A year of Plastic Free Living
This year, Earth Day 2018 is dedicated to providing the information and inspiration needed to fundamentally change human attitude and behaviour about plastics.
It's no secret that the plastic we use in our every day lives causes huge damage to our environment and sea life. Levels of beach litter have doubled in the past two decades and almost nowhere in the UK seas is marine wildlife safe from the harm that this litter and waste can cause. The shocking images of dead albatross stomachs filled with plastic on the midway atoll in the Pacific really sparked International concern. Too many species are accidentally eating or becoming caught up and entangled in discarded litter.
As partners and avid supporters of The Marine Conservation Society; here at Salt-Water Europe we take pride in doing our bit to support the cause, so we rolled up our sleeves and headed to the coast for The Salt-Water Birling Gap Beach Clean It was alarming (but not surprising) that over 73% of all litter collected was plastic/polystyrene.
This year Salt-Water are proud to announce that our packaging is now completely plastic free. Gone are the plastic wrap bags and silica baggies used previously. All Salt-Water Sandal packaging is now 100% recyclable.
Of course there is always more that can be done and Saltie Ambassador and Friend of the Brand Alice Guy decided to really tackle the mountain of plastic that grew daily in her recycling bin. She started to think about how and where she could cut plastic 100% out of her family life. Ultimately leading to a year of plastic free living.
In her own words it was a mammoth undertaking and has resulted in the most comprehensive guide a family of 4 could undertake "Before I knew it, I’d written over 5,000 words!"
We've decided to print every. single. one. because we think it's awesome / brilliant / useful / helpful and will save anyone out there thinking about cutting back, a HEAP of research. It's also encouraging to hear that "it’s now just the way we live. It’s not a fad, or a gimmick, it’s just life."
You're our inspiration Alice, so let's get started....
It was during Christmas 2016, hosting my husband’s family, that I started to really notice the amount of plastic that was going into the recycling bin, or the landfill one, and the sheer volume of shopping bags we were getting with the online shop. I remember unwrapping 2 avocados – they had a cardboard bottom, a hard plastic top and were then wrapped in plastic – and then a whole chicken in the hard plastic packaging. And I remember thinking, man, this is crazy! Why does everything have to come in so much blooming plastic? A few days later I saw a video on Facebook of a lady in New York who went totally waste free for a month, and I thought, well if she can do that, I can definitely go plastic free.
I vowed never to do online shopping again.
That weekend I set up my milk to be delivered to the doorstep by the milkman. And I visited to my local town and discovered a butcher, a brilliant greengrocer, and a health food shop where I could buy various dried goods loose. It felt awesome! And I’ve not looked back.
I’ve bored my mates (probably endlessly) over the last year about it all, and several of them thought I was being a little extreme at the beginning. But slowly they’ve all started to think about their consumer habits more. I never wanted to be too preachy about it. Everyone has the freedom of choice. But I started to realise that it can feel overwhelming to start this journey. And I realised I’d built up a lot of knowledge on the subject and could help inspire friends to make changes, and to realise that it’s not that hard to start reducing your plastic consumption. So, I sat down to write a post on Facebook in a couple of hours one night. Before I knew it, I’d written over 5,000 words!
It made me realise just how much we’d changed over the year. And I realised how proud I was of our achievements.
We moved to the countryside a couple of years ago, and we were keen to start being more self-sufficient. We’ve gone so much further. And it’s now just the way we live. It’s not a fad, or a gimmick, it’s just life.
To think of so many others making the move to this way of living is totally brilliant.
Start small and then bit by bit take on new challenges. I promise you it’s addictive!
I think it’s brilliant that so many people are thinking and talking about the issue. There’s been a growing momentum around the subject in the last few months, and I think Blue Planet really hammered it home to the mainstream. People started looking up what’s happening in places like Midway Island in the Pacific, where albatrosses are dying with their stomachs full of plastic. And to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is causing tiny fragments of plastic to enter the fish’s bloodstream. Which we then ingest … And people are realising that something just has to be done about it.
Sure, the UK is only a small part of the global issue. I read recently that between 90 and 95% of the plastic waste in the oceans comes from just 10 rivers. But the Thames still pumps out 18 tonnes of rubbish into the sea every year, and China will no longer be the fallguys of our plastics recycling, so we’ve got a long way to go. And there’s a huge amount we can be working on.
I appreciate Theresa May’s recent plans – I really do. But 2042? Why is the deadline so far away? The manufacturing and retail sectors could make massive changes a lot sooner than that. If small providers can – the ‘hippy market’ as some like to call it – then why can’t the big boys? Yes it will have a short term impact on shareholders, but is that more important? If it wasn’t for the rapid expansion in supermarket chains, and them taking over the high street and putting countless greengrocers and small businesses out of business, maybe things would look very different.
Someone said the other day that supermarkets were vying to be the first to have a plastic free aisle. A plastic free aisle? Really? That just makes it a business opportunity, and products will carry a premium because of it. Real, lasting change won’t happen that way.
One of the unexpected by-products is that it’s caused me to slow down, and make time for things. I work full-time and was generally always in a rush. Online shopping was a natural convenience. But going out for a weekly shop. Meal-planning for the week ahead. Freezing fruit and bread for the week ahead. They’re all jobs that have allowed me to form a new cycle, a new timetable for the household.
Also, for the kids, it’s been great to see them open their eyes to the environmental element, and to become natural advocates. I hear them say to each other, “we can’t have that because it’s in plastic” and them talking to their mates about it.
I also like that things aren’t just available on tap, particularly for the kids. I like that we have to make them, or wait till the food shop to have them. Run out of bread? Have porridge. Run out of milk or orange juice? We have to wait till the milkman next comes. Stuff isn’t always available like it used to be and I think that’s good for them.
We’ve had to be a lot more resourceful, and I really like that. Making our own pizzas, baking our own snacks, making our granola.
It’s pretty much always doable, you just have to hunt down the right solution!
That said, there’s more even we can do as a family. This year we’re focusing on growing more of our produce, tackling homemade yoghurt, and also making more of our own cleaning products to make our home an even more sustainable and natural place to live.
and now for the rules....Yes, there are a few rules involved I’m afraid... And although I’m a rebel at heart, I do enjoy being stubborn / pig headed and following them!!
General Life Rules
First up … ZERO TOLERANCE policy to plastic bags (including bags for life). Keep loads of reusable canvas-type bags / material tote bags in your car and always have one rolled up in your handbag etc. There are some great designs out there – I love the classic string bags.
Also, ZERO TOLERANCE to plastic water / drinks bottles – invest in drinks bottles for all of you, and never leave the house without one. Again, there are brilliant ones available these days in all sorts of colours so they look great too! Get caught short – sit in a café and get a glass of water (loads more cafes are offering free refills as standard too) or if you’re on the motorway, like we’ve been on occasion, Purdeys comes in a glass bottle.
Another ZERO TOLERANCE rule – say no to take away coffee cups and plastic lids. Neither can be easily recycled – although a few cafés are wisening up to compostable versions – and they’re a massive indictment of our throwaway consumer lifestyles. Keep Cups are therefore another must have (again, loads of lovely designs out there – I love mine from Eco Coffee Cup. Pret, Starbucks, Costa and Greggs are all now offering money off if you use them. And if you find you don’t have one on you, get a coffee to drink in at a café. Short on time but need a caffeine hit? Have an espresso!
And, lastly, say no to straws! Why places still offer them in such abundance when it’s known they get stuck up turtles’ noses etc is beyond me. I’m not one of these people organised enough to own a stainless steel or bamboo straw for the kids to use when we’re out and about (even though they look lovely). Let’s face it, it would just be covered in fluff at the bottom of my bag!! They just go without. And we use paper ones for parties etc.
Another invaluable rule? Meal Planning for the week ahead. I know, it feels ridiculously organised and grown up, and you might think you just don’t have time for it. But it’s really a brilliant way to ensure you have the food you need (because it’s not easy to get everything at the drop of a hat when you’re not going to supermarkets as a rule). I do ours on a Friday night ready for the Saturday shop, and write the shopping list at the same time.
I ask the kids to each contribute a couple of choices and I decide the rest. It means I look in recipe books etc which I wouldn’t do otherwise – I’d just default to the recipes I know as standard. So, it shakes up what we eat as well which is great.
Most importantly it means we don’t waste food. When I was online shopping I’d get swayed by offers etc and just shop on auto-pilot, and would often end up throwing out food by the time the next shop came around. Or I’d chuck the extra pack of mince in the freezer and infrequently forget to use it!
Another general rule is No Online Food Shopping. Ever. You can’t control what they put in your basket, or the packaging. And it’s rare to find anywhere that doesn’t sell meat and fish or fruit and veg in plastic. My Christmas food shop in 2016 was the thing that tipped me over the edge and sent me on this change in lifestyle. I just couldn’t cope with the amount of recycling / waste that was building up, it was frightening!
Instead I shop religiously, mostly in a small town nearby, every Saturday morning. There’s a butcher, a greengrocer and a health food shop that sells dry goods that you can weigh out.
There have been a handful of days during the last 14 months where it’s felt like a stress to fit it in, but generally it’s a lovely routine – and is a cheeky excuse to have an hour or so without the kids on a Saturday morning
One of the things I’ve found about changing to be Plastic Free is that I’ve had to make time for things that might take a little longer. And, believe me, I was someone who was forever in a rush. I still am, but I like that living this way forces me to slow down a bit. And I’m spending more time in the kitchen creating and baking from scratch, which I love.
We are lucky living where we do – because there are also a couple of great shops locally to help with this journey. For those in Brighton a must-visit is Hisbe - where I can get all my pasta / rice / lentils / laundry and toiletry refills. Infinity Foods is another great source in Brighton of plastic free products - particularly for toiletries and household goods. There’s also a great shop in the Brighton Open Market on London Road.
We’re also lucky to have a wonderful new service nearby (in Sussex) called Charlotte’s Cupboard – a mobile, packaging free shop that sells a wonderful array of beans, pulses, pasta etc. – they deliver to your home and also visit a number of markets across the county (Lewes, Hassocks, Haywards Heath to name a few)
Hopefully more and more of these options will become available nationally. It’s worth Googling for local options. There’s a great website which lists out packaging-free / weigh-your-own shops across the country so check it out and see if your town is represented - https://thezerowaster.com/zero-waste-near-you/
Online, there’s a site called Suma - You can buy dried, household and beauty goods in bulk which is better than nothing and if you get the big 5L bottles of shampoo / etc I think you can return them to them. A lady I met in Dorset has joined forces with a few of her mates to do the big shops because she can’t store food in that quantity, and I think there’s a minimum order for free delivery. So, if you’re not lucky enough to have a good wholesale / weigh shop locally that’s a great option to look into.
Supermarkets are really interesting (as in rubbish!) when you break them down – I can get booze and canned goods, where needed, easily. Maybe the odd loaf of bread if there’s a bakery and they’ve not packaged it already. And meat / fish / cheese but only if there’s a deli and I’ve got containers with me. But other than that, it’s generally just lemons, broccoli, baked spuds, onions, garlic, carrots, avocados, apples, bananas (and not always?!) that are loose. It’s crazy when you start breaking it down!
So supermarkets are useful for the odd emergency but not part of my general routine.
Which leads me to one of the other massive benefits of shopping like this…I reckon I spend over 90% of my shopping budget in a handful of shops in a 10 mile radius of our house, that would have otherwise gone to a faceless supermarket. That really makes me happy J
Anyway, I digress…..so in terms of nitty gritty details…..
Hands up, I love food, and cooking, and we never ate processed foods before. Which perhaps meant it was an easier transition. That said….
Milk and OJ
we get this delivered, in glass bottles – from www.milkandmore.co.uk. Enter your postcode to see if they deliver in your area.
I buy in jars. It’s long life, so not as sexy and perhaps a little more pricey but we don’t eat it much so it’s ok.
I used to buy the River Cottage range in jars but our local Budgens stopped selling it recently which is so annoying! But there is an online supplier here - http://www.browncoworganics.co.uk/browncow/Organic-Yoghurt-River-Cottage-500g.html
And this year I’m going to have a go at making my own – a friend recommended this recently: http://www.lakeland.co.uk/31794/Lakeland-Multi-Yogurt-and-Soft-Cheese-Maker
we don’t eat loads but if we need it I tend to buy at a deli counter and ask them to put it into my own containers. Or into a paper bag. The first few times you have to ask this can be a bit embarrassing but you soon get over that, and most of the time they’re interested in why you’re doing it. Alternatively, I buy the ones wrapped in wax.
we have some great butchers locally so I buy everything from them. They wrap a lot in paper or give to me for my own containers / bags. If you only have a supermarket nearby then try to shop at the deli counter if practical, and use your own containers. But independent butchers are definitely your best bet, much more amenable generally.
we don’t have a local fishmonger so I buy from the deli counter in our local Waitrose as they wrap it in paper. Tesco and Sainsbury’s don’t offer it. But I’ve also tracked down a brilliant mobile fish monger at Hassocks market and he’ll gladly use my containers. It’s these kind of discoveries / wins that still excite me over a year on!
Dried Goods: like pasta / lentils / rice / nuts / cereals / seeds / peppercorns / popcorn / bouillon powder / porridge oats / tea etc
as mentioned, I buy most of these from Hisbe (Brighton), a weigh shop in Henfield, my local shopping town, or from Charlotte’s Cupboard. You fill a paper bag with what you need, and I have a load of jars at home that I keep stocked up. I just LOVE shopping this way – it still gives me a buzz.
I realise I’m really lucky having these stores on my doorstep, but it’s definitely worth looking on Google to see if you have any locally – and if not buy in bulk from somewhere like https://www.sumawholesale.com/.
Some mainstream supermarket options to look out for otherwise…
- Spaghetti in a box – there’s a range called Barilla that’s sold in cardboard boxes. Although annoyingly, I think they’ve started adding a tiny plastic window to their packaging. Why Barilla?!
- Lasagne in a box – a few Supermarkets’ own brand lasagne come in cardboard boxes.
- I think there are a couple of Jamie Oliver products in paper packaging too.
- Porridge oats – the Irish range Flahavans is sold in paper bags
- And as mentioned below – Weetabix and Shredded wheat have no plastic inserts
General Fruit and Veg
as mentioned there’s a great greengrocer a few miles away in the town where I do the weekly shop. And I’ve found some other great ones locally too. I know they’re rarer than supermarkets – but it’s worth a Google to find your nearest one. Such a great range of produce, and nice to know it’s generally locally grown. I reuse the paper bags for dry goods or for wrapping butcher purchases.
we’re lucky enough to be able to grow ours at home. I’m really not that green fingered but a small patch of garden is dedicated to it and starter plants from the garden centre have flourished with little attention.
Celery / Cucumber
one of those nightmarish things that only certain grocers have with zero plastic. So I just have to plan / know in advance if I need them (see my note about meal planning). We are lucky to have space to grow veg and this year bought a few cucumber plants and they went NUTS! Endless supply for three months! For local people, Rushfields is the only place I’ve found that has celery not in plastic, and Jeremy’s in Henfield is where I get cucumber not in plastic.
Grapes / Berries / Soft fruit
I only buy these from the greengrocer if they’re loose or in the open plastic punnets, because I empty them into a paper bag and leave the punnet behind on the shelf, knowing they will reuse them. Another tip is I freeze most soft fruit these days – including cut up banana – it’s brilliant for snacks and smoothies and means the fruit doesn’t spoil during the week. Pick Your Own farms are also your friends in the summer if you have one nearby.
on the subject of smoothies, during summer we have them for breakfast. I buy all the fruit on Saturday as part of the weekly shop, cut it all up into different combos and freeze in individual bags. Then remove every morning, add water / oats / a bit of date syrup (or whatever you like) and then nutribullet them. So blooming easy! These bags are brilliant and can be reused a few times generally before being thrown away - https://www.ifyoucare.com/baking-cooking/snack-sandwich-bags/
I buy 2 or 3 whole loaves from a bakery on the Saturday shop, then cut them up into quarters (or halves depending on how much we need or whether it’s a weekend etc), then wrap what I don’t need in foil and pop it in the freezer. Voila, a week’s supply of bread with no plastic! I did make it for a while at the beginning, and still enjoy every now and again, but this is definitely the easier route! I reuse the foil as often as possible – and only use this brand - https://www.ifyoucare.com/baking-cooking/recycled-aluminum-foil/
real butter only, no spread, in foil or paper. It’s not perfect because it’s actually not hard to make your own. But I’ve not quite reached that zenith yet!
Pizza bases, Croissants, Crumpets etc
I’ve been trying to make as much as possible from scratch. Sometimes results are better than others – this year I’ve made bagels, pretzels, croissants and crumpets. Pizza dough is a must in our house for summer outdoor pizza parties! I love doing it, and there’s a huge satisfaction in making this stuff yourself. For an easy treat though, this range is a very good almost plastic free option to have in the fridge. https://www.jusrol.co.uk/products/pains-au-chocolat or https://www.jusrol.co.uk/products/croissants
Mayo / Ketchup / Oils / Date & Maple Syrup
these are all available in glass bottles. I’m trying to reuse the bottles as much as possible, keeping them stored away for another occasion.
Flour / Sugar
all generally available in paper bags if you shop around. Although recently I had to buy golden caster sugar because NOONE sold it in paper! I confess it leaves me feeling soiled the few times I’ve had to do that haha!
we mostly eat porridge and muesli which I buy loose. And I’ve nailed Granola, which once you have all the ingredients and buy regularly, you can knock together and have in the oven in under 10 minutes! For other options, Weetabix and Shredded Wheat come in paper packaging. I know, it’s not the most exciting … but the kids just get used to it to be honest. And I’m one of those mean mothers who thinks cereal is grim given the amount of sugar in it – and the fact that a normal serving is at least double what they put on the packaging for daily guidelines etc. Measure a 35g serving really looks like and see for yourself.
My friends at Charlotte’s Cupboard are on the hunt for a plastic-free rice krispie or cornflake option – fingers crossed as I know my five year old would love them for it!
Some of my friends love places like Farmdrop, Abel & Cole and Riverford for (mostly) plastic free food deliveries - so worth looking at your local options. I confess to being too much of a control freak to do it, as I like to know exactly what I’m getting for the week!
The things I miss ….
I won’t lie there are some things I do really miss … lettuce probably being my biggest. It’s pretty much impossible to buy plastic free, so we plan to grow it this year. We used to eat so much salad – but now they’re mostly deconstructed – cucumbers / tomatoes / grated carrot / avocado – just all sliced on a plate without the lettuce bit. Not as visually exciting, but still delicious!
Spinach and kale too – although good greengrocers / markets do come up with the goods sometimes. Again, we’ve heard it’s easy to grow ourselves, so fingers crossed. I’ve recently found a range of cardboard-boxed, plastic-free frozen spinach which is a great shortcut.
Also, frozen peas. I eat fresh peas in the summer, and keep meaning to buy some of the bulk bags a few farm shops offer and freeze these for the winter. I know there is a range of cardboard-boxed frozen peas but I’ve yet to find them in my go to places. The kids would go nuts, so must do that soon!
Ham is another rarity. I struggle to get to a deli frequently that has it available without packaging. I rely on bacon and big chunks of smoked bacon bits from the butcher instead for cooking with (soups etc). And this year I’ve been cooking more gammon joints which is proving a great hit with the family.
obviously fairly straightforward, thank goodness! Beer wise I tend to just buy bottles. Watch out for the plastic connectors you get with multipacks of cans - a box of cans is your best route.
Tonic / Soda Water
cans generally, and occasionally (if available / in the mood) splash out on the posher glass bottle brands, e.g. Fever Tree.
never buy it which helps – but if I did I’d just go for the glass bottle varieties. Might cost a few pence more – but I would just make the kids have it less frequently!
Milk / OJ
as mentioned above I get this delivered from the milkman. And if I wanted he does Apple / Grapefruit juice etc. I do miss the really fresh stuff. But mostly it’s for the kids and they’re less fussed. There are some fancy-pants apple juices etc in glass bottles in farm shops that I get every now and again, if we’ve got people staying or something. And occasionally I’ve just bought a load of oranges and squeezed them at home!
my tea consumption changed recently when I found out that nearly all tea bags on the market have a thin layer of polypropylene plastic to enable the bags to be sealed. So, out went the unbleached Clipper bags we were buying, and in came the loose tea! It’s brilliant. We invested in a couple of glass teapots with built in infusers which are really easy to use. And have started buying lots of different types of loose tea. You have to be a bit careful with packaging though, as quite a lot of companies wrap in plastic (although I’ve heard you can take your own bags to Whittards to be refilled). If you can’t find it loose, in a fill-your-own-bag shop, then this online shop is a great place to checkout - https://www.jajubeansandleaves.co.uk/.
I had to give up instant coffee because of plastic lids. So now I buy Illy ground coffee as it’s in foil (but I am trying to wean off this as I can’t imagine there’s no plastic in that there foil…). So am trying to grind beans from scratch. Again, Jaju Beans and Leaves are worth checking out. I also bought one of these because making coffee from scratch for one person was a faff – and they’re brilliant! https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bodum-Travel-Press-Coffee-Maker/dp/B0042RU4XU?th=1
Look out for Meridian Foods products - http://www.meridianfoods.co.uk/ - just one example of a company who produce a high volume of glass based products that would more often than not come in plastic packaging.
General house stuff
Laundry Liquid / Fabric Softener –
I’ve had the same bottles on the go all year and refill at either Hisbe or Cornerweighs in Henfield. Most Ecover stockists (particularly small independents) will do refills for you. I generally have two bottles of everything – so one set can sit in the car boot while I wait to make it to the shop, while the other stays in use in the house.
If you don’t have one then you can buy 5L bottles from their website - https://www.ecoverdirect.com/departments/refills.aspx?deptid=RF - every little helps!
Dishwasher tablets and salt
these are available to buy loose in cardboard boxes. The Ecoleaf tablets have soluble packaging (I’ve not investigated the ethics of this yet). Often the cheaper / supermarket’s own ranges are good go tos. But they work just as well. Not yet found Rinse Aid as a refill option – although I’ve heard that white vinegar is a great alternative so am going to give that a go next!
Cleaning Spray and Toilet Cleaner
I’m lucky to be able to refill my bottles at Hisbe. The Ecover General Cleaner is brilliant diluted and can be used for everything. We have a spray bottle we refill and reuse. BioD do a refillable toilet cleaner which is brilliant! And there are loads of brilliant homemade recipes for this stuff online.
Loo Roll / Kitchen Roll
I buy the Ecoleaf range as this comes in compostable plastic bags. It goes straight into our compost bin. It takes a little longer to decompose but does eventually. You can buy individually paper-wrapped loo roll here too, and they also donate proceeds to charity, but on the flipside it’s shipped over from China….https://uk.whogivesacrap.org/
you can buy compostable ones online. Both compost bin sized and 50l swing bin sized – here’s the brand I’ve bought recently: D2W bin liners
Foil, Baking stuff, Sandwich bags
this is a great company for ethical / recycled products bought from my local health food place but they also sell online - https://www.ifyoucare.com/our-products/
shop around, there are a few ranges that are sold in paper bags. We get our cat food (Purely and Harrington ranges), our Guinea pig food, and our Chickens food in paper bags. You can buy hay bales directly from a local farm – which is great for the guinea pig. Plastic free sawdust is still at large – although occasionally can be sourced from local woodsmills – Gumtree is worth a look.
Washing up brush
I recently found that run of the mill Loofahs are brilliant for washing the dishes. Amazing. Grim washing up brushes begone.
wooden / bristle versions are just as good as plastic, like these - https://utilitygreatbritain.co.uk/product/lav-brush-natural-fibre/
I’ve bought some biodegradable stuff along the way for when it’s been absolutely necessary – but I generally use Beeswax Wraps, which although quite expensive up-front, are great for storing food in the fridge, and you can make your own too. A friend sells some beautiful ones - https://corpo-sancto.com/products/reusable-beeswax-wraps
This is the harder end of the spectrum and I’ve had some trial and errors with different brands, and have sometimes had to give into a plastic lid or two because the options are few and far between.
bamboo all the way! Every plastic toothbrush you’ve ever owned STILL EXISTS in landfill! It’s madness! The Environmental Toothbrush range is great because you can buy in bulk so feel better value for money, and come in both adult and kids sizes and a variety of soft/medium/hard. And they can be thrown on the compost bin or fire once done with. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pack-Environmental-Toothbrush-ENVIRONMENTAL-TOOTHBRUSH/dp/B01A76QQQS/
It’s true, the bristles are plastic – as their website says:
The bristles are made from a BPA FREE polymer resistant to microbial growth during normal use, to ensure safety and durability. We have tried to find a biodegradable bristle but as of this time there is nothing available – apart from boars hair (don’t want to go there). No they are not Nylon 4 (as far as we know there are no bristles made from Nylon 4 on the market today). We have tried to bring you a toothbrush that is better for the environment- over the years we have been misled by our manufactures about our bristles being made of Nylon 4. We still believe that our toothbrush is a better alternative to a full Plastic toothbrush.
I tend to chuck mine on the fire when they’re done. Or the website suggests cutting off the bristles before putting the handle into the compost / bin.
It’s not perfect I guess…but better than the whole brush living on the planet for 500 years :-/
it’s really hard to find non-plastic tubes. I use Euthymol which is in a metal tube, but it’s an acquired taste and my husband and the kids really didn’t get on with it. So, I’ve relented and buy them normal tubes. This year I’m on a mission to change that too though!
For the more adventurous there are various charcoal / mineral based products – from the likes of https://uk.lush.com/products/toothy-tabs-mouthwash and https://georganics.co.uk/
Someone also recommended this to me but I’ve not yet tried it – https://www.truthpaste.co.uk/
again, a bit of trial and error because there are no big brands out there. And things like deodorant are different for different people, but here a few options.
I’m using this cream-based deodorant and really like it – www.naturaldeoco.com. Great range of scents and strengths. And from the summer, the makers are moving to non-plastic lids.
This glass jar product was great initially, but started to irritate my skin at times so I stopped - http://thegreenwoman.co.uk/shop/FitPit-Natural-deodorant.
I tried this too - https://www.realfoods.co.uk/product/33705/organic-lemon-tea-tree-and-mint-deodorant. It worked fairly well, but was a bit greasy on clothes. And towards the end the tube was looking pretty sorry for itself!
There’s also the Lush range but I’ve not tried these - https://uk.lush.com/products/deodorants-dusting-powders
If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be using organic homemade deodorant and toothpaste I wouldn’t have believed you J But living this way becomes addictive!
I’ve skirted around this by using what I had in cupboards etc. Benefit’s powders are great as they’re generally cardboard / metal. But am investigating my options in more depth as it’s reaching critical stage again! Lush look like the best starting point as so many of their products come without packaging: https://uk.lush.com/products/make
Eye make-up remover
standard coconut oil in a jar is incredible. Won’t ever look back! And the jar I bought last January is still going strong J
Nail polish remover
over the last year I’ve basically been biting off old nail polish, or covering it with new layers. The glamour ;) Thank goodness, I was recommended this recently - https://www.bwcshop.com/kind-clean-nails-nail-polish-remover/
I started by splashing out on Aesop as it’s packaged in glass. But it is super pricey and actually I didn’t get on with it. But perhaps that was my skin just getting used to change after years of using the same Clean and Clear astringent cleanser. Anyway, I’ve been using an amazing cleanser – bought from Holland & Barrett. It is expensive but a jar lasts me 6 months and it’s so rich there’s no need to moisturise. http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/beauty-kitchen-abyssinian-facial-cleansing-balm-60028956
I found this on my travels and it looks delicious, but haven’t yet used it - https://thefuturekept.com/collections/25-under/products/cacao-lotion-melt-moisturiser
Shampoo / Conditioner
initially I was refilling old bottles but had a few leakages along the way, so I bought a couple of 1l empty bottles from Hisbe and now take them there to refill. And empty out into smaller bottles for the kids’ bathroom. It’s the Suma range (https://www.sumawholesale.com/non-foods/bodycare/suma-clear-simple-shampoo-5l-dy595.html) – so you can buy in 5l bottles from the Suma website mentioned above if you don’t have a Hisbe type store nearby.
For travelling, and when going to the gym etc I used shampoo and conditioner bars from Lush. They’re great!
Body Wash / Soap
I use soap these days. There’s loads of great Soap out there these days – you needn’t smell of Imperial Leather!
- skinandtoniclondon.com have some great options.
- And I bought some really lovely ones from Wakehurst Place randomly too - http://shop.kew.org/kew-fashion-and-beauty/toiletries/soap
I’m in love with my new plastic-free razor. Makes me feel badass ;) https://www.labourandwait.co.uk/products/safety-razor
I use all my old pump bottles and get them refilled at Cornerweighs (Henfield) or Hisbe. This is the range - https://www.faithinnature.co.uk/departments/award-winning-range-of-natural-soaps-and-hand-washes.aspx?deptid=HW - and again you can buy in 5l bottles and refill your containers at home if you don’t have a local stockist. Looking at their site they also do a load of Shower / Bath Wash, Shampoo etc.
But as with bathtime rituals, bars of soap are all good too! I just like the handiness of pump bottles, particularly in the kitchen when I’m washing my hands a lot.
if you really want to stick with Tampons buy the original cardboard applicator variety. Cheaper and way better for the environment. But really – I can’t recommend a Mooncup enough - Yes, I know it might feel a bit weird etc. and takes a bit of practice. But once you get over that – it is just so practical and so much healthier for you. It’s also made a massive difference to period pains in that I no longer get them. That’s mad when you think about it – what do tampons have in them to make your period pains worse? If you like to use sanitary pads then you can buy reusable ones online (try Etsy).
another MASSIVE issue for our sealife – make sure you buy the ones made completely of paper, e.g. https://www.ethicalsuperstore.com/products/simply-gentle/simply-gentle-organic-cotton-buds/
I also heard that Johnsons recently changed to 100% cotton buttons – without the plastic stem. That’s very cool!
Other brands that are interesting:
- Neal's Yard – do a few glass bottled products, including bubble bath.
- Skin and Tonic London – recently discovered these guys, a lot of yummy glass bottled options (but with plastic lids). Steam Clean is lush and Beauty Oil seems really nice too.
- Disciple Skin care – my friend uses their stuff and says it’s great.
- Lush – generally a great option for a lot of products. Lush has a brilliant range of packaging-free shampoos, conditioners, soaps, deodorants and even make up.
Someone asked about toys for kids. It’s a tricky one as so much comes wrapped in plastic or is plastic based. But there’s a lot to be said for still taking it into consideration and looking around for other options.
For my youngest’s birthday, I actually plucked up the courage to write on the invite that we live plastic free and would people please bear that in mind. It was early on and I was still pretty coy about it all. But it was amazing! Everyone was so lovely and made the effort – and I think we only got two presents that had plastic packaging (out of 25 or so!). There’s plenty of stuff out there – books / crafty pressies / puzzles / traditional board games / skipping ropes etc.
I do let them have felt tips which is naughty. Doing without them and only using coloured pencils, pastels etc would be the best option, but they adore drawing. I’m going to look into makers who use these materials and pass them on.
Glitter is something else I’m no longer buying – but did spot this eco range out there which is worth a look - https://ecostardust.com
In moderation if something the kids want is made of plastic and will be used over and over for years then I’ll allow it (unless I hate it at which point I can use the Plastic Free card)! But I go simpler / more eco wherever possible, and avoid the packaging wherever possible because it’s adding no value and alternatives can generally be found.
I don’t feel like they go without. And they’re both really conscious of stuff now, and I hear them freely say they can’t have something because it’s wrapped in plastic. Kids adapt easily all in all.
(We also kept our old melamine crockery, and Tupperware because throwing it away for the sake of it felt silly).
One definite bonus is it’s meant I have a valid excuse not to buy the magazines wrapped in plastic, containing a load of plastic on the front cover, that would invariably be ripped apart in the car only to be found months later in their footwells!
A few other random sites that are useful to check out:
Etsy is a great source of homemade products and plastic free toiletries. From reusable cotton pads, to natural toothpaste / deodorant bars, you can find so many brilliant local, independent producers here.
Splosh - This is a new site I found – and I haven’t used personally – but it looks like a great place to go for refillable cleaning products.
Ethical Superstore - Not completely plastic free, so watch out, but a wide-ranging nationwide online store, selling a lot of the products I buy from the shops I’m lucky to have on my doorstep. Including things like recycled foil, compostable bin bags, coconut food scrapers, loofah dishwasher scrubbers etc. It also sells cleaning products in bulk.
Zerowaster - A great list of local bulk / unpackaged / zero waste shops around the UK, so people can learn more about what’s available in their local area. It’s going to be tough for it to cover everything, but it’s a really good place to start. The site has lots of other interesting general resources too.
So, there it is … some meanderings and ramblings on how we can live our lives with less plastic in it.
I appreciate it might sound a little extreme. But if we all only followed the first few rules, we would make an incredible difference!
Start small and then bit by bit take on new challenges. I promise you it’s addictive!
And in the meantime, here are some things to think about…
On this trajectory, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. There are desert islands full of trash.
China have recently announced they’re not going to be taking our recycling which means our local councils are going to have to manage it – and the success / cost-efficiency of this is very dubious. Also, only around 40% of the plastic consumed in UK households is recycled :-/
It’s estimated that nearly 1.2 million tonnes of plastics packaging are consumed by households in the UK each year. From this 1.2 million tonnes, it’s reported that 440,401 tonnes is collected for recycling – an overall 37% recycling rate only.
A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. Every minute! And that number’s expected to rise 20% by 2021. More than 480bn plastic drinking bottles were sold worldwide in 2016.
It’s estimated Americans throw away at least 50 million plastic bottles a day.
18 tonnes of rubbish wash into the sea every year from the River Thames.
This article is well worth a read - https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/28/a-million-a-minute-worlds-plastic-bottle-binge-as-dangerous-as-climate-change
Lastly, pretty much every bit of plastic you’ve ever consumed, that has gone into landfill, still exists. How is that sustainable??