Once you see plastic you can’t un-see it. It’s crept into our everyday lives and taken over; we’re so dependent on it and we don’t even realise. It has slowly spread to envelop just about every aspect of our lives and so when the light bulb goes ‘ting’ and you want to stop using so much, the challenge really begins.
There are things that you can do to reduce the amount that you use though. It’s essentially reverting back to the good old days. This does mean though that you have to change up your habits – it’s essentially adopting a new lifestyle. It means you will have to change the way you shop, the way you cook (maybe) and the way you clean. I’ve personally not broached the topic of clothes yet as I am terrified of the outcome but I know that will have to come sooner or later…
What can you switch up to reduce your plastic intake?
1. Drink me: water bottles
This was a major one for us… While we were living in Peterborough where the water doesn’t taste very nice we got into the habit of using bottled sparkling water. We’d go through a two litre bottle a day – you do that maths – that’s a lot of bottles in a year. Our recycling bins were bulging! We have plenty of reusable plastic bottles from cycling and running and so we’ve switched to using these. When these have run out I’ve got my eye on a nice stainless steel Klean Kanteen water bottle… I have a Kleen Kanteen insulated flask that lives by my side, which leads me on to…
2. Stop the waste: reusable coffee cups
We both have reusable coffee cups that usually come with us wherever we go. However, on the odd occasions that we do forget our cups we didn’t think twice about getting a takeaway cup from the service station. This has now stopped. If we forget our cups, we don’t get coffee. It’s that simple. Coffee is a luxury product anyway.
I’m planning on doing a round up of coffee cups so check in soon to see some options.
You may think that coffee cups are neither here nor there but they actually can’t be recycled. There’s a plastic lining in them that often stops them from being processed. Coffee cups are responsible for such a huge volume of rubbish that clogs up landfill, rivers and the ocean that it’s truly shocking. I promise you that it’s a much nicer experience drinking out of your own coffee cup – one that you love the look of and feel badass carrying around.
Check out my long term review of the Klean Kanteen insulated flask here – perfect for taking with you on a day out.
2.1. Make coffee at home
Find a deli or health food shop that sells loose coffee (or loose tea) and take your jar along to get it filled up. Rather than get a coffee on the go, why not make it at home using a cafetière or an espresso pot – either drink it at home before you go or take it in a flask with you. You’ll definitely save money if you do it this way. We’re a huge fan of coffee out of the cafetière on a morning before work and the espresso pot is a delight on a weekend morning. If you’re in the Hay-on-Wye area, I cannot recommend Hay Deli enough. The Columbian coffee on sale there is one of my favs (as seen in the photo below).
I also came across this BBC video of how the Italians drink their coffee and I thought it was definitely worth a share on here. When we went to Lake Como in northern Italy, both Tom and myself were struck by the wonderful coffee out there and started drinking from our espresso pot every morning afterwards. It was only for lack of routine and time that we ended up falling out of this habit, but it’s certainly something we may try starting up again. There’s something blissful about a having a morning routine (that involves coffee).
3. All the jars: storage
Rather than buying the food in plastic bags and storing them in it we’ve acquired some glass jars and now store our food in these. I’m happy about this because it looks lovely and you can see what you’ve got but there’s just one thing… we are yet to find somewhere that sells all of this lovely food in bulk to restock. It is going to mean changing up what we eat slightly but I don’t think that will be too bad. I don’t mind getting inventive with my cooking – it’s a bit of a challenge – and will hopefully mean we eat nice and healthy, too.
Initially though it was a good exercise to do because it made me get out everything that has been hiding in the back of my cupboards and now I can focus on actually using up that couscous that’s been sitting there since last summer and the quinoa and lentils that have been tucked away out of sight. While we focus on using them up another solution to restocking them might appear.
4. Ditch the sponge
This was one of the most simple swaps and one that we did straight away. Rather than using a disposable sponge that we would come to the end of its life within a week, we bought a weeks worth of cotton cloths. We use one for a couple of days and then bung it in the same hot wash as our hankies at the end of the week. I really thought I’d hate this one as it means food waste gets caught up in the cloth but if you make sure that you properly rinse it at the end of your washing up session then it’s absolutely fine. I tend to rinse my plates before I stick them on the side anyway as we don’t usually do the washing up straight away after we eat.
We also bought a couple of pot/veg brushes that are made out of food and plant fibre bristles, which have actually been really great for getting the bulk of the food remains off the pan or plate first.
5. Washing up
We have a bottle of Ecover washing up liquid, which does come in a plastic bottle. The plan here is to by a large 5l container to keep under the sink. We’ll keep our small bottle on the countertop and refill it as we go. Then find a shop who does refills (such as the Hay Deli in Hay-on-Wye) and get our big container topped up. So, yes, it is plastic but as we know plastic doesn’t degrade (every piece of plastic ever made is still in existence somewhere) and so we’re going to reuse these bottles constantly and therefore negating the need to buy more and bring more plastic into our home.
6. Wrap me up: wax wraps
I use sandwich bags a lot – they make portable food so easy and they’re perfect for wrapping things up in the freezer with. Needless to say that this was a little bit of a problem and I needed an alternative. Having poked about the internet a little I’ve come across wax wraps. You can get beeswax or soy wax wraps. When these arrived I was very unsure about them and whether they really would be a nice alternative.
Their first outing was as sandwich wrapping for our hike up Catbells and Maiden Moor in the Lake District and they were perfect. They mould themselves around an object so we didn’t need to try too hard to keep the food contained. All in all, they protected the food very well, and kept leaking sauces contained – and there was no danger of them splitting or ripping in our bags. I was very impressed. I used two wraps to keep everything together and it worked wonders. A nice little detail to note (especially if you end up using them to wrap sandwiches for work) is that once unfolded they act as a little place mat, catching any crumbs that escape. They were super easy to clean, too. Just wipe them over with a cool – warm cloth and you’re sorted.
They were a little bit on the pricey side but they’re apparently reusable for up to 6 months with continuous use – and compostable after you’re finished with them. If that holds true then that’s fabulous.
OR I’ve discovered wraps like this one below, which is made out of cloth but with a plastic lining. While it is plastic it’s in a form that’s easier to clean than the wax wraps above and you use again and again.
7. The veg box
8. Buy loose
If you’re not sold on the veg box suggestion that I’ve listed above just buy as much fruit and veg as you can from the supermarket loose and plastic free. There is usually a handful of supermarkets that have a selection of things like broccoli loose. If where you shop doesn’t do plastic free veg then make a bit of a noise about it – as soon as one supermarket declares it’s going plastic free (at least on veg) the others will follow and then we’re all winning.
9. Find a milk man
I discussed how well ours was going in my last plastic free blog post (veg box link above) but I think it’s worth mentioning again here. He delivers in glass bottles that we can send back to be washed out and re-used. Our delivery arrives before we wake up in the morning and so we have fresh milk, orange juice, eggs (the ones go back to him for re-use, too) and butter every week, with a top up on the weekends. This means that we don’t have to go to the shop ourselves to buy it, we’re supporting a local business and we don’t have any waste/recycling to sort.
Again, I’ve mentioned it in my veg box post (link above) but it’s something worth noting here again. If you have access to a bakery then buying bread from there means that you can ask for it to be put in a paper bag or provide your own bag for them to use. It means you’re not ditching the useless piece of plastic that bread comes wrapped in. Another option if you don’t have access to a bakery is to buy a few loaves at once and freeze all you don’t think you’ll use straight away to preserve freshness.
11. Soap me up
We guess at each household going through a bottle of liquid soap a month in a year. 30 million UK households at roughly a bottle a month equals 360 million bottles of liquid soap going into the bin every year. That is a crazy amount of plastic going in the (recycling) bin.
So, we’ve made a simple switch up to using a bar of soap. This lasts longer and, if you feel fancy, there are many independent shops on places like Etsy that make beautiful bars. We treated ourselves to some from CoconutBlush: lemon grass and ginger and then basil, mandarin and lime. There were too many scents to choose from.
I bought a little soap dish with drainage holes in to stop the sink going slimy and the soap slipping and sliding over the sink and bathroom. Again this was from Etsy from Megan Louise Ceramics. Both vendors were happy to not use plastic in their packaging.
We’re also trialling a ‘naked’ body wash from LUSH. We’re kind of intrigued… but to be honest, unless it’s the absolute bomb, we will probably just use a normal bar of soap. This LUSH thing didn’t come cheap. I had a mascara that I needed to swap out though and I was feeling a bit of pressure to exchange, rather than get duped with the return postage fees etc. So we thought what the hell.
12. Lustful scents: perfume
This was a bit of a last minute addition to this list as while in the Harrogate LUSH store I spotted their solid perfume. It’s such a cute little glass jar and I was all over the Lust scent that I came out of the store clutching this, too. I know the lid is plastic but we were assured that if I bring it back they would be able to reuse/recycle it.
Not that it’s overly relevant here but I loved the fact that it’s so small – I can take it anywhere with me and will come through airport security when we go to Australia.
13. Beautiful darling: make up
This one has slightly stumped me but I’ve heard glowing reviews of Fat and the Moon. Sadly, it’s an American brand but there are a few stores that sell it in the UK so am planning on picking a couple of things up. I shall let you know my opinion in due course.
These aren’t 100% plastic free but they’re a much better alternative than normal makeup if you just can’t let it go… Check out online retailer Acala (if you’re UK based). If you guys are in the USA there are loads of options for you – just google plastic free makeup!
14. Stop the smell: deodorant
After doing a bit of reading around I picked up the Greeench deodorant powder but I wasn’t so much of a fan of it. It had a little bit of a sour smell to me and the dust went everywhere, which wasn’t very easy to get out of the clothes or carpet it fell on. It kind of worked; if I wasn’t doing anything active it seemed to keep me relatively dry but there was the odd occasion where I did start to notice I was smelling a little –and no girl wants that! Plus, even if LUSH do recycle the bottle if I get it back to them, I think I’d rather have no packaging at all if possible.
After mentioning to the girls in the Harrogate LUSH store that I wasn’t keen on it, they offered me a sample of the Aromaco solid bar deodorant to try out instead. I am certainly liking it so far – it doesn’t stop any moisture coming through (so be careful with what you’re wearing) but it definitely stops any smells.
There are multiple recipes on the internet for making your own deodorant but if I can buy a good one then I’d rather utilise my time differently, cooking, writing or chilling with Tom.
UPDATE: After months and months of using them these bad boys are now my favourite – KUTIS
UPDATE TWO: Add Pit Putty to the list of great natural deodorants!
I’m started this challenge using up the shampoo that I already had, before moving on to use the LUSH Jason and the Argon Oil shampoo bar ready to go.
UPDATE: Beauty Kubes – things are like gold-dust they work so well! They also do a moisturiser in tins, which is lovely on the skin – especially if you’re not sold on oil based concoctions…
UPDATE TWO: I adore the beauty cubes but they are insanely expensive, which isn’t realistic for everybody. Instead, like with the washing up liquid, we’ve moved to refillable bottles. Same bottle, refilled many times from a local store.
16. Stifle the sniffles
Switch tissues for hankies. I was kind of grossed out by this to start with but over two years down the line now and I adore it. We bought enough cotton hankies to last a week between the two of us and then we pop them in a hot wash with our towels and bedding. I find it a much nicer experience using a large hankie than cheap nasty tissues that dry my nose out.
17. Loo Roll
Two years in a we are on our third or fourth large box from fun brand ‘Who Gives a Crap’. The toilet paper itself is either 100% recycled paper or made with ‘100% forest friendly bamboo’. They wrap their toilet roll in fun paper, which can be reused for other things. If you buy in bulk, it actually works out cheaper than normal loo roll anyway.
It also kinda looks nice in the bathroom…
This is one that I am struggling with – I’m still battling through the don’t cut yourself stage/why won’t the damn thing work. I’m unsure whether I’m just being an idiot or there’s something wrong with my razor… Anyway, I’ve read many good reports so it’s worth trying for yourself.
I’ve been using a bamboo toothbrush for the past 6 months and do rather love it… Plus we have these cool toothbrush carry cases for keeping them clean as we travel.
20. Pen and ink
How many disposable pens do you think you have in your house? Do you need them all? I highly doubt it….
We have so many – it’s a little ridiculous. We haven’t bought any in a long time but they just seem to keep appearing and so challenge one is to stop somehow bringing them into the house, whether it’s from the shop or a freebie from the bank. It’s Bea Johnson’s first step of zero waste in her Zero Waste Home book: refuse. Say no to things that you don’t want in your life, especially those things that you have to send to landfill in the end.
What will we have to write with though? After a little bit of research Tom came across refillable ‘converter’ cartridges for fountain pens. Remembering that he had a couple from school, he dug those out and purchased a converter for each along with a bottle of ink. We can now simply refill our cartridge from the bottle of ink (which comes in glass, albeit a plastic lid). It’s certainly a better option that throwing out whole biros/ ballpoint pens or multiple disposable plastic cartridges.
If you have a wood burner or an open fire these are worth checking out – no nasties in them at all.
Click on the picture below to
check out our experience one month in
It’s a journey. Every single little thing you do will help. Take it gradually because you can soon find yourself falling down a hole with no hope of return – so for the sake of your sanity, take it a little at a time knowing you’re already helping with one cut back. Once that’s comfortable, take the next one. It’s a lifestyle change and it will take time so don’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t go to plan.
I’m sure there are many other things you can do. I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts or tips, so drop me a line!