Since deciding to work on reducing my impact on the planet, the way we live has changed drastically. One of the biggest changes has been our waste. We’re a family of four and we’ve gone from filling our kerbside collection boxes and bins every week without fail, to putting our landfill bin out once every couple of months.
One of the things that helped me most with this was building up a plastic free (or zero waste, I guess) toolkit. Every few weeks, when I felt myself fully adjust to the last change, I’d think of the next thing to try. What is the next thing I can do to reduce the amount of waste we throw out? What am I noticing in the recycling/general waste a lot recently?
The benefits of building our plastic free toolkit have been pretty far-reaching: our planet will undoubtedly be happier without being saddled with so much weight. Quite unexpectedly, it’s made my life a lot easier. I don’t have as much clutter, I don’t have to remember to add things to my shopping list, I’m saving money. In the long run, I’m saving time too!
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Plastic free food & drink
A reusable coffee cup was one of my first swaps despite not actually drinking much takeaway coffee. I heartily recommend KeepCup as you can order and replace components as and when you need to rather than replacing the whole thing.
A water bottle will not only save lots of bottles or cans from being produced, but it will also save you money as you’re not continually buying drinks on the go. I’ve been using an insulated Klean Kanteen for three years now and it’s still in almost perfect condition.
Food storage such as wax wraps or reused containers help you to cut down on food waste and pre-packaged, processed foods. Just be sure to label everything you put in the freezer, because after a few weeks you won’t remember what is what! Cardiff-based Tabitha Eve Co.* sell vegan wax food wraps in their Etsy store.
Packing your own lunch puts you in more control of the waste involved. Having a lunch box like the stainless steel one I reviewed from Net Zero Co a few months back helps so much with this!
Keeping cutlery on hand means you no longer need disposable stirrers, forks, sporks, spoons or knives when you’re out and about. The simplest thing to do is just keep a regular set in a small bag or pouch, but the spork set I got from Net Zero Co is very cute!
Metal straws are perfect for anyone who loves to drink through a straw but hates paper or single use anything. Some people say they leave a funny taste, but I have never found as much. These rainbow stainless steel straws* make me swoon! If you don’t like stainless steel, you could always try these silicone ones*.
Lightweight vegetable bags for shopping or storage are a simple way to cut plastic out of your life. I tend not to use bags for my loose fruit and veg in store anyway but we do use them to store some vegetables at home.
A loose-leaf tea pot like the one I used in this recipe is a quick way to move from tea bags, which often contain plastic in the seals. The advantage of this is you can make a tea from the herbs you grow in the garden too without much fuss!
Sturdy shopping bags are essential. It doesn’t matter if they’re old bags for life you’re wearing out, cotton or jute bags you’ve picked up along the way or using your handbag or rucksack. There are so many options out there that there’s no need to keep buying more bags.
Plastic free cleaning
I’ve used “non sponges” to wash my dishes for a couple of years now (specifically these ones*). They wash well, are easy to clean and compostable at the end of their life. You can get dish cloths too if you prefer.
Splosh cleaning products aren’t technically plastic free – they come in plastic starter bottles, and their refills are plastic. That said, you reuse the bottles and you send the refill pouches back to be recycled. I almost exclusively use Splosh to clean my home now.
Plastic free toiletries
Toothbrushes are a difficult one for me and I haven’t found a solution I feel 100% great about yet. Bamboo toothbrushes often use nylon-4 bristles or worse – pig hair. No thanks! Not to mention the fact that they go mouldy. At the moment I’m using Live Coco replacement heads with an electric toothbrush I’ve had for years. I don’t love it, but it’s the option with the best balance for now.
For shampoo (which I rarely do now thanks to the curly girl method but my kids still do) I love Lush shampoo bars. I tried many other ones which all left a nasty residue in my hair. We’ve also used the Bounty Hunter from Newport-based Bubble which was very good.
Cloth sanitary pads or a menstrual cup (or both!) CSPs are as easy as regular pads, super cute and easy to take care of. My favourites are from Crimson Moon CSP on Etsy*. I also love Bloom & Nora and my Kind Organic menstrual cup!
Conditioner has been a little more difficult for us, and with two curly women in the house we get through a lot! We’re currently using Faith in Nature 5l bottles – they’re not plastic free but they do take them back. We use aloe vera* for cleansing and the coconut* one as a leave in, but are keeping our fingers crossed for a 5l blueberry refill!
Because our lifestyles are all so different, eliminating plastic waste from our lives is a very individual thing. It feels almost impossible to imagine a life completely without single-use plastics. Focussing on gradually reducing the amount of plastic in your life and keeping track of the waste you produce is the way forward. This is a living post, so if you have any suggestions, drop them in the comments and I’ll check them out!