21 steps for GOING PLASTIC FREE
Words by Ilona Ecott
For years; my whole life really, I have been on a journey of trying to live more sustainably and be as kind to the planet as possible.
When I was a child, I held cake and garage sales outside my parents’ house and was sponsored to run around the park to raise money for environmental charities.
As soon as I left home for Uni, I became vegetarian and my research into eco-friendly living led me quickly to veganism. Following that, I committed to only buying second hand clothes. The final, and perhaps the most challenging, frontier seems to be plastic. This year I am attempting to move to a “zero-waste” lifestyle. Everyone seems to be becoming aware of how the planet is drowning in plastic. Supermarkets wrap everything from bread to ready sliced avocado in hard and soft plastic packaging. Makeup and cosmetics are presented in beautiful and easy to use packaging, which is plastic too. It seems impossible to avoid.
However, in the last few months I have really developed my awareness of how to go plastic free, and now I am sharing my tips with you. I really hope you will join me in making these small changes – that really amount to a lot. The first few seem obvious, and you might be doing them already! I’ll race through the easy ones:
These easy swaps will save you money, and massively cut down the amount of waste you produce. Always carry:
1. A reusable water bottle. Don’t buy bottled fizzy drinks (better for your teeth too).
2. Get a “keep cup” for coffee and tea.
4. Cloth Napkin
5. Reusable cloth bag for groceries.
6. A metal or bamboo straw, if you like to use one.
Next is to pack your own meals in jars or Tupperware for when you’re out of the house, rather than buying convenience and takeaway foods, which are always wrapped and boxed in lots of packaging. This tends to be healthier too, will definitely cost less and I have actually found it tastes better! Alternatively, when you eat out, choose to ‘have in’ and eat off a real plate.
After all of these changes, I got a bit stuck. What else could I do? Surely, I needed everything I was buying that came in plastic? With a small amount of research, I discovered this wasn’t the case. The changes I have made now are:
7. I bought reusable cotton rounds for removing makeup. I rub olive oil (smells great and is good for the skin), which I buy in a huge glass bottle, all over my face avoiding my eyes, and then wash my face with soap, then use my cleanser...
8. Cleanser; in an old bottle I mix 4-parts distilled water with 1-part witch hazel (bought from boots in a glass bottle – lasts years). I use a cotton round to wipe it over my skin.
9. Shampoo: lush shampoo bars. I love the vanilla scented one, and I keep it in a metal tin.
10. Conditioner: when washing the shampoo suds out of my hair, I rinse my hair with cold water, which helps the hair to be smooth. I then rub argon oil (I buy in bulk online) through the towel-dried ends when I get out of the shower.
11. Soap: I stopped buying shower gel (very unnecessary) and use a natural soap from “the little soap company” that comes in a compostable cardboard box!
12. Plastic free periods! I have stopped using tampons and use a ‘moon cup’ and wear ‘thinx’ period pants.
13. Cleaning products: I buy Ecover products and go to my local whole foods store to get them refilled. You can find your nearest Ecover refill station on their website.
14. Laundry liquid: Again, Ecover refills!
15. Loopaper. I buy recycled loopaper in bulk from https://uk.whogivesacrap.org who build loos in developing countries.
16. Fruit and Veg: I now buy all my fruit and veg at a local green grocer’s stall I found in the centre of the city, and the local health food shop has a small selection for in between. I keep the ‘naked’ veg in cloth bags I bought online. I realise this one is tricky for a lot of people, and if you do shop at the supermarket its great if you can opt for the things that don’t come in plastic. Don’t beat yourself up if you find this one challenging.
17. Dried Fruit, seeds and nuts: I go to a large Holland and Barrett store that has a “pick and mix” system whereby you put your nuts in a paper bag and pay by weight.
18. Tea: if you take your own jar, Wittard gives you a 50p discount on all their loose-leaf teas. I have fallen in love with using my teapot and making tea-drinking more of a ritual.
19. Coffee: I don’t drink coffee but buy coffee grounds that come in a tin and then use a cafetière (french press) if i have guests.
20. Milk: As I am vegan, I love almond and oat milk. For a while I made my own using a blender and a muslin, but found this quite time-consuming so invested in an milk machine. I bought one called a “soyabella” and I am loving it.
21. Oats: I buy Flahavan’s oats from the supermarket, they come in a paper bag. I use them for baking, making my own muesli and granola and to make oat milk.
I am still nowhere near perfect, and I know there is more I can do.
In the spirit of being real and honest (which the zero-waste community isn’t always) I will also admit the things I still buy in plastic, as I don’t live near a bulk-food store.
1. Dry foods such as pasta and rice (literally… where can I buy these without plastic?!)
2. Toothbrushes and toothpaste – there is a trend for bamboo manual toothbrushes and making your own toothpaste. At the moment, I just care too much about my teeth to relinquish my electric toothbrush and brush my teeth with baking soda!
3. Art materials. I am a painter, and a lot of the things I use come in packaging, which I try my best to recycle!
This might all seem really overwhelming, and like a huge amount to do. However, I have implemented these changes slowly, over a few months. Start with the things you feel you can do easily and build on from there. It all begins with just being more conscious about the purchases you make. Each time you spend money you are voting for what you want. Thanks for reading, and please do comment below with the next changes you’re making…
You can find Ilona here every month talking about things that matter to her such as the environment, mental health and yoga.
You can also find her here
YouTube: Ilona Ecott