We challenged our Schools Officer, Karen, to make one small change a day for a month towards reducing her consumption of plastics. Here’s how she got on during the last stretch – as well as her final thoughts on what it really takes to make a change.
So, I’ve just finished the final stint of my month-long journey towards going plastic free, and I have to say that I’m really pleased with the changes I have made and with the fact that I have managed to stick it out for this long. At first, I thought I would probably run out of ideas, but I’ve found the more I get stuck in, the easier it is to think creatively. Just one small action every day can make a big difference in reducing your plastic footprint, so read on to discover ideas you might like to try yourselves.
Day 22 – Spreading the Word:
Today I ran a workshop about the problems caused by plastic in the Ocean, inspiring pupils to do their bit in reducing plastic pollution. I’m lucky to work in an organisation where I can do this regularly, but are there ways in which you can encourage the next generation to help save our Ocean yourself? Whether it’s being a ‘plastic-free’ role model to your children, taking your niece or nephew on a beach clean or buying a bamboo lunchbox for a family friend, there are lots of ways you can set a good example.
Day 23 – Refusing single-use plastic:
When purchasing chips today, I jumped in early to request ‘no fork, please!’, as so many people automatically provide you with single-use plastic items as part of their job. Single-use plastics make up 49% of all beach litter, so saying no to plastic forks, straws and coffee cup lids is a really important step in the right direction.
Day 24 – Reusable Bread Bags:
I purchased some cloth and mesh bags online so that I can not only buy loose vegetables, but fresh bread, too! No longer do I need to use those little single-use plastic bags for bread rolls. Why not give them a try? Try keeping them in with your reusable shopping bags so that you don’t forget them during the weekly grocery shop.
Day 25 – Guppy Friend:
Okay, I’ll admit that this seems like a pricey item and at £25.00, it’s the most expensive thing I have purchased so far to help me on my journey towards reducing my plastic consumption. However, I have to say my conscience is much cleaner since using one! Guppy Friend is a bag that captures tiny plastic micro-fibres that would otherwise end up in the Ocean. All you have to do is pop it in with your laundry and empty it when the wash is finished. Simple!
Day 26 – Bamboo Cutlery travel set:
Browse the internet or head to a local ethical supplies store to pick up a bamboo cutlery set. It folds up easily so that you can keep it in your bag, proving useful for adventures and day trips over the summer!
Day 27 – Beach Cleaning:
This was a lot of fun! I spent time by the sea in the sunshine, looking out at the boats and listening to music as I picked up any litter I could find (plastic wrappers, straws and lighters were just some of the items I discovered). Whether you want to chill out on the beach by yourself or organise a beach clean with family or friends, it’s a great option for an outdoor summer activity.
Day 28 – Recycling Plastic Bags:
I’ve discovered that Morrison’s have a recycling box for plastic carrier bags, bread bags and much more! Most households have a cupboard full of carrier bags tucked away somewhere, so reuse them for as long as you can, drop them off at the supermarket or you can even use them as bin liners.
Day 29 – Using my own containers for a takeaway:
This was surprisingly easy. We just swung by the nearest Indian take away and asked if we could have our food packaged in the containers that we had brought with us. The staff were more than happy to accommodate our request, so why not give this a try yourself? Just make sure you bring enough containers for the food you are craving!
Day 30 – Fluoride toothpaste tablets:
I must admit, I was sceptical at first. You have to pop a tablet into your mouth, then chew until it forms a paste. But don’t diss it until you try it. For me it was just like chewing a mint and it seemed to work just as well as normal toothpaste. They last for just as many brushes and are a similar price to the stuff you get in the tubes.
Day 31 – Soap nuts:
I’ve always bought washing powder in cartons instead of laundry liquid in plastic bottles. But phosphates and enzymes in washing powder are playing a part in polluting our Ocean. Soap nuts, however, are a fantastic alternative. You won’t lose out on any money, plus they are environmentally friendly and easy to pick up online. Give your laundry routine a makeover by purchasing a Guppyfriend too!
Speaking of nuts, I have reflected on my plastic free journey and summed it up in a nutshell…
Thoughts I had before:
I want to help the environment but I’m tired, I find it all a little overwhelming and I have no time.
Thoughts I have now:
It’s not that time consuming at all now that I’ve changed my routine and found some easy behaviour changes that suit my lifestyle.
The three main easy changes I have made are:
• Every day: I take a small bamboo cup, folded up shopping bag and water bottle with me when I leave the house. I also make sure I have a carrier bag on me for scooping up rubbish on my way to work.
• Once a week: I’ve moved my shopping day to the weekend so that I can stop by at the market for loose fruit and veg. I make sure my vegetable and bread bags are in with my reusable bags, and opt for larger supermarkets so I can purchase glass bottles.
• Once a month: I’ll give away my bottle lids and items to upcycle, make any cleaning products I want to and check I’m stocked up with items I need.
Thoughts I had before:
It’s too expensive and I don’t have the money.
Thoughts I have now:
It really isn’t that expensive at all once the initial purchases are out of the way.
• It costs nothing to do beach cleans and upcycle!
• Many actions you take will save you money, such as purchasing bars of soap and making your own cleaning products.
• You will end up spending a similar amount to what you spend currently by purchasing soap nuts, shampoo bars, toothpaste tablets and glass lunch boxes.
• Some items are a little expensive to start with but save you money in the long run. A reusable water bottle will mean you no longer need to buy water in plastic bottles and using food wraps will allow you to ditch the cling film.
• Admittedly, some items are a little pricey such as bath bombs, lush shampoo in pots and toilet roll delivered to your door. But is there any harm in treating yourself if it helps you feel good and protects the Ocean at the same time? I think not!
A few last hints and tips:
– Beware of the word ‘biodegradable’ when it comes to purchasing items such as plastic bags and wet wipes. Some items are only biodegradable if they are exposed to certain temperatures, which don’t exist in the Ocean. I try to avoid biodegradable plastics just in case, opting for alternative materials instead.
– The more you do try to reduce your plastic footprint, the more you’ll feel good about your lifestyle and helping to protect the environment. Keep at it!
– Occasionally, you might get a few odd looks when you take your containers into the takeaway or when a box appears at your door with ‘Who Gives a Crap’ written all over it (it’s an eco-friendly toilet paper brand, if you’re wondering!). Just don’t worry what others think of you. Be the change you want to see.
– Making loads of changes straight away might become stressful, which can lead to people just giving up entirely! Take it one step at a time and don’t beat yourself up for forgetting your bamboo cup or reusable shopping bag. Just try your best.
There are some actions which I find easy to keep up with all the time – like refusing single-use plastic straws/forks, picking up litter and using reusable water bottles/shopping bags. The trouble I’m finding, however, is that I sometimes swing by smaller shops on busy days on the way home from work, but in doing so often struggle to find loose veg, purchase glass bottles and avoid plastic packaging in general. Moving forward, I will continue to think of fun ideas to reduce my plastic consumption and try to overcome the hurdles I’ve been facing – where there’s a will, there’s a way, and I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to be perfect. If we all try to make some changes and do our best then we can create a real ripple of change.