Plastic is one of those things that can seem almost impossible to avoid, but despite our best recycyling efforts it is doing incredible damage to our environment. Whilst it can often be turned into new products and uses, much of the plastic we use is ending up in our oceans, causing huge problems for our marine life. Luckily, with a little forethought it is really simple to reduce plastic at home, so today I thought I would share some of my top tips! I’d love to hear yours as well!
Most people are getting better at remembering to take their green bags to the supermarket, but you can also take that one step further and avoid plastic bags when doing other kinds of shopping too. I carry a small, foldable bag in my handbag at all times, and then any clothes, shoes, books and pretty much anything else can go straight in it, no plastic required!
Try a Shopping Trolley
I don’t own a car so my trips to get my groceries are all done on foot, so to save my back and arms from having to lug heavy bags home I bought myself a shopping bag on wheels (or my old lady trolley as B likes to call it!). Not only does this help my poor body but it reduces the number of green bags I need to have (as they still use resources to make them!) as everything except my softer fruit & veggies just goes straight in the trolley. Much easier!
Avoid Pre-Packaged Fruit & Veggies
I buy most of my fruit & veggies from my local F&V shop, but even they sometimes pre-package produce up! Where possible avoid buying things like bags of carrots or apples, or avocados on a tray and wrapped in cling-film, and instead choose from the loose options (that way you get to pick the ones that are at the ripeness level you are after as well). A bonus tip is to use the paper bags that are meant for mushrooms for anything you need to bag up, like loose spinach for example, as the paper is much easier to recycle (and there’s no reason they need to just be for mushrooms!)
Do a little research to see if there is somewhere locally that you can BYO containers and buy in bulk. Not only does this reduce the amount of packaging required but will often save you a lot of money in the process. You can usually buy everything from nuts, grains and legumes to sometimes even cleaning products, oils and other liquids. Sustainable Table has a bulk store directory, so have a look to see if there’s somewhere near you!
If this doesn’t work for you then you can still BYO containers to places like the deli and butcher and then the food can go straight in the fridge without the need for extra packaging. Most places are more than happy to oblige!
Choose Paper and Boxes
Where possible choose products that are packaged in boxes or paper over those in plastic. Paper is not only much easier to recycle, it’s also much less harmful to the environment if it does end up in our waterways as it will biodegrade. This includes things like bread, laundry powder (or make your own!) and toilet paper (Who Gives a Crap is my personal favourite).
Save & Reuse Glass Jars
Having an organised pantry with everything neatly in containers is something I’m working on, and as much as possible I want these containers to be glass. I am saving jars whenever I finish a product and over time working to reduce the number of plastic (BPA free of course!) containers I have. I don’t see the point in recycling them if they are still useful so this will be a long-term project, but one that will make a difference!
Avoid Cling Film for Leftovers
I do a lot of cooking in bulk so rather than wrapping any leftovers in cling film it’s much kinder on the planet to store these in containers that can be washed and reused over and over. For food staying at home I will use glass, but if I need to transport it to work (which happens on foot!) I use stainless steel or BPA free plastic containers (you can read about some of my favourites here). If you often find you have leftovers on a plate then you can pick up reusable, washable cotton food covers online or at craft markets, which will fit snuggly over plates and bowls, leaving you with delicious leftovers and no waste!
Ditch the Straw
Plastic straws are a huge environmental problem so if possible it’s best to say no when offered one if you’re out, and choose a more sustainable option at home. Paper straws have had a resurgence and there are plenty of pretty patterns and colours out there these days, many of which can even be composted (check the packet first though), or at the very least recycled. If you want to go one better then look into a glass or stainless steel straw which will last you through many a delicious smoothie without causing havoc to the planet!
Make Your Own Cleaning Products
Rather than having a cupboard full of cleaning products, each requiring its own plastic bottle (and highly likely to be full of nasty chemicals) it’s super simple to make your own, with the added bonus that most of the ingredients come packaged in boxes! If you missed my recipes for Bathroom & Laundry cleaners as well as Kitchen & Floors then follow the links!
Avoid Disposable Plates, Cups & Cutlery
If you’re entertaining guests, and particularly children, it can be very enticing to just stock up on plastic tableware that you can throw out afterwards, but nowadays there are some great biodegradable options that still help you avoid doing the dishes, but don’t hurt the planet either! If you do want to go the plastic plates route then maybe go for the sturdy, reusable kind that can be put in the dishwasher, then packed away for the next birthday or picnic occasion. The more times you use them the better!
BYO Coffee Cup
As a nation of coffee lovers we go through a lot of disposable coffee cups, most of which don’t make it into the recycling system. The best way to reduce this impact is to take the time to sit down and have your coffee in a proper coffee cup but unfortunately that’s not always an option! Luckily now there are a huge range of reusable coffee cups out there to suit everyone’s taste, from the original Keep Cups (which whilst being plastic only need to be used 15 times to even you out in terms of embodied energy) and their new glass options (which I’m very keen to try out!), as well as stainless steel and ceramic versions made by lots of different companies. Down to Earth Mother did a great comparison of the options recently which you can check out here. I have a Keep Cup which has definitely been used more than 15 times now (probably closer to 150 to be honest!) and it’s still going strong!
And that’s it! My top tips for reducing plastic at home, and therefore doing your little bit to help our planet. None of them take much effort either, just a little pre-planning and some habit changes, but they’re worth it!