A couple of years ago, I started to reduce the amount of plastic I buy and use.
I was particularly interested in single-use plastic, such as bottled water, plastic bags, disposable coffee cups, etc – and so I tackled these things first. Last year, I started to make my own toothpaste and some of my household cleaning products so that I didn’t have to buy them in plastic. And, at the beginning of this year, I decided to make a conscious effort to live totally ‘plastic free’.
Part of what prompted my decision was this video with Jeff Bridges:
I wanted to stop being part of the problem, and to try to encourage other people to do the same.
During the weeks leading up to Easter, I put a plastic-free ‘Tip of the Day’ on my personal Facebook page – just in case anyone was interested in making some of the changes themselves. It turned out that almost everyone I knew was interested! I was getting lots of great feedback and questions, and so decided to write this article to tell you all about ‘Plastic Free July.’
‘Plastic Free July’ is an event by Earth Carers that encourages people to take the first steps on a plastic-free journey by trying the lifestyle for a month. If you sign up on their website, you will receive a welcome email, then weekly emails to help you keep on track.
What I have learned on my journey so far is that it is practically impossible to live plastic-free in this modern world. Without legislation to restrict plastic packaging, disposables, etc, it is very difficult to eliminate all plastics from our life.
Here are just a few of the things that I have changed so far:
· I always take a bag to the shop (setting myself up there for being seen around town without one!).
· I use a ‘kleen kanteen’, and never buy drinks in plastic bottles.
· I try to remember to ask for ‘no straw’ when ordering drinks in restaurants.
· I carry a bamboo ‘spork’, and never use plastic cutlery
· I carry reusable ‘produce bags or use paper bags ’ for buying things ‘loose’
· I take a glass jar to buy olives and other deli items
· I make my own toothpaste – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzFuXFOqQBY
· I no longer buy or use commercial anti-perspirant/deodorant
· I changed from hair gel, to a hair putty that comes in a tin that can be re-used
· I have changed my skin care products completely to ‘plastic-free’ brands
· I use a safety razor instead of disposable plastic ones
· I buy toilet rolls that come wrapped in paper
· I make my own spray cleaner from white vinegar, water and essential oils (or lemon skins)
· I use baking soda for tougher cleaning jobs instead of commercial abrasive cleaners
· I don’t use laundry detergent – I use https://www.ecoegg.com/product/laundry-egg/
· I don’t generally buy synthetic clothes as these shed plastic micro-fibres in the wash
There are things that I have given up altogether, like crisps. I LOVE Walkers plain crisps, but I haven’t bought any since the beginning of this year. These types of snack packets can contain up to seven layers of foil and plastic, making them impossible to recycle. I’ve given up teabags (most of which contain plastic) and changed to loose tea. But I have also compromised on some things – soya milk cartons for example. I still have soya milk in cartons, but wash and save them to Loscoe for recycling as they are not collected at the kerbside in Amber Valley.
I don’t live ‘plastic-free’. I fail every day. But I do notice plastic around me more and avoid it wherever possible. I haven’t thrown all the plastic I had away, but I don’t buy it any more. Once you start thinking about it, you’ll find it impossible to stop – I hardly ever go into a ‘normal’ supermarket any more as there is very little I want to buy in there.
Before I end, I’ll leave you with a few personal recommendations for suppliers. Locally, Natural Provender on Campbell Street get the whole ‘zero-waste’ thing and are perfectly happy to sell you olives in your own jar, fresh bread, and they have paper bags for loose produce – oh, and their coffee is delicious! George’s Chips come in cardboard boxes, and they are happy to use your own jar for mushy peas J Birds bakers are happy to sell loose loaves in your own bag (a clean pillowcase will do for this) – as will Fresh Basil.
http://www.boobalou.co.uk/ is a great web site for all things ‘plastic-free’ and they give you the option of plastic-free packaging and using recycled boxes to receive your order.
I could go on and on, as those of you who know me well can confirm; however, I’ll stop there. I do a talk called ‘My Journey to a Plastic-Free Life’, where I talk more about my journey and bring along some of the things that I use now in place of plastic. If you’d like me to come to talk to your group or organisation, do get in touch.
I’m not new on my journey to a ‘plastic-free’ life, but have signed up for Plastic Free July to keep me on track and to get any useful hints and tips – why not give it a try?
By Sue MacFarlane