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It’s not news to most of us that there is a plastic epidemic! To the untrained eye, it may seem as though every product comes either wrapped in plastic, sitting in plastic or is even made of plastic! We have been trying over the past few months to minimize our plastic consumption and have managed to cut our plastic waste to nearly 1/4 of what it previously was! Here are some of our tips as to how you too can reduce your plastic!
It may seem incredibly obvious but it’s still worth saying that the number 1 way that you can reduce your plastic consumption is by reducing the amount of plastic you buy! There are many options nowadays for brands to use plastic-free packaging. We would encourage you to go for the plastic-free alternatives where possible!
There are many handy reusables on the market now. Over the past few weeks, we have been using a range of Klean Kanteen products that are plastic free and even use recycled stainless steel in their construction. We have particularly been enjoying the “Classic” bottle, which has a removable spout that makes it easy to clean. This durable reusable bottle will help you cut out thousands of plastic bottles if you commit to refilling it. As well as being good for the environment this bottle also doesn’t leach chemicals into your water, as plastic bottles do. This makes it a great choice for your health as well as the health of the planet!
You do not need to use plastic vegetable bags in supermarkets! Over the past few years, people are getting much better at bringing their own shopping bags when they go to the supermarket, however, they still fill them with plastic bags full of vegetables and fruit. A great way of resolving this is buying a set of drawstring mesh bags, they are available to buy in most veg shops or even some supermarkets now. They are very compact and lightweight so they don’t inconvenience you and they will cut out a lot of unnecessary plastic.
Another plastic polluting our oceans are items like microplastics, which are tiny beads or balls of plastic commonly added to popular face wash brands like Clean & Clear or Neutrogena. Polyethylene microbeads are added under the guise of exfoliation, but most waste treatment facilities are unable to process them and tons end up in the oceans each year. Why not use an exfoliating wash with apricot shells, salt or sugar instead?
We don’t need to tell you about the joys of reusable coffee cups! After a hiatus during the pandemic, cafés are taking them again which is excellent news for coffee enthusiasts that have been feeling guilty about getting takeaway coffee. It is perfect timing, as the government is set to introduce a 20-cent levy on coffee cups. An approach that seemed to work when they did it on shopping bags. We hope that this will vastly reduce plastic and reduce the number of people getting coffee in takeaway cups in the coming months.
One of the strongest forces known to humans that will make us compromise on our “zero-waste” and plastic-free commitments is hunger! Plan ahead! Batch cook and store containers in the freezer. If you are heading to work or for a hike, you can take your pre-prepared lunch with you instead of buying a sandwich in plastic!
People are also getting much better at carrying their own water bottles and refilling them instead of buying plastic water bottles. Many cafes pubs or restaurants will happily refill a water bottle for you if you are out and about. You can also log on to Refill.ie and browse their interactive map which has refill stations pinned across the country.
Why stop at water? Recently we have been taking our Klean Kanteen lunch box kit to Source Bulk Food Store and filling them (and other containers) with our food essentials! There are lots of these “Zero Waste” stores popping up now. Source, the one we visit has 2 different stores in Ireland. One in Greystones Co. Wicklow and one in Rathmines Co. Dublin.
As well as buying dry foods with no packaging such as pasta, rice, nuts, oats, spices, coffee, tea and much more you can also refill liquids in the store! One of the most useful of which is their oat milk refill station. While most milk comes in a cardboard carton, it is almost always lined with plastic and not wax, contrary to popular belief. Because of this, it takes a lot more energy to recycle. Choosing a milk brand that comes in a refillable glass bottle cuts down on waste. Plus, the container can always be washed and used to store other bulk food items.
We Love This One
One of the best feelings you can have is picking or growing your own food. If you don’t have green fingers and don’t have the space or time to grow your own why not go foraging? At this time of year in Ireland, there is loads of food for free that most people will walk past on their hikes! Blackberries line many country roads and forest paths that are there for picking. A short 15-minute pick in a good area can get you the equivalent of 3 or 4 punnets that you would get in plastic in a supermarket. On a recent walk, we picked just shy of 1kg of blackberries on one 1km stretch of country road. This is the equivalent of spending 24 euros and buying as many as 6 plastic punnets!
Line drying clothing is a great step to limit your energy footprint, which will also save your pocket, especially as winter comes! We would suggest using wooden pegs or even better a pegless solution like a clothes horse to dry your clothing. Plastic pegs break very easily. The type of plastic they are made from is sometimes not even recyclable so you are better off trying to use something else!
We mentioned food prep earlier. Having a good set of Tupperware containers is a worthwhile investment. Good quality plastic ones can last years and years making them worth having, however, the more inexpensive alternatives often break and have to be thrown out. Why not invest in a good set of bamboo or metal containers? We have been using the Food Box Set from Klean Kanteen which is made from silicon and recycled stainless steel which makes them extremely durable.
8 Pieces of plastic to cut out and how to do it!
As we previously mentioned, hunger can drive you to impulse buy food that is packaged in plastic. With your new metal containers have some meals at the bottom of the freezer that you can take out in case of emergency! This will help you reduce your plastic consumption!
Use these containers
Toothbrushes and toothpaste are lifelong products used by billions of individuals. While not only the handles of toothbrushes are made of plastic, but so are the bristles (most commonly made of nylon). A great alternative is a bamboo toothbrush, though the bristles won’t be 100% plastic-free unless they’re made of pig hair. To eliminate toothpaste tubes, simply make your own toothpaste at home and use a reusable glass jar to store it! There are dozens of recipes online, most commonly containing baking soda, coconut oil, peppermint essential oil, and some type of sweetener.
What to use instead: bamboo toothbrushes with pig hair bristles and DIY toothpaste.
Standard household cleaning products are not good for the environment, your health, your wallet or your plastic consumption. It is so simple to make your own. Outsider contributor Heather has been making her own for a while and loves them. “Once you make your own cleaning products you will never go back. I use this quick and easy recipe all over the house and it leaves everything really clean and smelling amazing!”
Check out this site for advice on natural cleaning products
You can reuse a container you currently have or buy a plastic-free container online or in Source!
We hope that these tips will help you in your quest to reduce your plastic consumption! Please feel free to tag us on social media if you implement any of these tips into your routine!
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By Matthew McConnell
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