Learning to build climate-positive habits is an ongoing process for every one of us. As our awareness expands, so does research into new materials, and the creation of innovative, more efficient ways of living. It can be a slight chore replacing the things in your life that you have been using for years due to their ease, ready availability, habit or simply because they are the most financially viable option.
However, if you are interested in living a more sustainable, plastic-free existence, you are on the right page, and we commend you. Here are 5 really quite straightforward lifestyle alterations that will reduce your single-use plastic consumption on a day-to-day basis. Start small.
Phase 1: Keep a clean conscience
Maybe the key to saving our fair planet is embracing the wiser ways of the past. Liquid soap wasn’t widely used domestically until the 1980s; before then, people made do with the humble bar. With the rise of wildly fancy hand soaps, packaged in gloriously appealing plastic bottles, designed to stop your dinner party guests dead in their tracks post-wee, the more economically and environmentally-savvy soap bar is being forgotten about. For one, bars are less likely to contain petroleum; generally speaking, they use little to no plastic in their packaging, and their bulk transportation results in lower levels of emissions than their liquid counter parts. Find cardboard packaged, cruelty-free and palm oil-free bars. Treat yourself to a trendy box or bag, to keep the side of your sink or bathtub from getting marked with pesky soapy scum.
Phase 2: Plenty of planet-conserving containers
Having a container for every occasion is one of the many joys of being eco-cognisant. Flimsy bits of cling wrap, aluminium foil, and sandwich bags can all be a thing of the past. Invest in some proper airtight storage containers to transport lunches, or for keeping that extra half a tin of chopped tomatoes fresh in the fridge. There are such attractive alternatives to traditional plastic tupperware on the market these days: glass, stainless steel, bamboo – you name it. There are also plenty of options, like beeswax wraps or silicone coverings, that can go straight over ceramic crockery in the fridge.
Additionally, keeping liquid-carrying vessels about your person as you go about life can prevent the unnecessary use of paper coffee cups or plastic bottles. Staying hydrated all day could even curb you fancying fizzy drinks, juice or smoothies. So simple. At a lot of coffee shops, there is even a financial incentive for using a reusable cup; they’ll knock a couple of pennies off of the price of your drink for your environmental efforts. Pretty neat.
Phase 3: Love local + indie
If possible, purchase your fresh groceries from local farmer’s markets or independent greengrocers. Often these veggies won’t be covered in plastic wrapping, are most likely organic, and can be popped straight into earth-friendly paper or fabric bags. For extra brownie points, go for seasonal produce grown on home soil or in neighbouring countries, as this cuts down the carbon footprint of transportation. Shopping in this way supports your local economy rather than funnelling your hard-earned cash into those annoyingly convenient corporate supermarkets. Flex your power as a consumer by championing the little guy. Power to the people.
Phase 4: Find the will to refill
In the same vein as the grocery shopping, scope out your local zero waste shop, and get familiar with the refilling stations - hopefully full to the brim with all the grains, pulses and pastas you could ever need. Take your containers from phase 2 and fill them fellas up - this will save you money and save your conscience. In regular mainstream stores, these staple food items are often lazily packaged in unnecessarily unrecyclable plastic. It can feel strange acquiring your shopping from various different spots around town instead of buying everything from the one place, but the reward is worth it.
Phase 5: Bag it up
Most shops won’t offer you a bag these days, or they will charge a small fee for one. When you know you are heading out for a food or clothing haul, go with plenty of mesh or canvas tote bags stuffed into your rucksack. Remember - fail to prepare and prepare to fail. Even if you’re not planning on buying much, always keeping a couple of little sustainable bags on your person when you’re out and about, ensures that you are never tempted by a random sale item, and unfortunately end up purchasing a plastic bag to transport it. Mesh bags in particular, will fold up tiny enough to fit in your back pocket, so there is no excuse really.
So, there you have it, your simple guide on how to reduce your single-use plastic consumption. And remember: Start small, and gradually build up those earth-friendly habits. Enjoy the process - don’t be too hard on yourself on this journey to a plastic-free existence. If you are buying anything that comes in plastic packaging such as toiletries or moisturisers, always look out for non-virgin recycled and recyclable tubs and bottles. Keep it up kid. Together we can do this.