By 2050 it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.. shocking right? Plastic is everywhere, and has become a major source of pollution that we must address or face the consequences.
Plastic is cheap, versatile and lasts a long time… herein lies the problem, it’s blessings are also its curse. It’s cheap, so it’s difficult to convince companies to use alternative materials such as steel, glass or wood. It lasts a very long time – although some plastic is recycled, it is still a fraction of the amount that ends up in landfill. And when it ends up in landfill it doesn’t biodegrade (plastic needs sunlight in order to biodegrade, and even then it would take hundreds of years, but most plastic in landfill doesn’t see the light of day as it’s in massive piles). A lot of plastic also ends up in our environment where it injures wildlife. And if none of those worry you – this one should.. plastic is disastrous for our health. Chemicals in plastic have been linked to hormonal disruptions, reproductive disorders, cancer and mental health issues.
It is now so widespread that to avoid plastic would mean making a major effort to come up with solutions that would change the way you shop, store food, which cosmetics you use – most people are put off by the effort it would require. But with a few tweaks here and there and a little dedication it is TOTALLY possible.
This month is ‘Plastic Free July’, which aims to draw attention to this worrying issue that is affecting our environment, our wildlife and our health. Find out more about it here. Read on to find out how to make simple changes that will help you to avoid plastic in your daily life..
1. Cling film and plastic storage box alternatives:
-Bees wrap. I did a little dance when I found this stuff, it’s so lovely to use and very aesthetically pleasing with it’s crinkliness; every time you unwrap your food it feels like Christmas. I love their motto “because good food deserves good care”.. damn straight. It’s made of organic cotton muslin infused with beeswax to package up your food without plastic and keep it fresher for longer. Wonderful stuff. Check them out here.
-Glass jars/ kilner jars – every time you finish a glass jar (for olives, pasta sauce etc) wash it out and keep it, they make brilliant food storage containers that won’t leach any nasties into your food and are very good at keeping things fresh due to their airtight lids. Kilner jars tend to be larger and you can get them in a range of sizes to suit.
2. Bring a reusable mug when you order coffee (or drink in). A stainless steel coffee travel mug would be your best option. The extra bonuses of doing this are that your coffee will be cheaper (most coffee shops give you a discount for bringing your own container) AND it will stay hotter for longer if it’s in an insulated mug. You can also use the same flask for juices or smoothies, which are always served in takeaway plastic cups with plastic straws! Another alternative is to order your coffee to drink in rather than takeaway – take some work or a book (or drag a friend along).. after all, aren’t we all trying to slow down and savour those little moments of quiet joy in each day that make life that little bit better.
3. Carry a reusable water bottle with you. This is one of the easiest changes you can make with the least amount of hassle. Get yourself a stainless steel or glass water bottle and fill it up at home before you leave the house. I use this stainless steel one and absolutely love it – it’s light, robust, easy to clean and keeps my drinks cool all day.
4. Reusable shopping bags made of hemp/ cotton. These are cheap to buy and will last a lifetime. Keep a fold up one in your bag or in your car so you’ll always have it on hand.
5. Make your own cosmetics or find brands that come in glass. Making your own shampoo, face cream and face masks is very rewarding if you want to dedicate a weekend afternoon to whipping up some delicious cosmetics with natural ingredients. If this doesn’t excite you, then there are plenty of natural cosmetic brands that come packaged in glass.
6. Consider shopping elsewhere than a supermarket. Not only are they freezing cold even in the height of Summer and devoid of any personality whatsoever, supermarkets are also one of the worst offenders when it comes to the use of plastic as most of the food is enveloped in plastic packaging. Even if you buy organic food – much of it is packaged in plastic that can leach into the food. Keep in mind that for a food to bear the organic label it has to have been grown organically, but the packaging doesn’t have to be organic. Don’t undo all your hard work people! If the supermarket is the most convenient choice for you, then it’s still possible to reduce your consumption of plastic by choosing the loose fruit and veg, and buying products that are packaged in glass.
My favourite 3 alternatives to shopping at supermarkets are:
–Shop online using a farm-to-door delivery service (e.g. Riverford Organic or Abel and Cole). The fruit and veggies all come wrapped in nice crinkly brown paper bags, sat in lovely cardboard boxes. And delivered straight to your door by the same wholesome looking person each time!
–Shop at independent health food shops/ butchers/ fishmongers. Most health food shops have loose produce that you can pop into brown paper bags. And for meat/fish, take your own container or some bees wrap and ask them to pop it in there without any plastic wrapping. You’ll be avoiding plastic AND supporting your local community – double wammy.
–Shop at farmers markets. These are popping up left, right and centre and are a lovely way to spend an hour or two. PLUS there are often delicious samples at many of the stalls, so you can get your weekly shopping as well as a free albeit slightly random lunch.
7. Say no to straws. Next time you order a drink in a bar, simply say “no straw please” when you order your drink. If you want to feel really sad – do some research on straws and how they harm wildlife, especially marine life. Another alternative is to take your own glass straw around with you, or even a bamboo straw! That might be a step too far for some of you, but if you were frolicking amongst the cooler-than-thou crowds of East London it would probably garner you some new friends pretty quickly – “What this thing? Oh it’s just my organic wildcrafted, hand reared, cold pressed bamboo straw”. Go on I dare you!
If you have any great suggestions on how to avoid plastic please feel free to share.. i’d love to hear from you!