Plastic Free July
As I'm sure a lot of you have seen via Instgram, I went to a really inspiring talk this week hosted by Kate from Cheltenham Maman. Her guests were Sian Conway from Ethical Hour and Raechel Kelly. The event was held at Jolly Nice - an old petrol station which has been converted into an organic farmshop. They've got their own butcher, a shop stocking all sorts of delicious, local goodies and a couple of yurts where you can enjoy coffee, cakes, burgers and so much more! (Check out my previous blog post 'Christmas Comes To The Hobbit Hole' to check out The Jolly Nice Christmas Tree forest!) Although I was already aware of a lot of topics discussed, it was such a great introduction into sustainable living for those just embarking on their journey. The event was marketed as a non-judgemental friendly chat and that's exactly what it was! Just a lovely group of like minded people meeting in a beautiful setting and wanting to make a difference.
One of the most common topics of conversation under the 'conscious living' umbrella at the moment is plastic - particularly single use plastic. This was very apparent at the Eco event with lots of people asking questions about recycling, plastic alternatives, and generally how to cut down on their plastic 'intake' (quite ironic considering most fish and sea food we eat now contains micro plastics!). One idea that came up - which I'd already signed up to - was Plastic Free July. It began in 2011 with just a few participants in Australia and now 7 years later there are people from 150 countries pledging to cut down their plastic use and waste! You can sign up via the website and choose how you wish to support - from cutting out plastic takeaway items to eliminating all single use plastic. The ultimate end goal for Plastic Free July is a plastic waste free world. I thought I'd share with you a few things I'm already doing to cut down my plastic waste, and hopefully inspire some of you to take on the challenge too!
My first tip is to invest in a stainless steel water bottle. Any reusable water bottle is better than none, but stainless steel will last a hell of a lot longer and doesn't contain any of the chemicals found in plastic bottles. I know I've mentioned my Klean Kanteen bottle before, but I absolutely love it and would recommend it to anyone looking to buy a new reusable bottle. It never affects the taste of the water, and the spout provides a seemless stream of water unlike some bottles which require releasing your mouth after every sip before you can drink any more! According to Forbes, around 1 million water bottles are purchased every single minute throughout the world. That is absolutely insane! And even more insane when you realise the stuff that comes out the tap is actually the same as the stuff you're willing to spend money on for the convenience! I watched Channel 4's Supershoppers the other night and they discovered that bottled water is of no higher quality than the water we can get from our taps. I've also got an insulated stainless steel bottle which is perfect for filling with tea or coffee when I'm at markets and shows. It also saves money on buying hot drinks whilst I'm there!
My next tip is to buy unpackaged fruit and vegetables. It seems totally crazy that we buy food wrapped in plastic, yet a lot of it already has its own protective skin. I've heard rumours that Morrisons are now stocking 'naked' cucumbers. I checked in my local store today and couldn't find them, but have seen photos online! We get a fruit and veg box delivered once a week full of organic produce sourced as local to us as possible. We also head to Stroud Farmers Market most Saturday's to pick up any extra bits and bobs we may need. There are a number of fruit and veg stalls and my favourite haul usually includes some candy beetroots! This weekend we managed to scoop these bananas for just £1, about 10 parsnips for £1 (which I've already roasted for lunchtime salads this week) and a huge paper bag of cherry tomatoes for £1! Had I bought all of that in the supermarket for that price it would more than likely have been in plastic bags. One additional tip for supermarket loose fruit and veg buying is to use paper bags instead of plastic - I tend to hunt down the mushroom bags!
Next up is hitting the tea drinkers out there. If you're really into your tea (let's face it - it's a British trait most of us are proud to possess!) I'm sure you already explore the huge ranges of loose leaf tea out there. If you don't - you should! If you're unsure of where exactly the plastic is in a teabag, it's there to make sure the bag doesn't fall apart - a plastic known as polypropylene. Loose leaf tea is a great alternative as you can purchase a tea strainer or biodegradable teabags to fill up at home. Just make sure your loose leaf tea is in plastic free packaging, in a package that can be reused, or use your own container upon purchase. There's also a REALLY great tea shop in Bath called Comins. They serve a huge range of teas from all over the world, and each tea is served in its traditional teapot and cup and comes with a timer for you to control the brewing time. At the Cheltenham Maman Eco event, Sian Conway from Ethical hour expressed her love for loose leaf tea and the fact that it encourages you to take just a few extra minutes out of your day to make your tea, and in turn will hopefully enable you to appreciate those few minutes out of your crazy daily schedule. This is also the message that the guys at Comins try to spread - I'll be visiting there soon to provide you with a full blog post on the wonders and joys of drinking tea!
Thanks for sticking with me so far, only a couple more tips to come! Next to tick off the list is washing - clothes and dishes! We bought some Ecover non bio washing gel, fabric conditioner and washing up liquid over a year ago and have been refilling the bottles about once every 6/8 weeks ever since. We've saved so much money as this stuff really does last longer than anything else we've used! We've also drastically reduced the plastic bottle waste we would have created. We refill with EcoLeaf as its slightly cheaper than Ecover who have also just been hit with a scandal claiming they invest in products that are tested on animals. The shop that provides the refills also stocks these bamboo scourers which are plastic free and totally biodegradeable! They also last for ages!
My final tip for reducing plastic waste is investing in a stainless steel lunchbox. Plastic lunchboxes can obviously be used over and over again, but the stainless steel will last a lot longer. Steel is also 100% recyclable and doesn't contain any of the toxic chemicals that can leech out of plastics. The Elephant stainless steel lunchboxes seem to be the most popular on the market. They're not cheap, but as with every other small lifestyle change towards a more sustainable life it truly is an investment and will save you money in the long run. You'll also save money by taking your own sandwiches to work rather than buying pre packaged ones! (Packaged in single use plastic no doubt!)
It doesn't matter if you can't cut out all single use plastic from every day life. As an individual you cannot save the planet. However if everybody can cut down on just a few items they usually buy and opt for plastic free, as a community we really can make a huge difference! As with a lot of sustainable solutions, most of them will require an initial investment. However in the long run you WILL be saving money and you'll also be saving the environment! Head over to the Plastic Free July website or check them out on social media to sign up!