I’ll be the first person to admit that travelling the world isn’t the most eco-friendly way of life. I love this planet and I want to see it all but I also want to protect and cherish it and reconciling these two things is something I struggle with. A lot. So it’s important for me to do what I can to reduce my footprint and encourage others to do the same. If there’s one thing travel opens your eyes to, it’s plastic. It’s everywhere, on roadsides and beaches, in rivers, lakes, gutters and anywhere that water gathers, so does plastic.
If you’ve clicked to read this article, I probably don’t need to tell you that there’s a surface area of around 1.6 million square kilometres, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France, in the Pacific Ocean FULL of plastic or that this garbage patch is just one of five in our world’s oceans. I also probably don’t need to tell you that as a planet we’re now producing 300 million tons of plastic every year, half of which is single use. But I am going to because I’m not quite sure these facts ever sink in!
And you also probably already know that it isn’t enough to just recycle plastic because recyclables are an economy of their own – we can recycle all we want but if manufacturers don’t buy the bales of recycled materials, they will eventually just end up in a landfill.
So what’s the solution? Reducing plastic waste altogether, especially single-use plastics – & my friends it’s so much easier than a lot of people think – you don’t have to go, full hippie, you just have to follow these five tips.
1. Ok let’s get the obvious one out of the way – BUY A WATER BOTTLE
Seriously, in the UK alone, 13 billion plastic bottles are used each year, that’s almost two for every person on the planet, just in the UK! Metal bottles are the best because they err, aren’t plastic, are much more durable and are much easier to recycle when they eventually wear out. There are TONNES of options, from brands like Chilly’s & S’well (I use S’well by the way) to non-branded £5 bottled from Wilko. And here’s a *TOP TIP* – most chain coffee shops will fill up your water bottle for free, some even have water taps so you don’t even have to speak to another human, and most of the time you don’t even have to buy anything – or if the thought of this makes you a little queasy just buy a piece of non-packaged fruit and ask for your free water as you pay – healthy snack & free water, what’s not to love?
2. Ditch your foil, plastic wrap & plastic food bags
It’s a simple change but can have a huge impact, there are so many reusable options out there, from wax food wrap to washable food bags, to good ol’ paper kitchen roll. Once you have them in your arsenal, you’ll wonder why you ever used plastic before.
3. Say no to plastic straws & cutlery
Straws have made huge headlines in the last 12 months and for good reason, some estimates put the number of plastic straws used in the UK every year to be at 42 billion – let’s just take a second to let that sink in, FORTY-TWO-BILLION. But what about paper staws I hear you ask? Well, here’s the thing, most recycling centres don’t recycle food contaminated products so most of these will more than likely end up in a landfill. And yes, they will compost eventually but they’re still single-use, the energy cost of producing, using and recycling/composting a straw every time you use it (and remember, this could be as many as 42 billion straws in the UK alone) is staggering. Instead, why not opt for reusable and durable options for both your straws AND your cutlery that are made from bamboo or metal?
4. Say hello to reusable sanitary products
If you mensurate, consider switching from pads & tampons that all contain plastic as well as being wrapped in plastic packaging and are so full of toxic chemicals lord knows what they’re doing to our bodies, to reusable products – period pants, menstrual cups, washable pads, there are even washable tampons. They’re not as gross as you think, I promise. Personally, I don’t get on with menstrual cups and it can feel like there’s a lot of pressure in the zero waste community to use them – but if you can’t, you can’t. No biggie. Period pants are my jam, a bit more of an investment but super comfy, super secure, moisture wicking, odour eliminating and no mess, just wear all day, change at night & chuck in with your next wash.
5. Switch to an all-metal safety razor
Body hair – love it, hate it but if you remove it and use those plastic disposable razors, know that there is an alternative that is not only MILES better for the planet but also INSANELY cheaper. Safety razors had their heyday in the 60s when everybody realised that cut-throat razors were insanely dangerous and impractical – later on, safety razors lost out to the plastic monstrosities we’re sold today. I know that technically razors aren’t really single use – at least I hope that the majority of body shaving humans aren’t using their plastic razors just once, but they’re almost as bad. And they’re sexist. Seriously, pay twice as much for a pink ‘lady’ shaver, are you fudging kidding me? To use a safety razor, you need to buy the body & some razor blades – there are tonnes of options on Amazon and I’ll link the ones I use below – bear in mind now that one blade will last around a month with moderate use so this box of 100 is probably going to last me FOREVER.
And there you have it, five easy ways to reduce your single-use plastic waste. There are plenty of other ways, like making sure you carry shopping bags with you, buying a reusable coffee cup, shopping in zero waste stores, remembering to make and pack your own lunches and snacks. It’s all about being mindful of the plastic you’re using and I promise you, you’ll cut down without even trying.
What do you think of these tips? Do you have any more? Let me know in the comments!
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