We have been working on incrementally changing our eco footprint for the longest time. I am not sure where the journey began, because I really never intended to be a green mother, it just happened over time that we have gotten better and better at green living. The thing is, that it is no longer a life choice, but rather a decision that has to be made. We all need to be living greener, but a month like #PlasticFreeJuly, can leave us feeling so inspired or more than a little overwhelmed, depending on where you are looking from. The trick to successful change is incremental change. You cannot get rid of all the plastic you use in a day… but you can make the decision to get rid of one type of plastic today, and forever.
The thing is we live in a horrendously plastic world, and we will never be completely plastic free. The point is we can say NO to so many bits and pieces of plastic, but packaging is a genuine nightmare. So we have been really focusing on refusing packaging, or reusing it, or recycling it and definitely not sending it to the landfill.
Se7en Quick and Easy Changes You Can Make
- Set up an Eco-Brick Station: I firmly believe that we are going to have a garbage crisis in the near future, there just aren’t enough landfills in the world. There is a lot we can do to reduce our garbage and make significant change. You can easily shrink what you send to the landfill just by recycling, shrink you contribution again by beginning a compost heap… and set up an eco-brick station…
We have been eco-bricking for a while now, but in order to make eco-bricking part of our daily lives, we had to step up an eco-brick situation and so we set up an eco brick station. We always have a couple of bottles that are almost full, but not quite. Now we store them with the lids off and with eco-brick sticks (sawn off broom sticks are the best), right next to the dirt bin. As you decide where to put the garbage… landfill, compost, recycle… or eco brick. The theory is you have to make it as easy as possible for folk to fill them up… otherwise you will end up with a pile of potential eco-bricks and million little pieces of garbage next to them.
- Shopping: Oh sigh… if only we could do all our shopping at Zero Waste Stores… for us visiting Nude Foods in the city is still a massive treat, rather than the norm. And when it comes to shopping online, most online stores absolutely love their plastic packaging… they take a large box, fill it with plastic, pop your tiny item inside, close the box and then pop it into a large plastic bag… sigh.
We would rather collect our package from a depot than receive all that plastic, (yes, you can choose to refuse) and the only online shopping I have done this year has been from Faithful to Nature… because they deliver overnight and they do not use plastic ever (they also add free little samples of their other green products as gifts, shopping there is a lovely experience… and this is not a sponsored post!!!).
Otherwise, one of our easiest things to change and we took ages to do it, because we thought it would be difficult. Turns out it is a really easy change to make… lose the plastic shopping bags for ever and replace them with re-useable ones. We kept forgetting them at home, we had to change our mindset from “We won’t use plastic shopping bags if we remember to bring our reusable ones…” We needed to say, “We will not use plastic shopping bags again.” And if we forgot our reusables… then tough, carry the groceries home. We only had to do that once and you can just imagine all the awkward carrying… and since that ONCE it has been easy to remember.
- Produce Bags: The one problem we have found with bringing our own bags is that at the checkout they want to put everything into those skinny plastic bags, and at the weigh in stations where we don’t want to buy food in plastic packaging they want to place the produce into plastic bags to weigh them. So… Step 1: In the produce section: refuse fruit and veg that comes in plastic, why would they sell pineapples in plastic wrap, or cucumbers… that is one of life’s great mysteries; Step 2: We bought our own fabric produce bags and most shops don’t say a word if you hand them over and are happy to weigh your peppers and apples and whatever else in them.
- Cling Wrap Begone: Cling wrap was really the last big plastic item to go in our home and at the end of last year we got everyone their own wax food wraps… these have been fantastic, we all love them. And we wrap our lunch in them for likes and we are good to go.
I did have the lingering problem of not having a way to cover food in bowls to store in the fridge… yup, we used plastic wrap more than I thought we did… and I recently bought elasticated fabric food covers… and they work brilliantly.
- Fresh Bread for the Win: The bain of my life are those little bread clips… they are everywhere… at every beach cleanup, on all the kitchen counters… and now in every eco-brick. I just can’t stand them… so for plastic free July I upped my bread game significantly and tried to make our bread everyday or buy it from a bakery that uses paper bags, instead of mass marketed bread, which is the pit of despair health wise – but I have five teenagers folks. The thing is, while I usually make a loaf of bread a day anyway, they do eat much more than that!!! My kids have only been eating good bread this past month and they are now a little loathed to eat mass produced bread. Sigh.
- Coffee o’Clock and Associated Straws: Straws are a big deal, really big deal… thousands and thousands of them at every beach cleanup. I don’t want a glass straw – hello, breakable, and metal ones are cool. I did get myself a bamboo straw, but I love it so much that I never use it… so no need for a straw, folks, I can actually drink from the cup. Turns out straws are really a symbol of our journey to plastic free.
- Look Around Your Home: Take a look at some of the products around your home and see what comes in plastic that needn’t. So many things are better in glass… and so many things are at the moment unavoidably plastic. We still get our milk and cheese in plastic containers, yogurt too… but it is perhaps time to make our own yogurt. Otherwise, things like shampoo… total winner let it go and start using a bar. I have been using bar shampoo from Lush and I love it completely… no more plastic bottle in the shower necessary. Looking for alternatives to plastic is really the way to go… one product at a time.
Which leads straight on to travel mugs… because there are truly beautiful coffee mugs out there and there is no need to buy a plastic coffee mug ever… ever. I know, folks tell me that the lids are compostable… and yes they are, more or less in apparently 3 months time, I have found this to be less than the truth and compostable or not, I don’t want to be planting my vegetables amidst take-away coffee mugs lids… just saying!!! If you have to get a take-away mug then at least refuse the lid.
One step at a time. One beach cleanup at a time… we need to get informed and we need to chip away at the mountains of plastic that we use in our daily life. I think that perhaps we are just not aware of all the plastic we are consuming, but when you get to pick it up on the beach month after month you can’t help becoming very aware of the problem. We can no longer blame or use of plastic on convenience, because a lot of alternatives are becoming convenient too. Plastic has become a habit, a lifestyle that we choose and we can actually “unchoose” … Hoorah for #plasticfreejuly, which makes us more aware, and just by following the hashtag we can get tons of great ideas for a plastic free lifestyle.