 3. Yes it comes in a plastic packaging like other roll on’s but potentially 5 years of use, maybe more from the one product! All you have to do is run it under water and apply – or apply straight out of the shower when your armpits are still wet! It doesn’t leave you sticky, it doesn’t stain your clothes and it’s not full of nasty chemicals.
Bamboo toothbrushes such as these from Bamboogaloo* are a great alternative to the regular toothbrush. They can be used as usual and composted when you’ve finished. Please note, with some brands, the bristles may still be plastic so cut them out before composting. I use old toothbrushes to clean with to give them a second life before using them as plant labels before thinking about composting them!!
- Shampoo and conditioner bars
My first point on this matter is – do you really need to wash hair every day? As a gym goer – I used to wash my hair at least daily – sometimes twice depending on the day…until recently when I actually managed to go a WHOLE MONTH without washing my hair (one benefit to come out of lockdown), ok so my hair didn’t exactly look glamorous but it wasn’t too bad, after the initial 4 days, it seemed to get better and better, I just rinsed the day out of my hair with each shower and honestly, I think the condition of my hair is much better because of it, I now wash my hair every 4 days or so but rinse it daily. Anyway, however often you wash your hair, it’s worth thinking about the products you use.
My second point on this matter is – use what you have! Please don’t just go out any buy shampoo bars because it seems like a fun thing to do, use up the last scraps of whatever you have first – make sure you get a bit of water in the bottles and shake it up to get the last drops out (they cannot be recycled with any left in there anyway).
Ok, onto the bars – shampoo and conditioner bars are great, my favourites are from Friendly soap, they have different fragrances and also sell natural facial and body soaps.
You do need to make sure the water hardness is appropriate to get enough of a lather though. Friendly Soap have a great guide to water hardness and the impact on your shampoo bar.
- Soap bars
WASH YOUR HANDS! Switch from your liquid soap and pump to a soap bar to reduce plastic – just make sure you use up your old stuff first! If you must use liquid soap, use a container that can be refilled and purchase in bulk.
- Tea bags
Sadly, many tea bags contain plastic. Try loose leaf tea or pick the brands that are plastic free. Some of the plastic free brands that I am aware of are: Clipper, Pukka, Teapigs, and Twinings (the pyramid bags). I know there are others too.
- Eco cleaning fluids
Buy in bulk and buy eco-friendly brands such as Ecover and Method. Or perhaps you fancy trying to make your own? It’s quite amazing what a bit of baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice can do! Let me know if you’ve got any cleaning solution recipes for me to try!
- Wet wipes
My thoughts on this: don’t use (I don’t think there’s much use for wet wipes, use a flannel and wash it instead. If you do have to use them… DON’T FLUSH, even the “flushable” ones, just DON’T! Waterwipes are an eco-conscious brand and I would choose these if I had to use wet wipes at all as they ARE 99.9% water and contain far fewer nasties than a lot of other brands BUT THEY ARE STILL NOT FLUSHABLE (they are working on a biodegradable product at the moment).
And those little hand wipe things they sometimes give you in restaurants? Avoid them – give them back so they reuse them rather than just sweeping them up and putting them in the bin with other rubbish.
A baby needs around 3000 nappy changes in the first year of life! And each disposable nappy takes at least 200 years to decompose. Just think about that for a second… According to Philips-Digital, in the UK, eight million disposable nappies end up in landfill each year.
I think that is reason enough to try reusable, even if it’s just for some of the time! I am not parent but I have heard many good things about reusable nappies, and there are lots of options*.
Mum’s and dad’s out there – let us know in a comment below if you’ve used them and what you think – feel free so share some horror stories too if you have them! 👶💩
- Sun cream
Sun safety is something we all need to be aware of. Wearing sunscreen can be at times unavoidable so it’s wise to choose one that is both good for you and not detrimental to the planet. Even if you are not near the ocean, having a shower after wearing sunscreen washes remnants down the drain which eventually leads to the ocean. Stream2sea offer a sustainable option that is “reef safe”.
- Washing up liquid
Buy large tubs of Washing up liquid (we have 5L containers of washing up liquid and eco cleaning fluid) – refill at bulk stores where possible.
- Eco eggs
Instead of washing liquid, or powder, why not try an Ecoegg*? It uses pellets that wash your clothes just as well but without all the waste, or harmful chemicals.
- Take your own tubs to supermarkets
Take your own Tupperware to the supermarket with you and ask at the counters for them to put your meat/fish/cheese etc in there instead of the multiple layers of plastic and polystyrene that seems to come as standard. Some supermarkets have been encouraging it for a while.
- Don’t use the plastic bags in supermarkets for fruit etc
You can weigh the fruit/veg loose or use a reusable canvas or mesh produce bags
- Take your rubbish with you
I shouldn’t really feel the need to say this given that we are in the year 2020 but if you go for a picnic – take your rubbish with you! Pack in reusable packaging and leave no trace! There have been so many news stories of late where fields and campsites have been left in an absolute mess because people cannot be bothered to clean up after themselves! 😡
- No to the plastic straw
Some people need straws for various reasons and that’s fine but the majority of us don’t. There is certainly no need to use single use plastic straws. There are so many alternatives available now, from pasta straws to silicon, from bamboo to stainless steel. If you want a straw, buy some reusable ones and carry them with you.
- No to plastic cutlery
This is a particular bugbear of mine – even if you select the no cutlery option on takeaways you seem to get given enough for 50 people to eat with. Try your best to inform the restaurant why you don’t want them and hand them straight back to the delivery person. If you’re in a restaurant that gives them, hand back any you will not use or better still, have your own reusable cutlery set*, chopsticks* or spork*.
- Plastic free periods
Menstruation is something most women cannot avoid but there are many options for having a plastic free or more environmentally conscious period.
Menstrual cups – My top choice. They take a bit of getting used to at first but I wouldn’t go back to using tampons now. For hygiene reasons, make sure you have 2 so you can thoroughly clean one while still using the other. There are many brands available now, I personally have one from Organicup and one Mooncup – I don’t have a preference.
Tampons – use non-applicator if possible and try and find plastic-free brands. Similarly to the wet wipes – DON’T FLUSH TAMPONS!
Pads – Try reusable pads rather then single-use. They will need washing and may not be quite as practical when you’re out and about but remember, reducing your plastic use is better than nothing at all. This is not a case of all or nothing, every little helps.
Period pants – Instead of the reusable pad, why not try the whole pant? There are many brands such as Modibody**and Thinx** that I’ve only heard good things about.
- Lunch boxes
Use lunch boxes or beeswax wraps rather than clingfilm or tinfoil/aluminium foil (the latter never biodegrades!)
- Coffee cups
There are so many options for these, to be honest, I don’t really understand why single use ones still exist! Especially IN coffee shops – please guys, do not accept coffee in a single use cup of you’re sitting inside the shop to drink it… If they don’t have cups or the washing up space (!), put your money back in your pocket and go elsewhere!
- Bulk buy
Buy in bulk where you can, this will not only reduce the amount of plastic but will likely also save you money! Re-use and refill containers and re-use glass jars (from jams, sauces etc) to store your herbs/spices.
- Milk bottles
It seems gone are the days of the milkman – I remember our milkman fondly from growing up, sadly they don’t seem to exist as much any more (although companies like Milk and More do still deliver glass bottles to your door most mornings). If the milkman is not an option for you, try buying in bulk – a larger bottle will use less plastic overall than several smaller ones but beware of waste (you can freeze milk however!)
Another option may be to make your own non-dairy milk (unless you have access to a cow or goat then please produce your own dairy milk too!). Rice, Oat and nut milks are relatively simple, if a little time consuming to make at home, have a search on the internet and give a few versions a try to find one that you like best. (I am fond of a home-made almond milk – Buying almonds in bulk makes it much cheaper than buying pre-packaged almond milk from the supermarket and you can get a personalised taste with a much better almond:water ratio too!)
For some excellent ideas of planning your Plastic Free July have a look at
the original Plastic Free July website: https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/
Extra things for the planet
Apart from the environmental effects, reducing your plastic usage can have huge benefits on your health. Plastics can disrupt your hormones which can lead to all sorts of illness and disease.
Reducing plastics can also be a fantastic way of money saving! Think of all the plastic bottles and packaging that you get on a regular basis. If you have drinkable tap water…drink it.
Here are a few extra ideas you can use to do your little bit for the planet…
- Food storage – Food waste is a huge issue, part of the excess is due to incorrect storage of produce and therefore things “going off” before you’ve used them up, Love Food hate Waste is a fantastic initiative and they have a fantastic resource to help you out with correct food storage.
- Go plogging – either with an organised group or set up your own – combining jogging with litter picking. When you’re out and about – take a bag with you and some gloves and pick up any little that you spot on your route. Just be careful with picking up certain objects such as glass and DO NOT pick up needles or other dangerous objects – report any sightings of these things appropriately.
- Help out with a beach clean – beaches can be covered in litter from people picnicking and not clearing up and from things getting washed up – if you see something – try your best to clean it up. So what if people look at you strangely, if you explain what you are doing and why, they may even help out.
- Wash at 30 degrees, lowering the temperature – microfibres leach through washing machine and get deposited into the oceans. Not only does washing at a lower temperature reduce your electricity bills, it helps the environment too – a lot of the energy used in a washing machine is to heat up the water. Also with washing – make sure you wash a full load and use the eco setting when you can.
- Don’t tumble dry – if you can, utilise nice weather, or use clothes driers before resorting to a tumble drier. If you need to, try tumble drier balls to reduce the time needed.
- Power down electric appliances at night as much as possible
Marine Conservation Society: https://www.mcsuk.org/campaigns/plastic-challenge-home
Remember – Every little change you make does make a difference so do your best and inspire others to do the same.
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