We finally reached a point in history when we realized that recycling doesn’t work. If it did, we wouldn’t have oceans full of plastic and turtles with straws up their noses (we’ve all seen the video, I suppose). It’s time for you and me to act and start a journey to a plastic free life. Because there is no other way.
If you don’t know where to start, I have 3 simple steps for you.
1. Start with what you have
In the beginning, there’s the temptation to get rid of all your plastic and start from scratch with hipster tote bags and cool water bottles. I get it, you want to be part of the gang. But the best thing you can do is to avoid this initial waste.
We all have a bag with loooooads of other bags. Start there. Instead of throwing them away or taking them to a supermarket where you hope they’ll get recycled, use them until they fall apart. You would buy bin liners anyway, right? You would need bags to buy vegetables anyway, right?
A few ways to make the most out of your plastic bags:
- use them as bin liners
- if you have dogs, use the smaller ones as dog poo bags
- have one in every single bag, pocket or backpack, so you’ll never need to buy new ones
- if you have a dedicated shopping bag, put a few of them in there; use them to buy loose fruit and vegetables; it’s easier to weigh them if they’re contained in a bag
- if you have a gym bag, have a couple of plastic bags to separate your dirty or wet clothes from the clean ones; same when you go on holiday.
Similarly, if you have plastic bottles, use them. Have one in every bag, to avoid buying one when you catch yourself being thirsty.
2. Say No to single use
We have a few items in our lives that unlike the bags or bottles, we can’t use a second time:
- takeaway coffee cups (they are NOT recyclable in most places in the world)
- coffee pods (who invented those??)
- tampons with plastic applicators (check out my OrganiCup review for a waste-free period)
- any plastic item you receive with a takeaway and don’t take home with you – plastic cutlery, straws, food containers
Have a look at your habits and see where you can improve.
- If you’re a coffee drinker, get a KeepCup UK / US; you get discounts at some shops when you bring your own cup!
- Eating out often? Get a Spork UK / US! Alin and I kept a set of fork and spoon from our favourite take away, and we have them in our backpacks. So you can do that too, no need to invest.
- Learn to say “no straw” when you’re drinking out.
3. Plastic free shopping
Probably the hardest thing to implement is plastic-free grocery shopping. I challenge you to do it for one single day, and you’ll see that you also need to change what and how you eat if you want to achieve it.
There is virtually no snack, crisp, biscuit or chocolate that’s unpackaged. It’s impossible to buy berries from a supermarket without the oversized plastic container they come in. All soft drinks come in plastic bottles.
You need to be committed, but the good news is: if you go on this path, both your wallet and your health will thank you. It’s ironic, the unpackaged fruit and vegetables are usually more expensive than the ones covered in plastic. But you won’t be able to buy ready made, full of sugar, packaged snacks or drinks. So there is a balance.
Buying unpackaged means you’ll buy products that are also unprocessed or minimally processed. However, you’ll have to go to a few different stores for one single shop. Where I live now, the local market has NO unpackaged vegetables. ZERO. So I obviously need to source my daily tomatoes from someplace else.
If you want to take it slow, here’s an idea: commit to one thing. Pick one item you buy often, let’s say bread or tomatoes, and promise that you’ll never, ever, buy it packaged again.
Cooking more, including the desserts, will also have a big impact. If you eat a lot of hummus, as we do, make your own. Cook a big batch on the weekend and have it in the fridge instead of buying a little plastic container every day.
For nuts, grains or pasta, it’s harder to find stores that sell them unpackaged. They do exist, though.
Going plastic-free is a big task. Not easy. But a few small changes will make a big impact. The planet and all future generations of humans and animals will thank you!
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