Who has been watching #WarOnPlastic this past month? There’s nothing like a good environmental documentary to get my blood boiling and the activist in me raging; at what we have done, the human race, and my own part in that.
Whilst some people have admitted feeling overwhelmed and helpless, I’m a huge advocate of watching, opening our eyes and making informed decisions.
Whatever it takes to get us to stop in our tracks and see the wood for the trees is long overdue; undeniably what we should have been doing a decade or so ago, whilst we were all too busy celebrating the ease and cheapness of the plastic revolution.
So here we are, 2019, drowning in plastic; breathing in the microfibres and washing the microplastics into the oceans with every fast fashion fast wash we run. The scale of the problem is overwhelming, but that is no justification to roll over and accept defeat, to bury our head in the sand (or, should that be microplastic particles) and accept the fate for future generations that we have created.
One of the most memorable slogans I can recall over the last few years of focus on reducing plastic usage is this…
“There is no away”
As a child of the 80’s, there was a time when the biggest issue seemed to be whether or not litter was placed in a bin. “Throwing it away”, as opposed to on the street floor was the height of being eco friendly.
Then came the recycling era. In it’s early days it was perfectly acceptable to find it ‘too much effort’ and just opt out of recycling glass, garden waste, paper or cardboard; a time before common place acceptance of the multiple bins which on arrival caused such a stir for making our house fronts and streets look ‘ugly.
Now we are on the cusp of a new twist in the road. The last two or more decades of finding the most efficient, cheap and accessible forms of, well, everything, are no longer cutting it in the current climate of responsibility towards our planet. Our consumerism culture has reached unmanageable highs and the wear on our world is starting to show.
After all, not all plastic can be recycled, many recycling schemes are complicated and ineffective, ending up in places you’d rather not imagine. Where we need to be focusing is reducing the load altogether. Single use plastics are on the radar, and we all need to jump to the future and pronto – because change isn’t just possible, it’s essential.
But what can we do?
It’s so easy to feel insignificant and useless when looking at climate change and environmental issues on a global scale. But together, small actions do make a difference; you can influence your output with your actions, and pave the way for the generations to come.
When you consider that every bit of plastic ever created remains in existence, you realise that cutting out any single use plastics at all, over the course of your life, will make a difference; to your kids future, and their kids future too.
I am going to try really hard to make some tangible changes over the next few months and stick to them for the long haul. If one other person reading this joins me, then I’ve not only done my bit, but hopefully started a ripple of change too.
Week 1. Wipes
There was a time in my life when I thought wet wipes were the anwer. And granted, if I had a small baby in nappies perhaps I might feel a little uncomfortable about giving up baby wipes. But I no longer have any babies, and if I remember rightly when I was a kid of school age, my Mum wasn’t chasing me around with a moisture soaked piece of plastic to clean the chocolate from my mush; we had flannels. (Or better still a good old thumb and spit, a solid tried and tested method lasting generations).
I declared last year that we would become a wet wipe free home by Christmas, and we have certainly eradicated baby wipes from our weekly shopping list, when not so long ago we were easily getting through four packs a week.
What I realise now however is that i needed to broaden my view. Baby wipes gone, but I have fallen foul to the attractiveness and convenience of wipes in other forms; Make up removal, toilet cleaner, window cleaning, antibacterial, floor cleaners and so on…
So from here on, this very moment, I commit to choosing elbow grease and reusable cloths over any consumable, disposable, single wipe-able option. Across the board.
Week 2. Milkman
We briefly had a milkman back in 2014, and when I took a career break it was one of the first things (along with the organic veg box) which had to go. It makes me pretty sad to think that milkmen and milk bottles as become somewhat of a middle class luxury. We were definitely not the cream of society when I was a kid, and yet the clinking of bottles, and Mum getting me to bring in the new, pop out the empties is such a nostalgic memory.
Now that I’m back at work, I decided to revisit the milkman option. I figured that as probably 25% of our recycling waste is milk cartons and we get through a good 12 to 16 pints a week, perhaps we could start over.
And so, we signed up to Milk & More and have milk delivered three times a week. We are still working out the right number of bottles, and I have moved over to soya milk in paper cartons so we have cut down on those huge plastic containers, hopefully for good.
Unfortunately the cost of milk in glass on your doorstep is very difficult to compete with your Tesco 6 pinter, but while we can, we’re sticking with it. There has to be a future where the most environmentally friendly version equals the most economical?
Week 3. Reusable Water bottles
Bottled water hasn’t ever really been my thing (why pay for something that’s free?) but there is no doubt that I like many of us, have been a captive market plenty of times and sucked it up, paying over the odds for a plastic bottle of adams ale. When you’re out and about, on the road, in hotels, out with the kids. It’s easy to fall into the thirst trap and find yourself in need of hydration.
The answer is of course pretty damn simple. A reusable refillable container for your own use, taken out and about on your person; taking responsibility for your own basic human needs without spending a penny or generating a side waste product in the process.
I’ve always been pretty good at taking the girls bottles out, and recently bought myself a bottle of wonder that passes the no spill in your bag test. In fact, it’s so good I bought one for the whole family. The make is Contigo, available on Amazon, and no, this is not an ad.
Can’t be arsed to carry a bottle? Ask for a glass…
Week 4. Smol laundry
As it happens, I just ran out of laundry gel. I don’t have a particular favourite, and I tend to hop around the gels and tabs, bio and non bio, whatever’s on offer and the latest flavour of the month.
I had previously felt a little irritated by the waste of those refillable caps. We keep them as glue pots for the kids and my under the sink cupboard full of them just highlights how much waste laundry containers create.
And so when I saw Smol pop up on my social media feed, I was intrigued. Delivered by post in totally eco friendly packaging, with minimal waste and top rated performance, at a competitive price. Seriously, ticks every box so I’m in it and will be popping my first load on after swimming tonight. eek.
***Note…this is where I am up to as of today, so the rest is a plan in action!***
Week 5. Plastic bags, coat hangers & lighters
My focus for week four is all about the little things. As a non smoker I don’t buy lighters very often, but I do love a scented candle and we are quite partial to a birthday cake candle every now and again too. I think we all know that the plastic of a lighter, mixed with metal and filled with air has the perfect components to bob around in the sea, travelling far and wide. I know I’m not alone in having seen them dotted about on beaches home and away. So from now on, it’s matches only.
During a recent wardrobe cull it also highlighted how many coat hangers we seem to accumulate; often being in situations we don’t have enough, then in the drop of a hat we have bags of them coming out of our ears with nowhere to put them. And if I have had this problem, then so have you.
The answer to this is simple. Leave them in the store. Say no thank you and allow the store to reuse the hanger. Simple.
Last but not least, I’m thinking about plastic bags. Not so much carrier bags as we have done pretty well in the last few years in reducing the crazy numbers of shopping bags, but the little kitchen type. The sandwhich bags, the freezer bags, the tie handles, the nappy sacks and the party bags (my personal least-favourite).
It’s time to think outside the box. For the girls last birthdays we gave out stripy paper sweet bags full of sweets (that’s all they want anyway right?), and definitely never ever the plastic crap that ends up straight in the bin.
Packed lunches go into tupperware containers. Food leftovers into bowls. It’s not rocket science; but the bottom line is this. Don’t buy them. Don’t use them.
Week 6. Composter
In week 5 we’re going forward with a bit of a curve ball and installing our own composter into the garden (purchased at the Chelsea flower show). Okay it’s not plastic waste but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. The introduction of food waste bins has meant we no longer put the goodness of our veg waste back into the earth of the garden, meaning we buy compost, in big plastic bags. There is a link, see.
As of the end of July we will have installed our mini garden composter and I cannot wait to get composting the goodness of our kitchen scraps back into our garden.
Week 7. Bamboo Toothbrushes
It’s such a simple idea; bamboo toothbrushes. These are a perfect example of how we could replace an everyday item with a sustainable alternative. We gave these a go a while back and I have to say the quality wasn’t great. But I stand undefeated. The more consumer pressure the better and if we stop buying the plastic versions, the commercial markets have to respond to our needs.
Week 8. Bar soap shampoo and Conditioner
Alongside toothbrushes, it’s another household product which fills up most of the single use plastic demand in our house and that is wash products. Shower gel, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, bubble bath…
I’m committed to finding a decent bar version of shampoo we can all use, alongside some good old fashioned bars of soap, with which the girls can create bubbles to their hearts content.
I’m pretty fussy when it comes to hair products so this is one that’s going to require some research. Any tips welcome…
Week 9. Dishwasher tabs
I’m planning on seeing how the Smol laundry capsules work out, and if it’s a raving success, next on my radar is their dishwasher tablets. We don’t run the dishwasher as often as the clothes washer but I reckon this is an easy win for reducing cost and packaging on dishwasher detergents too.
Week 10. Home cleaning
This time last year I joined the hoards of folk getting on board the bargain cleaning aisle wagon. What can I say? Mrs Hinch made me do it.
These days I have wised up to the total unnecessary act of buying all of the cleaning products, and I’ve been pretty busy using up the stuff I stocked up on. That said, I’m nearly all out, so I’m planning on streamlining the under sink cupboard big time. I’ve already invested in a stainless steel e cloth and I want to give the window version a go too. Otherwise, the only thing I’ll be sticking up on is white vinegar and bicarb, which legend has it can clean anything off anything… Gotta be worth a try?
Week 11. Speak up for change
It’s all well and good to make these simple everyday changes in our small bubble, but in order to really REALLY see change, we as consumers need to drive for a difference. Big chains, brands, supermarkets; they are the ones which can make changes with huge impact.
So be activist in your own way; can you bring about change in your workplace? In your community? On your street?
Write a letter, send an email, ping out a tweet. Start a movement of change in a place you can influence and bring others along with you. Write about the changes you have made, share them on social media, show others how it’s done. Start a ripple which might just become a wave.
Week 12. Plan what’s next
So after three months of stepwise change, it’s time for a review and reflect on each of the changes implemented, and look see where to go from here. Perhaps plan out the next 12 weeks, carry on your crusade and seek out the small wins, big wins and everything in between.
I’m already seeing the opportunities everywhere – in my food shop, in the office, in the toy boxes and in the things that we really, really don’t need.
|Three||Reusable water bottle|
|Five||Bags, hangers, lighters|
|Eight||Bar soap and conditioner|
|Eleven||Speak up for change|
So that’s my rough guide to reducing single use plastic…I’m keeping my eyes peeled for more options and I’m committed to doing my bit.
The question is, are you?