How Can We Cut Down on Single Use Plastic And Help Reduce Our Environmental Impact?
The zero waste and plastic free movements are nothing new. For years environmental pioneers having been shouting about the importance of reducing our amount of waste, use of single use plastic and protecting our planet. The introduction of the plastic bag charge in 2015 helped to raise awareness and slowly but surely it’s a concept the world is waking up to.
Once an act for the ‘hippies’ among us, now it’s common place to forgo a plastic bottle of water in favour of a refillable reusable bottle. A lot of us make sure we have a spare tote bag handy for a trip to get groceries. An eco-friendly lifestyle is now almost a fashion statement.
I’m not here to lecture you on the damage we are doing to the world we live in. We know the realities of the situation. Single use plastic isn’t great; we’ve all watched Blue Planet and Hugh’s War on Plastic, right? But knowing the facts will only get us so far, we’ve got to actually do something to reduce our environmental impact!
Can I really make a difference?
I know, it’s easy to be complacent. I mean, the problem IS much bigger than us and it’s easy to think ‘what’s the point in trying to be more eco-friendly?’. What am I, one lone person, going to achieve in the grand scheme of things. We are up against huge companies and corporations who have serious problems to address.
Does it really matter if my food waste goes in the wrong bin? Is that plastic bottle of water reeeeeally going to hurt? Singularly, probably not, but multiply that by the number of people living on your street, in your workplace, in your city or town…. It starts to get serious pretty quickly.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been making a concerted effort to crack down on my environmental impact. I’ve made attempts at moving toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle particularly looking at single use plastic. I have to admit, when I first started educating myself, it felt like I was fighting a losing battle. And don’t get me wrong, there are still many issues that are far bigger than those we can address as a society alone. Changes HAVE to come from the top, but that’s not to say that we should just sit back and wait for them to make the first move.
Fortunately for us, it’s now easier than ever to make a positive impact. A lot of changes are easy and can actually benefit us (and our planet) in the long run. It’s a win win!
What can I do to help?
Difference begins with the smallest of actions. So lately, I’ve been focusing in particular on decreasing my usage of single use plastic.
Here’s a list of the 4 small changes I’ve been trying to incorporate into my life to help reduce my environmental impact.
A reusable bottle
I recently had a tidy up in my parent’s kitchen and I make no exaggeration when I say I unearthed collection of at least 20 keep cups and water bottles. Reusable cups and such are now so commonplace that I’d wager 95% of us have something we can use. So why don’t we?
I’m not one to get a takeaway coffee. I’m not a drink on the go kind of girl, much preferring to take my time over my coffee. I’m usually working on something or other, or sitting in the company of friends, but if I know I’m going to be getting coffee on the run, or visiting Rolling Italy at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Market on a Sunday, then I make sure I pack my Huskee Cup in my bag before I leave the house.
Not only do I get the satisfaction of drinking from a super cute (totally on brand) keep cup, but I save on a paper cup. If that wasn’t incentive enough, most places offer you between 10-50p off the cost of your coffee when you bring your own keep cup – awesome!
My water bottle also enables me to save numerous plastic bottles as well as numerous pennies! Carrying it around reminds me to stay hydrated and I am able to refill it pretty much anywhere too.
Tote bag (and produce bags)
I’m not perfect at this one, but keeping a bag with me is super useful in reducing the number of plastic bags used. Like with a keep cup, I guarantee that we all own at least 5 tote bags, or a reusable shopper at home. But how many times have you cursed yourself for not thinking ahead when popping out for a loaf of bread? Keeping a folded up bag in the pocket of your backpack means you can avoid adding yet another plastic bag for life to the kitchen drawer.
On a similar note, produce bags are a great addition to your weekly food shop. Okay, so we’re not always able to avoid the packaged fruits and vegetables in the supermarket completely, but some of the bigger supermarkets do sell products loose (and at a smaller price per kg too!) so bringing your own net bag or similar to avoid the unnecessary plastic bag is ideal.
What’s more, for the crafters amongst us, these are easy peasy to whip up – see this kit from Stitching Me Softly for example. You can make yourself an array of bags in different colours for ultimate grocery organisation.
For some it’s accessible to shop at a wholefoods shop, or green grocer, in which case even better! Alternatively, a visit to your local zero waste store, like Zero Green on North St, Bristol can be incredibly exciting. Beans and pulses, spices, cereal, oats, nuts etc are all available to buy loose. In addition most have refill stations for shampoo, conditioner, hand soap, washing detergent and household cleaning products too.
Lunch on the go
I’m fortunate enough to get breakfast/lunch from work, but for many lunch is often a takeaway option usually taken back to eat at our desks. Bringing your own metal fork or spoon into the office with you instantly reduces the demand of single use cutlery. The rise of zero waste and plastic free cafes (think Vegetable Diva at Bristol Harbourside, or Flip Deli on North Street, Bristol) also contribute to protect our planet and reduce our environmental impact even further.
Around the home
Cutting down on household plastic doesn’t have to be difficult with these simple ideas. Opt for soap bars in favour of shower gels, shampoo bars over bottles, buying razor blades instead of disposables. Why don’t you for choose a bamboo toothbrush when you next replace your standard plastic model? Or swap clingfilm for beeswax wraps? People who menstruate also have the option to invest in a mooncup over disposable sanitary items which pays for itself after 6-8 months.
It’s worth noting that not all these are necessarily accessible to everyone, but even one or two of these changes can make a big difference over time. I personally love my Bristol based Wild Grove shampoo bars paired with a refillable bottle of conditioner that I buy from Better Food Co. Not only am I able to save on plastic bottles, but it helps me save money too!
One of the biggest game changers in my attempt to reduce my environmental impact has been using reusable cotton scrubbies in lieu of cotton pads or face wipes. I’m able to remove my make up and cleanse my face whilst simultaneously reducing my waste AND saving money on packs of wipes that are only harmful to both my skin and the planet in the long run.
I personally create my own scrubbies using a soft recycled cotton yarn. If you fancy doing the same, the Face Care Crochet Scrubbie Kit is the one for you (For the knitters among us, check out the Knitted Washcloth Kit). They’re fantastically versatile (I use them for household cleaning as well as in my skincare routine) and super easy to wash. Simply bung them in with your next 30 degree load and feel good knowing that you are helping to make a difference.
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones”
Every little really does help. Any change you can make, matters. Even the tiniest adaptation in our day to day lives can have a huge impact in helping to protect our planet. Not to mention, as I’ve said, a lot of changes are so simple and needn’t cost a penny. In fact, they can actually save us money in the long run. It’s a win win!
With so many ways to help reduce our environmental impact and live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, there will always be something you can do. Don’t put it off, start today. crate