Going plastic-free is an important step towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. Plastic is one of the major contributors to pollution and has detrimental impacts on the planet’s wildlife. While we can’t control the waste production and carbon emissions from the earth’s largest contributors, we can control our own contribution. Our cooperation, no matter how small, matters.
But it isn’t as simple as it first appears. There’s plastic in almost everything we use, even our skincare! And the world isn’t exactly set up for us to boycott plastic.
- You have to find alternative products to help you live plastic-free.
- There are some things you may have to make in order to continue to live plastic-free.
- You have to continue to live plastic-free despite the opinion or pressures from others.
Not to mention you have to meticulously check everything you buy because plastic isn’t always obvious. For example, did you know that chewing gum contains plastic in both the packaging and the product? Because I didn’t! Each time you chew a stick of Wringlys, you’re essentially chewing on plastic. Gross!
How can I get started going plastic-free?
First of all, it’s not easy and I don’t confess to being an expert. In fact, like you, I’m very much a beginner. The birth of this article came from my wanting to get started living plastic-free. I thought it would be as easy as carrying a reusable bag, stainless steel water bottle and a netted produce bag. But it turns out that those small things barely scratch the surface!
Identify what products you use and the plastic they consume.
First and foremost it’s important that you know what you’re dealing with. Make a list of all the products you use that contain plastic. Remember to check those that aren’t immediately obvious such as haircare, skincare, cleaning products and even ”grown-up’‘ products. Yes, I mean condoms and personal lube!
From this list, you can begin to come up with sustainable alternatives. Use Google to your advantage, and consider joining a local sustainable group to help you find the best places to find said alternatives.
Start by making small changes to your daily habits.
If I’ve learned anything from trying to form habits, it’s that you need to take it one step at a time. Nothing new happens overnight, and the same goes for trying to go plastic-free. We’ve become so accustomed to a life filled with plastic that it’s going to be difficult trying to remove it entirely.
Start by using the list you compiled and picking three small things to change each month. I personally started by making the switch to bamboo toothbrushes over plastic ones. We also no longer use plastic bags for shopping, instead, we bring our own ‘long-life‘ bags or tote bags. Finally, we reuse plastic water bottles until they can no longer be used, at which point we use them in the garden. Did you know that if you fill a water bottle and leave it among your plants that it’ll scare away cats? Why would you want to do that I hear you ask? Well, cat poo isn’t exactly nice to see or smell in your garden, and it can be dangerous! That and water bottles deter them from digging holes!
Carry a reusable stainless steel bottle.
While my husband and I currently reuse plastic water bottles, we know it’s not healthy. So, we’re awaiting the arrival of two stainless steel water bottles from Klean Kanteen! They’re reusable and have the exact drinking spout that we both prefer.
We can fill them up throughout the day when at home, or refill them at work! But, if like me, you prefer your water with a hint of diluting juice, you might struggle. I’ve been looking for a plastic-free alternative to my usual cordial, but can’t seem to come across any. If any of my readers happen to have experience with this, please kindly share it in the comments.
Shop with reusable shopping and produce bags.
I’ve been using reusable shopping bags and tote bags for years. Not only do they reduce your plastic use, but they also save you a few pennies. After all, plastic bags in UK supermarkets are now twenty-six pence a pop, and it all adds up eventually. And to aid our cause further, we recently purchased two reusable net bags. To be honest, we didn’t know they were a thing until they appeared in our local Lidl a few years ago!
But why buy loose? Not only does buying loose produce reduce plastic waste, but it’s also cheaper because you only buy what you need. Only going to eat one pear for lunch? Then buy one instead of a conference of pears.
If you’re a keen crafter or own a sewing machine, why not give this handy tutorial a go? Margaret teaches us how to create our own reusable shopping bags. Use some old fabric you have lying around the house or recycle something from your local charity shop for a double whammy!
You can grab your own reusable net bags here!
Use more products made from eco-friendly materials.
When looking for ways to reduce plastic use, it’s essential that you start buying products that are eco-friendly. They could be made from recycled materials or natural fibres instead of synthetic materials like polyester. You should also look out for things packaged in glass, cardboard, or the aforementioned netting.
Using your list, do some research on alternatives. For example, make the switch to beeswax paper instead of clingfilm, or bottled hand soap for a soap bar. Google is your best friend! It’s helped me so much in finding alternatives for my everyday items.
Be smart when food shopping.
When it comes to what we eat, there are many different ways we can reduce the plastic we use.
- Only buy what you need. For example, instead of buying six apples in plastic packaging, opt to buy individual apples and place them into a net bag. While most supermarkets offer this, the best place to visit is your local market. Not only are you helping local businesses and you’re getting fruit and vegetables straight from the source, so they’ll last longer too!
- Cut down on frozen meals. These are the biggest users of disposable plastics!
- Find and visit your local refill store. Sadly, here in Northern Ireland, these are few and far between. But in the mainland UK, there are many refill locations available. You can bring your own containers and fill in what you know you’ll use. This will help cut down on plastic use, and food waste and you only pay for what you buy.
Have you any other ways that you can cut plastic out of your food shop?
Change how you clean your home.
I’ve recently made the switch to using more DIY cleaning products for use at home. Instead of harsh chemicals, I’m using things like vinegar, baking soda, warm water, and lemon to battle the grime. And while we are using plastic bottles, they’re recycled and used over and over again.
As for what we use to clean with, it’s a mixture of old clothing cut into ‘rags’, natural sponges, and natural fibre brushes. The latter products were found in a local charity shop! Talk about a double whammy!
Be careful with your personal care products!
Did you know just how much plastic our personal care products involve? I was shocked to learn it’s in almost everything from soap right down to personal lubricant. Think about it! Most of our daily use products come packaged in plastic bottles and containers. And plastic can even be manufactured into these products too!
Here are just a few things you should consider switching to reduce your plastic use. Be warned, I found this to be the hardest part of going plastic-free and finding alternatives (especially cost-effective ones) has proved difficult!
- Switch out your liquid soap to a bar. It gets washed off each time, so don’t worry about bacteria. In fact, do you know more bacteria are found on our pump-activated soaps? Think about it!
- Colour your hair using natural henna dyes.
- Switch to plastic-free feminine hygiene products. This could be in the form of a ‘Diva‘ cup or reusable period underwear.
- Use coconut oil as an alternative to personal lubricant for those intimate moments. But be aware that oil-based lubes don’t mix well with latex.
Check out my favourite reusable brand, WUKA. They offer period underwear fit for any flow! I have and use several pairs of their period pants myself, and have never looked back!
Learn to preserve foods without plastic.
My husband and I batch cook when we have time to help us when we don’t. There was a time we used plastic freezer bags to do so, but more recently we’ve been using plastic containers often used for lunch boxes, and glass jars (for pickling).
Acquire necessary plastic items used instead of new ones.
Check in your local charity shop, swap group or even ask around! There are always people getting rid of unused items, plastic and otherwise. Personally, I love our local charity shops, swap shops and community groups. We’ve exchanged so many things and received some of our most useful items this way! Our most recent find was a corner bookcase which fits perfectly in our office. It was free and all it needs is a lick of paint!
Remember, it’s all a learning curve.
Even if this isn’t your first time trying to reduce your plastic use, every day is a new opportunity to learn. You’ll never be the master recycler, but even making one small change is more than most. So, remember to be easy on yourself. So you picked up a pre-packed sandwich for lunch instead of bringing your own? Learn from it, move on and do better next time.
What other ways can you think of to go plastic-free?
As a newbie myself, I’d love to hear your advice, tips and solutions to break free from plastic! If you have any particular brands you like, or alternative options that I haven’t mentioned, please feel free to comment! I’m always updating old posts and might add your solution in the future!
Such good ideas, it isn’t easy but little steps on the right direction can make big impacts long term.
Lots of stuff here I didn’t know about. There’s always more we can do this area so thanks for sharing.
I love these ideas about going plastic-free. I had no idea that chewing on a piece of gum was like chewing on plastic. Wow!
this is a treasure trove of useful info about going plastic free, really happy to find this
These are great tips on how to get started on going plastic-free. We use an extraordinary amount of plastic throughout the world so it could be overwhelming. I’ve been using reusable bags for decades. And typically purchase one when I travel as a souvenir.
I am always looking for some ways to be more eco-friendly. I will have to consider some of these to add to my routine.
We are trying to go as plastic free as possible here, too. It’s something I’ve been working on for years now. We started with the kitchen and expanded from there. My family all have reusable water bottles, we use cloth grocery bags, we grow our own produce in the backyard, and more. I wish we had a refill store around here but we don’t either.
These tips are so great. I never would’ve thought of half of these. Thanks!
It’s great to see more and more people becoming aware of why going plastic-free is so important; your tips and information are so useful. I’m always looking to make everyday changes and be more sustainable at home — this was great!
true. while it might not be feasible to go completely zero waste, there are plenty of small changes like thes ewe can make in our daily lives to help reduce waste.
With these tips, living a zero waste lifestyle is achievable I’m sure. Thank you!
Great tips for going zero plastic lifestyle. We’ve all heard the term ‘zero waste’ being thrown around but don’t really practice it.
Super helpful tips! It’s so important to start with the little things we do every day. I love that in Germany they have certainly made it much easier as they don’t provide single use plastic bags and the thicker ones you can use for carrying the recycling often cost 1 EUR so you definitely reuse them a bunch of times. I made the switch to using glass Tupperware for storage (bit more expensive but they last) and it not only keeps things fresher but it’s easier than using saran wrap. Great post thanks for sharing!
It was one of my new year’s resolution a few years back to stop using plastic bags, I still sometimes buy goods in plastic but my food now gets delivered in cardboard boxes, with no plastic packaging, so making a bit of progress. A great blog post, on a very important topic, thank you.
Hhhmmmm….I love the idea of starting to make small changes with my lifestyle. It’s from there that I will fully love and adopt a plastic-free lifestyle.
LOVE this!!Such a great post and it highlights the importance and promotes people to recycle which is very important to our planet x
These are all really great tips! Thanks for sharing this amazing ideas
This has become a necessary evil. We should avoid it as much as possible. Thanks for reminding.
Yes, it is terrifying, but scientists agree that we all really eat one plastic credit card weekly! We tend to buy only recyclable plastic.
I have made a few changes already, like avoiding disposable plastic cups and using steel water bottles whenever possible. My greatest offense is frozen food: I usually eat a frozen meal every day for lunch!
These are some great suggestions for helping the environment. I am also trying to make small changes in the house.
I love my reusable tumblers. I’m trying to do some changes where we can, but it can be challenging.
There are so many simple ways to start going plastic-free, it’s something that we should all start doing! x
Going plastic-free is something we wanted to do but never really maintained it for a while. These are great tips to help with that.
I made my own beeswax paper, but it was a bit rubbish, and haven’t got on that well with standard stuff either. I do have some silicon round stretchy lids that are reusable and fit some of my bowls etc, but not all. Rather than sandwich bags I try and use reusable silicon press close snack bags and storage bags. They take up so much less room in the fridge and freezer than containers.
Reusable water bottles is the easiest thing though. We’ve been using those for years. It just means remembering to take bigger bags with us on days out to make sure they fit!
We have a refill shop in our town shopping centre. It’s quite popular, and when I finish my next refill soap bag, I’m intending to (whether I’ll have a bottle available big enough to fill to cover a large enough amount to make it worth it) go there for soap.
I love this!! I am trying to eliminate more plastic from my life and these are some amazing ideas.
Such a great post to help spread awareness and to help people start on their plastic free journey! It’s crazy how much plastic is in EVERYTHING.
This inspired me to give more attention towards moving zero waste. Thank you!
I have been thinking about doing this because I plastic can easily be damaged, and it is not healthy. Thank you for the tips.
Really great and much-needed tips, Nyxie! Too much plastic in the world.