Category Archives: Getting started

31 BENEFITS FOR PLASTIC FREE JULY

There is a lot of practical advice and information about going single-use plastic free on the internet and on social media. But whether you are a plastic-free veteran or virgin, you can probably do with some encouragement to help you get started and to keep you motivated on your journey. For this reason, we have highlighted the benefits of living without plastic from our experience and perspective and we hope these will resonate with you! ♥ To read a short paragraph on each, please see our Benefits page.

  • Benefit #1: Reducing stress and developing a mindful approach
  • Benefit #2: Watching your rubbish diminish dramatically
  • Benefit #3: Spending very little time in supermarkets
  • Benefit #4: Getting to know the fabric of your community
  • Benefit #5: A lot less clutter in your home
  • Benefit #6: Learning how to make and grow things
  • Benefit #7: Getting rid of the dilemma of plastic recycling
  • Benefit #8: Discovering more sustainable solutions
  • Benefit #9: Less consumption overall
  • Benefit #10: Our purchase is a vote
  • Benefit #11: Less food waste
  • Benefit #12: Discovering second-hand shopping
  • Benefit #13: Reconnecting with nature
  • Benefit #14: Fewer chemicals in your home
  • Benefit #15: Being part of the tipping point
  • Benefit #16: Enjoying simple cooking
  • Benefit #17: Being stylish and vintage chic
  • Benefit #18: Intellectually stimulating
  • Benefit #19: Fewer food miles needed
  • Benefit #20: Making celebrations more enjoyable
  • Benefit #21: Shifting away from a throw-away attitude
  • Benefit #22: A healthier lifestyle
  • Benefit #23: Cheaper cleaning products & toiletries
  • Benefit #24: Boosting creativity
  • Benefit #25: Giving items a new lease of life
  • Benefit #26: Joining forces with others
  • Benefit #27: Happiness from experiences vs material things
  • Benefit #28: Feeling better about our accountability
  • Benefit #29: Building awareness and joint-up thinking
  • Benefit #30: Save time by simplifying
  • Benefit #31: The more you do it, the simpler it gets!

ONE YEAR – ONE BAG OF PLASTIC

We have just reached our first anniversary of creating a plastic-free household. During the past year we concentrated mainly on unpackaged food, cleaning materials, toiletries and plastic-free clothing. We have collected every scrap of plastic packaging that we have accidentally, or otherwise, brought into the house. This has amounted to roughly one large bagful of plastic packaging from medical supplies, items that we bought which had hidden plastic packaging inside, presents that were given to us, and also from items that seemed unavoidable. Considering that UK households produce an average of 56kg of plastic packaging waste a year, our one bag weighing no more than a couple of pounds represents a great achievement.

In reality, our single-use plastic footprint is much larger than the household figures measured by Defra and in our case, it is bigger than the single bagful collected over the course of a year. Much of our plastic waste is created outside the home, for example in the workplace, at school, in restaurants, at the petrol station, at the hairdressers, at the gym, and by pursuing hobbies and other pastimes that take us outside the home. In the supply chain of the goods I conscientiously buy ‘unpackaged’, there are unknown quantities of plastic packaging. We are not the only ones in the dark: at a recent talk given by Tesco on food waste, which I attended in Oxford, I learned that all of the large supermarket retailers “currently don’t understand or know enough” about the plastic packaging waste in their supply chains. This means that the plastic packaging that each of us is ultimately responsible for is not just in our bins at home.

Over this past year I have read report after report, attended events, talked to many people and the story is the same everywhere. Most people think there is too much plastic in their lives and that we should recycle more and develop new materials to replace plastic. However, few talk about the one solution that is surely staring us in the face. The one solution that could prevent further environmental crises and help restore local communities is ethical consumption. Ethical consumption means that you choose only what you need, what has been paid for fairly, what has been made to last, and what has been produced sustainably without hurting people, animals or the earth. I might not be a shining example of the perfect ethical consumer yet, but I am immensely interested in becoming one. It seems to be one of the few things in life that is actually within my power!

Read More:

  • Waste and Resource Statistics_2016 by the Department for Rural Affairs (Defra)
  • Plastics_Market_Situation_Report_2016  by UK based WRAP, the world leaders in helping organisations achieve greater resource efficiency. Between 2010 and 2015 in England alone, WRAP initiatives reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 50 million tonnes (Mt), which is equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of Portugal.
  • How did I calculate 56kg of plastic packaging per UK household? I used the most up-to-date figures provided in the two reports above which are for 2014 (new data is collected every two years, so the data for 2016 should be available soon). I applied this to the total number of households in the UK in 2014 as provided by the Office for National Statistics.
  • Article on Ethical Consumerism by Tania Lewis first publishd in 2012

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

Happy New Year to you! Do you want to make a change and start using less plastic in your life? Here are some great ideas with real impact to get you started:

  1. Switch to buying unpackaged fruit and vegetables – find your local farm shop
  2. Switch to paper or reusable fabric produce bags at the shops
  3. Switch to stainless steel tins or glass jars for food storage
  4. Switch to a stainless steel water bottle and take it with you wherever you go
  5. Switch to soap and shampoo bars to avoid plastic bottles
  6. Switch to bamboo toothbrushes and try out a simple toothpaste recipe
  7. Switch to cosmetics and bathroom products without microbeads
  8. Switch to washing powder in cardboard boxes
  9. Switch to milk in glass bottles delivered to your door
  10. Switch from tea bags to tea leaves – most tea bags contain plastic
  11. For a bonus point watch the new film ‘A Plastic Ocean’ available on iTunes and share it with your families and friends

See my blog posts for resources, research, how-to-make-things, where to shop and more. I’m looking forward to sharing more this year as I get better at living without plastic.

SHAMPOO SOAP BARS

One of the most enjoyable discoveries I have made since we stopped buying anything packaged in plastic are shampoo soap bars. Unpackaged and made from just a few ingredients, shampoo bars are good for your hair and scalp and so easy to switch to. They can last up to three times as long as a bottle of shampoo and you’ll be amazed at the variety and quantity available. If you are worried that your hair won’t be as soft, manageable and clean, or if you are worried about colour treated hair, dandruff or a build-up of soap in your hair, then let me put your mind at rest. Since using shampoo soap bars which are mild and often hand-made with natural essential oils, I have not needed any conditioner or restorative treatments and my hair is easy to brush and very healthy.

The ordinary bottle of shampoo on the supermarket shelf contains a concoction of 20+ chemical ingredients that have various levels of toxicity. Some strip your hair and scalp of natural oils (detergents SLS and SLES) whilst others coat your hair with silicon-based substances. The ill effects of chemical preservatives called parabens are relatively well known. Many of the ingredients are petroleum based and the by-products from the production of fragrances include dioxin and formaldehyde.

There are many organic shampoos on the market but they all seem to be bottled in plastic. It never seizes to amaze me that the purest of ingredients imaginable are nevertheless packaged in plastic. There is an anti-shampoo movement out there called ‘no poo’  whose members advocate washing hair with bicarbonate of soda and apple cider vinegar. But I love using shampoo bars because it allows me to carry on with the daily ritual of washing my hair with something that smells good and makes lots of bubbles.

Where to buy shampoo bars:

  • Wild Sage – small family-run business near Bristol, hand crafting cold processed soaps and skin-loving balms from natural ingredients. https://www.wild-sage.co.uk/
  • One Village sell a beautiful neem and sandalwood shampoo bars suitable for hair and skin, containing no animal fats. This UK based foundation works directly with community organisations in some of the most economically stretched parts of the world since 1979: http://onevillage.org/#ixzz4TDC7GIgy http://onevillage.org/soap.htm
  • The Natural Soap is a small, ethical company based in Norfolk who sell gorgeous tropical coconut and neem shampoo bars made by a cold-process soap making method with a basic mixture of vegetable oils and fats, sodium hydroxide, water, natural nutrients and essential oils: http://www.naturalsoap.co.uk/
  • Living Naturally – vegan, homemade in the UK, organic and 100% natural, Ayurvedic but a little more expensive: http://www.soapnuts.co.uk/collections/soapnut-soap-and-shampoo/products/ayurvedic-soapnut-shampoo-bar-90g
  • Lush – warning: products contain SLS and other synthetic ingredients. Lush products are somewhat controversial as a lot of the ingredients are not as organic or green as their image and marketing would suggest. However, if you are starting out on the journey of zero-plastic packaging, Lush offer a quick and easy high street solution with some 20 different unpackaged shampoo and conditioning soap bars for different hair types. https://uk.lush.com/products/shampoo-bars

Read more:

What’s really in your shampoo?
http://www.salon.com/2009/08/13/shampoo/

5 Toxic chemicals probably found in your shampoo
http://naturalsociety.com/5-toxic-chemicals-probably-found-shampoo/

Where do all the shampoo bottles go?
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/21/only-a-third-of-uk-consumer-plastic-packaging-is-recycled

The No Shampoo Method
https://www.nopoomethod.com/

Guardian article on Lush
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jun/12/observer-ethical-awards-2014-winners-lush

RE-LEARNING HOW TO SHOP

One of the more challenging aspects of supermarket shopping the zero plastic way is buying cheese, meat and fish (vegans, you may wish to skip this section). Husband Pete is much better at this than I am. He will cheerily challenge whoever happens to be serving him behind the counter to use tongs for picking up produce and to wrap it in waxed paper instead of plastic bags, or to use the boxes we bring along. I myself, on the other hand, become all apologetic and give up far too easily if met with any resistance. I break out in a sweat as I watch them struggle trying to squeeze oversized slices of cheese into the box. Often the wrapping paper is not quite big enough or just keeps popping open and everything just takes so much longer and a long queue starts forming behind me… Awkward!

I much prefer shopping at local shops such as the bakery, the butcher, green grocer or the health food shop. For a start you can get good local produce but also the owners and shop assistants get to know you and are generally more flexible. Take Over Farm Market, for example, who have a stall at the Stroud farmers market as well as a well-stocked shop on the other side of Gloucester. This family-run business produce their own veggies, fruit and farm meat. They also sell loose frozen peas & fruit, fresh quiches, pies, cheese and all sorts of other goodies. Rob, the butcher at Over Farm is always happy to put produce into the boxes we bring along and just slaps a label on the lid (see pic). He has actually signed up to my blog – hello Rob!

For my local friends, here is a list of shops I use most regularly for basic items:

  • Kendrick Street Deli for ham, cheese and even salads in non-plastic tubs
  • Sunshine and Hobbs for bread, cakes, rolls
  • Merrywalks’ veg & fruit stall
  • Farmers market for olive oil refills, eggs, bread, veggies, local honey
  • Jollies for a great range of veg & fruit, local meat and bread (expensive)
  • Stroud Valley Project for cleaning liquid refills
  • Sunshine for plastic free toilet paper, shampoo soap bars and shaving soap bars

The link between food miles and plastic is obvious: local produce on the whole does not need to be wrapped in plastic because it doesn’t need to be transported and kept on shelves or in fridges for months on end. Good for us, the local economy and the planet.