Update: as of last year (September 2015) I invested in some produce bags. I find them much better, as a) since they are reusable, no waste is generated (even if the BioBags are compostable!) b) I find them much sturdier, so I can use them for pasta/nuts/produce/rice etc – basically anything!! Here’s a picture, one filled with some salad and the other stretched out so you can see the size:
If you’re shopping at a regular grocery store where you’ll get stickers for products weighed, stick them either directly onto the bag, onto another item in your cart (e.g. your box of pasta) or a piece of scrap paper for recycling.
- While I was still living in Scotland, I used to get a VegBox! What is this strange word, you may ask? A box of seasonal vegetables from local farmers ready to pick up every week! What’s tastier than locally grown organic food?
- If you can’t get a vegetable distribution scheme, don’t fret! Depending on where you live, farms are not always nearby. You can still shop zero waste at a regular grocery store! Just use your produce bags!
When I was still living in Fife, I joined ‘Fife Diet’, a government initiative to encourage eating locally. They send recipe books for what grows seasonally in Fife – all for free! They have suggestions on how to eat locally, then a year round guide, and a recipe book every season. It’s awesome! See if they have something like this in your local community.
I mentioned the grocery bags issue in my condensed guide. Cut out these and plastic bottles and that’s a huge reduction in your plastic footprint.
- I carry a small cotton bag with me everywhere I go in case for on-the-go purchases:
- And then I have large three cotton bags that I use for grocery shopping and for general carrying needs. It’s a super simple change that will dramatically alter the amount of plastic you use. So worth it!
Totally underrated, is all I’ll say! Plus tissues produce lots of waste. You can make tons of handkerchiefs out of old clothes that are too ratty to donate – may sound a little hippy chick, but I’ve been getting on fine!
This unfortunately falls under frozen foods, which I haven’t purchased in long time. However, my flatmate makes the most wonderful homemade icecream. For those of you who don’t have amazing chefs for roommates, I recommend trying it yourself – it’s a fun activity and super tasty!!
This is an easy one to fix! I used to buy a paper bag of washing powder from Oxfam’s line of biodegradable and natural household products – super great and easy to use. I also recently found a small line of laundry detergent bags that use all natural products to clean and are packaged within compostable bags.
Some bulk stores also allow you to buy laundry liquid in bulk!! (Which is what I’ve been doing for the last 2-ish years).
Make up Remover
- Use a wash cloth – wet it, rub off make up. Rinse, repeat, wash regularly.
- For harder stuff like waterproof mascara: apparently this is a miracle item: make-up remover cloths. I bought some from a small local shop made from organic cotton. Watch out for the Sephora one as it’s made from polyester and will lead to microfibres being released into the water!
- Go vegan – !!!!!!!!
- Bring your own container – and go down to your local butcher’s.
This is also a hard one, because medicine has been totally revolutionized by the invention of plastic. I need my plastic inhalers, and any other medicine I use is all packaged in plastic. I will say that since I started this project, I’ve stopped using cold medicines, which rarely do anything, and instead when I feel sick I just rely on hot water with honey that I buy from the local farmers market and lemon. That usually does the trick!
The average woman will apparently go through over 11,000 tampons in her lifetime! That’s wild. Not only are they packaged in plastic and will end up in a landfill after use, they can create dryness and cause irritation where you least want those two things! What’s that? There’s a convenient and easy-to-use zero-waste option?
I bought a MoonCup about 4 years ago, and my only regret is that I didn’t start using it sooner. It takes a couple of tries to get used to (but so did the other options when we first started using them as young women!) but I’m so happy with it. Not only is it zero waste (menstrual cups only need to be replaced every 10 years) but it’s way more comfortable and convenient. It is cleaned either through sterilising fluid or through boiling the cup for about 5 minutes in an open pan. It’s also WAY cheaper than tampons & sanitary pads in the long run. Just try it!
- JUST SAY NO to these unnecessary environmental burdens. Found in cosmetic skin care products, toothpastes, deodorants, nailpolish…. etc etc
- Look for polyethlyene or polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethlyl methacrylate (PMMA) or nylon in the ingredients list.
- Download the Beat the Microbead app developed by Plastic Soup Foundation and the North Sea Foundation.
Did you know that 15% of the price of your products covers the cost of packaging? You can save money and do good by your planet by saying no to plastic. For example, when choosing your salad for dinner:
Permanent coffee cup
I mentioned this in my condensed plastic-free guide, but this is truly one of the biggest things I can recommend! It makes such a difference and it really breaks my heart to see coffee cups in the trash when they are used for about 15 minutes. Plus, it looks cool AND offers you discounts in most coffee shops. Win-win!
To be honest, most of my plastic free life has just come down to this! Planning is key when you’re trying to remove yourself from the immediate convenience of plastic. It takes some while to get used to, but soon becomes second nature!
Shampoo and soap and conditioner
- Solid shampoo: One of the best decisions I’ve made in this project is giving up bottled shampoo. Solid shampoo is becoming more and more popular, and rightly so! Not only is solid shampoo a great alternative for our planet (these bars are sold “naked”, meaning without packaging) but they are great value! So my hair is looking healthy, my wallet is happy, and I’m feeling good about my preservative and packaging free product!
I recommend the LUSH bars – I love this company and the steps they’ve taken to encourage sustainability in their market. I ordered these products online and they arrived with limited packaging, apart from the compostable cellulose wrapper for my conditioner and biodegradable packaging peanuts (made from potato)! As for my recommendations, I’ve had awesome results with these bars:
NEW: https://www.lush.co.uk/product/301/New-Solid-Shampoo-Bar – this is the one I am currently using! It smells like cinammon and reminds me of Christmas!
SQUEAKY GREEN: https://www.lush.co.uk/product/372/Squeaky-Green-Solid-Shampoo-Bar
JUNGLE (conditioner): https://www.lush.co.uk/product/241/Jungle-Solid-Conditioner
BIG (conditioner): https://www.lush.co.uk/product/6024/100g-Big-Solid-Conditioner
Here is some information on their Plastic Disclosure Project, a project that LUSH supports in order to request that companies take ownership of their plastic waste and develop ways to use plastic in a way that does not have a negative impact on the environment: https://www.lush.co.uk/content/view/5205
https://www.lush.co.uk/content/view/994 Things to know about solid shampoo
- No “poo” method – By no “poo” I obviously mean “no shampoo”! I’ve read TONS about this but honestly I have been too scared to try it. (I know, I know, it’s on my list). The idea behind this is to wash your hair with chemical-free alternatives like apple cider vinegar and baking soda combos. Will try it and report back. Until then, here’s more info: https://www.nopoomethod.com/
- Bulk buy – you can also bulk buy shampoo at certain bulk stores. If you have a product you can’t live without, buy in larger sizes (e.g.a 1L bottle) so you’re not constantly buying new plastic every few months.
Shower gel is whack. Regular soap will do you just fine. As a friend recently mentioned to me, make sure to check that it is free from palm oil.
Plastic packaging of snacks is all about convenience. With a little advance planning, you can have tons of great and nutritious snacks with no plastic packaging! I recommend having a few things of Tupperware (which I had lying around the house before I began my project) that you can bring out with you. For example, I often cut carrots and place them in my Tupperware as a snack I can bring around with me!
Just refuse them! How much energy and how many resources were used to create this tiny piece of plastic that you’ll throw away 15 minutes after you receive your drink? Most drinks don’t need a straw anyways, but if you really feel like you’ll need one, you can buy permanent glass or steel ones that you can keep in your purse when you go out.
Ah. This is a tricky one. I actually found some ‘toothy tabs’ at LUSH that allow you to chew on these little tabs that come in recyclable cardboard to reduce packaging, but I must admit, I didn’t like them as much as the conventional toothpaste I’ve come to know and love. (Soorryyy). I made toothpaste an exception for myself when I began this project, and though I am conflicted about that decision, I have a weird thing about teeth and so as of yet I’m not willing to give up conventional toothpaste. The only thing I can recommend is avoid microbeads. (See above).
Water was not a big change for me in this project – I’ve used my canteen for several years and I don’t intend to stop! Carrying a canteen is an easy way to massively eliminate your plastic footprint as I mentioned in my condensed guide. You can get tons of different types and sizes and just pop it in your bag whenever you leave the house.
Again, I’m relying on one of my favourite companies – Lush! They sell wonderful colourful scarf-type things that you can tie in different ways around gifts in order to reduce our waste from wrapping. I’ve always found it upsetting to see how much wrapping paper is thrown away every major holiday and birthday, and this is the perfect solution. When you buy the knot wrap, Lush gives different instructions on how to wrap it into different shapes. Awesome!
rowan orrePosted at 07:17h, 11 October
I have recently discovered this website: http://www.mommypotamus.com/
I have started using one of the deodorant recipes – it is dead easy (just mix three easy to find ingredients – I recommend using a pastry). A friend who works out a lot said this is the best deodorant she ever used:
I also like the toothpaste recipe, I just made up the tooth powder recipe and added a tiny bit of water to make a paste/ It is a bit of an investment at first but the ingredients last and it is really easy:
thank you for your time
Alexis McGivernPosted at 08:27h, 11 October
Oh wow! Thank you so much for these links and recipes. I will definitely try these all 🙂 Thank you!!!
rowan orrePosted at 13:50h, 05 July
Sorry – I meant to write “use a pastry cutter (u-shaped wire tool)” to mix coconut oil into the baking soda/arrowroot for the deodorant recipe.
petitplatPosted at 13:59h, 02 November
I honestly think the best is not to be perfect but to aim at it. If conventional toothpaste is something you don’t want to give up, that’s fine. There’s always something that is too comfortable to use and that you don’t want to give up.
The key is to make better and more informed choices, but it also needs to be bearable so you’ll stick to it.
All your choices and you general lifestyle is awesome and very inspiring, and I find that much more valuable!
Alexis McGivernPosted at 14:44h, 02 November
Wow!! Thank you so much for this comment. I absolutely and totally agree – you put it perfectly.
Ella MoltenoPosted at 05:35h, 11 November
Hey! I love what you’re promoting and am trying to live a more rubbishless life, I would just like to recommend menstrual cups, if you’re not already using one they last for ten years, are reasonably cheap (depending on where you live) and they eliminate all rubbish and plastic from disposable products. 🙂 I really really really really really recommend it, I love mine. 🙂
Alexis McGivernPosted at 08:08h, 11 November
Hey Ella! Thanks so much for your comment. I got mine about 4 years ago and I absolutely love it as well! I’ll have to add it to the list. 🙂
BelindaPosted at 04:59h, 07 December
This is an awesome post! I would love to move towards a waste-free lifestyle and I’m glad you posted something so comprehensive that I can use as a sort of guideline and cheatbook to get me where I need to be.
I’ve already got the reusable water bottle down for my plane rides and BYOB at the farmer’s market! Still have a long way to go haha
Alexis McGivernPosted at 08:20h, 07 December
Hey Belinda! Thanks so much for your lovely comment. Love that you’ve got that reusable bottle already! Just adopt the easy changes first and the rest will fall into place 🙂 Good luck and please feel free to comment with any questions or issues you have!
Kai'a BellamyPosted at 18:06h, 18 January
I buy ‘truthpaste’ from here, it comes in a lovely little glass jar that can be reused or recycled after use. It is also free from all the regular ‘nasties’ that are in most conventional toothpaste, and one jar has lasted me over 6 months so far and I’ve still got about 1/3 left!
Boobalou is a great site in general and it gives you the option to have plastic free packaging so everything comes in a cardboard box with scrunched up paper to protect it 🙂
Kai'a BellamyPosted at 18:07h, 18 January
(didn’t put the website up first time for some reason!)
Alexis McGivernPosted at 08:24h, 15 March
That’s awesome! Thanks Kai’a!
rowan orrePosted at 13:55h, 05 July
Regarding clothing – when buying new – remember nylon, acrylic, polyester, etc are all other names for plastic. PS – I jsut got some bamboo dental floss but am considering getting so peace silk fabric to try that (it is easy to unravel fabric and absolutely no packaging).
Alexis McGivernPosted at 15:03h, 05 July
Yes – very true. I’ll update that! I’ve not tried silk fabric – if you get it, let me know what you think of it!
Jo WeeksPosted at 18:59h, 10 January
Thank you for this list. I have recently had my eyes open to the plastic waste everywhere. Despite being a recycler for about 40 years, I hadn’t really appreciated how useless much plastic recycling is. Anyway, not now. Thanks again. (PS How did you get on with the guppy bag?)
Alexis McGivernPosted at 16:50h, 12 January
Hey Jo! Thanks for your comment. Recycling is definitely better than nothing, but it’s sadly been pushed so much as the perfect solution when in fact it’s not! Much better to reduce at source and try to wean ourselves off of plastic.
Guppy Friend is great! So easy to use and happy that I have a solution to a problem that had been bugging me for ages but that I had no real solution to. Cheers again and thanks for visiting the site 🙂
LaurencePosted at 10:17h, 21 March
Lots of great tips Alexis! I’ve published a similar guide to using less plastic here if you’d like to check it out: https://naturaler.co.uk/how-to-use-less-plastic/
Alexis McGivernPosted at 23:49h, 28 April
Awesome stuff, Laurence! Thanks for sharing 🙂