With undeniable evidence that our oceans are drowning in plastic, and that tidal waves of plastic waste continue to crash into landfill sites, it’s urgently essential that we all make a conscious change to reduce the amount of single-use plastic in our day-to-day lives. Young eco-warriors are leading the charge to save our planet so we think the least us adults can do in support is to join the plastic patrol and eliminate it where we can!
We all know the key to lasting change lies in our daily habits. Bearing this in mind, the best way to begin your transformation to plastic-free living is by starting gradually and introducing even one tiny change into your everyday life. That way you are much more likely to stick to it as you won’t become overwhelmed with a complete lifestyle overhaul. Once you’ve turned this one good thing into a habit, introduce another change and make sure to get the rest of the family involved every step of the way so they understand the importance of the project.
Change Begins at Home
If you’ve no idea where to begin then the best place to start is the heart of the home – the kitchen! Packed lunches for all the family are not only good on your pocket, they’re also great for the environment. By simply taking your lunch to work, or school, you can cut down your use of plastic, save £££s and reduce food waste, so what’s not to love?
The first thing to scrap from your lunchbox is one of the top offenders of single-use plastic: cling film. This menace is difficult to recycle and its clinginess makes it challenging to reuse. Now’s the time to swap out the dreadful for something a bit more delightful by making the change to beeswax wraps. Kids will love the colourful designs and you have one less plastic scourge in your life.
Hydration is key for good health and what better way to keep on top of it is by making sure every member of the family has their own reusable water bottle. It may be worth investing in a double-walled stainless steel one from chillysbottles.com (£25), as it will help keep cool drinks cool in the summer months and hot drinks hot in winter. Their collection comes in a range of design options, just like this gorgeous tropical giraffe or you can personalise and keep forever.
Other handy eco-friendly additions to your lunchbox are metal drinking straws and bamboo cutlery which are also great for picnic adventures with the whole family. Speaking of bamboo, there’s a whole host of toothbrushes and hairbrushes made using biodegradable options such as this bamboo pin one from The Body Shop (£8.) With bamboo being the fastest growing plant in the world, it enables regular harvesting without causing damage to the ecosystem.
While we’re in the bathroom it’s time to stop replacing those wet wipes and swap them for the humble flannel. Yes, even those little wipes contain plastic which contributes up to 93 per cent of matter causing blockages in UK sewers. If you flush them, (which you absolutely should not do!) they can cause big problems for wildlife across rivers and beaches throughout the country.
If the amount of plastic bottles of shower gel and shampoo in your bathroom give you cause to pause, then maybe you should consider swapping these for solid shampoo and soap bars. Along with the green credentials these offer, most are made from natural ingredients. High street sustainable star Lush boasts a large selection of shampoo and conditioner bars and is also committed to reducing their plastic waste by ‘naked’ packaging.
Although almost all of the UK’s major supermarket chains have signed up to the UK Plastics Pact – which aims to tackle plastic waste by hitting a series of targets by 2025 – there are still ways to reduce your contribution to the plastic problem, now. If you’re heading out for some groceries, don’t forget your reusable fabric shopping bags. Smaller canvas bags are also great for packing loose fruit and vegetables.
You could go one step further and break the habit of shopping at major retailers and become more focused on shopping local. Browse the stalls at local farmer’s markets, or check out eco-hero speciality grocery store The Refill Quarter on Belfast’s Belmont Road – the city’s first zero waste store. Customers have to bring their own jars, bags and containers to shop. M&S Food are currently trialling their first Fill Your Own store in Southampton offering over 44 lines of packaging-free cupboard essentials and have plans for a second store in Manchester City Centre this spring so there could be one on the way to us soon. They’ve reported that kids particularly enjoy coming into the store to help parents fill their containers.
Finally, like every aspect of modern life, you’ll be able to find a community of like-minded individuals swapping hints and tips on social media. There’s an ever-growing zero-waste community on Facebook with specialised groups you can join. You can also follow a popular hashtag #plasticfreefriday on Instagram where you can discover even more wondrous ways to make changes in the mission of becoming a plastic-free(ish) family.