That’s the topic of the day, the thing everyone is talking about, the next millennial phase. But why should you care, are you phased by the turtle with the plastic straw in its nose? No matter because it does matter, and the plastic issue is a big one if a statistic like this can be true.
“by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish”
We need to sort this giant mess we’ve made and fast! So, to offer a little helping hand, I’ve designed a short step by step guide on the basics of saving the world, based on my own and others experience of trying to go plastic free.
Bathroom Plastics Purge
The bathroom is a great place to start, it contains some of the most natural items to go plastic-free on. The plastic-free alternatives for the bathroom are extensive and, for the most part, far better quality. Here are a few examples and what you could replace them with:
I pretty much exhausted my entire bathroom trying to write up that list, you can add hygiene products if you’re a woman, they do re-usable versions just google it, and you’ll see plenty of choices. It goes to show, however; the bathroom is a reasonably comfortable place to start; nothing in there can’t easily be replaced for a plastic-free alternative or thrown out altogether.
If not all of this is for you then try replacing piece by piece, I started with soaps and a toothbrush. I still have my plastic razor since it works and there’s no point replacing something that is still useful. I am however having a hard time convincing my partner to try re-usable feminine hygiene products… fair enough.
To buy or not to buy…
Creating better shopping habits can easily reduce your plastic footprint more than anything on the rest of this article, mainly because had you done this to start you wouldn’t need to do the rest. To start us off let’s look at a few of the different types of shopping we all do:
• Food (supermarkets, this is the biggie.)
• Clothes & cosmetics
• Out & about
Starting with food, what can we do about this? Well for a start as a bare minimum, take your own cotton bags with you (this will save you money too!) If you shop online opt out of having your shopping delivered in plastic bags, alternatively some stores do a bag return scheme which again saves you money.
Now that you’ve started saving the world by not carrying your shopping in plastic it’s time to stop buying food wrapped in plastic. This will be difficult I know, but there are plenty of farmers markets around to choose from. The packaging free market is picking up at a rapid pace as well, in my home city, I know of at least 4 stores that offer essentials without any packaging.
Stop buying clothes and cosmetics wrapped or made with plastic, really… just stop. You put makeup on your face so please don’t use any cheap products that have all sorts of plastic based chemicals in them. Facial cleaners with the microbeads in are the worst of the worst, use soap, the planet and your face will thank you for it.
Kids are obsessed with silly useless plastic toys that get used twice and break before being tossed out and replaced by similar (but usually bigger) plastic toys. This might cause some tension with the older kids, but if you have a kid from 0–5, they probably won’t care if their toys are made of wood instead. For some reason, endless fun can be had with one of those reception room games requiring you get a wooden ball from one end of a metal rod to the other.
Finally, take a re-usable, preferably metal coffee cup for the road. If your anything like me, you will see a Costa and go for a quick coffee only to feel sorry about the single-use cup you need to throw away after. Snack on fresh fruit that doesn’t come in wrappers or at the very least take the rubbish with you to recycle.
Simply stated, gather all the useless junk you have, recycle it or re-use it for an alternative purpose. Then once you’re done with that, promise yourself you won’t need useless garbage that only ends up in the bin ever again.
Simple? When I did this, I ended up with around 8 bin bags full of junk… I only live in a 2-bed apartment. Oh well, I learned the hard way, and now I think twice before buying something that won’t stay with me for a while, and if there’s a plastic-free alternative, I go for that. Another great way to get rid of plastic (and in fairness non-plastic) junk is to give it away, I often use freecycle pages on Facebook, sort of like customer to customer recycling.
The rest of your home
Ok so you’ve sorted the bathroom, that’s the easy part, you’ve thrown out all the junk in your home, now it’s time to tackle the rest. As long as your buying foods, toiletries and accessories plastic free then this should be pretty simple as well. Do a mental scan of your home and think about what you actually need and what you don’t, think about being minimal, then think about which of the items you don’t need and which one of those are plastics.
When I went through this, the kitchen was pretty easy by this point, without plastics wrapping all my food the only things left were basics, washing up liquid, etc. Washing up products was simple, I have a dishwasher, so I just didn’t buy plastic bottles of washing up liquid. There were a couple of things I didn’t resolve which would have been simple, but if I’m bluntly honest I couldn’t be bothered to do. We go through a good few bin liners, I dare not think how many throughout a year, the resolution would only be to put rubbish directly in the bin and pour it into the bigger container outside… I haven’t done this.
I won’t write paragraphs about everything else in your home you could replace with plastic-free alternatives, but I will put another short table with some ideas for you to get started with.
Really this is just a suggestion, I have no doubt that you will have a variety of items around your home that I can’t even think of so be creative and use this as more of a guide to help you through the changeover.
Your friends and family
So let us assume you’ve sorted yourself out, congratulations your now saving the planet and thanks to you there’s one less turtle with a plastic straw in its head. Now let’s take it even further by getting your friends and family onboard. If I’m honest this is the hardest part, your mom and grandma probably already take their reusable bags to the supermarket to save money. However, now its time to get them buying the apples without plastic wrap all over them and replace their favorite shampoo with a bar, that’s the hard part.
For the most part, none of are going to convince all or even a few of our friends and family to do this, the critical element is that you’re on board and anyone else you can convince to drop even one plastic item is an absolute plus!
To end, I’ll leave you with a few facts, that prove just how much you are saving our planet with your new plastic-free lifestyle.
1 Bamboo toothbrush = 4 Plastic toothbrushes
1 Reusable water bottle = 167 Plastic water bottles
1 reusable bag = 170 plastic bags
1 reusable coffee cup = 500 coffee cups
1 metal straw = 540 plastic straws
1 cloth towel = 7,300 paper towels (Not plastic but it’s a waste we don’t need)
Doing each one of the first 5 and you save 1381 plastic items in a year, do everything I mentioned in this article, and I can only dream of how much plastic we can all save.