Plastic-free June — how did I do?

Did you know that the Marine Conservation Society recently set a challenge for a plastic-free June? After the thought-provoking Raw Foundation event I attended and wrote about, I was inspired to redouble my efforts at reducing the amount of plastics I bought and so gave it a go this last month. The result? It was tough, as plastic-encased products are so convenient (a massive part of the problem!) but cutting them out, or reducing them, is definitely doable. The challenge really made me so much more conscious of the amount of plastic the modern world is suffocating in. In fact, this trailer for “Bag It” gives a brief reminder of all the plastic in our lives – have you ever noticed how much this material literally envelops our lives?!

However, there are steps that can be taken to move towards an ever-reduced plastic life.

Here’s what I did in June:

  • I bought myself another aluminium water bottle to have on me at all times. I already had one but found it was often in a different bag, or in the pushchair, or in the car — or somewhere else entirely — which meant I ended up not having it on me when I was out and about and having to buy a bottle of water to wet my whistle. This also meant that I could give the spare one to my partner for his recent Glastonbury jaunt to not only help him stay hydrated [read: balance out his cider consumption] but also reduce his own festival footprint.
  • I got myself a Keep Cup for those days when I’m in the office and need the flow of black Americanos to keep me chipper, without the resulting coffee cup and plastic lid wastage.
  • I started using my U-konserve reusable food wrap a bit more, or just covering leftover food with a side plate, to reduce my use of clingfilm. There are some great clingfilm alternatives out there, such as Bee’s Wrap, which I hope to try out soon. For the cheese-lovers among you, it’s much better at conserving your fromage, too, as clingfilm encourages cheese to go mouldy before its time.
  • I bought a pack of biodegradable and compostable paper straws (these ones below) to have available at home to help avoid using single-use plastic straws wherever possible. Maybe you’ve seen this awful video of a sea turtle having a plastic straw extracted from its nostril? It’s very upsetting and drove home the message of just how horrendous straws (and, indeed, all plastics) are for the natural world. The next thing I plan on doing is buying a reusable straw, like from this site, so I can graciously decline straws in cafés and restaurants. Image of paper straws

Where did I struggle?

Halfway through June we went on holiday to France and it became much harder, starting with buying a plastic bottle of water at the airport as you obviously can’t take your own liquids onto flights anymore. And then of course there are the holiday essentials like suncreams that can only come in plastic bottles. Although these are, on the whole, recyclable, it may be council dependent: check out this helpful site to find out about what yours will accept.

As I’m sure we all know, on holiday a lot of things go out of the window. Like, umm, not drinking rosé wine every night, for example (whoops). And so similarly, shopping responsibly becomes more of a challenge. You do become a bit more dependent on convenience, especially over a short space of time in a foreign country. So, of course, much like at home, the food from le supermarché often came covered in plastic film, which isn’t recyclable and just gets thrown into landfill or incinerated. However, I was really impressed to learn that the French not only introduced a plastic bag ban last year but also banned single-use plastic dishes and cutlery. A bold move and one I think we surely need to be following.

On return to home, the challenge continued, especially when it came to food buying (bread loaf packaging, yoghurt pot lids, the kids’ ice lolly wrappers… All non-recyclable – argh!) and stocking up on post-holiday essentials like toothbrushes and bottled washing products.

Over the past month I’ve had time to reflect on just how much we are surrounded by plastic. It literally is everywhere and it is so hard to be completely plastic-free, especially when retailers don’t make it easy for consumers. There is a growing argument in the sector to make manufacturers and retailers take more responsibility for the non-recyclable packaging they use for their products, and even come up with more environmentally friendly packaging solutions. In fact, the fantastic Ellen MacArthur Foundation is running an innovation competition, inviting designers, scientists and inventors to come up with a viable alternative to non-recyclable plastic. Let’s hope they are successful.

With the recent news that a million single-use plastic bottles are being bought every single minute, threatening “an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change”, this plastic-free challenge has spurred me on to make an even more concerted effort to cut back on purchasing plastics and be an even more conscious consumer. More than ever, it’s opened my eyes to what I choose to buy and I’ve started investigating other options to move further towards a plastic-free life.

For example:

  • I’m making sure I buy eco ear cleaning buds with paper stems, not plastic ones;
  • I’ve discovered that my local eco store, Karavan Eco, stocks Ecover washing product refills so I can just fill up using any old bottles I may have when I need to;
  • I’m awaiting my first delivery of solid shampoo bars and a solid deodorant; and
  • I’ve recently bought biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes.

With small steps like these I’m hoping I can eliminate a little more plastic from mine and my family’s lives.

The plastic-free challenge doesn’t stop here – July is global plastic-free month so get involved! It can and does become easier once you know the steps to take: I hope you will find the same.

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2 thoughts on “Plastic-free June — how did I do?

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  1. Suzie this is great and I totally share your pain. So glad to hear about the re-fills at Karavan – I will be checking this out. Keen to know where you sourced your solid shampoo and deoderant? A friend of mine makes hers so I am keen to try doing that. For milk I have made nut milk to avoid pre-packaged, but it’s actually more expensive…so that’s a tough one. There are some great eco-alternatives to plastic containers already available (vegware), but manufacturers just don’t seem to use them…perhaps it’s just time. Catch up soon, Roz

  2. Thanks for your comments, Roz! (And sorry for the delay; we’ve been away.) Yes, it’s so hard isn’t it? Just simple things like toothpaste, moisturisers etc., come in plastic & I need to look further into natural alternatives, or making my own in time. The shampoo etc. I bought from Etsy (I can send the name separately) & I’ve just started using my own homemade conditioner using apple cider vinegar. Sounds smelly but apparently it isn’t and it does the trick!

    Good to know about the alternatives to plastic food packaging. I also saw another idea about canvassing supermarkets to offer one or two aisles of products free from plastic packaging & I loved the idea. Small steps to show consumers what can be done.

    As someone else said, reducing plastic from your life shouldn’t be daunting: approach it like you would a marathon, not a sprint & make small, steady, sustainable steps.

    Speak soon! X

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