The last day of July is upon us. How plastic free has it been for you? If you haven’t managed to make many changes, don’t despair! Believe it or not, you can take steps towards a life less plastic during any month – hurrah! So I thought I’d finish July and send you off into the coming months with a few more general ways to minimise your single use plastic consumption. Remember, only around 1% of plastic thrown away in the UK gets recycled so we really need to find alternatives to this menace!
Pack your own lunch – Yes, I know you’re reeeeeeally busy and everything but just taking a little time on a Sunday to make a week’s worth of lunches will save SO much plastic. Think about that box of salad from Tesco. You may be patting yourself on the back for picking the healthy option but look how much plastic it uses – plastic box, plastic film lid and actual lid, plastic tub or packet of dressing, plastic fork wrapped in plastic!!! And they don’t even taste that great! There are so many quick, cheap and easy lunch recipes out there. Or why not make a little extra dinner each night and have leftovers for lunch? Oh, and in case you needed another incentive, a person who spends £3 per day on lunch could save £780 per year just by bringing their own. Need I say more?
Handy handkerchiefs – I used to buy multi packs of plastic wrapped pocket tissues all the time. Now I use handkerchiefs. I’ve got a few so I just chuck them in the wash when necessary. Some people seem to think it’s gross, even though it was good enough for our grandparents. Personally I think all the plastic wrappers in the sea are grosser.
Prepare snacks in advance – We all end up using more plastic when we’re not organised and when we’re out and about. If you’re on the go don’t forget to pack a snack so you don’t end up picking up crisps/chocolate/ridiculous little packets of nuts. Fresh or dried fruit, bulk bough nuts and seeds, homemade biscuits or cakes are all good options.
Carry a zero waste kit – I’m not talking an extra bag or anything, just a few useful bits. I take a makeup bag with a napkin, stainless steel straw and cutlery in it. Depending on where I’m going I might take my Ecoffee cup and a Tupperware container. I had a Tupperware on me yesterday, which meant I could pick up packaging free ground coffee when I spotted it. Obviously I have my refillable water bottle on me at all times.
Bring your own bag – We’ve all got used to doing this in the UK when we go to supermarkets but it’s worth having one on you at all times. If I’m getting bread from the bakery I take a cloth bag with me and ask for no plastic.
Less frozen convenience foods – The ones wrapped in plastic anyway. I love that the Linda McCartney and Tesco frozen veggie burgers, sausages etc come in cardboard boxes. I still try not to eat them too often though.
Buy second hand – Always ask yourself if you can get something second hand rather than new. It’s an environmental winner all round. On Ebay you can tick a box in the search filter so that it only shows you used items.
Request plastic free – The more the consumer demands it the better. When you are buying anything, think about how the seller could limit the plastic involved and ask! If its food/drink you can say no straw/cutlery/napkin. If it’s clothing, no bag or hanger. If you are given plastic packaging, leave it in the shop and put the onus on the company to dispose of it (make sure you email/tweet them afterwards for a follow up). If you’re shopping online, request that items are posted with minimal plastic packaging.
Celebrate plastic free – Wrap presents with tissue paper and string or fabric and ribbon. Reuse gift bags over and over. If you don’t think the receiver will be bothered, don’t wrap at all! When decorating for a party, forget balloons and use natural decorations like flowers and greenery. We only had ivy and mistletoe at Christmas growing up and it was gorgeous. Christmas trees can be decorated plastic free too – Lucy used recycled ribbon for hers last year. If you’re buying flowers, go to a florist and ask for paper wrapping not plastic.
Bring your own crockery – At picnics, BBQs and parties, take your own crockery and cutlery. Yes, people might think you’re a bit weird but it will generate conversation and will probably trigger other people into rethinking their relationship with plastic.
Resist the freebies – I used to LOVE swiping all the mini bottles from hotels and pocketing pens at the (very) occasional work event. Now I don’t touch them. If you take it, you’re increasing demand for another one to be made. And are you really going to use it anyway?
Take rubbish home with you – Tidy up after yourself. Take rubbish home and recycle it. At my work there is no recycling (my next task is to change this) so if I have a tin of soup for lunch I bring the empty can home. I’ve been known to fish other people’s empty recyclable waste out of the bin and bring it home but the less said about that the better.
I really hope that you have found these Plastic Free July posts helpful in some small way. Any change you make and any plastic you refuse makes a difference.