Earlier in the year, I shared a post about ethical and sustainable decisions I’m making in my lifestyle in 2018. The biggest one of these for me was thinking more about plastic and how much of it there is around me in my daily life.
A lot of people have been talking about this recently, I think mostly due to Blue Planet II, but the weird thing is, I didn’t watch that! I think I was influenced by other people who were influenced by the programme – so that’s pretty awesome because it’s worked exactly how I imagine they wanted it to.
I’ve come across lots of articles recently at Country Living talking about using less single use plastic in real everyday life, and these have been brilliant. I especially loved this one about living entirely plastic free for a week and the challenges with it, highlighting where we need better options.
Anyway, when I started thinking more about single use plastics, I started to notice them absolutely everywhere in my life. You’d think living in the countryside would mean easier access to products that aren’t wrapped in plastic – ie. directly from the farm. In reality, it’s a bit trickier than that! Since cities have a higher demand of people looking for plastic-free products, they seem to be making bigger steps. Our market town supermarkets aren’t big enough to have a plastic free aisle, and, while we have a few small independent retailers like butchers, bakers and greengrocers, they’re few and far between. These small shops struggle to survive where there’s less demand, but we’re trying to support them when we can.
Fortunately Ripon, where I work, has its own “Ooops Ripon” campaign (“Opt out of plastic scheme”) that I’ve just heard about, and I’ve also joined a Zero Waste Yorkshire Facebook group. Both of these are really encouraging as people are sharing where we can find other options to single use plastic in the area.
If you’re wondering why single use plastics are a problem or this post isn’t making sense to you, check out this video – it’s terrifying.
But here are a few things I’ve been doing personally recently to slash my use of single use plastics.
1. Water bottles
At work, we’ve always been provided with plastic bottles of water in the fridge. I always thought this was awesome because it meant we had cold water all the time and easy access to it. I found I was drinking far more out of a water bottle than I was if I just had water in a glass next to me.
BUT, I was using 3-4 bottles a day then chucking them away. I hate to admit that these were also just going straight into the normal bin for a while as we didn’t have an option for recycling them. So a couple of years ago, me and my old colleague, Laura, started collecting the bottles and taking them to the local recycling unit once a week, and trying to get others to join in too.
But still, it wasn’t enough – those bottles are still only being used once before having to go in for processing, even when they are getting recycled. It’s SO much waste – I would be using a minimum of 15 every week!
So I upped my game. I first got this Joseph Joseph hard plastic reusable water bottle which tracks your water intake daily with a twist lid with dots. This was good because I wasn’t thinking about how much I was drinking normally so made me more aware, but I quickly found that it wasn’t perfect, mostly because it let my water get warm.
Then my colleague Sarah got a Tree Tribe stainless steel water bottle and it not only looked good, but it worked well. I was sold! I’m now keeping my Joseph Joseph one for home and travel, and my Tree Tribe one for work. I got the mountain and moon design on a 350ml bottle and I love it. It keeps the water cold inside (I swear, it gets colder in there!) but can also be used for hot water. It’s apparently “indestructible”, which is good for someone as clumsy as me. It’s pretty lightweight and easy to carry with the metal handle. It hasn’t leaked on me yet. And on top of all that, they plant 10 trees for every purchase. Really, what more could you want from a water bottle?!
2. Cleaning products
I want to start writing more specifically about these, so I’ll just give a quick overarching view of what we’re doing here.
Up until recently, we had cleaners. It was partly a birthday present to me from Ben, because I hate cleaning, and partly because we were going through a really busy time and didn’t want to spend that time on cleaning. They came fortnightly which meant we did smaller jobs in between, but the house got a really good clean every two weeks.
We decided to reevaluate what we were getting for our money a few months ago and decided that if we set aside a few hours every week, we could do it ourselves, possibly better, and save money. It’s been a bit of a struggle as, like I said, I hate cleaning, but Ben threw his all into it and is, worryingly, now a little bit cleaning obsessed. As in, he follows YouTubers that literally just post about cleaning, how to clean, what to use and so on.
He has a bit of a trick to it – we’ve decided Saturday morning is our cleaning time. He forces me out of bed (sometimes unsuccessfully – I’m a night owl, okay?!) and we have our own jobs to do, so we just get on and do it.
And in this process, we realised we have A LOT of bottles of cleaning stuff. Our under sink cupboard could barely close because we had approximately 30 bottles of various things in there. Not only were we purchasing products in single-use plastics, but we were also using so many different chemicals. They’ve always scared me a bit because of the whole “don’t mix this with that or you’ll poison yourself” thing, but we were also really won over by marketing so thought we needed a different product for every different thing.
So we downsized – we got rid of the bottles we didn’t need or use, and we’re down to a couple of basics like washing up liquid and bleach, which can be used for a lot more things than you realise.
On top of that, Ben’s started making our own cleaning products using simple ingredients like castille soap, white vinegar, bicarb and some essential oils for things that need a nice scent. Because you only need small amounts of these, you can buy the product as well as a few reusable bottles, then you’re not buying new cleaning products in new bottles every few weeks. Like I said, I’ll try and do a whole post (or more!) on this sometime!
3. Beauty products
I talked in my last post about how I’d started using low or no packaging cosmetics including naked shower gel, shampoo and conditioner bars and bars of soap instead of hand soap. I’ve moved a little bit further with that recently by using lip balm from Lush, which comes in metal tins as opposed to the plastic push up lipstick-style tubes I used to use, and by buying solid deodorant from Lush. This was a little bit of a scary one because it’s very unlike the usual sprays or roll ons we’re so used to, and if I’ve got a day with a workout or a lot of movement, I’ll still use the old ones, but I’m trying to transition into using the solid one more often. It smells lovely too which is a big positive!
Hand washing was one that we wanted to rethink as I’ve never really been a fan of bar soaps and we LOVE foaming hand wash…so we learned to make our own! We already had a couple of bottles (one stolen from my mum!) from Bath and Body Works’ foaming hand soap, so we watched a couple of videos, followed some instructions, and with (mostly!) distilled water, a bit of castille soap and some essential oils, you’ve got a foaming hand wash!
In addition to this, we’ve been experimenting with facial products and making our own ones in reusable bottles too. Essentially it’s the same recipe as above, but with jojoba oil added, which I already have and use as a moisturiser on Michelle’s recommendation. We’ve only been using this for a few days, but I’ll update in future and share our recipe if it works out. We purchased a new reusable bottle for this on Amazon too.
It does sound a little bit like we’re having to make a lot of purchases to cut out single use plastics, but in reality, it’s only been a few key things that will be reused over and over – almost an investment for the future, but in reality, we’d probably have been spending this much on stuff we’d eventually chuck in the bin in the end!
4. Menstrual products
So this is the point where any squeamish family members might want to scroll onwards, but let’s talk menstrual products!
Apparently over 45 billion feminine hygiene products are disposed of every year, and each woman will use around 11,000 in her lifetime – that’s a crazy amount! And consider the stuff they’re made out of – the plastic packaging and applicators, the synthetic fabrics like viscose that are chucked in a bin or, worse, down a toilet. So a better and different solution is what we need for this.
I’ve recently tried two: Wuka period knickers (the first of their kind in the UK!) and the Mooncup. I reviewed the Wuka knickers at BCLC, so you can read all about that here, but in short, they’re great to replace a pad or a use as back up, if that’s what you prefer to do, but as someone that normally uses tampons, it felt a bit weird to me – I’m mostly using them for back up now.
The Mooncup though, I have finally had success with! I got mine a couple of years ago, tried it out and didn’t get on with at all. It felt weird and I couldn’t get the hang of it. I really wanted to try again though as I wanted to stop chucking thousands of products in the bin or down the drain, so a few months ago, I did. And I’ve finally got it! My life is changed!! I mean, there have been a few mishaps along the way, and I don’t think Ben was all that happy about me shouting through the bathroom door to him “I think it’s on the wrong side of my cervix! Why is my cervix there?!!”, but now I’ve got the hang of it, it’s made life easier and I feel better about not chucking away so much waste.
5. Supermarket products
Supermarkets are SO tricky. As I said, we don’t have a plastic free aisle or many options to go plastic free, but I’m trying my best. We try to pick loose veg where we can, and I plan to take paper or reusable bags to put our loose fruit and veg in to the supermarket in future.
There is a campaign though for people to leave their plastic packaging at the counter at the supermarket, but I’ll admit, I’m far too terrified and anxiety filled to do that! The point is to make a statement to the supermarkets, as cashier and customer service will feedback to managers who will in turn pass that higher up if enough people are doing it.
So while I was too scared to do that, I did read that many supermarkets have plastic bag recycling bins and that you can also put “stretchy” plastic packaging in these too. I was determined to do this, but sadly our local supermarket didn’t have one of these bins! So I decided to try and make a tiny difference, so I headed over to customer services and asked about it – they said they’d be happy to take the plastic bags at that counter and dispose of them, so hopefully that might have got some feedback, even if that means putting a bin in the supermarket.
In future, I really want to go to a loose ingredients bulk shop to stock up on things like grains. I found the Zero Waste App which shows the nearest locations to you, and sadly, our nearest one is about a 45 minute drive on country roads away, which is a shame, but I feel like it’s worth making the trip! Hopefully there’ll be more options in future.
So stay tuned for my next plastic-free living update – hopefully we’ll see more updates in Ripon and local to me!