Going plastic-free is an important step towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. Plastic is one of the major contributors to pollution and has detrimental impacts on the planet’s wildlife. While we can’t control the waste production and carbon emissions from the earth’s largest contributors, we can control our own contribution. Our cooperation, no matter how small, matters.
But it isn’t as simple as it first appears. There’s plastic in almost everything we use, even our skincare! And the world isn’t exactly set up for us to boycott plastic.
- You have to find alternative products to help you live plastic-free.
- There are some things you may have to make in order to continue to live plastic-free.
- You have to continue to live plastic-free despite the opinion or pressures from others.
Not to mention you have to meticulously check everything you buy because plastic isn’t always obvious. For example, did you know that chewing gum contains plastic in both the packaging and the product? Because I didn’t! Each time you chew a stick of Wringlys, you’re essentially chewing on plastic. Gross!
How can I get started going plastic-free?
First of all, it’s not easy and I don’t confess to being an expert. In fact, like you, I’m very much a beginner. The birth of this article came from my wanting to get started living plastic-free. I thought it would be as easy as carrying a reusable bag, stainless steel water bottle and a netted produce bag. But it turns out that those small things barely scratch the surface!
Identify what products you use and the plastic they consume.
First and foremost it’s important that you know what you’re dealing with. Make a list of all the products you use that contain plastic. Remember to check those that aren’t immediately obvious such as haircare, skincare, cleaning products and even ”grown-up’‘ products. Yes, I mean condoms and personal lube!
From this list, you can begin to come up with sustainable alternatives. Use Google to your advantage, and consider joining a local sustainable group to help you find the best places to find said alternatives.
Start by making small changes to your daily habits.
If I’ve learned anything from trying to form habits, it’s that you need to take it one step at a time. Nothing new happens overnight, and the same goes for trying to go plastic-free. We’ve become so accustomed to a life filled with plastic that it’s going to be difficult trying to remove it entirely.
Start by using the list you compiled and picking three small things to change each month. I personally started by making the switch to bamboo toothbrushes over plastic ones. We also no longer use plastic bags for shopping, instead, we bring our own ‘long-life‘ bags or tote bags. Finally, we reuse plastic water bottles until they can no longer be used, at which point we use them in the garden. Did you know that if you fill a water bottle and leave it among your plants that it’ll scare away cats? Why would you want to do that I hear you ask? Well, cat poo isn’t exactly nice to see or smell in your garden, and it can be dangerous! That and water bottles deter them from digging holes!
Carry a reusable stainless steel bottle.
While my husband and I currently reuse plastic water bottles, we know it’s not healthy. So, we’re awaiting the arrival of two stainless steel water bottles from Klean Kanteen! They’re reusable and have the exact drinking spout that we both prefer.
We can fill them up throughout the day when at home, or refill them at work! But, if like me, you prefer your water with a hint of diluting juice, you might struggle. I’ve been looking for a plastic-free alternative to my usual cordial, but can’t seem to come across any. If any of my readers happen to have experience with this, please kindly share it in the comments.
Shop with reusable shopping and produce bags.
I’ve been using reusable shopping bags and tote bags for years. Not only do they reduce your plastic use, but they also save you a few pennies. After all, plastic bags in UK supermarkets are now twenty-six pence a pop, and it all adds up eventually. And to aid our cause further, we recently purchased two reusable net bags. To be honest, we didn’t know they were a thing until they appeared in our local Lidl a few years ago!
But why buy loose? Not only does buying loose produce reduce plastic waste, but it’s also cheaper because you only buy what you need. Only going to eat one pear for lunch? Then buy one instead of a conference of pears.
If you’re a keen crafter or own a sewing machine, why not give this handy tutorial a go? Margaret teaches us how to create our own reusable shopping bags. Use some old fabric you have lying around the house or recycle something from your local charity shop for a double whammy!
You can grab your own reusable net bags here!
Use more products made from eco-friendly materials.
When looking for ways to reduce plastic use, it’s essential that you start buying products that are eco-friendly. They could be made from recycled materials or natural fibres instead of synthetic materials like polyester. You should also look out for things packaged in glass, cardboard, or the aforementioned netting.
Using your list, do some research on alternatives. For example, make the switch to beeswax paper instead of clingfilm, or bottled hand soap for a soap bar. Google is your best friend! It’s helped me so much in finding alternatives for my everyday items.
Be smart when food shopping.
When it comes to what we eat, there are many different ways we can reduce the plastic we use.
- Only buy what you need. For example, instead of buying six apples in plastic packaging, opt to buy individual apples and place them into a net bag. While most supermarkets offer this, the best place to visit is your local market. Not only are you helping local businesses and you’re getting fruit and vegetables straight from the source, so they’ll last longer too!
- Cut down on frozen meals. These are the biggest users of disposable plastics!
- Find and visit your local refill store. Sadly, here in Northern Ireland, these are few and far between. But in the mainland UK, there are many refill locations available. You can bring your own containers and fill in what you know you’ll use. This will help cut down on plastic use, and food waste and you only pay for what you buy.
Have you any other ways that you can cut plastic out of your food shop?
Change how you clean your home.
I’ve recently made the switch to using more DIY cleaning products for use at home. Instead of harsh chemicals, I’m using things like vinegar, baking soda, warm water, and lemon to battle the grime. And while we are using plastic bottles, they’re recycled and used over and over again.
As for what we use to clean with, it’s a mixture of old clothing cut into ‘rags’, natural sponges, and natural fibre brushes. The latter products were found in a local charity shop! Talk about a double whammy!
Be careful with your personal care products!
Did you know just how much plastic our personal care products involve? I was shocked to learn it’s in almost everything from soap right down to personal lubricant. Think about it! Most of our daily use products come packaged in plastic bottles and containers. And plastic can even be manufactured into these products too!
Here are just a few things you should consider switching to reduce your plastic use. Be warned, I found this to be the hardest part of going plastic-free and finding alternatives (especially cost-effective ones) has proved difficult!
- Switch out your liquid soap to a bar. It gets washed off each time, so don’t worry about bacteria. In fact, do you know more bacteria are found on our pump-activated soaps? Think about it!
- Colour your hair using natural henna dyes.
- Switch to plastic-free feminine hygiene products. This could be in the form of a ‘Diva‘ cup or reusable period underwear.
- Use coconut oil as an alternative to personal lubricant for those intimate moments. But be aware that oil-based lubes don’t mix well with latex.
Check out my favourite reusable brand, WUKA. They offer period underwear fit for any flow! I have and use several pairs of their period pants myself, and have never looked back!
Learn to preserve foods without plastic.
My husband and I batch cook when we have time to help us when we don’t. There was a time we used plastic freezer bags to do so, but more recently we’ve been using plastic containers often used for lunch boxes, and glass jars (for pickling).
Acquire necessary plastic items used instead of new ones.
Check in your local charity shop, swap group or even ask around! There are always people getting rid of unused items, plastic and otherwise. Personally, I love our local charity shops, swap shops and community groups. We’ve exchanged so many things and received some of our most useful items this way! Our most recent find was a corner bookcase which fits perfectly in our office. It was free and all it needs is a lick of paint!
Remember, it’s all a learning curve.
Even if this isn’t your first time trying to reduce your plastic use, every day is a new opportunity to learn. You’ll never be the master recycler, but even making one small change is more than most. So, remember to be easy on yourself. So you picked up a pre-packed sandwich for lunch instead of bringing your own? Learn from it, move on and do better next time.
What other ways can you think of to go plastic-free?
As a newbie myself, I’d love to hear your advice, tips and solutions to break free from plastic! If you have any particular brands you like, or alternative options that I haven’t mentioned, please feel free to comment! I’m always updating old posts and might add your solution in the future!