Did you know that today, 5th June, is World Environment Day? Each year has a different theme, with the theme for 2018 being beating plastic pollution. Reducing single-use plastics and microplastics needs a concerted effort by everyone – it’s no good consumers battling away to move away from a sea of plastic recycling if retailers and manufacturers continue to do business in the exact same way, but, also, as consumers we can vote with our wallets to send a message that we want corporates to do better.
We’ve been endeavouring to reduce our single-use plastic here, and, I have to be honest, it is hard work. When time is of the essence and life is busy, or money is tight, sadly the environment will come further down the list of priorities than feeding the family. I know some people do manage to reduce their plastics down to single figures but that is just not realistic at the present moment – for many reasons.
A few things are working for us though, so I thought I’d share, plus a few mistakes!
Things which have worked for us
2 Minute Beach cleans
We regularly take part in these 2 Minute Beach Cleans when we go to the beach and see plastic everywhere. Thankfully the beaches that we frequent most often don’t tend to be as bad as the collection above, which was picked out of the high water line by me and Pip within about 5 minutes as we waited for our pizzas to cook. I don’t know what specifically means some beaches are worse than others, perhaps tide or angles, but that’s a lot of stuff floating in the sea.
Who Gives a Crap Toilet Paper
Swapping supermarket loo paper for the cheery packets of Who Gives a Crap recycled paper has made me surprisingly happy. Such a mundane item and especially in the small packets, an unnecessary waste of a plastic bag. These rolls are wrapped in paper which can either be recycled or re-used by the children, and are delivered to your door, and look much nicer on the bathroom shelf… Save £5 on your first order here*. Bonus – 50% of Who Gives a Crap’s profits are donated to help build toilets for those in need.
This Organicup* is probably the best £15 I have spent this year. Although I was using organic tampons* the benefits I’ve noticed since swapping for a menstrual cup have been amazing. It did take a couple of periods to get used to it, and it is a bit more ‘manual’ requiring a little bit more of a hands on (in?) approach, it has been totally worth persevering. There are loads of different folds for insertion which was just a matter of trying several until I worked out what was best for me. The ‘S’ in case you were wondering, and also knowing where your cervix is, as the cup only works if it is over your cervix.
After the first day, it usually only needs emptying morning and evening, and it is so secure and comfortable I’ve both been to the spa and been surfing using it. Better still, I’ve noticed less pain and my periods have been shorter, and I’ve been less uncomfortable as it is not drying everything out. Pleasingly, I haven’t bought any tampons since the beginning of the year. I think everyone has drawers full of odd ones which I’ve been using when I’ve been away from home and not been quite sure when I might need one – I got one period half way across the Atlantic on our way home from New York, so I was quite glad for a tampon then, but when I’m at home, the Organicup all the way.
Metal / paper / bamboo straws
Along with every other family on Instagram, we decided 2018 was the year we’d stop using straws. Pip found this particularly hard at first, and at first it was hard as we kept getting straws when we were out. Nothing more pointless than a single-use straw not even being allowed to be used but gradually places down in Cornwall are phasing them out. Pip delights in telling me that it is ok to use the ones she is brought in her drinks when they are paper, which following a campaign by The Final Straw down here in Cornwall, most places don’t now use plastic, which is a huge win.
At home, we’ve had some unexpected success with some metal straws. I’ve yet to take them anywhere when we haven’t had the picnic basket, but they are great in the mini mason jars that I got for Pip’s party and which we take out in the car when we go out for the day.
Shop locally and maybe even grow our own
Since moving down to Cornwall and working less conventional office hours, we have time to shop more locally. We buy a lot of our veg from farm shops, greengrocers and even direct from the farm which reduces the packaging totally, as we just take our bag or basket. I’ve got our greenhouse in action and have planted up tomatoes and so on, although the amount I grow won’t make a dent on our consumption, it’s a step in the right direction. Bonus, as the summer progresses, people who do grow their own and have a glut tend to sell the excess at their gate…
We also like going to our local pick your own through the summer months.
And some things that require more thought…
Toothbrushes and toothpaste
Whilst not technically a single-use plastic, the normal toothbrush is pretty wasteful, even if you do use it for cleaning jobs once it’s finished being a toothbrush. Changing them for something better has become a bit of a battle in our house though…
I’m enjoying the bamboo toothbrush which I bought from Georganics – I’ve had to use some bad ones before I got to this one though – I don’t recommend whatever the brand is that Waitrose sells, nor a Bristle mail order one. This Georganics charcoal one* is the best I’ve used, but I do like a softer brush. The handle is nicer than most I’ve tried.
Sadly the toothpaste soap from Georganics is less appealing – it was literally like using soap. I’ve been recommended a different one in a glass pot, so will have to give that a go.
One big fail sadly was the children’s toothbrushes. I thought I was doing better by getting them battery operated ones, thinking I could just replace the heads (struggling to get them to use the non-plastic ones for a variety of reasons, not least that Buster keeps dropping his down the loo) but upon opening the heavy plastic packets, I discovered that they are not replaceable at all. What a waste.
In London, we got our milk delivered to our doorstep in glass bottles. I have now finally found someone who might deliver glass, so that’s next on my list to organise.
We’ve bought Klean Kanteen* waterbottles, and I have one of their flasks, and we have Keep Cups* for coffee on the go, and we refill wherever possible, but those are just one of a huge number of plastic bottles in the house. From washing liquid, washing up liquid and shampoo through to make-up and children’s body wash, the plastic tide is endless. We do use bars of soap, and I’ve been making cleaning spray in a glass amber bottle, and I use vinegar and bicarb to clean with, but honestly, the list is endless and exhausting of things we shouldn’t be buying. I’m trying to just work through using up what I have and trying not to replace it yet, but it is pretty impossible, and one which requires deeper pockets and time than I have. Still, one step at a time.
One of the hardest things to contemplate doing without. I am trying to wean myself off my crisp habit but in the meantime, they are one of the things I feel guiltiest about when I look at the rubbish bin…
Any other things we could be doing? What is working for you?
*Links are affiliate Amazon links – I often buy these products in my local shops and I particularly rate Lucky Go Happy in Newquay but sometimes Amazon Prime is the parent’s lifesaver…