With plastic pollution now at critical levels, it's more important than ever to start trying to reduce our plastic usage. That's why I'm so happy to have Lisa from Kirk and Bert, a blog about organic and chemical-free living, guest posting on Nic's Healthy Life today. I recently wrote a post for Lisa's site about how to eat healthily when you're on a budget and today Lisa is sharing her tips on my blog about plastic-free alternatives to help us reduce our waste.
Since Blue Planet II hit our screens in 2017 there has been an outcry amongst the general public with regard to plastic waste and the impact it is having on our oceans and marine life. Personally, I have been strongly affected by how far and wide plastic pollution has spread and I see the impact of it every time I walk along my local beach.
When you feel this strongly about something it is very easy to let your heart rule your head but it is important that we make rational and informed decisions when trying to reduce our own plastic usage. We need to consider the ‘lifecycle analysis’ of alternative products taking into account factors such as the increased energy used to manufacture it. For example, one study has found that you would need to use a ceramic cup 39 times before it ‘breaks even’ with the amount of energy needed to make a paper disposable cup. This increases to over 1000 times when compared to a polystyrene cup.
It is for this reason that I try to follow the simple concept of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The ultimate ‘wins’ are those where you didn’t need the plastic in the first place and can simply reduce your consumption. If I do need to buy a plastic item I try to make sure it is a product that I will be able to reuse and if it isn’t possible to reuse it then I try to make sure that I am buying plastic packaging which is recyclable.
Using this philosophy, these are the ten key ways that I have reduced my plastic waste.
1. Buy fruit and veg from the local farm shop or greengrocer - I now buy the vast majority of my fresh produce loose which reduces a huge amount of plastic packaging over the course of a year and supports local business at the same time.
2. Dust off the recipe books and get cooking - this reduces the packaging associated with pre-prepared foods and also leads to a healthier diet by encouraging you to use fresh ingredients.
3. Reduce your use of cling film and have a go at making beeswax wraps to cover your food - the beeswax is natural and you can use up some fabric which you have lying around making it a cheap and natural alternative.
4. Take a packed lunch to work – I use my BPA free, plastic sandwich box which I have had for years and can keep reusing to store my sandwiches. This has the added bonus of stopping me from nipping to the supermarket in my lunch break and coming out with a number of plastic wrapped items which are usually loaded with sugar.
5. Invest in a good quality reusable coffee cup which will last a long time and can be used for those times when you need a take-out coffee.
6. Buy a decent water bottle which you can keep reusing - I bought a good quality stainless steel water bottle which was well worth the investment as I now take it with me everywhere. It will last a long time and keeps my water perfectly cold, with no ‘plastic’ taste.
7. Switch to solid bar toiletries which come wrapped in paper, reducing plastic packaging – I now use solid bar shampoo, body wash, soap, facial serum and deodorant. They work just as well, use natural ingredients and last for ages making them comparable in terms of cost to my former toiletries.
8. Make your own cleaning products, buying the ingredients in bulk and reusing old spray bottles - this reduces both the plastic waste on spray bottles and on things like individually wrapped dishwasher tabs.
9. Switch other daily products to non-plastic alternatives to reduce your plastic consumption - I now buy cotton buds with a cardboard stem; use coconut oil as a cleanser, body moisturiser and deep conditioner; and use cider vinegar as an everyday conditioner. This not only reduces plastic waste but also reduces my exposure to synthetic chemicals.
10. Keep a stash of reusable bags in your car or day bag so that they are ready to use when you nip to the shop – this will reduce the likelihood of you needing to purchase any new plastic bags.
It is not hard to find the motivation to reduce plastic waste when even a simple plastic straw takes up to 200 years to biodegrade but it is important to remember that even small changes can make a difference when considered collectively.
I hope that you find these tips helpful and decide to give some of them a go if you haven’t already.
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