The first thing I gave up was my ear buds. I liked nothing better, than after a shower or a bath, to dry my ears with these soft and comforting tools, delivering a daily pleasure so great I almost felt guilty! But attaching these fluffy bits of goodness required a stick of plastic, never to be broken down and possibly lost at sea forever, so they had to go.
Like most people, I have used a lot of plastic in my life. I’ve sipped on plastic straws, enjoyed take away coffee cups and their pesky lids, and devoured home-delivered dinners, freshly transported in plastic containers inside disposable plastic bags. In between it all, I have bought and used so many plastic toothbrushes it’s difficult to count them. I have bought into the throw away culture, for its ease and well, because honestly, I didn’t give it much thought. I wasn’t aware, or willing to take on, the damage we were doing; and my eyes were not open to seeing how easy it is to make small but important changes.
But the damage is real. According to the World Economic Forum report 2016, if we carry on with the plastic culture as it is, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. Just this week a juvenile sperm whale washed up dead off the coast of Spain, having ingested almost 30 kilograms of rubbish. I struggle to imagine our stunning beaches covered in plastic, rubbish in the waves, dodging it all on a dive under the ocean. It’s overwhelming.
So I got inspired. After the ear buds, I took on the sushi containers. My kids love sushi, but I really don’t love their containers. I now use my own metal containers and ask the (rarely) obliging staff to make fresh sushi to save on the packaging. Then came the body wash, and shampoo, which I can get refills of from my local bulk shop. I love the girls in the shop and it feels so good saving on the single use containers.
The kids and I loved choosing fun bits and bobs for their lunch boxes at the bulk wholefoods shop which is up the road from us. We all got inspired to find things we could buy instead of crisps, which while yummy, came packaged in their bags. All I could see on Friday night, as I enjoyed a beverage and a crispy chip, was the pack floating in the sea. Suddenly it became a lot less satisfying.
My ceramic keep cup is now a permanent fixture in my handbag or car and I use metal straws for my smoothies rather and plastic, or simply skip the straws and enjoy delicious gulps of tasty liquid all at once. We are reducing more and more each week, but even on a personal front, there is still a long way to go. My kids won’t use my home-made toothpaste, and I still can’t figure out how to avoid using bin liners for the rubbish we do throw out after composting and recycling. There are some things that I can’t buy at a bulk shop, like my special, uncontaminated, celiac-friendly porridge oats, which are naughtily flown in from god-knows-where.
But I have found it to be quite fun to take tiny steps to reduce our own waste. From where I stand, sustainability is no longer a choice made by hippies, it’s a matter of survival. We all need to do our bit. Even at the highest corporate levels there is the odd shift taking place. The multinational giant McDonalds has announced it will start phasing out plastic straws in its UK restaurants from May, after a strong campaign from the SumOfUs online activism group. In going without, we are able to give back so much to our precious planet, all its people and its creatures of the sea and land.
And if you’re like me, you’ll realise there’s far less need for all the plastic we are using than we think. Starting with one thing so I wasn’t overwhelmed was important and then each week or month it was fun to see what else I could do without. What excites me now is that if we all made a few key choices, we would together have a huge impact on our environment.
If you’re keen to begin, why not start with these six simple things:
- Buy a reusable coffee/tea cup, it doesn’t have to be fancy, if I can’t find mine, I just use a regular glass jar
- Buy a bamboo toothbrush, ideally with non-nylon bristles.
- Purchase some fun reusable cloth shopping bags…instead of single use plastic bags
- Find a bulk store and begin to fill jars and paper bags with all the yummies for home that you’re used to, without the packaging
- Say no to plastic straws
- Start composting
The Source – Bulk Foods, Toothbrushes, reusable coffee cups etc etc etc
Pottery For The Planet – Amazing reusable coffee cups
- Find a sealable glass jar and mix together;
- Equal parts coconut oil and Bi-carb of soda
- 1 x teaspoon of activated charcoal
- Stevia to taste
- A couple of drops of your favourite essential oil…I like Orange but peppermint would be nice too.