At the beginning of 2018, our family set a bullish goal to reduce our plastic use at home by 80 per cent. It wasn’t easy. But a year later, we’re doing it, and doing it well. Here are a few things we’ve learnt along the way.
Take the easy street
Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Box schemes are a great way to get fruit and veg delivered to your door with minimal plastic. But you may not know that you can get store-cupboard essentials the same way. Hop on over to either Zero Waste Club or the Plastic Free Pantry. Both offer a big selection of dry goods (things that are notoriously tricky to buy without plastic packaging, like pasta and rice) sold by weight, and delivered anywhere in the UK - plastic free, of course.
Aim for progress not perfection
When you make a commitment to living with less plastic, it’s easy to get obsessed with totally plastic-free products. But it’s more realistic to seek out products that use much less plastic. One example of this is Splosh, who sell refillable household cleaning and laundry products. The premise is a simple one. You buy the bottle once, then order refills which are sent in letterbox-friendly pouches. The refills are super-concentrated - when mixed with water, one pouch will fill the original bottle three-four times. It’s not perfect, but it’s a massive improvement.
When it comes to liquid products, bigger is better. That’s because buying these things in bulk sizes significantly reduces the amount of plastic when compared to buying a bottle at a time. So if you don’t have somewhere handy to get refills, consider investing in five-litre jumbo containers of your bathroom and kitchen products. The Ethical Superstore and Big Green Smile are good places to look.
Name a bathroom product, and I’ll show you a plastic-free, ‘solid’ version of it. It makes sense really. If plastic is the perfect solution for transporting and storing liquids, then re-think the liquids. Shampoo bars have become one of the icons of the plastic-free scene, and there are a bazillion to choose from. But this idea has spread to other products too. Cosmetics brand Lush is trailblazing here. You’ll find ‘naked’ facial cleansing balms, shaving soaps, body lotions, body scrubs facial moisturisers and even zero-waste make-up. I’m a big fan.
Less is more
You would be perfectly within your rights to roll your eyes at what I’m about to say. If you want to use less plastic, then just use less. Full stop. There have been very few things that we haven’t found a plastic-free alternative for. But, for the things that we do struggle to find - things like crisps - we’ve just shifted these things from being regular purchases to being occasional treats. This allows for all manner of ‘life stuff’ to happen, and for us to feel like this a sustainable way to live, long term.
My final thought is a reminder that that living with less plastic is journey of baby steps. It takes a bit of imagination and some planning. And a willingness to get it wrong as often as you get it right. Celebrate every small change you make and don’t get discouraged by the inevitable challenges along the way. Every bit of plastic avoided, is a bit of plastic that cannot do harm.
Sophie Tait is the founder of trashplastic.com - a website that helps people live well with less plastic. She lives in London with her husband and nine-year old identical twin girls. Find her at @trashplastic on Instagram.