David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series really brought the issue of ocean plastic and single use plastics out into the open last year. Since then I have since other various shocking articles, documentaries and photos highlighting the issue in a way that makes it impossible to ignore. This time last year I pledged to try and cut out my consumption of single use plastic altogether.
I won’t lie, it actually turned out to be even more challenging than I could ever have expected. So many of the foods and products that we consume in our everyday lives are made of or packaged in plastic. Some can be recycled but a lot cannot. I am also suspicious that much of the plastic that we think gets recycled in reality may not.
Cutting out single use plastics can seem pretty daunting. I am just taking it one step at a time, trying to make simple swaps starting with those that will have the biggest impact. Whilst I am still quite a long way from being single use plastic free, I think I have made quite a substantial reduction in our plastic waste. Here are my top simple single use plastic free swaps that I have introduced over the last year.
1. Refillable water bottle
This is possibly one of the easiest swaps and most effective swaps to make. A bottle of water or two a day adds up to a lot of single use plastic and quite abit of money too. Tap water is free and it really isn’t too much effort to fill it up from the tap. As I discovered on my recent travels to Copenhagen, even when trvelling, it is not difficult to find refill points at airports to avoid buying plastic bottles.
2. Reusable shopping bag
Another super simple swap that makes a big difference is a reusable shopping bag. The key to making this swap is getting in to the habit of keeping a few reusable bags in your car and handbag for those unexpected pops into the shops.
3. Packed lunch in reusable container
Another huge and potential daily source of single use plastic packaging is the packaging on shop bought sandwiches and ready made lunches. I prefer to make my own combining fresh salads, roast veg, cheese, nuts and a dressing for a lunch that I really look forwad to and helps get me through the afternoon. I have invested in this Slice of Green tin from Ethical Superstore which has a smaller container inside. Don’t forget to take your own knife and fork to avoid using plastic ones!
4. Local market veg
Another big win for me has been buying my fruiy and veg from the local market. Almost all of it is naked with no plastic packaging and can be tipped straight into my reusable shopping bag. This has also been another big win on the budget point of view and costs significantly less and tastes better than supermarket veg. If you don’t have a local market, a farm shop or green grocer is a good option or possible an organic fruit and veg box scheme.
5. Soap and shampoo bars
The bathroom is another huge source of single use plastics in our house especially with so much long hair that needs washing. Liquid soaps and shampoos are almost always in a plastic bottle and it is easy to use too mcuh of them. Switching to a simple bar of soap instead of shower gels and shampoo bars for our hair has worked well in reducing our plastic waste. At the moment I am using a Lush shampoo bar which I find really good and Simple soap. We haven’t yet found a conditioner bar that works for our curly and often tangled but continue to search for a good alternative.
6. Homemade bread
I started off by buying fresh bread from the market in a paper bag each week but found that it didn’t last all week and worked out quite expensive. Instead we have now invested in a small breadmaker which makes just enough for one day and is super easy so we can wake up to the smell of fresh plastic free bread every morning, which makes me super happy.
7. Homemade cakes and biscuits
Another big source of plastic waste is snacks. Cakes, biscuits and chocolate is all wrapped in some sort of plastic or film. We all love homemade cakes and bisuits much better than shop bought and all or most of the ingredients can be bought in non plastic wrapping e.g. flour, sugar, eggs, butter, chocolate. Our favourites are banana bread, chocolate brownies and victoria sponge with jam but not cream! Homemade cookies are also great for childrens lunch boxes.
8. Homemade yoghurt
Many yogurt pots from shop bought yoghurts are made from polystyrene so not accepted by most household recycling schemes. Shop bought fruit yoghurts are also usually packed with sugar. I have invested in a yoghurt maker which makes it really easy to make lovely homemade yoghurt which can be combined with fruit puree, nuts and granola for a tasty breakfast, desert or snack.
9. Homemade soup
Soup is a lunchtime favourite for me especially in the winter. I often take it to work in a flask for a quick and easy lunch. Making my own vegetable soups is a great way to use up any left over veg as well and means I don’t need to buy plastic pots of ready made soup. This swap is another win for a budget friendly, highly nutritious choice that also saves some pennies.
10. Paper cotton buds
This one doesn’t really need much explanation! Plastic cotton buds can easily be swapped for a paper alternative.
11. Freezer and convenience food
Whilst cooking as much food as possible from scatch generally is the best way to support a single us plastic free lifestyle, my life is busy and there are times when I need to resort to covenience food. Most convience food is plastic wrapped but I have found sound options which are packaged in non plastic options including fish fingers, frozen veggie burgers, falafels etc and potato waffles. Eggs are also available in cardboard and great for quick meals.
12. Pasta in cardboard
Barilla pasta is available in a plastic box and has only a small film window. This can always be combined with a homemade pasta sauce or even ready made jars of pasta sauce for a superquick meal when I am in a rush.
13. Amazon and mail order
Whilst shopping from Amazon and other mail order companies has become a huge part of our lives due to its convenience, almost every single small item that you buy will arrive wrapped in plastic. I am trying to avoid this where possible by buying from a local shop.
14. Supermarket deliveries for popping to the shop
I am trying to reduce my relaince on a weekly supermarket shopping delivery. Mainly because despite my selection of ‘no plastic bags’ they still insist on packaging certain items including meat and substitutes in plastic bags. There really is non need for this as they are all stored in the same fridge without a plastic bag. Hopefully they will get their act together soon so I can return to the convenience of my weekly shopping delivery!
Have you made any swaps to avoid single use plastics? I would love to know how you are getting on or any ideas that you have!