Plastic is a material made to last forever, yet 33 percent of all plastic – water bottles, bags and straws – are used just once and thrown away. Plastic cannot biodegrade; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. By 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight. (Source: http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/)
Today is Earth Day, which means something and nothing I suppose – but I’ve been meaning to write down all the VERY EXCITING single-use-plastic-reducing tips that I’ve been gathering up over the last year or so. I’ve been working hard to cut down the things I buy regularly that are packaged in plastic, and find viable alternatives that are more ecologically safe, but also not shit and weird.
The opening paragraph aside, I’m not going to bang on about WHY we should all be trying to cut down our plastic use (and putting pressure on our goods producers to do the same) because whilst that kind of chat is important, it often leaves me feeling a little hopeless and helpless. Because it’s really fucking sad. But, instead of WHY, let’s take five minutes to talk about HOW, and more specifically how if you’re skint and tired and don’t where to start.
I’ve got a shit tonne of hair, so this was tricky. I’ve tried the old baking soda and cider vinegar trick and while I know loads of people who it works fine for (so it’s definitely worth a go https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8953/diy-this-baking-soda-shampoo-saved-my-hair.html) it has never been great for me. I tried a lot of ‘multi-purpose’ hair and body wash bars but they left my hair a bit dry and crispy. Finally I tried Lush’s shampoo bars and they’re great – really conditioning and detangling and they smell lovely and lather well. They just come in a paper bag so much less waste than a plastic bottle! They’re £6.25, which is more than I would spend on a bottle of shampoo, but one bar lasts me about 4 months (I was my hair 2 – 3 times a week) so its equivalent to a few bottles of shampoo! I use the seaweed one, but they’ve got a good selection: (https://uk.lush.com/products/seanik).
Simple enough, but I just switched to soap. Seems hardly worth mentioning, except that I’ve quite enjoyed trying out different cool soaps, different flavours, ones that are good to your skin and that your face likes – there’s loads of natural soap makers out there, as well as plenty of cheap simple unperfumed ones available in shops and supermarkets. And no plastic bottle to chuck out when it’s done!
I used to get through a bottle of cocoa butter moisturizer every few weeks, I’m pretty flaky. Of all my plastic habits, this was the one I had least confidence in breaking. I tried buying bars of cocoa butter and shea butter – they’re lovely and they smell amazing, but they’re a bit expensive for me, and they can be quite hard to find. Then I spotted a massive glass jar of unscented coconut oil in a health food shop – and that was me sorted. There’s a bit of a hippy cliché about coconut oil being good for everything at the moment. I don’t know if it will cure your cold or save you from wrinkles or make you immortal or whatever, but it’s a really good cheap moisturizer, and if the smell isn’t your thing just go for the mild or unscented one. You can buy a 600ml jar for about a fiver and they last me for at least 6 months. That’s less that a quid a month, and it’s in a big glass jar which can be re-used in about a million different ways afterwards.
WASHING UP LIQUID
I’ve had the same washing up liquid bottle for about five years. Getting it re-filled from a green supermarket was a piece of piss when I lived in Bristol and Brighton, but now I live in the middle of The Forest of Dean, it’s a bit trickier. I buy it in bulk and decant it into the smaller bottle as I need it (Bio-D sell 15L for £20 ish). Fronting up £20 is not always easy when you’re skint, as I well know, and also you’re still having to get rid of one plastic bottle every 15 litres, so it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s the best I’ve come up with so far. Anyone got any hot tips on more eco-sound approached to washing up liquid? If I were the queen, all supermarkets would have re-fill facilities, but until then…!
TOOTHPASTE / BRUSHES
I’ll be honest, this toothpaste isn’t for everyone, but I really love it. I can imagine people being freaked out because it isn’t white or blue with fake crystal bits in it! But it tastes good and has been really helpful when I’ve had toothache. It’s in a glass jar and lasts for months. It’s also free from weird chemicals and stuff, if you’re bothered about that kind of thing. It’s made in Brighton, but you can order online and they deliver. https://www.truthpaste.co.uk/
There’s loads of varieties of alternative toothbrushes out there, but if you’re after an affordable and sustainable toothbrush, you can’t really do better that this imaginatively named ‘environmental toothbrush’ for £2.85! You can get them in most health food type shops or online. My husband bought me one when I was in hospital last year and it cheered me right up! https://www.soapnuts.co.uk/products/the-perfect-environmental-toothbrush
BUYING IN BULK / LARGE SIZE / SUPPORTING GOOD ALTERNATIVES:
Obviously, the bigger the tub you buy the less smaller tubs are being thrown away. Buying in bulk is expensive so it’s just not possible for everyone – but worth thinking about doing it when you can. I also try to support good alternatives when I see them, and obviously carrying re-usable shopping bags, water bottles and coffee cups makes a massive difference! I also love mouthing off, so if you feel brave enough you can always let the owners of the shops that you use that you think excess packaging is bullshit and that you’re hoping they’ll move toward better alternatives! I find that fruit and veg shops use less packaging than supermarkets, and are sometimes literally more than half the price, so worth supporting them where you can too.
PROBLEMS I CAN’T SOLVE:
Margerine. Fucking margarine.
I’m allergic to butter, which obviously you can buy wrapped in a bit of paper. I buy margarine in the biggest tubs I can find, but it ain’t easy. Does anyone have a plastic-free margarine solution??
ALRIGHT, there’s all my viable plastic -free alternatives in one place. I would absolutely love to hear other people’s hints and tips. Knowledge is power!
Peas, love, and plastic-free alternatives, Sal x