Depending on the people you hang out with, you may be aware of a growing movement for a low waste/zero waste/plastic-free life. I can’t remember when I first heard of the concept, but it very quickly wheedled into my brain and has slowly been changing the way I live day-to-day.
The great thing about trying to live with less waste, is that it really isn’t that hard. You can change as little or as much as you feel inclined to, and every little change is still helping. One less coffee cup thrown in the bin may not feel like it’s worth the effort to you, but if every office worker in America refuses one take-away coffee cup a year? 124.73 million cups saved. Doesn’t that make you feel a little better? It certainly give me hope. So without further ado – 5 steps I took to change the world!
I live in Melbourne. This means that there is more caffeine in my veins than red blood cells-FACT. We Melburnians take coffee very seriously (perhaps too seriously?) In fact, apparently Australians go through approx 50,000 coffee cups every 30 minutes and I can guarantee that I see at least 80% of those clutched in the hands of office workers in the Melbourne CBD . When you think that every one of those cups comes with a plastic lid & a polyethylene-coated paper body, that’s a serious chunk of plastic that can be easily avoided. To combat all that wastage, I now compliment my coffee habit with this sassy lady:
Keepcup was my choice because it was easily accessible for me, I could customise every piece of it, and replacement parts are cheaply available if I need them. They have fun releases like this Star Wars series that I’ve been trying to resist. My Keepcup apparently breaks even with disposable cups after 15 uses and is completely recyclable at the end of it’s life. Also, just try and tell me that this isn’t the prettiest cup you ever did see.
Like any change, making this swap should be about what works for YOU so have a look around at what others are using. My little sis has a collapsible cup that I handed off to her after it drove me crazy and she won’t leave the house without it. If you’re going to be using your new world-friendly alternative, you had better make sure it’s one that brings you joy every. freaking. day.
2. Plastic bags
We’ve all heard this one- the plastic bag is one of the easiest swaps and can have a huge impact. In fact, there are a number of countries and towns that now tax plastic bag usage or ban them entirely. Most people stop at swapping out the plastic bags used to haul their shopping in from the car, but you’re about to become so much cooler than that! How about refusing all of those smaller bags you use to pick up your produce? Or that paper bag your daily sandwhich comes in? Meet your new eco-best friends:
Onya Bags are what I use to replace all of those incidental plastics that you come across, but you can find alternatives anywhere. I initially went with Onya Bags when I found them in an online eco store in Australia, but there are tons of options. If you’re located outside of Australia, then why not grab some of these? Or why not grab some cheesecloth & make your own?
The trick with this swap is to make sure you always have a bag or two handy. Produce bags are super-light and compress down to nothing, so you won’t even notice that one floating around in the bottom of your bag (until you need it. Then you’re an eco-WARRIOR).
I combine mine with one of these amazing bags, which I use for completely hedonistic purchases like fresh pastries or baked bread. Because you know what’s nicer than eating your croissant from a crinkly paper bag? Smugly handing over your soft, creamy cotton bag and enjoying every single flaky bite, feeling like you’re on the banks of the freaking Seine. I always recommend Lizzie’s Bags in particular because she works with women in Mumbai to provide employment, and they’re soft & light enough that it’s easy to forget you’re carrying it (again, until you’re an ECO-WARRIOR. See above).
3. Water Bottles
You don’t need me for this one. Find a bottle that’s not made of plastic. If you’re like me and you’re always leaving your bottles at home, buy three and keep them everywhere you need them. When you need water, fill & drink. Repeat as needed. Plastic schmastic.
4. Sanitary Products
Lady moment here. If you have your period regularly, that shiz will get expensive. And inconvenient. And you know what else it is? Really ferdydurking wasteful. We’ve been conditioned not to talk about any of this (unless it’s laughing with our besties in our tight white jeans while trying to sell these products to others), so it’s understandable if you’re a little squeamish about this conversion. It took me a while to take the first tentative steps, and to be honest? I would really rather not be talking about it right now either. But I will, because I love you, and just like anything, once you get the change over and done with, it really ain’t so bad. Right, here we go.
Yes, after years of grabbing your product of choice and just gettingitoverwith these might take a bit of getting used to. But you know what? Once you get the hang of using one of these babies, it’s kind of great. No more desperate dashes to the 7-11 to buy tampons and then ANYTHING ELSE so tampons aren’t the only thing you’re buying. No more finding those random lone soldiers in every single handbag you own. No more having to figure out what you do if the toilet cubicle you’re in doesn’t have a bin and it’s change time. Just use-wash-disinfect-tuck away for another month.
Yes, you probably had a moment of sticker shock (it costs HOW much??) but if you factor in how much you pay every month and the fact that you can use this bad boy (bad lady?) for several years at least, your bank balance is still going to come out on top. Take a deep breath, make a cup of tea, do the googles. Your body (and your bank balance, AND your earth) will thank you for it.
5. Food Wraps
We live a busy lifestyle these days, there’s no denying it. If you’re *ahem* ‘fiscally aware’ like me, then that probably means that you prep & eat one or more of your meals on the go most days. If you’ve thoughtfully prepared a sandwhich/slice/mystery deliciousness (please let me know your mystery deliciousness) then you’ll probably wrap it in some clingfilm/saran wrap/gladwrap or tinfoil and feel pretty proud of yourself. But what happens to the waste when that meal finishes? Let me introduce: Beeswax Wraps
Through some sheer magic these wraps bind to themselves for a tight seal, keep your food fresher for longer than standard wraps, clean up like a dream and smell freaking amazing. They are usually also made of organic cotton, which means at the end of their life they can be tossed into the compost with the rest of your scraps. Literally any situation where you would use normal food wrap, you can use these babies. Because they’re stiffer than your standard wraps, you can even get creative and use them in even more situations! Again, these feel like a pricey investment when you’re getting set up, but it’s one that means you’ll never have to buy wrap ever again.
This is an Abbie-specific swap. I was actually tentative about including this in the list because it’s not really in line with the plastic-free lifestyle and it’s really also me admitting that I’ve been sucked into some crazy first world luxury that I should be able to do without. But you know what? While a completely zero-waste lifestyle might appear to some, I think most people are more interested in the changes they can make to be kinder to the earth without forgoing the life they’ve worked hard to live. So that being said, meet one of my greatest plastic-producing vices.
That’s right. Sparkling water. Not even soda- just freaking fizzy feelgood. I love it. I could drink a liter of this stuff without any problems. Only there is a problem – unless you go for the super expensive designer brands, the only way to purchase sparkling water is from your local plastic-filled soft drink aisle. And so I got to thinking about how I could maintain my fizzy habit without having to eyeball those plastic bottles in my recycling every week. It took a bit of time but eventually I put on my big girl pants, smacked down my inner Scrooge, and purchased one of these bad boys:
And I love it. It’s yellow! And I can fizz to my hearts content. You can practically see the angel song shining out of it. AAHHHHHHHHHH
The empty cylinders are swapped out to be refilled and I have unlimited sparkling water with zero plastics (aside from the refillable bottle, which I will upgrade to glass when it’s time to replace).
You might not care about ENDLESS FIZZY WATER so this swap probably won’t make much sense to you- but what do you care about? If you looked through your rubbish, what plastic items would you see again & again? And how could you swap those out if you really had to? Have a think, and then let me know. I would love to hear your suggestions!