Hi, Alice here!
Earlier last year, I shared my progress so far on my plastic free new years resolution. A year on, I wanted to reflect on the successes and challenges of the undertaking, my top tips, and my wishes for 2019 when we will be joined by a tiny new member of the family!
I've listed the links to all my favourite products below.
First up, the quick wins!
These are the things I think anyone could achieve with minimal effort; and really there's no excuse not to. Most of these will save you money, too.
Reusing "the big five". Once you make the initial outlay, you save yourself time and money as well as the environment! Plus you get that warm fuzzy feeling. My rucksack is now never without my water bottle, reusable cup, a fork, and a metal straw.
Buy loose and bring your own produce bags. Scrap the flimsy plastic things from the supermarket and invest in a couple of organic cotton mesh bags to contain flyaway onions.
Get milk delivered. The glass bottles are re-used an average of 25 times and are delivered in electric vehicles. It costs slightly more, but no more than you'll save by doing the other tips! We use Milk and More, who also do juice in glass bottles.
Switch up your bathroom products. I'm really pleased our bathroom is now almost entirely plastic free. Solid shampoo, bars of soap and a bamboo safety razor. You'll just need a nice soap dish to stop your products getting gunky! We like Lush, Wild Sage and Co and Happy Holistics. The safety razor really scared me at first, but it's a great shave.
Take a second to think before you grab. Instead of getting that shrink-wrapped 4-pack of baked beans, could you get individual tins? Likelihood is that you will just unwrap them into your cupboard as soon as you get home. Could you buy a bigger packet of things like pasta and rice, knowing you'll get through it eventually?
Next up - the hard wins.
These took time and effort, but totally worth it, if you're willing to invest!
Making your own. Our hand-me-down bread machine served us well until it broke! I also regularly made fajita wraps, pita breads and pastry by hand. Not only plastic-free, but also palm-oil free.
Growing your own. We ended up with a glut of courgettes, cherry tomatoes and chillies which got us through the summer without having to buy plastic-wrapped produce. We've even got dozens of chillies and courgettes frozen to get us through the winter! It was great fun and next year we hope to diversify to peas, squashes, root veg and fruit.
Avoiding "unavoidable" plastic packaging. For items such as pasta, rice and dried fruit and nuts, we bought some produce online from the Plastic Free Pantry, which comes in (truly) compostable packaging. This was more expensive, though, and required more planning to make the delivery cost worth it.
Buying second hand. Not only to avoid packaging, but to avoid the excessive damage to the environment from producing textiles and goods. It takes effort to scour the shops, but I do enjoy it - and you can get some real gems. For instance, we managed to snag a beautiful barely-used pair of sofas from BHF for less than £200 each.
For ladies, a menstrual cup. Intimidating to start with but actually very comfortable and overall a more pleasant monthly experience. And, you'll never be caught short running out of tampons!
Be creative with what you've got. We've used bread bags as bathroom bin bags and instead of freezer bags; and we've switched from kitchen towel to using scraps of fabric which we had lying about from past crafting activities. So spend a bit of time with your thinking cap on!
Activism! It takes time (and a bit of guts) but aside from making personal changes, it is really important to rally corporations and businesses to get their acts together.
I have emailed all the major supermarkets, and regularly send firm emails to companies when I come upon pointless packaging. I've also written to my MP. Attending events, signing petitions and going on marches are all great ways to make your voice heard.
And of course, the failures (unfortunately not an exhaustive list):
Toothpaste. I spent a long time searching for toothpaste that still contains fluroide and had no luck at all. I've recently discovered Denttabs, which I would like to try!
Deodorant. I tried a few unpackaged bars, but the bicarbonate base irrated my skin so I have had to stick to a plastic one for now.
Getting caught out for lunch. I tried very hard to make myself packed lunches, but when you forget, your options for something quick, nutritious and plastic-free up in town are severely limited, which was very frustrating. At least I never needed plastic cutlery thanks to having my trusty fork in my bag at all times!
Specialist diets. Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes recently during my pregnancy was a real hit to our plastic free journey. My diet became considerably limited and the plastic free food alternatives are seriously lacking for specialist diets. Obviously you can't compromise your health, and it did make me realise how difficult it must be for those with allergies and dietary requirements to be low-waste. This is where we need organisations to step up their game, as it becomes impossible for consumers to do it themselves!
So, what next?
We are expecting a baby in January, and so next years' challenge - aside from learning how to keep a small human alive - will be trying to do so in a sustainable way!
Obviously we are going to cut ourselves some slack, but we have high hopes for using cloth nappies and reusable baby wipes. In preparation for her arrival, we've also bought a lot of the baby essentials second-hand.
I look forward to updating you all on how our sustainable parenting journey is going!
My favourite products from this year: