12 Ways To Reduce Your Plastic Use
Plastic is usually found in every room of our homes, in every aisle of the supermarkets, at the pharmacy, stores, workplace, playgrounds... Humans sure love plastic. Its flexibility and easy to mould properties make its usage be of infinite possibilities.
In a world where plastic is one of the most known and commonly used material, it can be really daunting thinking about reducing the use of something so useful and easy to get hold of. But if we take a few minutes of our time while taking a walk on the streets, a hike in the woods, a stroll on the beach - we will also notice that the rubbish plastic leaves behind is much greater that the convenience it gives us.
Why should we reduce our plastic use?
Plastic is non biodegradable, which means it will never go away, continually harming life and the planet.
There are many ways we can reduce plastic, and right now, we're living through an ethical revolution, so eco-friendly alternatives to plastic products are on the UP! People are questioning more and choosing to make conscious decisions.
12 ways to reduce your plastic use
I listed 12 easy ways you can be part of living a more ethical and mindful lifestyle, hope these can help you in any way.
1. Carry a Glass or Stainless Steel Reusable Water Bottle
A plastic bottle looks so insignificant, doesn't it? What if I told you that 1 million plastic bottles are used every minute in the world? They never go away - it takes them hundreds of years to turn into micro plastics that end up in our water. There are loads of very cool reusable water bottles if you want to buy one, but better yet, why not reuse a bottle you’ve already purchased? Not long ago, I bought a glass bottle filled with elderflower presse, after I finished drinking it, I kept it in my studio to be refilled with water over and over again while I’m at work. If you don’t have a designated desk space at work, or at school, you might prefer to carry a stainless steel bottle, as they’re lighter.
2. Bring your own Shopping Bags
The 5p plastic bag charge in England has led to a dramatic fall in their use: 9bn fewer bags have been distributed, even though a lot of shops and grocery stores still provide plastic bags. It's always useful to keep a little tote bag, like these ones, in your bag, for any planned or unplanned little bits we get when out. If for some reason you forgot your tote, be mindful of the amount of plastic bags you're about to use, specially when buying loose fruit and veg (it's ok for your oranges to touch your tomatoes), or perhaps you can ask a fellow shopper for any spare plastic bags they may have brought on the day.
3. Say "NO" to plastic straws and cutlery
If you love straws, you can switch to stainless steel or bamboo straws that are eco-friendly and can be reused over and over again. When at a pub or restaurant, speak up and let them know you don't want a straw with your drink. Regarding the cutlery, you can invest in a portable bamboo or metal set, or in a "spork" (spoon/fork) that can easily fit in your bag or work drawer.
4. Use a reusable stainless steel razor
I’m very excited about these because they not only look super cool and retro, they also perform really well providing a clean shave whilst reducing waste from the usual disposable razors. There are a couple of choices to choose from: safety razors with disposable stainless steel blades, or a straight razor blade (which needs a little bit of looking after for cleaning and oiling). Anyhow, stainless steel is recyclable, so after you’re done with it, there’s few ways you can dispose of them - either take them to your local scrap metal station, to a recycling drop station (Whole Foods normally have them), or check with your local recycling centre. Please note that in order to recycle the blades, you’ll need a “blade bank”, any container like a washed-out bean tin will do. Tape a metal lid onto the can leaving a slot for popping the blades through, and once there’s enough blades in the bank, tape over the slot and take it to your local recycling facility. This will protect sanitation workers from getting cut.
5. Switch to a bamboo toothbrush
Around 4.7 billion toothbrushes are made each year. Sounds pretty crazy to me that all the plastic toothbrushes we've ever used in our lives still exist. Thats why switching to a biodegradable toothbrush will drastically decrease your plastic waste. Have you seen ours? A very simple switch that has a very powerful impact. You may have seen photos of turtles with plastic toothbrushes stuck in their nostrils; the plastic toothbrushes also end up being nibbled on by fishes and swallowed by whales, not to mention their pollution in landfill.
Brushing with a bamboo toothbrush also gives an extremely satisfying feeling which is hard to explain! It must be our conscience smiling. Did you also know that their wooden handles are customisable? So you can write your name with a permanent pen, or doodle, to differentiate yours from the others in your household.
6. Bring your own coffee cup
Half of the world’s plastic goes into products that are used only once, creating a staggering amount of waste. With 500 billion disposable cups being produced every year, we like telling ourselves that most of them right now are made of paper so that’s all right. Unfortunately, they are more often than not lined with polyethylene to prevent leakage, making them unrecyclable. It's estimated that 5 billion disposable cups end up in landfill a year, which is about 1 million cups a minute, every hour, every day.
I heard a few times that the amount of energy used to make a reusable product is almost always higher than the amount used to make the disposable alternative, which is true. That’s why we should really aim to buy reusable products and actually USE them! For a reusable cup, for example, we only need to use them about 15 times to offset the energy used to create them, so that’s very doable. You’ll also end up saving money on the long run, as more coffee shops such as Starbucks give discounts when you bring your own cup!
7. Have you heard of the MoonCup?
It’s quite common nowadays to have at least a girl friend that is using a MoonCup. Other brands like Tulip, OrganiCup and DivaCup are also popular. These are essential for a plastic-free period. “Pads, the product favoured around the world, can in some cases be made up of about 90% plastic - containing as much as four supermarket bags. Tampons are predominantly cotton and rayon but have components made up of polyester materials. Many come individually wrapped with plastic applicators.” (BBC, 2018). While doing beach clean ups with my dad, tampon applicators are probably one of the most common objects we find! Menstrual cups are reusable, they do not absorb menstrual blood as the tampons and pads, they collect it. The idea of it does sound a bit weird at first, but only because we’re not used to it. Once you get used to them, you won’t go back to the other “pre-historical” ways, and will also end up saving a lot of money! For the days of smaller flows, you can use a washable pad, there are various designs to choose from on Etsy.
8. Shop package free cosmetics and toiletries
The amount of plastic found on our cosmetics and toiletries are overwhelming! Take a look around the bathroom and you’ll find not only plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner, hair oils, moisturisers and after shaves, but also cotton buds, bath sponges, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and deodorant. There’s a vast amount of plastic-free companies around at the moment so you should eventually be able to replace everything, but, please use up or donate all you have first.
I love it how soap bars had a huge come back in popularity in the past year, and it’s always fun to buy them handmade from small businesses at markets and fairs. I also found that, while switching my cosmetics and toiletries to plastic-free options, I became much more conscious about their ingredients and how they were made. Choosing products certified as Cruelty-free to avoid animal testing, and ingredients that are as natural as possible to be kinder to my skin and health. Natural products can be a little more expensive, and so I minimised a lot on the number of products I use. You can get everything plastic free - shampoo and conditioner bars, deodorant bars, bamboo toothbrushes, toothpaste in glass jars or tablets, shaving bars, make-up and lip balms in tins, natural loafers, coconut oil to remove make up or to use as moisturisers, and so on.
9. Ditch the tea bags
Yes, our beloved tea bags, the vast majority of them contain plastic. Love tea? You can use loose leaves to make your perfect cuppa. It doesn’t take much more effort, just add a teaspoon of your favourite tea leaves into a diffuser and dip it your cup with the hot water. You can also put the leaves in a tea pot and use a metal strainer when pouring to your cup. I love preparing my tea from loose tea leaves, it’s one of those old fashioned #slowliving things that even busy people can do that is good for our mental health and also eco-friendly = win/win.
10. Stop using products containing micro-beads
Plastic microbeads have already been banned in England, but, if in your country they haven't yet: please don't buy products containing them. Micro-beads are damaging water supplies, marine life and the ecological equilibrium of the planet. If you eat fish, you’re very likely to be also eating micro beads, which - lets face it - can’t be good for you. If you love the gentle exfoliation micro-beads provide, look for natural alternatives, like ground rice, ground oats, ground coffee, or fine sugar. There are amazing super easy DIY recipes online to try (we’ll be posting some on here soon)!
11. Stop using cling film and tin foil
Got some leftovers that need to be put in the fridge? Consider using a Tupperware, or covering it up with a bowl or plate. Need to wrap up your sandwich? You can get re-usable Soya Wraps. Cling film and tin foil have been lurking in our kitchens for a long time. But let me tell you that I haven't bought any for over a year now, and I haven’t missed them.
12. Live with less
You know those cheap plastic toys that break after being played with for 2 minutes? Or the dozens of moisturisers and beauty products that are at the back of the cupboard making us believe in their miraculous powers? Do we really need them?
“How much is too much” is a question asked by many consumers as a joke when they’re about to embark on another shopping sprint; but really, society’s consumerism is “a bit" out of hand, don’t you think? To live a more minimalist life doesn’t mean to not enjoy stuff. It means to be more conscious and mindful when choosing what to bring into our lives and making sure that everything in your home has a purpose and brings you joy.
If you need help with decluttering and getting used to living with less, The Minimalists, Joshua and Ryan have an amazing podcast that discuss all aspects of living a more sustainable and less impactful life. They set up meet-ups groups across the world for people to come together and help each other become more minimalists and declutter their lives and home; they can mostly be found on Facebook as a group for each city. This one is the Newcastle-upon-Tyne if you’re local to us.
Wanna do more?
Get yourself a litter picker and a reusable bag, and do a beach clean in your local area. Many beaches organise events, but you can also do it in your own time for as long as you want; you won't just be helping the environment, but it's also a very therapeutical activity. Here is a picture of my dad in Redcar Beach, where he goes most days after work to help clean up the rubbish, keeping marine life and people's lives safer.
If you’d rather not do it alone, these can be a great socialising activity. Organisations such as Surfers Against Sewage, do organised events, but it’s also worth asking around your local shops to check on any smaller groups set up in your area. In Redcar for example, there’s a a community action group called Friends of Redcar that even have extra litter pickers for anyone wanting to help.
At a talk I attended given by Zero Waste North East, they reinforced the importance of our intention, over perfection. We may not always be able to keep away from plastic (or fast enough to stop the bartender from putting a straw in our drink), but here's a little mantra to keep in mind:
"REFUSE - REDUCE - RECYCLE"
Remember, small changes can make a huge impact on our planet.
Let me know how many out of these 12 tips you're already practicing in the comments below, and feel free to add to the list too. :)
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