Our friend and yoga instructor Freya shares some of her tips on using less plastic
Plastic pollution currently receives a lot of attention in the media. This is great, as it means that big companies are starting to listen, and governments are paying attention too. The more changes we can make as individuals, the better!
I'm on a mission to seriously reduce the amount of plastic that I use in my day to day life. Since May last year, I've gradually been decreasing how much plastic I use. I am proud to say that I'm now ~80-90% plastic free! I would love to be 100%, but this is an ongoing process. Hopefully, I will get there in the not-too-distant future!
Here are my top 10 plastic-free swaps that are accessible and available to most people. You may already do some of them without thinking about it, but others take a little more planning. In the long run, each of these 10 swaps can become habits. If more and more people make these swaps, then shopping trends will begin to change and companies will have no choice but to respond.
Plastic water bottles quickly become pollution, but they are a simple swap!
1. REUSABLE CONTAINERSUse a metal water canister and reusable coffee cup. Save cash by not buying one-use water bottles on the go and make your coffee at home. According to Business Insider, you can spend up to 30 times more if you buy your coffee at a shop instead of making your own. Currently, only about 1 in 5 plastic bottles are recycled and the remaining bottles go into landfills or the ocean.
You can buy a water cannister from most outdoor shops or even online. If you get a double walled one, then you can use it for both hot and cold water! Most coffee shops even offer a discount if you bring your own cup. If you're forgetful, then buy two and keep one in your bag and one at work.
Metal water canisters come in all shapes and sizes.
2. KEEP IT LOOSEBuy loose fruit, veg, and dried goods. If more people followed this practice, it could have a massive impact on the produce that supermarkets stock. This was one of the first swaps I made and it really opened my eyes up to how much unnecessary packaging is in the food industry.
Next time you go to the supermarket, try not to buy anything in plastic packaging and see what you manage to come out with. That means avoiding the crisp/biscuit/cereal/nuts/confectionery aisle, as nearly all these products are wrapped in non-recyclable plastics. If you're lucky enough to have a local veg stall or a package-free bulk section in a nearby store, then these are great places to get seasonal produce and learn more about where your food is coming from.
Check it out - no plastic packaging!
3. BYOBBring your own bag. Use canvas/reusable shopping bags: Since the plastic bag charge was introduced in the UK, this has become a widely accepted swap. Hopefully, it will continue to rise in popularity. Make sure you always have some in your car or backpack so you don't get 'caught short' when out and about!
4. BUBBLY BARSSoap bars, shampoo, and conditioner can be tough. Companies such as Lush do have great plastic-free packaging for their bathroom essentials. I regularly use their soap and shampoo bars. Unfortunately, the conditioner bar doesn’t work for me, as it stays too solid in the shower. So, now I go to my local zero waste store where they have hair products which you can fill up your own jars and pay by weight.
5. BAMBOOToothpaste and toothbrushes are plastic too. In the U.S., 1 billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away every year. They make their way into waterways and oceans. If compostable bamboo toothbrushes were to become the norm, it would significantly reduce the amount of waste. Most bamboo brushes still have nylon bristles, so these will need to be removed before you put them into your compost. For toothpaste, I use a coconut oil based product which comes in a glass jar from Geo Organics.
Bamboo is a wonderful sustainable resource
6. TAKE AFTER THE BEESBeeswax food wraps are a great alternative to clingfilm or tin foil. I use mine to wrap sandwiches and to cover bowls or leftovers in the fridge. The beeswax coating allows it to stick to itself so your snacks are secure. These can be a little expensive but are washable and will last a long time.
7. CLOTH NOT CLOGWashable face cloths are an easy swap with a significant impact. Instead of single-use face wipes which clog up waterways and don't decompose, get yourself a reusable face cloth. You can also buy cotton facial rounds which are great for removing makeup too.
8. LOOSE LEAF TEAMost tea bags are plastic based and will break down into tiny micro-plastics over time. Also, a lot of the packaging they come in is plastic, so it makes sense to buy loose leaf tea from somewhere where they sell it by weight. I find you get a lot more flavour from loose leaf too.
You can mix and match teas to create new tastes!
9. USE A SPONGE FROM THE OCEANNatural fibre loofah pads for washing dishes and cleaning. Most plastic based washing up implements are nonrecyclable and will just go into landfill or waterways. You can use a natural bamboo or loofah alternative which can be composted when you have finished with them. I found mine at a local store, they’re not much more expensive than the plastic ones and last longer too.
10. WEAR ORGANIC COTTON
Wearing natural fibre clothing and washing your synthetics in a guppy bag helps a ton too. Each time you wash synthetic clothing, tiny micro-plastics are released from the fibres into the water system. There are a few ways to combat this. Wear more natural clothing (organic cotton), use a guppy bag to wash your clothes, and wash your clothes less often! The guppy bag catches any loose microfibers which you can then put in the bin. I try to do a combination of all three to reduce my impact.
This list is definitely not exhaustive, as there are many more ways in which you can reduce your plastic consumption. It can be overwhelming to cut out all plastic straight away. Once you delve into this topic it can become a minefield, so pick a few swaps at a time and incorporate them into your life until they become second nature. It’s easier to expand from there. There are a lot of plastic-free shops popping up online, which have many of the alternatives listed above and they will tend to post them in plastic-free packaging too, double win.
As well as implementing your own swaps sometimes it can be difficult when your handed plastic without having a say, so be confident in refusing straws, bags, cutlery, and explaining why if you’re asked. Maybe this will bring other people round to reducing their plastics too!