Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. . . Is that actually easy to do?
If you’ve found a moment to read my post about a Plastic Whale, here is where the follow up comes in.
Since watching that film, I’ve started to really look at my relationship with plastic. And it’s not like I’ve had not done it before. But now, it’s not just about that one bottle I forgot to throw into a recycling bin a week ago. It’s about that whole picture: seeing larger impact on our lives, planet, oceans, other living creatures. And seeing that poor whale just did it for me… Maybe every now and then we need to have something shocking like that put in front of us to make you think about changing something?
New kid on the block – Plastic
Plastic is a fairly new concept and first fully man-made version of it was introduced in 1907 by a Belgian chemist. As you can imagine it quickly became revolutionary, ‘hip’ and soon after millions of products started to be manufactured as plastic and its various forms. You may not realize and I won’t bore you with lists, but that bitch can show in many forms and some of them are not as obvious! We all know plastic bottles and milk cartons, but have you thought about meat trays, coffee cups form your favourite coffee shop, straws or shower curtains? No, me neither.
What can we do?
So, what are the ways to reduce use of plastic in our daily lives and at home? Everyone knows the ‘big ones’ like cut use of plastic carrier bags, recycle your bottles.. To really go plastic free takes time and a lot of effort. You’d need to be committed and relentless. If you are like me, a working mum that already has little to no free time and owns a drawer of plastic containers (shhhh), going cold turkey may be wishful thinking. Plus, let’s be honest – some of the things can be too extreme. It just would not be easy or possible for me right now to look for shampoo not in a plastic bottle or never again buy plastic bag with frozen fruit for smoothies. So…
The goal is: be realistic with what you can do
Hence, here are a few simple things I decided I could do and they are easy enough to start to implement them today.
How to reduce use of plastic at home
- Don’t use plastic shopping bags – seriously; seeing that whale stuffed with bags is enough for me to say hard no this one. It has been easy so far. I’ve got a few canvas bags that I’ve been using for grocery shopping. I made a goal to never leave the house without one. If I do, I usually carry a big handbag anyway (helps to be a woman, ha!) or pushing a buggy, which I can suffer with a few items if needed. We don’t have a car, so I always carry grocery or other shopping. But if you drive, maybe it’s even easier to cut those nasty carriers out! Whatever plastic bags I already have, I’ve kept and planning on reusing as many times as possible. If I’d need to throw some away, I’ll be sure that it’s a recycling bin. Small changes done by shops are seen here and there too: e.g. some supermarkets in the U.K make you pay for any plastic bags or packaging or try to eliminate them completely; or Trader Joe’s in the U.S gives you a chance to enter weekly sweepstakes to encourage use of your own bags.
- Use less cling film/ glad wrap / foil – shame to admit, but I actually have not thought of that before! Now, I literally save every little peace of foil and try to reuse it multiple times for covering those overnight oats or leftover salad. There are also cool beeswax clothes I got and am planning to invest in getting more. They are reusable, natural and easy to clean (thanks, aunt Jen from New Zealand for the idea!).
- Swap straws for silicone – if you have kids (or love a good straw yourself!), you know how easy is to use a few of those a day. Quite bad! This silicone alternative is the way to go. They are chunky, wash very well and my toddler loves using them too. Plus, drinking a thick smoothie or protein shake through those is actually possible!
- Food storage – I got those cute little bags recently and they work great. You can pack some fruit or veg in them, cheese or dry snacks. They are reusable and easy to wash. Those silicone food storage bags are my next purchase to try to replace standard bulky plastic containers.
- Use glass or cardboard where possible – I started to be more mindful of how food is packaged in stores and if there’re any alternatives. It is not always easy, but choosing milk in cartoon or glass bottle or crackers in a box instead of plastic bag is doable. You still can buy glass baby feeding bottles, I remember having a few of those for Fern when she was drinking breast milk /formula out of them.
- Get that Swell or other reusable bottle – I carry mine everywhere and look for refilling it where I can. It is a great idea for flights also – you can save quite a few small plastic cups by asking to get your own bottle re-filled (who drinks out of those cups anyway, isn’t it like 1 sip only in there??).
- Reusable diapers (aka nappies) – this is a big one. Not everyone loves the idea and let’s face, it is so much easier to use disposable nappies. The whole concept of cleaning the poop and washing the nappy after is kind of gross, but hey – this is how it was done in the past! (thanks mum :). Plus, babies poop – lots! There are many options and alternatives out there and it may be worth considering – if not all the way, then maybe start during daytime only? Or try to make it a habit at the age when they begin eating solids? A couple of great resources I found are here and here. I am getting a few of those beauties for the upcoming potty transition (fingers crossed).
- Toddler food utensils– someone told me about this great idea of using stainless steel bowls, cups and plates. Pretty smart! I was late in the game and have gotten a mix of plastic and silicon bowls and plates in the past (which I now stare at with anger). But, if I’d be doing it again, this could be a way forward. Or just buy a couple of cheaper porcelain/ glass bowls you’d also use, so you don’t care if they get broken.
- Recycle where possible – this may seem easy, but I think we often can forget to chuck that plastic bag after bread, a straw or a tea bag wrapper in the blue bin instead of general waste rubbish bin. Try to get into habit of checking each container/ bag to make sure it can be recycled and do what’s best.
I’m not expecting to make a huge impact right away nor change the world. For now, I think baby steps. And all this perhaps does need to start with that one extra plastic bag I didn’t use or a successful week of mindful recycling. I’d like to think that if all of us do something little each day, we will finally start to see the difference.
And if those few tweaks we need to do in our daily lives mean that we going to have clean oceans, healthier kids and beautiful nature to look at in 10 years, then I am in. Regardless if you are plastic-free fanatic or have never recycled a thing in your life, it must start somewhere. And being mindful and aware of the problem and taking those baby steps would already be a good progress we all can make today.
P.S. If you want to further your reading check out this site. This lady really takes it to (good) extreme and is an inspiration!
Do you try to be more mindful about use of plastic in your daily life? If so, what do you do? Please comment below; it’d be great to get learn together!