6 Swaps To Try This #PlasticFreeJuly

Monday, 9 July 2018

ocean
Photo by Andrzej Kryszpiniuk on Unsplash

One of the most talked about environmental issues in recent years has been the plastic pollution of our oceans and just how much we as a society have come to rely on single-use plastics.

If you haven't come across it before, Plastic Free July is an Australian campaign which aims to raise awareness about these issues, focusing on single-use plastics in particular. It challenges participants us to refuse items such as disposable cups, plastic bags and cutlery throughout July and where possible replace them with reusable alternatives which will hopefully continue to be used once the month is over too!

Whilst ditching all single-use plastics may seem like a daunting task, Plastic Free July isn't about being 'perfect' but rather raising awareness of the issue, starting a conversation and asking people to opt to make changes where possible. Of course, it's important to remember that there are genuine reasons why someone may not be able to cut out or even cut down on some of these items but any small changes we can each make will contribute to the bigger picture.

If you're interested in finding out more about how to reduce your plastic usage and waste I'd recommend picking up a copy of How To Give Up Plastic by Will McCallum (Head of Oceans at Greenpeace UK) which covers all of the basics and includes some eye-opening facts and statistics about how the way we use plastics today is affecting our oceans. For example, the book states that by weight, in just over thirty years time there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

Whilst there are tons of different ways to reduce our daily use of plastics in all areas of our lives, today I wanted to share a simple list of six swaps you could choose to try out this month if you want to get involved with the challenge - and if you haven't already, of course!

1. Bottles, Cups (& Straws)

For years I regularly drank bottled water and thought that putting the empty bottles out for recycling was enough, however switching to a stainless steel bottle (I love the selection over at Chillys) has significantly reduced my usage of this particular single-use product and has definitely saved money in the long run too. If you're a coffee drinker a KeepCup is a really popular choice but there are also some great bamboo options out there too.

Whilst I find a stainless steel bottle great for on the go, I choose to use a bamboo cup whilst I'm at work where I know I have access to a water fountain for refills (although it's also suitable for hot drinks). If you're based in the UK you can usually find a good selection of reasonably priced bamboo and stainless steel alternatives at TKMaxx or Homesense so this swap doesn't have to break the bank. Personally as I'm not really a straw user I haven't yet picked up a reusable one but again, bamboo and stainless steel are popular options, along with glass.

2. Lunchboxes & Food Storage

Sticking with the subject of food and drink another one of my favourite investments of last year was my ECOlunchbox Splash Box and Splash Pods, stainless steel containers with silicone lids. Although I was initially looking at fully stainless steel alternatives I opted for these from the Blue Water Bento range as the lids are flexible and completely leak-proof. Whilst currently there doesn't seem to be as many facilities for recycling silicone as there are for plastics, the silicone lids are more durable, so will last a lot longer, and are safer for storing foods.

If you're not keen on carrying around a lunchbox but want to keep your sandwiches safely wrapped in a clingfilm/foil alternative you'll love reusable food wraps such as these beeswax ones, or this vegan alternative. I also love using these over the top of containers for storing leftovers in the fridge but if you don't want to spend out, upside down saucers over the top of glasses or bowls is another idea for keeping things covered in the fridge.

3. Plastic-Free Shopping

One of the biggest contributors to the plastics problem has been plastic carrier bags but there's been an improvement in this area in recent years here in the UK thanks to ideas like the 5p charge. Since the introduction of the charge most of us are used to carrying around an alternative such as a foldaway tote or 'bag for life', but what about before we get to the checkout?

Supermarkets are obviously convenient and have a great selection of products to choose from however they're also guilty of contributing to the plastics issue. One area to try and cut down on plastics is the fruit and vegetable aisles, picking up loose items where possible although unfortunately this can still be tricky when not everything is available without packaging. If you can find loose items but you're not keen on putting the fresh produce straight into your basket you can pick up small cotton bags or mesh ones that you can pop straight in the fridge when you get home. Alternatively if you have access to them, farm shops and markets sometimes have a wider selection of loose vegetables to choose from and some areas even have zero waste shops (like this one) where you can take along your own containers.

4. Cutlery

When you're out and about disposable cutlery can be really handy but a great alternative is to invest in a set of reusable bamboo cutlery that you can pop in your bag. Even though I don't often pick up plastic cutlery recently I've found that I've been getting fed up of carrying regular stainless steel cutlery to work and back every day so this swap is actually one that's on my list for the month - a set is on it's way to me as I write this!

There are lots of options to choose from, many with cute cases to store them in too. They can seem like an expensive swap at first, especially since disposable cutlery is usually free, but a set should last a long time if you look after it properly. If you can't see any that take your fancy why not pick up a basic cutlery set and DIY your own case to suit your style? You can even keep your reusable straw in there too!

5. Make Up Removal Pads

Moving away from food and onto beauty, my favourite swap idea here is investing in reusable make up remover pads. Many face wipes contain plastics and whilst cotton rounds are a good alternative, reusable ones are an even better option to consider as they create less waste in general and aren't packaged in plastic.

I particularly love these sets from Leave No Trace on Etsy which come in adorable storage pouches perfect for travelling, but alongside these I also have lots of homemade ones in my collection too. They're super DIY-friendly and with basic sewing or crochet skills you can make your own at home using super-soft natural cotton or bamboo materials. If you craft alot this could be a great project to use up your fabric scraps!

6. Shampoo Bars

My final swap suggestion for today's list is ditching your bottled shampoo and conditioner in favour of bars. This can be a great way to reduce plastic bottles in your bathroom, however it's also one that I've personally struggled with and am planning to tackle this month.

Having first tried out shampoo bars around six years ago I've used them on and off since then, with varying degrees of success. I've tried out several brands and different formulas in an attempt to find one that works for my hair but have experienced a range of issues from an itchy scalp to extra tangles. After a recent period of using liquid shampoos, #plasticfreejuly has given me that little push I needed to get back on my search and this month I'll be trialling a couple of bars I recently ordered from Bain & Savon - fingers crossed these work for me!

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  1. What a great list!
    I've been swapping things out this year too. Coffee cups at cafes (Starbucks cups especially), saying no to plastic bags, using containers to take lunch instead of gladwrap/clingfilm. Really want to get some of the beeswax wraps too.
    Haven't tried shampoo bars yet though!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Anjali. I'd recommend trying the wax wraps, they're DIY-able too!

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