As a family that travels a lot, we are becoming more conscious of our carbon footprint on the world. One of our family New Year’s Resolutions is to try and reduce our plastic waste and our use of plastic at home. It is something that has been on my mind for a while and what better time to make a start to become plastic free at home than the start of a New Year. Going plastic free is going to be a gradual process but, in this post, I’m sharing with you 9 easy ways to become plastic free at home, with steps we’ve already begun taking for our own plastic free journey.
Let’s talk about plastic for a minute. According to Greenpeace, there is an estimated 12.7 million tonnes of plastic ending up in our oceans every year. That’s an estimated truck load of plastic pollution every day. Not to mention how much ends up in landfill every single day. Everything from single-use plastic water bottles to plastic bags to microbeads are destroying our oceans and the vast lives that inhabit it.
In a recent study published in the Science Advances Journal, looking at the first global analysis of all plastics ever made, of the 8.3 billion metric tons produced, 6.3 billion metric tons has become waste and of that, only 9% has been recycled. 79% has been sent to landfill or has become environmental waste, such as that found in our oceans. This is a shocking statistic and another reason why we are making efforts to change to a plastic free life as much as we can.
As a scientist I understand why the use of plastic has become so popular since it first came on the scene over 50 years ago. It is lightweight, durable, flexible, water resistant, strong and relatively inexpensive. However, with that durability and strength comes the fact that it takes a very long time for plastic to degrade and decompose naturally. 450 years is the average length of time. Which means that plastic we use in our lifetime will still be around when our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren are live (I did the maths). 6 full generations from now those plastic bags, toothbrushes, containers and more will still be going through their final stages of degradation. Think about that for a minute.
And yet we continue to rely on the use of plastic. And yes, I know some people will say “well, what’s the point? It won’t affect me, or my children, so why bother or worry about it?”. Because we SHOULD be worrying about it. It doesn’t matter that it won’t directly affect our generation or the next but your family in centuries to come will be hugely affected by it. And to try to reduce the effect we need to be making changes NOW, not next year or in 5 or even 10 years’ time. We need to do something NOW. If everyone in the world made just one small change to their consumption of plastic and especially single-use plastic, then it would make a longer-lasting difference in years to come. But everyone needs to rally around and do their part.
And that’s what we’re starting to do at home. By making small changes to our use of plastic at home and finding alternatives, we are starting to do our part. Here are all the ways we are making small changes at home to help us move to a more plastic free lifestyle and reduce plastic waste in our home. They are easy ways to become plastic free at home and are either an investment for long term plastic free living or ways in which a small change can make a bigger difference.
9 Easy Ways to Become Plastic Free at Home
The ways in which we are changing things at home to move towards a more plastic free home are as follows and I will discuss each in greater detail:
- Change to bamboo toothbrushes
- Use sustainable bamboo toilet paper
- Favour natural shampoo and conditioner bars instead of bottles
- Use reusable food bags in our shopping and reusable shopping bags
- Switch to non-plastic food containers and wrapping
- Ditch the single-use plastic bottles for reusable stainless-steel water bottles
- Change to stainless steel straws
- Use a laundry egg
- Use reusable nappies and wipes.
Each is either a quick replacement or is an investment for the future and for long-term use. You’ll find these and more ideas for eco-friendly travel products in a great blog post from Faraway Lucy.
Change to Bamboo Toothbrushes with BlueRock (TM)
One of the first things we are doing this New Year is switching to bamboo toothbrushes. Did you know that the UK throws away an estimated 100 million toothbrushes every year? That’s another huge amount of unnecessary plastic going to landfill or ending up in our oceans.
During my research into more environmentally friendly alternatives, bamboo toothbrushes were the ones which stuck out by a mile. And I recently came across a company that provides a subscription-based service for bamboo toothbrushes. BlueRock are a family-run company whose toothbrushes are made from
sustainable Mao Bamboo, they look super fresh and are much better for the environment.BlueRock
BlueRock toothbrushes are made from sustainable bamboo which keeps on growing. Their handles are FSC-certified, and these handles can be recycled, repurposed or added to household compost. Bamboo is naturally anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic too. The bristles are tightly packed and are designed based on recommended dentistry hardness grades so are not too hard or soft. The bristles cannot be added to household compost but can be added to general household plastic recycling and will degrade much quicker than conventional plastic.
These ergonomically designed toothbrushes will last as long as plastic ones, are available with different coloured bristles and they even have children toothbrushes, aptly dubbed BlueRock minis. BlueRock toothbrushes come shipped in plastic-free packaging, with carbon neutral shipping and BlueRock donates 10p to marine life conservation for every toothbrush purchased.
And with a subscription service to suit your family’s needs, what more could you ask for where your toothbrushes are concerned? You can choose from a 2, 3 or 4 monthly delivery intervals. You can mix adult with child toothbrushes in your subscription and BlueRock toothbrushes start from £3.50 depending on the order quantity. That’s less than quite a few of the popular plastic toothbrushes on the market. And even better news for those of us living outside the UK, BlueRock now have FREE shipping to European countries on all their subscription services. A great service and a fantastic way to make small changes to your plastic free life.
We’ve been using these toothbrushes for a few weeks and while they have taken some time to get used to, they’re just as good as ordinary, plastic toothbrushes. The bristles suit both my husband and I. He likes soft bristles but I prefer more firmer ones. And neither of us have complained so far. The head takes a little getting used to as it feels different to regular toothbrushes, but we’re used to them now. I’m really glad we’ve made the switch and will be investing in the subscription service provided.
Use Sustainable Bamboo Toilet Paper
Another way to reduce your plastic waste and become a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly family is to switch to using bamboo toilet paper, a plastic free toilet paper. You might be wondering why you need to switch when toilet paper is made from, well, paper. Just think about it, what does your toilet paper come packaged in? Plastic wrapping, right! And regular toilet paper is made from paper produced from wood which is comes from trees. Trees that take a long time to grow and need to be cut down to produce the wood that makes the paper. And what happens to the animals that inhabit that tree or the forest it was once part of?
By switching to bamboo, not only are you becoming more environmentally-friendly, you are helping to reduce the loss of forests in favour of a more sustainable product that grows really fast and with less impact to the environment. And one company whose whole ethos fits well with what we are trying to do as a family is Who Gives A Crap.
They have toilet paper, kitchen paper and tissues as part of their product range. And they donate 50% of their profits to charities and organisations around the world which help to provide toilets to those in need. To date over £1 million has been raised from their donations. Not only have they helped provide toilets to those in need of them but the organisations they have partnered with also improve access to hygiene, water and basic sanitation in developing countries.
You can make a one-off purchase or can subscribe. Their lowest costing toilet paper is made from recycled paper and is priced from £24 for a box of 24. Their bamboo toilet paper costs from £40 for 48. No inks, dyes or scents are used during the manufacturing process and the bamboo used is 100% forest-friendly and comes from sustainable sources. Shipping is free for orders over £20 in the UK and good news for us, they deliver to other European countries as well. The cost of delivery within Europe varies depending on the country. And ours caused some raised eyebrows when it was delivered to the main office on the park where we lived. While your delivery is made in non-plastic packaging, the box does have their logo, name and some funny slogans on the outside. So, to those not in the know, they’ll be left wondering what on earth is inside the box. Check them out and order your first box here.
Favour Natural Shampoo and Conditioner Bars instead of those in bottles
Another change we are about to make is to move away from plastic-bottled shampoo, conditioner, shower gels and soaps and make a move towards bars. Look around your bathroom. How many plastic bottles can you see? A lot I’m guessing. And if the statistics mentioned at the start of this post are anything to go by, less than 10% of those bottles will actually be recycled.
So, in another effort to curb our consumption of plastic, we will be moving to bars of shampoo, conditioner, cleansing gel and soap. I am in the process of using up all the bottles in our bathroom, so we can move to plastic free products. I have bar soap and dishes for them already bought, and I’ll be placing an order for plastic free shampoo and conditioner with storage tins very soon. I’m quite excited by this part of our efforts to reduce plastic packaging in our house.
Use Reusable Food Bags in Your Shopping and Reusable Shopping Bags
Nothing drives me more insane than the amount of plastic packaging that food is presented to us in the supermarkets. Not all of us have either the time to shop in butchers, fruit and veg stalls or smaller bakeries. Nor do many of us have them located conveniently near where we live. So, we rely on doing the bulk of our food shops in the supermarkets.
And yet we face a sea of plastic whenever we enter one. Cucumbers and broccoli covered in plastic. Meat in plastic containers. And even worse, my local Lidl where I do the majority of my shopping does not give the option of loose fruit and vegetables for things like onions, carrots, mushrooms, oranges, apples and potatoes, things that are staples in our diet at home.
However, although it will increase my weekly food shopping costs, I plan to try and switch to a supermarket that gives me the option of loose fruit and vegetables. And when I do, I’ll be using reusable food bags such as net bags. I was very impressed on our recent trip to Lapland when I saw that the Finnish supermarkets have a wide range of fruit and vegetable products available as loose options and even better, reusable food bags were for sale and located beside the fruit and vegetable, ready for you to use. More supermarkets should be taking a leaf out of their books!
As a family we already use reusable shopping bags. I prefer the canvas types as they last longer than the plastic long-life ones. They will invariably break or stretch and need to be replaced. Cloth reusable shopping bags are also a good plastic free option.
Switch to Non-plastic Containers and Wrapping
How many of us have an abundance of plastic food containers in our cupboards? I’d say almost all of us. And while yes, we reuse them a lot, they eventually will become stained, cracked or even broken through wear and tear. When this happens, I plan to replace ours with plastic free containers such as glass containers and jars, stainless steel containers and even wooden bowls.
And after I use up my cling-film I’ll be switching to beeswax food wrappers as a way of keeping sandwiches fresh and covering food containers in the fridge. I have read that these can be hit and miss in terms of odour, but I’ll try a few until we find ones that work for us. Anything is better than yet more plastic going to landfill.
Ditch the Single-use Plastic Bottles for Reusable Stainless-steel Water Bottles
We’ve already invested in a stainless steel water bottle each and I tend to bring ours in the car if we’re going on a long journey. We always bring a drink of water with us for our son and now we can do the same for ourselves. It reduces the need for us to buy a bottle of water in the garage when we fill up. It is also handy at home to ensure we are drinking more water, something we could do with being better at.
We will also be investigating a water filtration system for our new home later this year. We currently buy 5L containers of water for drinking here in Portugal but need to find an alternative. So, when we come to upgrade our home later this year, we’ll be looking at installing a filtration system to ensure we drink water from the tap and negate the need for us to buy bottled water ever again.
Change to Stainless Steel Straws
Another change we are making in our efforts to going plastic free is buying reusable stainless steel straws. We never use straws at home and only ever use them when eating out, mostly at fast food outlets. But I’ll be keeping a set of stainless steel straws in my handbag for when we are out and about to ensure we don’t use the single-use plastic straws. Many come with handy cleaning brushes to ensure they remain clean. I’ll just need to remember to fish them out and wash them as soon as we’re home.
Use a Laundry Egg
Laundry Eggs, such as those from EcoEgg, are innovative products that replace detergent, stain removers and fabric softeners. Each egg is packed with natural, powerful pellets that activate when in contact with water. They gently lift dirt and grime from clothes and can be used again and again. You can replacement pellets and some will last for over 700 washes.
Again, as soon as I’ve used up my washing detergent and fabric softener, I’ll be ordering an EcoEgg and refills. I like the fact that I will no longer be adding dissolvable plastic to waste water and will not be producing more plastic containers in the form of the detergent container or softener bottle. Plus, I love the fact that a large EcoEgg costs around £25 and lasts for 720 washes. That’s less than 4p per wash. That’s much more economical than traditional detergents.
Use Reusable Nappies and Wipes
If I were to go back 5 years, or if we had had another child, I would have gone down the route of reusable nappies and wipes. When I think back to the number of disposable nappies we went through with our son, I feel shameful about it. There are some amazing cloth nappies on the market and they are nothing like the terry cloth ones my youngest sister was in when she was a baby.
Plus, I only recently became aware of a great set of reusable wipes from the Cheeky Wipes company. While we don’t really use a lot of wipes at home anymore, I am considering investing in a kit from Cheeky Wipes to replace our use of disposable wipes. They also do reusable makeup remover cloths and sanitary pads kits which is brilliant. To get 15% off any order over £40, follow this link (applicable to new Cheeky Wipes customers only).
Another thing I would do to become more plastic free and to further help the environment would be to use what is known as a moon cup. I’ve never used tampons with my periods as I never got on with them and suffered from thrush with them. And at the moment I no longer get periods thanks to the contraception pill I am on. But if anything were to change, I would invest in both a moon cup and also a sanitary pads kit from Cheeky Wipes.
There are some other things I’m going to research to help us become plastic free at home. I am planning on looking into sourcing either plastic free tea bags or changing to loose tea leaves. We drink a lot of tea at home and until recently I didn’t realise that general tea bags contain plastic.
I also want to investigate more environmentally friendly, plastic free deodorant, as well as plastic free makeup and plastic free cosmetics such as skin cleanser and moisturiser. There has to be a better alternative to the ones housed in plastic bottles. If you know any good ones or brands, please do let me know.
I also want to look into non-plastic freezer bags or reusable freezer bags. I have heard that silicone ones are better than plastic ones and can be easily washed either by hand or in a dishwasher. As a family that generally prepares enough of a meal to last for two days, we use freezer bags regularly to store the extra food for another day. So, an alternative to the plastic bags we’ve been using will help cut our plastic waste even further.
I’ll also be looking into more natural, environmentally-friendly cleaning products and cleaning cloths and scrubbers to replace the plastic ones we’ve been using up until now.
As a family we are pretty good at recycling and ensuring as much of our waste can go into the recycling bins. However, I recently found out that Portugal is consistently missing its recycling targets as set by the EU and this worries me. Although we are great at separating our waste and putting as much as we can into the correct recycling bins, it seems this might be in vain if the recent reports about the country we are living in are true.
This makes me even more determined to make 2019 the year we go as plastic free as we possibly can as a family. I also donate our son’s unwanted toys and the clothes he has outgrown to a lady who lives on our park. She works closely with a local children’s home and has told me to keep them coming after a huge donation of things at the start of December. It is great knowing I have somewhere to send our sons unused toys and outgrown clothes instead of them ending up on the bin. Any of his clothes that I feel might not be suitable go into the recycling clothes bins dotted around town.
Have you started making a change to become a more plastic free household? If not, I hope by outlining the changes we are making it will inspire you to make even one of these changes to help the world become a more plastic free environment.
And if you have any advice for us that can improve on what we are already doing, please let me know.
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