Sustainable Living with Alicia!
Plastic-free July is upon us and we couldn’t be more excited to share these 13 tips to reduce waste this summer with you. We’ll obviously take a look at some key ways to get your plastic consumption down, but also throw in some other awesome ideas for waste reduction in general over the summer period and in the new normal that the pandemic has created.
Plastic Free July is a wonderful campaign that happens globally every year. It was established to motivate and encourage people all over the world to reduce single-use plastic in their daily lives. What makes it one of my favorite initiatives is that it actually works! A report released in 2019 estimated that the 250 million people who participated in Plastic Free July that year managed to reduce 825 million kg of plastic waste combined. That’s an astonishing amount, and one they should be proud of.
So how do we do our bit to contribute to this? We’ll never tell you it’s about doing everything perfectly. Instead, it’s about everyone acting together, imperfectly, which is going to bring about monumental change. Let’s look at these 13 tips.
1. Bathroom Tricks
If you’re sustainably-minded, you’ve probably been served ads on your social media accounts for bamboo toothbrushes. If not...the day is coming. Why not switch out your plastic toothbrush for one of these naturally antimicrobial, and biodegradable toothbrush options? Personally, I love how they look too, you can find all different colored bristles so the family can distinguish whos is whos in the lineup.
Another easy switch (which actually saves you money in the long run too) is to swap out your disposable razors for reusable ones instead. You can pair them up with eco-friendly shaving soap and they give you a really smooth finish that’s efficient and effective.
Home projects sky-rocketed in the early phases of the pandemic. Everybody jumped on the arts and crafts bandwagon and discovered how much fun it could be. For your next project why not try making yourself some toiletries such as natural deodorants, hair masks, body lotions, hand soap, toothpaste, and hair wash. It’s great fun and can be done with the kids as an afternoon activity.
2. Cloth Handkerchiefs
Instead of using tissue paper for your children’s sneezes, you could use a good old-fashioned handkerchief. Handkerchiefs have gotten a bad rep over the years but they are much less messy than advertised and using them instead of paper tissues has a massive impact on the environment. Need more convincing? They are also much better for the skin and don’t contain the chemicals that are often found in paper tissues.
3. Cut down your shower time
This might be one of our easiest tips to implement - it’s really not hard at all and something you can work at improving with each shower. A top tip would be to start by setting yourself an alarm for 5-7 minutes in the beginning until you get used to taking shorter showers.
4. Reusable Bags
In light of COVID-19, a number of stores have taken some precautions which aren’t helping the overall plastic waste reduction efforts…(for example, getting rid of reusable bags and bulk bins to prevent cross-contamination) but we can work with this and still make an impact.
We definitely don’t need plastic bags to store our produce. Mesh bags and cloth bags are getting more and more popular because they are light and easy to carry around. It makes swapping to them a non-brainer.
You could also use reusable cloth bags for your kid's snacks instead of plastic ziplock bags. Make sure you get the ones with a waterproof liner and that is BPA-free.
If your favorite store has a ban on reusable bags during the pandemic - have your produce lose in your basket and just bag up in the car- doing your bit to stop the spread of the virus whilst also looking after our environment. Win-win.
5. Buy in Bulk
This one might be easier after the pandemic, so keep an eye out for when your store has bulk option buying available again. When you can, take small cloth bags with you (to avoid plastic ones) and later transfer your products to a glass jar. This is great for things like nuts, seeds, cereal, etc.
Bulk buying out of packet items will save you money too as prepackaged products are always more expensive - even in bulk.
6. Biodegradable Cleaning Products and Detergents
Cleaning product packaging is an obvious way to make a change by picking products with recycled packaging or avoiding using plastic.
Another way to reduce waste here is to look at the ingredients your cleaning products are made from. Most cleaning products have an extensive list of harsh chemicals that can pollute rivers, groundwater, and have numerous impacts on the health of you and your family.
So, when buying your cleaning products, make sure to check the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for their ratings - they have a handy app to make this possible on the go. All AspenClean Natural Cleaning products are rated with A’s by the EWG and most of them are EWG Verified.
7. Cloth Napkins
Bring the fancy dinner guest in you out to play every day. Cloth napkins aren’t just for fine dining, you can carry small ones around with you and have larger ones at home to avoid using (and having to buy) paper napkins.
8. Start Composting
I know a few people have been skeptical about having a compost bag in their kitchen because of the potential smells… try putting it in the freezer. This is a life hack I found a few years ago - not only does it prevent odors while you fill-up the biodegradable bag, but it’s hidden from your kitchen view on a day-to-day basis.
9. Wear a reusable cloth mask
Love them or hate, masks are part of our everyday lives at the moment but sadly the increased use has negatively impacted the amount of plastic in our waste streams.
There are some places in society that need to have single-use masks - for example in hospitals. However, most of us can absolutely use cloth masks and just wash them on a regular basis - don't forget to use natural laundry detergent for that.
If you’re not using cloth masks at the moment you’ll be able to find them in most supermarkets but also in a lot of fashion brand stores if you’d like something more stylish.
10. Know what's recyclable in your area
It might seem like buying products with ‘recyclable’ written on the label is a great move. It’s a step in the right direction for sure, but sometimes we need to go a step further.
Depending on your area, the local council/government might not have the facilities to recycle everything thrown their way. For example, if you have plastic film or a plastic box most places would do better with the plastic box coming to them as more recycling centers are equipped to process those kinds of plastics.
In order to find out what can be recycled, contact your local authority, they’ll be able to give you insight, so that you don't make any recycling mistakes. You can refresh your recycling knowledge here.
11. Buying Local
Buying locally reduces the amount of plastic in your grocery shopping and at the same time reduces your carbon footprint because of reduced transportation needs associated with larger providers getting supplies out to many locations.
At the Butchers
When you’re buying meat from the local butcher, take some beeswax wraps along with you and ask them to use those instead of plastic. Most will be happy to oblige and if you use the same local butcher each time, they’ll get used to you.
At the restaurants
The pandemic has increased the number of takeout's being ordered from local restaurants. Many of these restaurants will include plastic cutlery… ask yourself if you really need this. If you can use your own cutlery say no to the single-use stuff and just let the restaurant know that they don’t need to include it in your order.
At the coffee shop
When you’re getting your daily fix to consider taking a reusable coffee cup, it means you’re avoiding using disposable cups that go straight to the landfills. It might feel awkward at first, but you’ll get used to it, trust me.
12. Summer Treats
Plastic Free July is the perfect opportunity to mix up your ice cream delivery style. Switch out a disposable cup/bowl and plastic spoon for a cone and make your own popsicles with reusable sticks.
13. Heat Reduction
Another type of waste we can reduce in the summer is heat. There are a number of ways you can reduce the amount of heat you and your family are emitting into the environment. For example; draw the blinds in the hottest part of the day to stop your house from warming up, turn off any lights or electrics you're not using, and switch to LED bulbs indoors because they use far less energy and emit up to half as much heat as a regular bulb.
So that’s 13 tips to reduce waste this summer to kick start your Plastic Free July. Remember, it’s not about doing everything all at once and perfectly, it’s about making positive changes in the right direction.
We’d love to hear about your Plastic Free July successes - tag us on social media with your achievements!