Where do you start? What products are easy to substitute with a plastic-free option? This is an account of what I’ve done so far with reducing plastics in my home.
Instead of an organised room-by-room approach I started with what seemed to be easiest, what I could mentally cope with and what my husband wouldn’t complain too much about!
I started with sanitary products since I had been using a Mooncup for over 10 years (no – not the same one!) So I knew how much better that was than buying tampons individually wrapped in bits of plastic, the amount of waste and money it saved. I did however still use sanitary pads at night and the occasional tampon. To cut these out completely I bought some reusable sanitary pads from Cheeky Wipes in lovely bright colours. I then used up any remaining tampons and didn’t buy anymore so I have been using fully washable products for about a year. So my annual spend in this area is £0 – if that doesn’t give you an incentive I don’t know what will 🙂
I have given up removing hair from my body. I don’t really understand the obsession with it and prefer the natural look. However if you are looking for a plastic-free approach there are some great metal razors and separate blades that friends have recommended.
I currently use a salt crystal deodorant which comes in a cardboard box so completely chemical and plastic free. I did use a roll-on deodorant in a glass container for a while as some natural ones I tried irritated my skin. I tried Awake and xx which both work really well but ended up irritating my skin after prolonged use. Fit Pit however was great, smelt nice and in a glass jar. I did make my own but it didn’t work that effectively! One to try again at a later date.
Nappies & wipes
With the children I used cloth nappies, which can be a minefield but are great once you get the correct nappy for you and your baby and are in a routine. Have a look at The Nappy Lady for different types of nappies and advice. I also bought Cheeky Wipes reusable cotton white wipes. I bought these in 2015 and used them on both children. We now use them instead of toilet paper for me and my daughter (for wees).
Also for the children I bought the Cheeky Wipes flannels when we started weaning. As that is a messy time! We still use those today for both children at the table and they are aged 3 and 6 years old. They are great to pack for a picnic or any day out instead of disposable wipes which come in plastic packaging and are made with plastic resins which don’t fully break down.
Some of my choices have been born out of necessity. I just stopped buying kitchen roll one day but hadn’t yet decided what I would replace it with. I had a bundle of muslins lying around that I was going to donate and found that it seemed to do the job. So now we have a stash of old mainly white muslins in our kitchen instead of kitchen roll. I had some Fabric pens and let the kids draw all over the muslins to make them more personal and get them to actually put them on their laps when eating. This was a great activity and they are much more used! I also ran out of cling film and just didn’t buy anymore. I reached for it for a few weeks then forgot and have used either foil, a container or a muslin instead depending on the use and have found that I can make do.
Sticking with the kitchen I bought beeswax wrappers which are used for wrapping food. I have a large one for when I make my own bread and a few smaller ones for half eaten food that’s going back in the fridge or snacks for a trip. I also purchased reusable sandwich wrappers which have material on the outside and plastic on the inside (not sure these are the most eco-friendly to be honest). I bought them from xxx, a small business which uses prisoners to make the items. I put a hole in the plastic the first time I used on of them but actually I still use them and they do a good job of keeping a sandwich together and fresh. My friend has some lovely ones from Ecosnackwrap,co.uk
In my opinion this is the hardest area to tackle. It is so hard to buy the products I want not in plastic. I don’t buy any cans in a pack of four which are wrapped in plastic, instead I pick them all up individually. I don’t buy tonic water for example in a plastic bottle; instead I will buy the cans or a glass bottle. Both of which are far more expensive so I can’t buy them as often. I will buy fruit and vegetables loose as much as I can but some items just aren’t available loose and since I have a very restrictive diet I can’t choose another option. I do try and go to a greengrocer but the one I use is a 30 minute round trip in the car which uses petrol therefore not great for the environment. Our local market in town puts everything in plastic bags and plastic containers so it would mean talking to them and bringing my own containers for everything. This is perfectly achievable but I’m not very good with any kind of confrontation or pushing my values onto other people so I just need to build up the courage to approach it.
We still have toilet paper for poos and for when the wipes are being washed but they are a great way to save buying toilet paper and money. I buy Ecoleaf recycled toilet paper from Ethical Superstore and it comes in a compostable wrapper. I have also used xx from Peace With the Wild.
Toothbrush & paste
I have a subscriptions for the children’s toothbrushes. They are bamboo, fully recyclable and come with a biodegradable wrapper and cardboard so fully recyclable packaging as well. They get sent a new toothbrush every 6 weeks and by the time the new one arrives the old ones do look well chewed! There are a few companies that offer this and I use Bamboo.
I use toothpaste from Ben & Anna which is sensitive and comes in a glass jar. The kids also use my toothpaste as I can’t find a children’s toothpaste that doesn’t come in a plastic tube. I use biodegradable dental floss.
I don’t use shampoo or conditioner – see my article on going shampoo free. Neither do the children. I don’t use shower gel but use soap instead. If you didn’t want to make all these swaps you can use a refill station to just refill your existing bottles.
When we finished our cotton buds I bought bamboo ones instead but will be looking into a metal or wood bud that can be washed for next time.
For body lotion we use coconut oil which comes in a glass tub.
I try to buy all my clothes second-hand and most of the children’s clothes are handed down from family and friends. See my article on how to shop for clothes with the environment in mind.
Take a room-by-room approach to reducing plastic.
Do an inventory of your rooms. Think about where you will start. Where will you get the most ‘quick wins’?
Once you’ve chosen your first room, make a list of all the plastic products. Then you can work through them one by one.