It is coming up to Lent (starts this Wednesday, 1st March with Ash Wednesday). Lent is a time when some folks give or take things up. One option might be giving up buying plastic stuff but for some this may seem very daunting. So, I just wanted to offer a beginner’s basics for those wanting to try to live plastic free so that if it is something you are thinking about having a go for 40 days you have at least a beginning point.
Get your loo roll sorted. Eco-Leaf (google, though other search engines are available) is a good shout – available online and can often be bought in co-operatives. It’s outer-packaging (often the problem point of loo rolls) is made from potato starch so it does decompose. You can also get a kitchen towel from Eco-Leaf with the same packaging ( though may decide a dish-cloth will do)
Who Gives A Crap – is a new company that also does loo roll that is plastic free, currently sold out BUT look fun and 50% of profits go to building toilets in other parts of the world.
There are other ones but I have happily used Eco-Leaf and they do deliver in cardboard boxes. It is worth noting for all things bought online it is worth adding in any comments box (if you can) please deliver not in plastic or with any plastic packaging. Eco-Leaf is often found in co-operatives too – so check your local one out.
Brushing your teeth
Toothbrush – I get mine from here https://savesomegreen.co.uk/product/bamboo-toothbrush/ I go for Bamboo head as a preference
Other options are available though:
Things to watch out for – if you are vegan/veggie sometimes the brush heads aren’t ideal for you. Occasionally the brush heads are still plastic (so just check what you are buying)
Homemade Toothpaste (be aware it has no fluoride in it – I have blogged earlier about this one and how I felt about it, do have a read if your considering going to make your own). One Recipe that seems to have worked for a number of people: 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of organic coconut oil, 10-15 drops of peppermint oil and 1 drop of clove oil,(not essential and maybe difficult to source without a plastic lid) 1 drop of clove oil. (Store in a glass jar)
http://www.traditionalshaving.co.uk/268151-Safety-Razors – Prices start from £22 – Where I bought from and can recommend – check that the content is all non plastic as this company has a variety of handles. Also ask for nothing wrapped in plastic/ protected by plastic instead – perhaps be specific and explain fully you are wanting to give up plastic completely!
Again I wrote a blog post with more options for those out there who are interested in seeing what else there is have a look here: https://livingwithoutplasticinenglandblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/for-my-male-and-female-friends-who-want-to-shave-without-always-using-disposable-plastic-razors/
Mooncup or equivalent – They work like tampons (but in my opinion better) and are far more sustainable. Can be bought at Boots (Mooncup) or online.
Sanitary Towels which are reusable ones. I bought mine from Precious Stars (http://www.preciousstars.net/shop.html) – They do have some plastic in (but overall worth it as you will be reusing for years) unlike the disposable ones which use a lot of plastic. I know some folks who make their own (I was not so brave) but this might be a thing to have a try at if you want to go completely plastic free.
https://livingwithoutplasticinenglandblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/the-period-post-for-all-my-female-friends/ – I have a longer post on this one which may be worth a read as it has more options. 1.5 years on I have no regrets over my buys.
Shampoo and soaps
Lush is your new best friend – it has shampoos/ conditioners ect and soaps container free – no issue. It also does some ready-made deodorants that come not in plastic.
Other places are probably available depending on your locality but Lush is found in most major cities in the U.K. so a good start.
Fall in love with Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and Bi-carb. You can get ACV in glass bottles pretty easily and Bi-Carb in Cardboard (try Wilkos)
I put a 1 water: 3 mix of ACV in a pre-owned (mine is now around 2 years old) quirting bottle (this works for bathroom and kitchen surfaces) and then just use as you would a “normal” cleaning product.
For Tougher stains I tend to put the Bi-Carb stuff immediately down onto surfaces (make it into a paste if needed by adding a little water). Leave a few moments and then add in my home-made stuff.
Eco-over re-fill products for things like washing up liquid are a brillinat – a lot of small independent co-operatives will have them.
Dishcloths, generally, become your best friend – easy to wash and cheap to buy from any market. They can be used for dishes through to cleaning out showers. Just don’t get them mixed up. You can even make your own if you are a keen knitter.
For hard pans (you know when it gets burnt on 😉 ) you can get wooden brushes for pans – http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/like/172498971708?lpid=122&chn=ps&adgroupid=40176066202&rlsatarget=pla-279594514985&adtype=pla&poi=&googleloc=9046639&device=c&campaignid=738210941&crdt=0 . I buy these now at a local co-operative in Derby and you can just replace the head each time – am sure it is again worth checking out your local co-op.
You can also get Laundry re-fillable from Ecover too – easy to sort once you have discovered your local Co-operative. Another alternative is there are a lot of cardboard based Laundry powder at most supermarkets. Some folks won’t want all the chemicals in these though (just as a heads-up).
This is tricky if you have sensitive skin. For a while I used just bi-carb; bi-carb mixed in with coconut oil. I did this for just over 6 months and then developed an allergy. At the moment this is still a part this is plastic in my life along with toothpaste. Hippy Paste (google) do some ready to go deodorants which are nice and I wish I had used from the off – but now can’t as defo have an allergy! Lush as mentioned before are a good starting point.
Always Leave home with:
Water bottle and or mug to hold hot drinks in. Take out a knife and fork (in case you get take-out food on the go), a lunch box (whatever you already own) to put food in, plenty of bags. If you are inclined to get “hangry” start baking stuff to take out with you or always have a banana around. Grabbing plastic-free snacks is not the easiest thing in the world.
And just stop using straws (say no at bars when ordering a soft drink). If your desperate metal ones can be sourced (info in a previous blog post) , but in reality, you don’t “need them”.
Tea bags contain plastic. You can buy loose leaf tea first time (more expensive) and then take the tin back and just get re-filled (it is cheaper). Obvious one is Whittards but suspect looking locally in your area you might have an independent tea house.
Coffee – Douwe Egberts Coffee – Comes almost plastic free – (it has a plastic/rubber seal) but it can be reused (for various re-fills for various products). Maybe not one for the purest out there but a good compromise. Real coffee can be bought plastic free pretty easily if you already own a grinder.
Find a local veg market ASAP – always shop with your own carrier bags (and take more than you think you will need)
Cereals – Aldi – do Weetabix that is in a cardboard box or buy porridge oats (available most places)
Bread – either make your own or go for Warburton’s as this comes in wax coated paper.
Pick butter over margarine (but fear not you will hardly eat any processed food because that is all in plastic so this switch is easy)
Milk and Juices Milk and More Online – This is where I found my milkman. It is company that pretty much operates in most major cities and in a fair number of less major ones too (I currently live in a village and they deliver) though if you find a more local one it is great to have choice :). With Milk and More you can organise your delivery online and is in my opinion the easiest way to get a milk delivered. You can also get bottled apple juice, orange juice ect.
Olive Oil – you can buy in glass (it will be more expensive though but also nicer)
Rice – you can get online not in plastic – such as : http://www.naturallygoodfood.co.uk/Rice/Rice_Brown_Long_Grain_Indica_-_non_organic_25kg .It might be worth checking out co-operatives (this is where we tend to get things like pulses and some have got rice in containers too) – Again take containers with you to fill in (we take with us Kilner jars we pre-owned but anything would do).
Pasta – bad news – we make our own…but it is easy. 1 egg to 100g of flour (normal flour does work…there is also a thing such as pasta flour which tastes even nicer and has clear instructions on them). I have a blog post on how to do it if you go in for this. Full instructions here: https://livingwithoutplasticinenglandblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/home-made-pasta-living-non-plastic/ The only pasta I have ever managed to get plastic free was a Sainsbury’s basic lasagne sheet pasta. Making your own means you can put in different herbs to it too.
Chewing Gum. Avoid this at all costs (as for the majority of products readily available it will contain plastic in it. There are a few companies internationally that don’t but not many and not easily (checking out that the packaging is plastic free is v. difficult to ascertain). Trebor Extra strong mints can be a good swap if you want to have a minty-feeling moment at some point – comes in paper packagine.
Cheese and Meat– take your own container (for either meat or cheese) or invest in wax paper (for cheese) to your local butcher/ deli counter. Chat with them about why you are doing what you are doing and most will be able to work with you in some way.
Veggie Stuff – veggie sausages are available in cardboard (they come in various varieties from Quorn to Linda Mcartney) as are things like Chicken Kievs for those moments when cooking from scratch is just too hard.
Pizza – Make from scratch as no one bought in a supermarket is plastic free on the inside
All tins (pretty much) have plastic on the inside –so this is out for the next month. However, you can get things like: Peanut Butter, Tomato Sauces, home-made cheese sauces (with your glass bottled milk and brought home in your own container cheese) so I don’t think you will go hungry.
Coconut Milk – this is a sad one, as yet I can’t find coconut milk either in a block that doesn’t have it plastic outer packaging or in a tin.
Places of helpful support
On Facebook – Plastic is Rubbish – Group that offers tips/ asks questions specifically on plastic things.
On Facebook – Zero Waste Heroes! – Made up of folks trying to live as close to a Zero waste life as possible.
Blogs – just search Plastic free and there are a fair number of us trying to do it out there.
If folks have a go at giving up plastic, it would be lovely to hear how you find it and any reflections on the whole experience.