Plastic-free July is upon us and that got me thinking about all the steps I have taken this year to reduce waste. My partner hates food waste and will gobble up any crumbs he see’s which solves one problem, and a lot of products are altering their packaging to be more eco-friendly which is fantastic. (There are of course some items that cannot be stored in anything other than plastic for hygiene reasons and that is understandable, I won’t light my fire and brandish a pitchfork just yet.) BUT when it comes to a lot of everyday things… we use far more single-use plastic than we realize, and there are five pretty simple tips I’ve learned to help us all cut down.
1. Plan ahead
Easier said than done at times but do not dismay! If you know you will be buying lunch while you’re out, pack your own container and cutlery. You don’t need swanky new bamboo cutlery, just a set from your kitchen drawer at home will work fine (bamboo is useful as it is light though so the choice is yours) and make sure they are wrapped up in something if you won’t be able to wash it straight away. Camping cutlery is also great as it is compact and easy to keep clean so there are plenty of options. I would recommend keeping a set like this anywhere you normally eat, such as your car or place of work since you may not want to keep things in your bag or may just be forgetful.
PLUS a lot of places will give you a discount for bringing your own kit, especially coffee shops so you can save some cash as well as the planet. Congratulations, you’re practically Superman!
2. Say no
This one will take a bit of practice, and I still stuff it up but when you are eating out remember to ask for no takeaway cutlery or no plastic straw. Most people have no need for a straw and if they do, can usually pack a reusable one (glass, bamboo, plant plastic you name it) Your server will assume you want this stuff and pack it anyway, so you will have to say no or give it back. It gets easier with time and if you have your own set packed it will become second nature soon.
3. Is it really single use?
So you’ve stuffed up, over-ordered at dinner and have a plastic container full of leftovers, or some takeaway cutlery with your lunch, what a waste that is! Well no, I am here to dry your eco-warrior tears because my darling we all mess up. And good news, just because it is designed to be cheap and cheerful doesn’t mean it is really single use.
I have a pot of containers and cutlery at work that I mistakenly own and I use them all the time. They are perfect to give to friends when they forget they’re own, and usually easy to keep clean. Give your single-use shopping bags a second life and keep a couple in your bag or car or at work..wherever you suddenly have too much to carry and I guarantee you it will come in handy sooner than you think!
4. Find a bulk buy store!
This will not be an option for everyone, but if you want to make a Pinterest worthy, ethical home of dreams, it’s worth checking to see if you have a bulk buy store in your area. These bad boys make it easy for you to stock up on your pantry and produce needs without all the needless plastic wrapping. The downside is these are not always nearby, and usually always pricey. But if you are fortunate to find one and have the cash to spare they are well worth a visit. I have one a short drive from me that I stumbled upon one day and not only does it have a wholesome cafe attached with the best tomatoes I have ever tasted, it also stocked a lot of local products such as free-range eggs, beeswax, and dairy products, plus you could fill up your own containers with household cleaning products such as bio washing up liquid and fabric softener. You may not be able to find meats in these shops but more and more butchers are allowing you to use your own containers for this too, so next time you are near the local butchers or deli isle have a chat and check out if you can BYO instead of picking up the pre-packaged stuff.
5. Provide a solution
When learning how to fight there are three main principles: Identify & eliminate the threat, take control, and finish the job. So far we have identified the threat: plastic waste. Next, we took control by bringing our own, reusable alternatives (i’m very proud) and now it is time to finish the job, find your escape route from this over packaged hell hole!
It is not enough to really just say no. People are pretty simple at times, we take the easy route and unless given a solution are unlikely to change our ways. Instead of just declining a plastic bag at a checkout (and showing off your organic cotton produce bags), recommend they have an area in the store where staff can throw cardboard boxes that deliver stock. These are incredibly useful since they can hold a lot of groceries and are really strong. You cannot ask for change when you don’t know what that change could be, and businesses will only succeed when you give them…well…your business. So we have all the power here. Suggesting ways that will keep customers happy can bring about a positive change and help the world on a huge scale.
Through all of this, I hope that if you ever do stuff up, don’t beat yourself up about it. We all make mistakes, the important thing is to realize that each small thing we do makes an impact, and to strive to do our best. I hope this helped you guys and I would love to hear your suggestions and how your own experiences have been.