The world is finally waking up to the enormity of the plastic problem, thanks in large part to David Attenborough’s BBC show Blue Planet II, which showed the devastation that the regular dumping of single use plastics is having on our oceans and its inhabitants.
Now, countries across the globe are bringing in measures to ban or limit single-use plastics, with some having already banned them outright, while down here in the real world most of us WANT to do better.
But just how possible is it to live without single-use plastic? Our writer Lori Campbell, along with her two young children, puppy and two cats, is taking on the challenge of going plastic free for one week to find out. Three days in, here’s how she’s getting on:
“As a busy, working single parent this part of the challenge filled me with the most trepidation – both from a time and cost point of view. I normally do a quick online shop at Asda covering almost everything we need for the week. The convenience of this sadly comes hand in hand with a lot of plastic.
I soon discovered the main supermarkets are completely out this week. Looking down the aisles at Sainsbury’s, I was shocked to find that almost EVERYTHING, including fresh produce, is wrapped in plastic.
While Waitrose is leading the charge among the supermarkets on plastic-free options, offering loose fruit and veg and refills on many dry groceries, I had to stick as closely as possible to my normal food budget – so I decided to go local, and buy what we need separately.
My first big fail came when I visited the ‘Best Healthfood Shop’– which sells refills of pasta, rice and cereals as well as Ecover cleaning products – with my children in tow. I was totally unprepared without my own containers (obvious one, that!) and after 10 minutes spent grappling 25 yoyo bars from my son’s basket and a £9.50 shampoo bar from my daughter’s, I had to abandon the shop entirely in favour of the M&S garage next door which had no plastic-free options. This provided lesson number one: be prepared!
I am definitely guilty of eating on the hop (virtually impossible to do plastic-free) and spur-of-the-moment trips to Sainsbury’s, forgetting my ‘bag for life’ and buying another one. Given that one million plastic bags are bought every minute around the globe, equivalent to 150 bags per person per year, this is an easy habit to change. I’m now armed with a canvas tote bag that lives in my handbag – and the bags for life have moved to my car boot – so I really have no excuses.
I bought a whole load of different-sized glass jars from Jeremy’s Homestore and will try again with the food refills – childfree! A handy tool for finding your local zero waste store is www.zerowastenear.me. I’m keen to try Contain Yourself, a travelling refill station for all sorts of household items, but again it takes planning working out where to be/park/how to carry those jars around.
For fresh produce I tried out Locality where I found most fruit and vegetables I needed loose (and these do taste better than the supermarket). However, berries, salad, cheese and hams all came in plastic so I had to leave those behind. For milk, I changed to Milk & More for glass bottle deliveries, and I’ve also ordered plastic-free and sustainable ‘Who Gives a Crap’ toilet rolls.
This was another easy, and satisfying, change to make. Around 16 billion disposable coffee cups are used and thrown away worldwide every year – and it’s not just the lids that are plastic, the cups themselves are coated in plastic and cannot be recycled. I bought a colourful, reusable Bambroo coffee cup (made from organic bamboo and wheat fibre) and found that cafes really don’t mind filling these up for you. Many such as Costa, even offer a discount for using your own cup.
After much online research, I discovered that making my own cleaning products is by far the most eco-friendly option. I had a vision of hours spent after the kids go to bed mixing up complicated potions, but this was in fact much easier than I’d feared. White wine vinegar and bi-carbonate of soda work wonders, especially in place of bleach. Now I just need to work on improving the smell! Some friends have suggested essential oils which I’ll be trying. Or the answer could be Eninzi Wellness which offers DIY cleaning workshops at your home.
This is another tough one, as I have hair and beauty products I really like that come in plastic. I am hoping a trip to LUSH, which sells packaging-free products including shampoo and conditioner bars, will help to wean me off of some of them.
I have also just received the most amazing smelling parcel from the Kentish Soap Company filled with handmade bath truffles, hand cream, body butter and soaps all completely plastic-free (and with no palm oil).
Finding plastic-free alternatives for my 12-week-old rough collie puppy and two cats has by far been the hardest part of this challenge so far. I spent a lot of time looking online and an afternoon going to local pet supply shops with very little success. I was excited to find that Yora makes plastic-free sustainable dog food from insect protein, but hit a stumbling block as they don’t yet offer a range for puppies.
I couldn’t find any puppy treats that don’t come in plastic bags and was left feeling quite overwhelmed at the thought of making my own. Any ideas here are welcome! For the cats, this was also a big fail. One of them has irritable bowel syndrome and needs vet-prescribed Royal Canin food which only comes in big plastic bags. I did discover the wonderful Lamina Animal which offers luxury plastic-free, ethically-sourced pet supplies and am looking forward to trying their plastic-free puppy soap.
Find out how Lori got on during the rest of the challenge next week. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your tips and suggestions for reducing plastic use on a budget. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Do you want to take up the plastic-free challenge and be featured in Good With Money? Then get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org!
Sign up to our weekly newsletter
Get better with money, in every way.