So you’ve decided to minimise your impact on the planet by reducing (and eventually eliminating) plastic from your life? As someone who’s been slowing edging closer to a zero waste lifestyle for a few years now, I completely support you on this mission and am here to lend a hand. Below are some of my tips on how to replace the plastic products in your house with sustainable, reusable, earth-friendly alternatives.
Let’s start with self care products.
A simple stroll down the personal hygiene aisle in a supermarket is enough to overwhelm any conscious consumer. Once you start looking, it’s hard to unsee the amount of plastic that fills the shelves in colourful, carefully marketed packages.
- Switch to bars for body wash, shampoo & conditioner and face cleanser & moisturiser. Bar soaps are easily found in most shops, the others can be ordered from places like Solibar, Urthly Organics, Biome and Ethique (or if you’re lucky, someone at your local markets will have started making and selling them for a lot cheaper).
- If bars really don’t work for you, hunt down your closest The Source Bulk Foods (or similar) store, where you can take in a reusable container and refill it over and over.
- Switch to a bamboo toothbrush (at the end of its life, pull the bristles out to recycle and compost the stick).
- MYO toothpaste at home (this recipe is a winner), or give Lush’s toothy tabs a go.
- Buy bamboo cotton buds (the plastic ones are on a similar scale to straws when it comes to harming marine life).
- Choose organic deodorants & perfumes in glass or metal containers (I’ve tried plenty of deodorant pastes that I’m not happy with but one I will highly recommend is no pong).
- If you like having hairless skin, commit to a once-off purchase of a stainless steel razor.
- If you like wearing makeup, look for brands like Elate who use wood or bamboo packaging.
- If you don’t like sunburn, choose a sunscreen like Sunbutter Oceans that comes in a metal tin (and is free of nasty chemicals that damage our oceans).
Which brings me to… products for cleaning our living environment.
Saying goodbye to plastic goes hand in hand with saying goodbye to toxic chemicals, which is a positive for our planet and our own health. Bleach might be advertised as the king of all cleaning scenarios, but there are gentler alternatives that are just as powerful.
- For all kinds of household cleaning, The Source Bulk Foods and similar refill/bulk buy stores are a busy human’s best friend. Collect a few large reusable containers and spray bottles and fill up on their organic, cruelty-free product options.
- If there aren’t any stores like this near you or you’re looking for a cheaper option – try making your own. Castille soap, vinegar, baking soda, eucalyptus oil, citrus rinds and essential oils are all staples in a my cleaning cupboard. Here are a few easy recipes.
- Toilet bombs are another alternative to bleaching your toilet.
- Try soap berries for cleaning your clothes, and use wash bags or get yourself a Cora Ball to prevent microfibres from coming out in your washing machine and entering our oceans.
- Soap berries can also be used as dishwashing detergent (or you can fill up a reused pump bottle from a bulk store), and biodegradable dish scrubbers are becoming more widely available.
Now, unpacking your kitchen cupboards and fridge shelves…
Possibly the trickiest one, as single-use plastic packaging of food items has spiralled completely out of control in the last decade. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a bit of preparation and forward planning (and willingness to spend a little extra upfront) a plastic free kitchen is definitely doable.
- Collect an assortment of different sized jars (spreads like peanut butter and pasta sauces are great go-to reusable jars) and head to your closest bulk foods store.
- Buy dry! Foods like lentils, beans, chickpeas, pasta, rice, baking flour, etc. are readily available in bulk stores and will last longer than their tinned or plastic packaged friends.
- Buy fresh and local! Fruit and vegetables bought fresh from farmers markets not only taste better than the GM ones sold in supermarkets, but they’re also less likely to be wrapped in plastic. Plus, you’re supporting the growers directly. Open Food Network is an awesome site for finding local producers in your area.
- Buy or make some produce bags to use for loose leaf spinach and other small fruit and veg.
- Get yourself a schmick reusable bread bag and shop at bakeries where they’ll pop your loaf of choice straight in (Bakers Delight even provide discounts for bringing your own bag).
- Make your own dips – there’s loads of recipes online for making hummus, guacamole, pumpkin and more.
- Buy a handful of good quality stainless steel or glass containers to keep your leftovers fresh.
- Refill your milk in a glass jar at your local organic store, or make your own soy/almond/oat milk alternatives.
- Keep the plastic containers of berries and other items that are particularly hard to avoid and reuse them.
Remember, every small change adds up to make a big difference, so don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not able to live completely plastic free right now. It takes time and effort to transition from your old habits and convenient way of shopping (i.e. buying everything in one hit at a supermarket), sobest allow yourself 6 months or so to find the stores and processes that work best for you.
Have I missed something? Leave me a comment with your tips for avoiding plastic in daily life.