Resolution #1 in 2018
Plastic-Free? Really… The idealist in me would love to say YES. But the realist in me knows that as it stands right now, there is no such thing as a ‘plastic-free’ lifestyle because we are literally swimming in the stuff… but what about beginning with a ‘low plastic lifestyle?’ Now as I’ve said before, I’m no angel here! I too have fallen into the plastic trap many a time but I’m still exploring, learning and actively trying to find ways to reduce my personal consumption. One thing for sure is that I’m a woman on a mission this year! Bit by bit, I’ll be trying to phase out my plastic use and urge you to join me on the journey. These tips are based on my experience so far.
1st.. A Few Worldly Words o’Wisdom
LESS is MORE
Simply put: we need to learn to live more simply! Loose our attachment to stuff. Buy less crap, especially of the plastic sort! Cluttered house cluttered mind & all that 😉 The Buddhist notion of minimalist living doesn’t just introduce a bit of ‘Zen’ into our lives, it also solves our waste problem. Mountains of toys, gadgets, cosmetics, clothes… how much do we really need it? This is especially relevant post-Christmas which might I add has become a plastic atrocity rather than the spiritual day it was intended to be. We’ve all fallen into the consumerist trap but be strong and say NO MORE to plastic tat!
Re-use as many times as poss and then re-cycle! We can’t simply throw everything plastic away – out of sight out of mind… because well how’s that really going to help when it will all still go straight to landfill, with all the same problems that entails. You may as well make good use what you already have if you can (re-use existing bottles/containers), otherwise dispose of it properly and finally be more mindful of what we buy in the future.
Create New Habits
If you’re anything like me, you will need to work hard to ingrain a new habit in your head! I’ve been using reusable shopping bags for years now. However it took me a loooong time to actually remember to bring them with me, wherever I go! No use having the best intent and buying something that just sits pretty in the cupboard. Be forgiving of yourself for a few lapses but try to be diligent with your newfound plastic-free commitment. Don’t slope back into comfortable familiar routines just because it’s easier.. bit like those toxic relationships I mentioned 😉 Practice = Perfect.
All About the Prep
Leading on from habits, preparation is key to making habits stick. Buy the plastic-replacements in advance, so that when you finish off the last of your plastic products, you have the replacement at the ready. Make shopping for your newfound plastic-free alternatives a routine. Gradually phase out plastic purchases in favour of truly biodegradable enviro-friendly materials. It also helps to get used to carrying your plastic savers with you – cutlery, coffee cups, water bottle…
Lastly, we can get involved incommunity incentives, lobbying – write to supermarkets or any other industries notorious for producing lots of waste. Or contact your local councils and MP’s in regards to improving the management of plastic waste. There are already a few current campaigns in the running which are making waves (such as one to improve access to filtered water in public areas, installing water fountains with the potential to save millions of plastic water bottles)
So… above you have a few of the worst offenders & below I’ll share some green-er tips on how to reduce your personal plastic footprint, as well as provide some links to handy websites, which should prove useful in your ‘Low Plastic’ journey.
As usual mother nature has all the answers. What we need is already here. We need to find non-toxic, biodegradable, self-sustainable alternatives… and this is where PLANTS come into it, especially ones that grow really fast, without the need for toxic pesticides… Hemp, Bamboo, Coconut Fibres, Banana Leaves… I’m referring to you 🙂 There are likely many more better alternatives already in nature.
In Jamaica, there is a tree nut called Calabash, which many of the local Rastafarians still use to make household items such as lamp shades and kitchen bowls. Beautifully hand crafted, functional, durable, totally biodegradable of course – being from nature! I met two little Rasta kids who took great pride in showing me all their Calabash household items, from lampshades to bowls. And because it’s just a natural by-product of trees, year after year there is a ready supply without having to destroy anything. OK not all of us have Calabash trees in our back yards but it gives us a good idea of the meaning ‘sustainable living’. Using what nature already provides and taking what we need without destroying the environment in the process.
There are more and more products made from plant fibres on the market now – anything from fashion accessories to cutlery to coffee cups. Do a bit of digging and you’ll find loads, the website links I’ve listed at the end have a few recommendations for such products.
- Light on the Packaging: Get to your local market stall! Look for produce that does not have extra plastic packaging – such as loose fruit/veg. Even better seek out shops who specialize in bulk bins for produce or refill stations for laundry liquid etc… Check out the links below for more info.
- Fresh Food: the more food you make from scratch, the less likely you are to rely on packaged foods – the less waste you will create. This will also protect you from some of the the plastic toxins found in plastic-packed foods.
- Bulk Up: Shop in Bulk that is….this will save mounds of plastic/paper waste over the year. Whether it’s cleaning products, cosmetics, kitchen staples – shopping in bulk will also save you mooola £££
- Plastic-Free Storage Options: Look for alternative storage options rather than the standard Tupperware and cling wrap. There are many! Glass Tupperware, wood storage bins, ceramic jars, glass/stainless steel or bamboo lunch boxes are just the start. Don’t forget good old mason jars or simple jam jars! Hessian bags can be used to store produce, cloth bags for cheese/ham etc.. Reusable waxed cotton is also available as a cling wrap alternative.
- Kitchen Utensils: Try to purchase metal/wood/glass/ceramic kitchenware over plastic/silicone accessories. Natural scrubbers and kitchen cloths are also available – cotton, bamboo anything but plastic/rubber
1 Step Further – Entire Zero Waste Shops!
The shops below have gone 1 step further… where the entire shop is a no-packaging zone. Going full circle – back to old school ways 🙂 no excess packaging, buy what you need. Simple idea and hardly a new concept, but it could revolutionise how we shop. We so need more of these around the world and not just in the hippy corners of London and Devon! Anyway, check them out for yourselves and see what you think:
- Zero Waste in Totnes, Devon http://thezerowasteshop.co.uk/ Apparently the UK’s 1st zero waste shop… inspiration
- Bulk Market, London https://www.bulkmarket.uk/ & now one in London!
- Unpackaged https://www.beunpackaged.com/ is a similar concept to the above, now has a section inside one of the London ‘Planet Organic; stores.
- These 2 articles sum up the experience of waste-free shops nicely: http://sourced.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2017/09/13/this-is-what-its-like-to-shop-in-a-zero-waste-store/ and http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/bulk-makert-recycling-zero-waste-first-plastic-free-market-london-hackney-a7924781.html
- Laundry: For Washing Clothes look for washing pellets/soap flakes, refill stations (Ecover offer this service in some health food stores) or even soapnuts. The latter are the covering of a Himalayan berry which is rich in saponins. These saponins form a soapy lather and clean your clothes whilst being totally biodegradable! Yes they do work – plant power. It’s a win win. You can buy large bags of these. Those who live off-grid swear by them for their low toxicity. Can’t find soapnuts? Look for Refill Stations to stock up on your detergents and household cleaning products (for example Ecover refill stations are available in some health food stores: https://www.ecover.com) or try out soapnuts for an alternative to traditional laundry liquid, like this range from UK based Soapnut Apothecary, Living Naturally https://www.soapnuts.co.uk/
- Fashion: I won’t go into this in detail in this post, but there are many eco-fashion outlets available, such as those that use post-consumer plastic in their designs or commit to using only biodegradable, enviro-friendly materials (such as bamboo or hemp).
- Cleaning Products: White vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, essential oils – these all make light work of cleaning and even better these can be purchased in bulk.
Now to the Bathroom: Cosmetic Inspiration
A few months back I stumbled upon this stunning streetart mural by JADE in the artsy Barranco district, Lima. It is said to represent love in the community 🙂 I’ve used this here as a symbol for deeper beauty. Our quest for skindeep beauty shouldn’t cost the earth. If we love our planet and our fellow inhabitants of this planet, then we need to rethink the choices we make.
Now the bathroom is a good place to start, so go on a cosmetics overhaul! Scale down your beauty routine and get stuck into DIY skincare. Ladies (& ye metrosexual gents!) our love of beauty is a big contributor to the plastic pollution. Think of all the ridiculous amounts of plastic packaging we get through all in the name of beauty. Yes, even those ‘Organic, Eco-friendly’ products come (more often than not) packaged in plastic. Really, it’s all just marketing BS – we don’t need to by countless bottles of toner, cleanser and such. It’s a total waste of plastic and £££.
Making your own natural skincare/cleaning products makes all the difference and it’s an effort worth making, for switching to home made products doesn’t just save plastic, it is also far less toxic to both your body and the environment. I personally try to make all my own body butters, face oils, clay masks and more. Easy! Plus many of the ingredients you use here can be used to make your own household cleaning products or in the kitchen. Gotta love multi-use ingredients.
I’ve previously done an introductory blog on Homemade Natural Beauty – you can take a look here: http://pineapplesage.co.uk/?p=581 Of course you can’t make everything all the time, so in that case shop for brands that are packaging-savvy. The resources listed on my website and the links at the end of this blog should also give you some ideas. It’s all about streamlining.
For soaps/shampoos, try out for solid soap bars and shampoo bars and cosmetics without plastic packaging – Dr Bronner’s Castille soap is a good option. Being totally biodegradable it is also one of the few soaps recommended for travelling to natural parks/reserves. As I mentioned under ‘Laundry’ I also recently discovered this amazing range, made right here in the UK from soapnuts (a berry shell from India which produces a soapy lather thanks to the natural saponins it contains). I particularly like their soapnut shampoo bar, check them out here:
Living Naturally: https://www.soapnuts.co.uk/products/ayurvedic-soapnut-shampoo-bar-90g
Hand cream/Body Lotion Bars – these are made from cocoa butter and are stored in a tin/cloth rather than a plastic bottle. You can then use this tin after to make your own, easy work.
Biodegradable Razors! Stop using disposable razors… if you can’t find the biodegradable ones, at least just stick to using those with replaceable razors/razor heads – whilst this does not cut out plastic it will reduce it.
Paper Cotton Buds. Follow the lead of Scotland and France… ban plastic cotton buds in your house! Sustainable paper ones are readily available. If only the English Government followed suit by completely banning them too.
Biodegradable Dental Floss in a non-plastic case. There are some good biodegradable alternatives, I like this dental range by the UK based Georganics: https://georganics.co.uk
Opt for Natural Cloth or Sea Sponges over plastic scrubbers/sponges. Also avoid body scrubs with Micro-beads (though thankfully due to campaigning they will eventually be phased out of our cosmetics).
One for the Girls
Ladies lastly… Look into using a Mooncup/Organicup or at least stop using tampons with plastic applicators… Look for biodegradable sanitary pads or even better, reusable pads. Also consider these from Shethnix: https://www.shethinx.com – moisture wicking underwear as an alternative to throwaway pads. Before you judge – read about the technology here! I’m a convert. Yes these ideas do take some time to get used to… as does using cloth nappies over disposable for babies. But a huge cause of plastic pollution comes from these throwaway personal care items and it’s the elephant in the room that no woman wants to acknowledge. This age of convenience has created a mass problem and these are pretty good solutions!
I personally know how much waste you can collect on your travels. This is where I struggle, being away from home. It can take some sweet time to get into the habit of remembering to take alternatives with you wherever you go – just as was the case with reusable shopping bags. But soon it becomes 2nd nature. If you keep a few staples in your bag/car at all times then you’ll be less likely to be caught out on the go. Ever heard of the phrase ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ when referring to a woman’s handbag?! Nowt wrong with being prepared…
When dining out, avoid the throwaway plastic cutlery on offer (carry your own when you are on-the-go. There are many reusable lightweight versions on the market – made from biodegradable sources.) Don’t worry about being the weirdo who carries cutlery in their handbag – I’m with you there!
Re-useable Dishes. Remember those single-use plastic picnic plates of our youth? Well sadly they are still hanging about – best invest in a good picnic set which you can use for life & it goes without saying… don’t use straws or at least invest in some reusable options (there are some stainless steel versions around). Still want disposable picnic plates/bowls/cups for occasional convenience? Well worry not there are some innovative brands out there using all manner of biodegradable ingredients such as Sugarcane, Bamboo, Corn (the aptly named Cornwear https://cornware.co.uk) or Palm Leaves at the Whole Leaf Co. (www.thewholeleafco.com) or just a good mix of multiple plants and recycled paper with Vegaware (https://www.vegware.com/about/info_1.html) Many of these have become popular at some of the big music festivals, especially Glastonbury or Green Man – a nod to the hippies at heart!
Reusable Water /Drink bottles
Because single use plastic bottles are the official #1 environment foe… if you only do 1 thing this year… please buy yourself a reusable plastic water bottle and coffee cup and actually USE them. Here are a few good options around in 2018:
- The Brita Water Filter Bottle: Perfect if you want the added benefit of filtering out some of the nasties lurking in water from heavy metals to pharmaceutical residues… Admittedly the bottle is plastic but it is BPA free and it will keep for a long time, still preferable to single use water bottles. Until we have more filtered water fountains about, these are a good option.
- Bobble Water Filter Bottles: similar to the above but also made from recycled plastic (as well as being BPA-free)
- Empo Fruit Infuser Water Bottle: Another plastic bottle but again BPA-free and durable. Clever design addition – an infuser basket in the middle so that you can add your own natural flavourings such as cucumber slices or citrus peel.
- Swell Stainless Steel Bottle: very pretty if that motivates you and works both as Thermos and cooler. There are also slightly cheaper brands which are similar but cheaper.
- BKR Glass Water Bottle. Yes it comes in a silicon sleeve for grip and protection, however it will last years – much less wasteful than buying a bottle of water each time.
If you do opt for a plastic reusable bottle, just make sure it’s certified free of nasties such as BPA’s.
& My Coffee Cup Picks
It’s not our coffee addiction that is so much a problem, rather our addiction to disposable cups on the go. Check these out instead:
- Joco Reusable Glass Coffee Mugs with silicone sleeve. Yes it has silicone lids but this is something you will use for years and it is still preferable to single use coffee cups.
- Ecoffee cups (as pictured) – made from bamboo fibres. You can get these on Amazon and several online health retailers. Bamboo has antibacterial properties, lasts for a couple years and is both sustainable and biodegradable. A winner. Look nice too.
- Cambridge Coffee Aroma Eco Travel Mug – also made from bamboo.
- Thermos Flasks: lets not forget our old favourite.. the classic Thermos does a good coffee cup option.
- The Rice Way Travel Mug – made from rice! (or rather the husks of rice grains)
If you have to keep wipes go for 100% Biodegradable Baby Wipes. Stop using regular baby wipes/hand wipes/toilet wipes/feminine wipes! They do not break down. In fact – they are such a problem that those grotesque ‘fatbergs’ found in the London sewers are clogged up with mountains of these wipes, along with female sanitary products and nappies. YUK.
Stop using those convenient little shampoo/conditioner/shower gel bottles/shower caps in hotels. I had to stop myself collecting them (we all love them – I could never resist a freebie) but they are a massive waste of plastic! Luckily some hotel chains are now scaling back and opting for shampoo/soap dispensers. Bring your own bar of soap and refill shampoo/conditioner/cosmetic minis with you. Again it all comes down to being prepared – an art which I’ve slowly been learning!
Want to Find Out more?
Sky Ocean Rescue: https://skyoceanrescue.com/ about plastic waste – campaign to reduce
Surfriders Europe: https://www.surfrider.eu/en/ Surfriders is a not for profit organization originally founded by a group of (you guessed it..) surfers. It is actively involved in high profile campaigns to protect our oceans, such as the recent success in France, where pressure on the government resulted in banning plastic stemmed cotton buds.
Less Plastic UK: https://lessplastic.co.uk/ Ideas to reduce plastic both at home and in the community
Recycling.com: http://www.recycling.com/zero-waste-store/ Recycling.com have some great tips and check out their store for ideas – from beauty to home.
My Plastic-Free Life: https://myplasticfreelife.com Good blog on the subject!
Cheers Folks to a Low Plastic 2018