Tips for Going Plastic Free
The Marine Conservation Society's plastic free challenge is back for 2018 and runs for the whole of July.
We all know that we should be using less plastic. Plastic will still be around polluting our earth and seas for thousands of years. When it does breakdown it doesn’t disappear but turns into tiny particles that make their way up the food chain.
But, in this western world that we live in, going plastic free isn’t easy. I have found proof of this in previous years when participating in the MCS plastic challenge! So with that in mind, here’s some of the challenges I’ve come across over the last few years in this journey and ways around them I have worked on.
Firstly, remember that the MCS plastic free challenge isn’t about going completely plastic free for a whole month (unless you’re ready to take that on!), it’s about pledging to do what you can, making changes and especially avoiding single use plastics.
Supermarket shopping plastic free can be difficult.
Although, over the last year things like “plastic free aisles” are being implemented and there has been more of an awareness of shopping plastic free, you still have to be very choosy about what you pick up when you are shopping.
Fruit and vegetables are a fairly easy one.
You can choose loose fruit and veg and not bag them in the plastic bags. But, not everything will be plastic free and often the options that are will be more expensive than their plastic packaged version. Switching to a fruit and veg box is a good option for plastic free and you have the benefit of seasonal eating.
Take your own Containers
This will be hit or miss with who is supportive and who isn't when you request them to use your own containers for deli counter purchases but it will certainly strike up conversation. Local independents may be easier than supermarkets.
Home baking makes it a lot easier to shop plastic free.
If you can spare the time you will likely be giving yourself a healthier option too, from your own bread to snacks to meals.
Switch to glass bottles or aluminum cans wherever you can.
There are a lot of challenges when it comes to food. I’ve struggled in previous years to find replacement options for many products such as yoghurt, milk, bread (some shops have paper bags for fresh bread but often with a plastic window), fruit juice (tetrapacks have plastic in them), pasta, rice….but tins and bottles are easy swaps. You don't need to buy your ketchup or olive oil in a plastic bottle and you can find tinned fruit & veg a good option if you can't find plastic free fresh.
A local zero waste unpackaged shop in your area?
These little gems are starting to spring up all over the place but there is definitely a need for more. If you are lucky enough to have one in a location you can easily get to without clocking up too much carbon footprint then this is a great option. Generally they keep all the dried staples you might need and often lots of plastic free toiletries too.
Plastic Free Tea
When it comes to drinks, I once thought tea bags were going to be easy on the plastic free challenge. But what I found was that even when you choose tea bags in an old-fashioned cardboard box, they come wrapped in plastic. And then, I discovered the tea bag itself actually contains plastic! I’ve since switched to loose tea and have been feeling healthier about this choice ever since.
Reusable cups are all over the place
These are all over the place this year. An easy switch to make, if you haven’t already and July is the perfect time for it! Another easy one is to switch cling film or plastic food bags for reusable sandwich wraps and snack bags. They last for years and do the job really well.
The laundry and cleaning aisle requires some preplanning
Most of these tasks are achievable plastic free but it does require a bit more of your time. You can make your own household cleaner in a reusable bottle pretty easily and cheaply. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where you can get your bottles refilled by eco brands then that is a great option. Not only will you be avoiding single use plastic you will be helping out our seas and waters by stopping the chemical flow of laundry liquids and cleaning products.
I personally alternate between Soapnuts and an Eco-Egg preferring the Soap Nuts in the Summer when your washing can blow dry easily on a line. I use Humble Stuff for cleaning and whilst they come in plastic, they do offer a concentrated refillable bottle which is small. What's more I trust the natural non-toxic ingredients and love the smell!
One year I went to great lengths to source plastic free toilet rolls. Of course, toilet rolls themselves are fine but they do come wrapped in plastic when you buy them. After exhausting supermarkets I searched online and found Green Cane. They are a company with a strict no plastic ethic. Who Gives a Crap is another plastic free toilet roll brand to try and if you can locate Suma Eco Leaf Toilet Paper, this comes in a biodegradable wrap so another better choice.
Plastic Free Personal Care Products
Menstrual products produce an awful lot of plastic waste. Luckily there are options out there, and since switching I’ve not looked back. There are also health benefits in moving away from disposables. Give a Mooncup a try or reusable sanitary pads. Once you’ve got the hang of them then they become second nature to use and you feel good about your choice. Earthwise Girls would be a great place to start for newbies.
Other items that were a struggle in previous years have been shampoo, suncream, razors, make up. Some I’ve resolved and some I haven’t. Using Natural Solid Soap bars is an easy switch from handwash bottles and shower gel. There is an abundance of choices out there so it comes down to budget. I personally choose palmoil free as well as plastic free and always natural.
Of course our very own Earth Conscious Natural Deodorant is an easy switch to plastic free deodorant.
Razors you could make an investment in a razor with a reusable stainless steel handle and I have done so for my husband. BUT, it is a careful slow shave not if you’re in a rush!
Solid Shampoo Bars are still a struggle for me. Personally, despite trying many natural solid shampoo bars, the Lush solid bars work the best but they do contain SLS. I have a list of others to try this July but it may be something that we start to look at creating ourselves.
Teeth & Toothpaste - easy! We stock Truthpaste that again is totally Natural and comes in a glass jar. It can take a little while to get used to the texture but I love it. My children not much so but I do get them to use inbetween times. So for them, they are still using plastic. We are all using Bamboo Toothbrushes with bamboo bristles.
Gradual Small Changes
The last few years for me have been a gradual change from plastic to non-plastic in many areas. With a family and their priorities to consider and finances playing a big part, it’s not always been easy. For many families it will come down to finances and time constraints. These are not excuses they are very real day to day reasons. Buying fruit juice in a tetrapack for example, maybe less than £1, and if you’re lucky enough to find a glass bottle you could be paying at least 4 times that much!
I think what has worked for me are sourcing other options than what you find on the supermarket shelves. And also not putting too much pressure on yourself and making yourself miserable in the process.
If you can recognise that small choices that you make can all add up to a greater good then that is a good feeling. We want this process to be positive. For me the plastic free challenge gets you thinking about how much we all rely heavily on single use plastics and then that creates inspiration to take initiative and make changes. I hope some of my experience may help you on the way.
Good luck everyone!