July is Plastic-Free Month and with the current pandemic causing the use of single-use plastics to skyrocket again, the timing couldn’t be better.
Like most people, I’m increasingly anxious about plastic consumption – both on a global level and on a personal level. Going plastic-free is one of the most effective ways to contribute positively to our planet. I know my habits were selfish, lazy, and unsustainable – but going all-in seems a bit like jumping into the deep end, and to be honest, is so far outside of my comfort zone that it seems equally unsustainable.
So, for Plastic Free Month this July, here are five steps you can take to reduce my plastic consumption and make my life more green:
This is the easiest place to start – particularly during quarantine. While most of us are still working from home in some capacity, we continue to prepare and eat lunch here, rather than purchasing a meal housed in single-use plastic. We know that it’s significantly easier to grab something on the go!
It’s the same with groceries. While the London Underground is more or less out of bounds, I’ve been doing a lot more food shopping in smaller, local and independent shops, rather than large supermarket chains. Not only does their produce tend to be fresher, but it’s much easier to buy fresh produce without it being wrapped in unnecessary plastic.
I am a firm believer that there are two types of people in life: those who have a water bottle stuck to their hand at all times, and those who you’ve potentially never seen hold one. If you’re the former, invest in a water bottle that you really love and will enjoy using, and ditch the disposables. For example, I love a water bottle with a built-in straw, so when I had one without, I would never use it and would always forget about it, resulting in me buying and drinking bottled water... Others like to use bottles with time markers, to track how much you should be drinking by what time.
I ditched my old bottle and got one I actually like using and – poof – not a single-use plastic bottle in sight.
You don’t need to tell me. It’s hard to not get sucked into the hurricane that is fast fashion. The pressure to keep up with the latest trends is immense and being stuck in the house 23 hours of the day not only results in dangerous levels of boredom, but you likely – and rightly – might feel like you need some reprieve, or a reward.
But trust me when I say this: there are a plethora of ways to perk yourself up that are not only kinder to your bank account, but also to the planet. You’ll find yourself buying clothes that are low quality, won’t fit exactly right, and – let’s face it – will likely be worn a handful of times at the most. The fashion industry produces 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions and is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply. Plus, it pollutes the oceans with microplastics.
Bake a loaf of banana bread, go for a run, do a puzzle, or have a glass of wine. Save up for that dreamy designer top you’ve wanted forever but seems too expensive to justify, rather than doing another massive haul on yet another fast–fashion shopping site.
Top tip: I’ve unsubscribed from all of those newsletters – you know the ones. The ones that appear in your inbox, uninvited, luring you in with discounts to buy things you don’t really want or need. The temptation is much easier to resist when it’s not being dangled in your face on a daily basis.
While it’s easy to spot that pads and tampons are wrapped in plastic or encased in plastic applicators, most people – myself included, until very recently – aren’t aware that there is plastic inside tampons and pads.
Many tampon brands include a thin layer of plastic in the absorbent part (both polyethylene, the most common form of plastic, and polypropylene, which is the plastic used in teabags and chocolate bar wrappers) and the dangling strings are also braided with plastic.
A woman can use an average of 11,000 disposable period products over the 450 periods she has in her lifetime, and that’s just one woman. So, it’s unsurprising to hear that tampons, pads and panty liners amount to more than 200,000 tonnes of waste sent to landfill each year in the U.K.
There is a range of eco-friendly alternatives, depending on your preference: menstrual cups like the Diva Cup are incredibly popular, as well as reusable, fluid-absorbing pants. However, the emergence of plastic-free, biodegradable, organic and vegan pads and tampons are the closest thing to what most of us are used to and comfortable with – which, let’s be honest, is incredibly important when it comes to such an intimate area – while still being environmentally friendly.
DITCH THE PLASTIC SHOPPING BAGS
This is the most obvious one – but one that most people forget! Use whatever works for you, just none of that bag for life nonsense – you might get a few more uses out of them, but they are even harder for the environment to break down once we’re done with them. Some people like to use reusable canvas totes, where others prefer to put their wares into a backpack. If you have a car, keep your grocery bags in it – preferably somewhere visible, so that you actually remember to bring them into the store with you. And one more thing: reusable bags are not just for groceries! Carry them for all your purchases, from electronics to clothing.
Do your bit for Plastic Free Month and be part of the solution.