Our awareness (and I mean our as in all of us humans here) of plastic and how it’s trashing our planet has very much risen over the last year or so, I’d say steadily but I think I have definitely noticed a spike over the last year.
Obviously we are no longer using plastic shopping bags, we switched to reusable bags a few years ago (this is now the norm in Scotland and you are strongly discouraged from using single use carrier bags) and I think this was a good thing in making people aware of the plastic waste we were causing. Kate and I are absolutely not alone in being faced with the truth about our plastic use or in trying to reduce it so we thought it might make for an interesting topic to talk about, especially since for some people, they may want to think about what they can do but maybe don’t want to have to face an over zealous lecture about it, just yet.
I think Kate has been subtly bringing this into our lives over the last few years in small ways and I was completely unaware for a long time of the little changes she was making. It all started with my face scrub. I love the feeling of being properly clean and the feeling of my skin after a good scrub. I had a favourite face scrub that I used regularly and Kate did try introducing me to others which were plastic free, but I was just never happy with them. At the time I just thought she was being helpful and letting me try out different types, I hadn’t even considered that actually, there was plastic in it. Didn’t even occur to me in the slightest. She had to eventually point this out to me and I was, I’m not going to say horrified, cause genuinely I wasn’t, but I was shocked, it just hadn’t occurred to me, I assumed the little bumpy bits were broken up coconut shell or the like. I think that is probably the thing for most people, it’s not horror or shock, we are just unaware of how much plastic is in our lives. She did manage to get me to switch after that. I didn’t find a plastic free face scrub that I loved, but I did switch to reusable shower gloves with a rough texture (we call them the scrubby gloves), and actually they are better than my face scrub. They are still plastic, boooo, but they are reusable and that’s something I’ll chat about in a sec.
The other thing she had done at the same time was to switch out the cotton buds we used from ones with a plastic stick to ones with a paper stick. I didn’t even notice. Two very small things, but two more than we were doing and therefore two ways we’ve made a small change and reduced our plastic habit.
So this is very much how I want to talk about this with you. We have made a decision to look at our plastic habit and try to reduce it. We are not going to rant at you guys about going plastic free. Hopefully just a Sunday chat over coffee about what we’ve done and how it might be useful info for you, it might even influence you to give it a try, which would be great. We are not, however, going to get cross at you if you decide not to give it a try (full disclosure, we will totally talk about you behind your back though). 🙂
So… Reduce, Reuse then Recycle.
We are not plastic free. I don’t think we ever will be, but we have decided to try to reduce the excess plastic in our lives and it’s working not bad. I think it’s about just being more aware of the plastic we use and the plastic in things.
I think reducing single use plastics is the key. Find an alternative to single use plastics and reduce your reliance on them, for me, this was wet wipes. I had a pack of wet wipes at work for getting cleaned up after I cycled in, a pack at home for the same thing and a pack in the bathroom, we won’t chat about that, ahem! So switching from buying these wet wipes was a big deal for me. I have only in the last few years stopped showering after I cycled into work and I didn’t want to go back to the need to be in an hour early just to shower. Instead I have switched to a face cloth and a homemade solution for being able to clean up. They are like wet wipes, but not single use. I even keep it in an old sandwich bag so it’s there ready to go when I get into work (sandwich bags will be mentioned shortly). The biggest discovery of this was that I actually prefer this to the wet wipes. I feel like it does a much better job.
So no more wet wipes. We aren’t at the point yet of doing all our shopping without plastic, we have looked into it and at the moment that’s too big a switch for us, convenience and cost wise, but there are little things we’ve done. For instance, instead of buying one packet of dried pasta or couscous etc which is the size we need for that meal / week. We buy larger, because lets be honest, it will last. This then reduces the amount of packaging for that one buy rather than multiple smaller packets.
We just store it all in jars ready to be used when needed.
We have also stopped buying bottled water and instead we both have reusable water bottles which we take to work, the gym, have beside us in the house etc. This is maybe not as big a deal because we live in Scotland and our tap water is lovely. To be honest, its way better than bottled water, which to me tastes stale.
The same goes for coffee, not only do we both have reusable coffee cups which we take with us for when we might buy a coffee, we also make coffee at home and take it to work with us in little flasks. This reduces the amount of takeaway coffee we buy as well, so money saving too.
Lunches? Yup it’s the same. Rather than buying those “deals” which are usually a sandwich, in a single use plastic pack, crisps in a single use plastic pack, a drink, in a single use plastic bottle oh and not forgetting the single use plastic fork or spoon. Instead we take a packed lunch in a reusable lunch box (or check out my blog post on my reusable lunch bag my sister made me) with our own reusable cutlery etc. Again, we actually save money doing this. Now up front, our lunch boxes and cutlery are plastic, but that’s my point, we are reusing those plastic items we have until they fall apart, then we will recycle them. At that point when we replace them, we may get something which isn’t plastic but for now, it’s about small changes we can make which feel manageable.
We were guilty of using things once and throwing them away, our biggest culprit, sandwich / freezer bags. We used lots of these over the years and we did just chuck them in the bin when we were done. God saying that now I am appalled. We haven’t stopped using them, we have a drawer full of them, but now we actually wash them and reuse them (example of reusing them above). You would really be surprised how long they last so the idea of throwing them away after one use now seems crazy. So we have a kitchen drawer full of crinkled old sandwich bags waiting on their next trip out.
Again, we are lucky that our local council makes it really easy for us to recycle, so we are actively trying to make use of it as much as possible for when our plastics come to the end of their lives. We also try to use the recycling points at work etc if they are available. It’s really not a hassle so there is no excuse not to.
We are by no means an example, we still have so much plastic in our lives and we are still making choices based on convenience, like shopping in the supermarket and accepting that it comes with packaging, but we are trying to do what we can here and there. I’m still using cling film, I know there is the option of reusable wax cloth, but I’m not there yet. Although to be fair I haven’t tried it yet so it might be in our future as we are still looking at possibilities and as we get used to these changes we are finding other options present themselves which seem less daunting.
To be honest, it’s actually way easier than I thought it would be and I am actively thinking about things in a different way now, even looking at possibilities for the future like soaps and shampoos. I am currently looking into making my own soap and shampoo bars etc as a way to reduce buying them in plastic bottles. It might be a thing we do, it might not, but it’s something I am considering and looking into.
I think if there was one thing I’d like to leave you guys with it’s not me telling you that you have to stop using plastic, rather I hope that maybe some of our examples might show that there are things you can do that don’t mean life being difficult.