37 things you can do to be plastic-free

Welcome to plastic-free July

Many people are trying to think of new ways to avoid plastics this month (and then hopefully continuing their habits).

I have been asked to write a blog about this and here it is. Some things are page one and some are more advanced.  This list started out as thirty-one things you could consider - one for each day in July, but it grew to thirty-seven and I will no doubt continue to add to it. 

1: Soap instead of shower gel

Consider soap instead of shower gel.  You get used to it very quickly and wonder why you haven't been using it for years.  Soap can be bought loose or in cardboard boxes.  Here are some beauties to inspire you.

2: Plastic-free water bottles

Number two and definitely page one; water bottles - don't even reuse a plastic one - by investing in a proper metal based bottle you are showing everyone what's possible.  Ask for tap water refills (or spring/spa water if you're lucky enough to live in an applicable area).  If you're not keen on tap water, try filling a bottle and leaving it for a few hours, then refrigerating it.

3: Plastic-bottle-free shampoo

Shampoo - An easy one for me now that I don't use any at all. If you do though, try a shampoo bar (like soap) apparently they are very good these days.

4: Mixers in glass bottles 

Mixers - such as tonic water.  (Hopefully you don't buy coke anyway). Buy a brand that's supplied in glass bottles, it will make you feel much more sophisticated.  If you drink a lot of it, consider cutting down ;)

We are now completely plastic bottle free at home (apart from those kept for refills). For more plastic-free ideas see my previous blogs about green drinks and plastic alternatives.

5: Don't buy plastic pegs

Pegs - Many people already have plastic pegs to use on the washing line.  When they are replaced though, make sure you buy wooden ones.

 6: Plastic alternatives to make-up wipes

Make-up wipes - Originally I ditched these for organic cotton wool, which was better, but still unnecessary.  Now I use either a small hankie or a little square of soft, salvaged material.  They go in with the washing and there is no waste or plastic involved.  Mostly my make-up comes off with water, but if I have used a trowel to apply it, it may need a little coconut oil to help get it off.

 7: Swap plastic shopping bags

Shopping Bags - The first step is to take them with you, the second is to have bags that aren't made of plastic, use cotton, hemp, string or use a basket instead. 

Here's a poster I made for a sustainability course a few years ago:

8: Plastic-free cotton buds

Cotton Buds - Think about what you are actually using these for and see if there's an alternative.  Doctors will certainly tell you to keep them well away from your ear canals.  Plastic cotton buds are so cheap that people tend to use a lot of them (the epitome of the throwaway society).   If you need them for a specific reason, buy the cardboard-stemmed variety instead.

9: Environmentally sound toothbrushes

Toothbrushes - Bamboo brushes are a good option.  Not 100% plastic free (the bristles are still nylon), but at least the handles are made from sustainable, biodegradable bamboo and they come in a cardboard box too - no plastic wrappings in sight.  Electronic toothbrushes are still better than disposable plastic brushes as they last for years and if you have a green energy supplier and/or solar panels, recharging isn't too bad.  

10: Plastic-free tooth floss and tooth floss containers

Tooth floss - An estimated 700 million plastic containers are used every year, plus there is the nylon floss itself.  There are alternatives available and they also come in cardboard boxes.  

11: Alternatives to plastic toothpaste tubes

Toothpaste - Daft when you think about what most of it comes in.  You can buy some toothpaste in glass jars or blocks now.  Or you can make your own like I do, (needs refrigeration in the heat), my recipe can be found in my Bathroom blog.

12: Non-plastic deodorant containers

Deodorant - Same as above - unnecessary packaging and available as a block.  I use the same method as my toothpaste, but I keep them in separate pots ;) 

13: Salad without plastic bags

Salad - Is one of the easiest and quickest things to grow and will save a zillion plastic bags.  It doesn't take up too much room either.  Our rocket loves growing in between the paving slabs.  Fresh, organic and doesn't take up any space in the fridge!

14: Fruit without plastic bags or plastic punnets

Fruit - I think is easier to grow than vegetables.  We have apples, pears, red and white gooseberries, tayberries, raspberries and blackcurrants.  I tend to eat our fruit straight from the garden.  No plastic, no sugar and zero food miles.  Alternatively, it's great for foraging and 'pick your own' places too.  If you do buy it in the shops, only buy it if it's loose. Bananas, apples, oranges all come with their own packaging already don't yer know :)

15: Plastic-free razors, razor blades and packaging 

Razors - Please stop buying disposable razors.  Invest in something decent with replaceable (recyclable) blades, you''ll get a much better shave anyway.  I obviously think that the trend for beards is great, but for those who do shave, perhaps consider doing it a little less often?  Hair is just fashion - look at Frida Kahlo's marvellous eyebrows.  In days gone by, men must have found women attractive in their natural state or we wouldn't be descendants at all - Think true equality, after all the majority of men have leg and armpit hair... 

16: Plastic-bag-free bread

Bread - I have to confess that I'm quite a foodie when it comes to bread.  'Plastic' bread has never been a favourite, but I wouldn't buy it now for the taste or the packaging.  We make our own or buy a loaf from an independent shop.  Here's one of mine:

17: Plastic-free at the Deli Counter, Butcher or Fishmonger

Deli / butcher / fishmonger - Don't buy new plastic pots, but take existing tupperware (that you already own or have bought second hand) when you go to the shops.  I've been doing this for years and sometimes it's been easier than other times, but now even the supermarkets are staring to encourage it.  (Reminds me of the tomato - ketch-up (catch-up) joke).

18: Plastic-free Takeaways

Takeaways - Occasionally we have one of these and usually we walk into town, order and hand over pots, then go for a wander whilst our grub is cooked.  Foil tubs can be recycled, but it's always better wherever possible to reuse rather than recycle.  If I'm in a restaurant, I take a pot too in case I can't eat everything and then nothing goes to waste.  Make sure you have a shopping bag too so that your pots aren't handed over in a disposable plastic bag!

19: Plastic-free takeaway coffees

Takeaway coffees - Why? Either sit in the cafĂ© and mindfully enjoy your cuppa or wait until you get to a destination where you can use a real cup.  Alternatively have a non-plastic bottle of water (see earlier).  Contrary to popular belief, most take-away cups are not recyclable as the card is coated in guess what - yep plastic - such a waste.

20: Plastic-bag-free cereals 

Cereals - As you can see, we do eat a lot of oats :) As porridge, but also in home-made muesli, smoothies and in the occasional home-made energy/nut bars.  Super duper packaging here.

21: Drinking coffee without using plastics 

Coffee at home - Drink instant which comes in a glass jar, (just kidding my coffee connoisseur friends).   Coffee pods are a pain although some can be recycled and machines are now available that make good coffee without using them, so I'm told.  Read about caffeine addiction and withdrawal.

22: Teabags without plastic

Tea - Many teabags contain plastic, happily though this is starting to change.  Some tea boxes, including those containing loose tea can be covered in plastic, or foil/plastic wrappers.  Here's my solution:

Lemon balm - zero caffeine, zero packaging, zero miles (10 steps), fresh and organic :)   

23: Plastic-free nappies 

Nappies - This is also page one - using disposable nappies these days is pretty sad when washable ones are so easy and they'll save you a fortune.  There are some arguments about energy and water, but not using tumble driers, definitely not ironing and making sure the nappies are passed on all help to counter this.  Again having renewable energy is a bonus.  Bear in mind that the average baby will get through 5,000 nappies, then think how many babies there are and you'll probably agree that that  makes for some serious landfilling or toxic incinerator fumes!   For other ideas about green babies read this previous blog.

24: Buying vegetables without plastic

Vegetables - Grow some yourself or have a veg box (and ask for no plastic bags), or buy your veggies loose from greengrocers, farm shops, stalls you pass on the road, or from what's available loose in the supermarkets.

25: Alternatives to plastic tampons and sanitary towels

Tampons and sanitary towels - The average woman uses 11,000 tampons in her lifetime which end up in landfill or the sea. Buy a Mooncup or similar - there are lots of experts willing to share their advice and stories.  You can also buy washable pads or make your own and there are lots of workshops and YouTube videos to help.  Here's a Mooncup (actually there are two and you only need one).  Read more about the environmental associations of sanitary products here in plastic period products.

26: Plastic-free presents and gifts

Presents - Remember that plastic is not just for Christmas, it's forever...! Therefore try to avoid it like the plague when selecting presents (imposing it on others).  See my gift ideas blog for more inspiration Green Presents and if you're the organised type, you can prepare with my Merry Christmas blog.

27: Plastic-free wrapping paper 

Wrapping Paper - You don't ever need to buy this.  When giving presents to family and close friends, use serviettes, scarves or tablecloths (if it's big!) to wrap your gifts, then you can ask for the wrapping back :) For others, reuse paper given to you or collect small boxes, tins etc. and keep them for instant wrappings.  If you do purchase any paper, never buy the plasticky foil type as this is not even recyclable. 

28: Alternatives to sellotape

Sellotape - Use less of this by using ribbons (tied together if needed) or string to wrap presents and use staples to secure postage packages.

29: Making sure cards are plastic-free

Cards - If you buy these, opt for those without plastic sleeves.  Check too that the cards are made from a sustainable source.  They are a good way to support charities and independent artists too.  Or have a go at making your own - they can be completely personalised.

Yes I'm keen on that Caterpillar book.  It sends a very good message about greed and consumption...

30: Repair and reuse to avoid disposing of plastics 

Give it second life - Recently I reluctantly decided that I would need to replace some artificial flowers that I have in a vase in the window instead of net curtains.  I really wish that I had taken a photo of them to show how dull and faded they had become.   My dilemma was what to do with them - not recyclable and too shabby to give to a charity shop.  As many of you will know, absolutely nothing goes into our bin unnecessarily, so I put my thinking cap on.  Then I routed around for my daughter's paint box, wondering if the flowers and the leaves could benefit from a make-over.  See the results below.

31: Alternatives to cling film 

Cling film - Another completely unnecessary 'thing' that some people think they need (yes you know who I'm talking about ;) Use tupperware, tea towels or plates depending on it's required role.

32: Alternatives to bin liners 

Bin liners - We don't use these.  Our 'rubbish' goes loose straight into our tiny bin, (there's nothing wet or stinky) then it gets transferred to the wheelie bin - I do put it into a bin liner in here because I use the rest of the space to store garden tools, wood etc. but when the bin goes out (hopefully not before three years), I'll tip the contents of the bin liner(s) into the bin and reuse them over the next three plus years.

 33: Plastic-free pens and stationery 

Pens - I don't buy or even accidentally swipe any plastic pens now.  Mostly I use pencil, but I do have a couple of metal pens in case I need to sign anything away in black ink.  

34: Plastic-free straws

Straws - Most of us don't need one at all.  If you do, buy a reusable one and take it with you.  Remember to ask that no straw is put in your drink when you're out (even if it's a paper one).

35: Plastic-free crisp packaging 

Crisps - Quite a hard one for me as I love them! But I don't love them enough to buy them in respect of their packaging.  Instead I make popcorn and I have also had a go at making my own crisps.

36: Reduce the plastics in your kitchen 

Kitchen items (buy better to last) -  There are too many to list, but you can read a previous, more detailed blog here how to minimise plastic in your kitchen.

37: Plastic-free flowers

Flowers - I'm not keen on the whole flower industry - water sources diverted from villages in order to grow flowers to fly to the western world...If you do want to give flowers, use a florist rather than a supermarket, ask them for UK grown posies and get them wrapped in paper rather than yards of cellophane.  Better still, give a bee friendly plant or seeds for a garden and consequently flowers that someone can enjoy for a lot longer.

Golden rule?  The fewer things you buy, the less chance there is of buying any plastic - win-win!  

What other changes have you made?

Recycling Petition

One last thing you can do....Please sign this petition asking for the pharmaceuticals to take responsibility and provide recycling facilities for medication blister packs 38degrees petitions provide-recycling-for-medication-blister-packaging


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