It's extremely encouraging this January to see so many getting on board to do their bit with reducing waste and cutting their plastic use. I don't need to tell you why we need to reduce our consumption of plastic - unless you've been living under a rock you'll have seen the video of the straw being plucked out of a turtles nose, articles about how there's more plastic in our seas than fish, or heard David Attenborough tell us exactly what's happening to our planet because of our wastefulness.
It's definitely time for us all to take some responsibility - while people continue to buy food in heavy packaging and consume plastics by the bucketload not much will happen quickly. And 25 years can see a massive accumulation of more waste that takes hundreds of years to decompose.
We all have busy lives and living plastic and waste free can seem very daunting but we have to start somewhere and implement some changes within our lives. Having some simple tools at home allows us to make some changes and begin making the right decisions as to where we buy our food from.
I hope this post inspires you to just makes some small but impactful changes in your every day life. And the hope that you will inspire someone else, and they will go on to inspire another 2 people and so forth! Or indeed, if you have already been inspired to make the below changes along with some other ideas please leave any suggestions you have in the comments.
Essentials - a water bottle
This very simple change can make a massive difference to your consumption of plastics. If you buy a bottle of water every Mon-Fri you are throwing away 260 bottles every year, and only less than half of which are likely to be recycled. A plastic bottle on average takes a whopping 450 years to decompose so for each bottle you buy you are contributing to a plastic problem that will be affecting the earth long after you're gone. A sobering thought, isn't it? Add to that the money you save from filling up your own reusable bottle with filtered water and this one is a no brainer.
Look for BPA free or glass bottles - having tried a few different options (that have since been donated to family and friends) I settled on Ion8 bottles. It comes everywhere with me, from shoots to the gym and they have a lockable lid, are BPA free and I like the drinking spout as I don't like suction bottles. They're also available in three sizes - I have two sizes, my gym bottle is the bigger version and my every day is the slim version as it fits in the the side pocket of my backpack. I bought mine at TK Maxx which is recommended to minimise packaging but if you're not able to get to one you can buy them here.
Essentials - a reusable hot drink cup
The UK uses around 10,000 coffee cups every two minutes. This is a shocking number and terrifying to think of the waste that is going out into the world. Coffee cups may look like they can be recycled but the bitter truth is they have a plastic lining they can seldom be separated and recycled, while many companies claim their cups are eco friendly a lot of the time it's an unjustified statement. Add to that, the way the cups are made isn't generally environmentally friendly as the specific join they have dictates that the cup is to be made of virgin pulp (basically unrecycled) so a coffee cups life is short and wasteful. It's a massive problem and one that would be majorly tackled if we all made once simple change in taking our own, reusable cup with us.
There are plenty of options out there - I recommend a glass cup because it holds the heat well but perhaps might not be best for clumsier people (I admit to fit into this category and as such have replaced the glass bit of my cup a few times!) and I can't endorse the KeepCup enough. You can buy the separate parts for when they need replacing and they are available in different sizes - I have the cork version and couldn't love it more, it goes everywhere with me and some coffee and tea vendors are now offering a discount for bringing your own. I thought I would need a big cup but it turned out the medium size was more than sufficient. Shop Keep Cup here.
Say no to straws
Unless you have a metal straw on you, just say no. Sip don't waste!
Make some simple shopping changes
I popped into M&S for a few bits in a rush recently and I was devastated to see the sea of plastic on the shelves. There is absolutely no need for vegetables to be sold in so much plastic, it's not good for our earth and it's not good for us. You have a few options to buy your veg:
Find a good vegetable box scheme - I don't need to tell you again how much I love Barcombe Organic. They are in Sussex but vegetable box schemes are available everywhere. I endorse a good ethical organic scheme but if you have trouble finding one Riverford are available all over the UK and use local farms.
Find your local greengrocer - greengrocers often have loose produce and are usually well priced and affordable. Don't forget to take some bags with you and you can also by some cotton canvas bags to use instead of plastic food bags.
Many of us keep frozen fruit in our freezers for smoothies. If you don't have the freezer capacity to stock up in summer find somewhere local to stock up on loose frozen fruit. Garden centres often have them. Try here.
Like vegetables, there is no need for meat to be sold in plastic. Use a butchers where possible and ask them to skip the plastic and just wrap in paper.
Look for local initiatives - locally we have Charlotte's Cupboard that launched recently with much success. They sell loose goods that you use your own containers for and they both deliver and sells at local markets. We also have HISBE that sell loose dry goods. More and more of these are popping up around the country and if you don't have one perhaps you can call for it in your local health shops or market.
So, we've bought all our produce without a bag, now how do we store it? Reuse as many jars as you can and also go for glass tupperware. It's healthier too! You can also get these great paper sandwich bags that can be used for everything from packing sandwiches to storing biscuits or cheese.
Give a crap
Did you know a lot of toilet paper is still made from freshly cut trees? And there's really no need. Who Gives A Crap is a venture that sells toilet roll made from forest friendly materials and it's wrapped in recycled paper not earth damaging plastic. They also then donate half of their profits to organisations working to improve sanitisation in developing countries. A massive 2.3 billion people don't have access to a toilet - can you imagine that? More people have a smart phone than that.
The more you buy in bulk the more money you save and the less packaging you need - perhaps you could club together with some neighbours and get a monthly delivery?
Many health food shops offer refills of eco cleaning products. Having recently heard the news that Ecover and Method are now owned by SC Johnson (the people who make Glade and other products) I moved over to Bio-D and I'm very happy with the performance and the price of it. I also like how you don't have to buy loads of different products for around the house, they keep it simple with just a few formulations. Find a stockist here or you can just buy in bulk from their website.
Swap out some health and beauty products
There are some wonderful plastic free AND cruelty free products popping up in the beauty and health world. Here are some recommendations:
Toothpaste - a lovely toothpaste that leaves your mouth feeling fresh and clean
Toothbrush - 12 billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown out every year. Every plastic toothbrush you've ever used is still out there somewhere. Choose not to contribute to this number and go bamboo.
Deodorant - while there are some beautiful natural deodorants out there in a pot a lot of them have a plastic lid, that one doesn't!
Face oil - I swear by face oil. A bottle lasts ages and I've used an oil for years and never been happier with my skin. In my opinion a natural face oil is a one step, simple skincare routine that works and keeps skin clear and nourished. I've saved a huge amount of money since using just one oil and I could bore you about it for ages but if you make one change! You don't need expensive creams, I promise! My favourites are this one from Antipodes and this from Balm Balm.
Menstrual products - if you aren't a Mooncup convert yet you must give one a go. They are simply the best option for being eco conscious and comfortable! They keep you feeling dry and are so easy to use. I fully endorse one. If you really don't want to make the change to one always choose non applicator tampons - you get used to them very quickly and it makes a big difference to your plastic waste footprint.
Be a conscious dog owner
Dog poo is a dodgy subject! Many people have very different ideas on it. But it's our responsibility as dog owners to ensure poo is moved from grazing land, isn't on pathways and isn't left in public areas. My dog has a raw diet so his poo is mainly made from bone and generally decomposes in a matter of days and doesn't contains cereals that could go rancid but I make sure that I always pick it up unless it's in an area is is appropriate to flick with a stick! But the key thing is when it is appropriate. Always use biodegradable poo bags but these can be misleading in their claims, Beco Bags are my widely available go to but the best option is Biobags as they decompose in as little as 15 days but I'm having trouble finding somewhere online to buy them. They are often available from vets though and I've contacted Biobags for stockists. I'll update this post when I get them.
Be mindful of your shoe consumption
The average pair of shoes takes 50 years to decompose and a lot of them end up in landfill. It's also a false economy to buy cheap shoes as they simply don't last so long and we end up chucking out more. With a little conscious buying and investing in a good quality pair (and even better, an eco conscious brand) rather than buying four low quality pairs you are both saving yourself money in the long run and avoiding contributing to the massive carbon footprint the shoe industry has.
Flip flops are a particularly wasteful culprit - when the warmer months come around consider investing in a good pair of sandals that will last 3-4 summers as opposed to annually chucked away. I know I'm not alone swearing by Birkenstocks - I've had mine for 5 years and they're still going strong!
Go loose leaf
Did you know that teabags actually contain plastic? See this video. I can't see how drinking a hot liquid containing plastic can be good for us! Fortunately, many good, ethical tea shops are popping up all over the place. Find your local one and buy blends in jars. Otherwise you can make your own herbal teas from dried, loose herbs. I make a 60/40 mix of peppermint/liquorice and I save so much money because of it.
Let us know!
What works for you? Do you have any other ideas you can contribute to the conversation? Let us know below what steps you've made to help our planet and essential sealife!
Formally Emma Gutteridge