It’s impossible to not notice all of the plastic when you shop. Vegetables wrapped in plastic. Snacks wrapped in plastic often inside more plastic with a plastic tray. All of this is brand new material and most of it won’t ever be recycled.
While there are instances where plastic packaging is beneficial for the produce, for example the shrinkwrap on a cucumber extends product life by 14 days, we do not need individually plastic wrapped oranges and melon pots.
Around 40% of plastic is used in packaging, and the UK generates around 2.4 million tonnes per year of packaging waste. It may not be the most obvious thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint, but making a few changes to how you do your weekly shop are some of the easiest ways to cut back on the amount of plastic being sent to landfill.
If you can, shopping at a local market with local produce is the best thing you can do. You can choose produce that is in season, isn’t wrapped in plastic and often for a great price.
Many local markets will have bulk options for those on a budget. The trick is to shop around and compare prices and only buy what you will use up. It might be tempting to stock up on all the fresh fruit and vegetables but there is no sense in buying something for it to go to waste. That is swapping a plastic problem for a food waste problem.
It’s the most obvious solution but avoiding plastic where you can is the best way to prevent it entering circulation. Choosing products with cardboard, recycled metal and glass over single use plastic sends a message to companies that plastic is not the way forward.
When shopping always choose recyclable materials where you can or choose products made using recycled materials.
If you can’t choose eco products then it’s still important to recycle whatever you can. With only 50% of plastic bottles and just 12-15% of mixed plastics actually being recycled, repurpose what you can too. Glass jars can be reused round the kitchen and decorated for use around the home and large plastic juice bottles can be used as airtight containers for cereals and grains.
Remember your canvas bags
Bags for life were sold as a sustainable way to reduce plastic waste while you shop because there would be no more single use bags going into landfill. However, in the UK we are still buying bags for life which means more plastic in circulation. A study found that UK households are getting through 54 ‘bags for life’ each year suggesting that they are being used as a bag for a week. This makes them a poor option if you’re looking for an eco alternative as these bags will take even longer to break down because they are “sturdy”.
While cotton tote bags aren’t the most environment friendly option either because of the process of manufacturing and harvesting cotton, they will last a lot longer and are a far better option for the weekly shop. If you want to make fabric bags even more eco friendly, why not thrift some cotton material or turn an old t-shirt into a produce bag.
Being able to make changes to how sustainably you complete your weekly shop is a privilege. There are those who set up unrealistic expectations that state everything must be plastic free, organic and this is the only way to shop.
With food desserts, poverty and food banks becoming the normal thing for many people across the world, being super green while you shop is not always a possibility. If you cannot afford to do these things, don’t stress about it.
If you can make a change these are some great ways to cut down on plastic and reduce your individual carbon footprint.
While we know that the main polluters of the planet are the large companies refusing to take action. That being said, we still need everyone to be aware of their impact on the environment and to take steps to reduce individual effects. This alongside campaigning for change to policy and global attitudes is how we’ll make a real difference.
So, you’re ready to get started with being more sustainable and eco friendly. Then you Google ways to be green and become overwhelmed with all of the options. This is where we started! It can be so daunting trying to begin going zero waste, we’re not all the way there yet either. What’s a good swap? How easy is it to maintain this new habit? Do you have to buy expensive products to get started?
We’ve done the beginner work and we’ve got these simple swaps you can make, that you’ll actually be able to stick to.
Swap cotton rounds for sustainable bamboo ones
If you’re someone that wears makeup or follows a skin care regime chances are you have seen cotton rounds in your bathroom. If you’re a big fan of makeup you’ve probably got an instagram worthy jar filled with them at this very moment.
You would be completely forgiven for thinking that these are cotton, made from plant fibers, they can’t be bad for the environment, right? The problem is that farming cotton and producing these products takes its toll on the planet. Chemicals from the manufacturing process pollutes rivers and damages wildlife. The other damage is the amount of water used to produce conventional cotton. About one kilogram, the size of a t-shirt, can take more than 20,000 litres of water to make. This is before you even consider that these cotton rounds come wrapped in plastic.
A simple swap you can make is to opt for reusable bamboo rounds. We love these ones from My Little Eco Shop. This set has 20 cotton rounds, comes with a bamboo wash bag and arrives quickly in sustainable packaging. You can use these and wash them again and again. We switched to these specific rounds a few months ago and we’re never going back.
Reusable face masks
Next time you’re in public, count the number of disposable masks lying around on the floor. On a recent walk we counted no less than 16 masks lying in the gutter! Not only is this dangerous for humans, these masks could be contaminated, they pose a real threat to wildlife. We’ve seen far too many reports of animals becoming entangled in the ear elastic and suffering the consequences.
If you can’t dispose of these masks correctly we suggest giving reusable masks a try. As of September 2020 the UK government is still recommending that we wear masks indoors and reusable masks will help to cut down on the waste generated while still keeping you safe.
That being said if you feel more comfortable with a disposable mask or you don’t feel you can properly disinfect a reusable mask then by all means continue as you are.
As always, check with your local authority for mask recommendations and regulations.
Reusable menstrual items
It has never been easier to make the switch to reusable period products. Next time you use a pad or a tampon pay attention to the amount of plastic wrapping you’re throwing away.
The wrapping, the applicators, the backings and then the pad or tampon itself has plastic in it! Then add up how many of these you use and send to landfill each month, then times it by 12 and then by the number of years you’ve had a period. The cost alone at this point will make you fall over before you consider the amount of plastic sent to landfill!
Reusable period products help the environment by being mostly plastic free and saving you money. We won’t lie there is an upfront cost, but once you’ve made that switch you’ll be able to reuse that product again and again without having to spend more money or worry about running out.
There really is something for everyone: pads, menstrual cups and period underwear are some of the best places to start. If you’re someone that has a period, we really recommend you looking into this. Most places even create a beginner kit so you can get started straight away and give these products a try.
Reusable food wrap and plastic bags.
We’re all trying to cut down on food waste An easy way to do this is to save leftovers and store produce correctly in your fridge. If you’re currently using cling film to seal leftovers you could end up going through a lot of plastic. It’s a sad fact that only 32% of all plastic is recycled, that’s up to 68% of plastic floating around the environment and more worryingly the oceans.
We suggest switching to reusable wax wrap to seal your leftovers and preserve foods. If you’re vegan there are now beeswax free wraps you can use so you can keep animal products out of your life. These aren’t vegan but we love using these ones from The Beeswax Wrap Co.
On a similar note, to cut down on plastic from sandwich bags you can find reusable bags that come in a variety of sizes and are perfect for carrying your sandwich to work or storing veggies in the fridge. It’s even easier than ever to have a plastic free kitchen.
Ultimately, whatever switch you can make right now will make a difference. The more of us that make these changes and show we don’t want single use plastics the more businesses have to adapt to meet consumer habits.
We do live in the real world though and we know that these things do cost money at the beginning to get set up. These items can be found for cheaper at local shops and online we’ve just recommended some ones that we know and love. Even if you can only do one of these things right now, it’s the perfect place to start becoming zero waste and being more eco.
The fast fashion industry is one of the most damaging to the planet. While few organisations can agree on the exact impact it has, everyone agrees that it needs to adapt in order to mitigate its negative impact.
The fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year and it’s estimated that it uses around 1.5 trillion litres of water annually. On top of this, the industry expels chemicals as a byproduct of manufacturing. These chemicals are frequently found to be entering the fresh water supply, which means these clothes are directly impacting our health.
Until the industry starts to take accountability for the impact it has, we can make changes at home to reduce how much we add to the need for cheap and fast clothing.
Buy Second Hand Clothes
Shopping for second hand clothes used to have a stigma attached to it. Now, it’s the responsible and fashionable thing to do. With sites like Thrift+ and Vinted you can even shop second hand from the comfort of your home. There’s nothing quite like finding the dress of your dreams at a local charity shop either. You get a bargain and normalising buying second hand sends the message that we don’t need more cheap clothing in the market. By choosing second hand it’s estimated that with about 600 kilos of used clothes bought there will be a reduction of 2250 kilos of CO2 emissions, 3.6 billion litres of water saved and the equivalent of 144 trees planted.
Shop your own closet
How many times have you sorted through your wardrobe and picked something up that has the tags on? We’ve definitely done it, I’m willing to bet there’s something in our wardrobe that has the tags on. We buy things for special occasions, keep things we’ll fit into someday and hold on to sentimental items. This means that chances are whatever outfit you’re trying to make, you already have exactly what you need. Shopping your own wardrobe saves the planet and saves your bank balance, definitely make it a habit to shop your own wardrobe before you hit the shops.
Looking for the perfect dress to wear to that wedding or fancy do? Instead of buying an expensive dress or suit you’ll only wear once – rent it! There are plenty of services online where you can shop for the perfect outfit to borrow. You’ll only wear it once, so why spend all of your cash and contribute to the production of more clothing.
A quick look online and you’ll be able to find a service near you. You’ll be amazed at what you can borrow and how much you can save. What’s not to like!
Getting coffee is part of our culture. People get coffee to go on dates, interview for a job and a lot of the time to just start the day. That experience of meeting somewhere for a drink with friends and family has become ingrained into how we socialise. Besides the price when you sit in to enjoy a coffee it’s not all bad, the problem comes when getting coffee to go.
Those paper coffee cups are not as innocent as they seem. How long does it take a coffee cup to break down?
The plastic lining on the inside of these cups often means that they can’t be effectively recycled. This means that your “paper” cup ends up in landfill and massively contributes to our waste problem.
The EU is working to ban single-use coffee cups by 2030, but right now that’s still 10 years away. With up to 7 million cups being used per day in the UK, that’s an additional 25 billion single-use cups being used in that time. This ban will not get here soon enough to make a real difference.
At the start of the year, I made the decision to no longer buy coffee in single-use cups, a bit of a new year’s resolution. It’s now May 2020 and, helped slightly by quarantine shutting the coffee shops, I still haven’t used a paper coffee cup.
I would have one coffee a morning typically, 3 days a week. If we hadn’t been quarantined and my habits hadn’t changed that would be 48 coffee cups used and approximately £124.80 spent. If you’re ever looking for a reason to break a habit, look up how much it costs you per month. This cost per use trick works really well for giving up coffee, cigarettes and buying lunch out every week.
The best way I found to switch from paper cups is to invest in a good travel mug and a nice coffee to make at home. I found a Thermos travel flask for under £10 and Aldi’s coffee for under £2 is on par, if not better, than what you get from Costa or another chain. Once you’ve found the right replacements for your coffee, it’s easy to give up paper cups.
If you really want your Starbucks coffee and do not want to make it at home. The majority of the coffee chains on the highstreet will happily make coffee in the cup you bring and some will even add a discount as a thank you for making the switch. Check out our resources for which ones will do this.
This is the best way to condition yourself to not just randomly go in for coffee and ultimately you’ll break the paper cup habit.
We were taught these three words in primary school. The way to reduce our impact on the environment is to reuse what we have and recycle. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Unfortunately, despite the good intentions of this phrase, it’s simply not enough.
It’s time to add Refuse to this saying. Even though we can recycle a large portion of what we use, the problem is that companies are still producing plastic and single-use products, they will only switch to sustainable alternatives when the demand for single-use has gone. The best way to get this message across is to refuse their products.
It’s a simple switch but it will make a difference. Refuse paper cups, refuse straws and refuse as many single-use plastic products as possible.
You’d be surprised how many businesses are getting on board with this way of thinking. Most bars will now ask if you want a straw instead of just adding it and larger delivery companies like UberEats give you the option to add on utensils instead of just automatically sending them.
Once you’ve added Refuse to limit the number of single-use objects being brought to the market the next step is to add Repair.
For example, around 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill per year in the UK. For comparison, a Boeing 747 weighs approximately 487.5 tonnes at takeoff. That is far too many clothes going to waste each year.
By learning basic repair skills like hemming, patching and replacing buttons you can extend the life of your clothes and bring down the number of clothes going to landfill.
Learning how to fix things around the home will save you money, make you feel like a wizard and hopefully reduce the number of things sent to landfill.