This month, Laura and I decided to set ourselves an eco-friendly challenge: complete the entire month without using any single-use plastic.
To begin with, this seemed like a not-too-difficult task. Living in London, we have the luxury of having various plastic-free shops in the local area.
However the more we planned, the more we realised how strongly single-use plastic is embedded in our everyday lives: toothpaste, washing and cleaning products, tissues and toilet paper, the list goes on… The only exception we made was medication because, unfortunately, there aren’t yet any plastic-free alternatives for inhalers or epipens, but they’re both pretty essential.
Some people have asked for tips on how to reduce their plastic consumption, so I've made a note of some of the changes we've made.
In terms of household cleaning, we used our local refill store to buy all the boring things (cleaning products, washing-up liquid, laundry supplies – you get the idea). You can get also plastic-free dishwasher tablets from Splosh1.
Body wash & shampoo were an easy win: try replacing your plastic bottles with a good old bar of soap and a sponge. I was also unaware that shampoo bars exist – we tried grüum2 and can recommend. One change I was pleasantly surprised by was switching to a natural deodorant stick rather than an aerosol – I got this and a few other essentials from The Cruelty Free Beauty Box3.
My favourite challenge, of course, was food. We're fortunate enough to be near a range of great food markets, but we found that it was actually possible to do a majority of our shopping in supermarkets, thanks to Waitrose's sustainability efforts. We found that we cooked from scratch more, because convenience items are not often available plastic-free. This meant we ate much more healthily this month – and it actually ended up being cheaper than we expected! We also ate much less meat and dairy than usual. However, I wasn't willing to give up tea – Milk & More4 is an good choice if you'd like your milk delivered in reusable glass bottles. It's probably worth bearing in mind that they don't exclusively use electric vehicles, though, and delivery might be less sustainable if you're not in a densely-populated area. We got some plastic-free toilet paper and tissues delivered, too – they have a whole plastic-free section on their website.
The only plastic-free substitute I probably won't continue with is the toothpaste, although I'm open to suggestions! I have nothing against the product (we tried Ben & Anna paste3 which is just like what you'd normally use), but it's much more expensive than your regular options – we shared a £10 jar which lasted the month. We also tried Denttabs, which are little tablets that turn into paste when you chew them. I was amazed by these but they take some getting used to!
This month has certainly changed the way I think about consumption. Whilst it took some initial planning to make sure we'd found plastic-free alternatives for everything we needed, it became a relatively trivial day-to-day consideration once we'd passed that first hurdle. As with many lifestyle changes, it's purely a case of forming the habit. And it was exactly that: a small lifestyle change.
I encourage you to give it a try!
JustGiving: we used our No-Plastic November to raise funds for Friends of the Earth.
Bulb: we recently switched to a more eco-friendly energy supplier. They currently use 100% renewable electricity and carbon-neutral gas, whilst also having a single, affordable tariff. The link will get you £50 credit when you open an account.