It’s Earth Day 2018 and while it’s a time to celebrate our beautiful planet, it’s also an opportunity to highlight a huge environmental issue.
We hear about it on the radio, we see news reports about it polluting our oceans and we use items made of it almost everyday…
Plastic. It is everywhere.
But thanks (in part) to the success of Blue Planet II, plastic pollution in the world’s oceans has now become a major environmental concern.
Turtles caught in fishing nets, seabirds digesting plastic bags and whales poisoned to death by plastic particles.
We simply can’t ignore it…it’s a lot worse than we all thought.
The good news is that the shock factor has had some positive impact. All over the world, it seems as though people and businesses have finally started moving towards plastic free alternatives.
Even major festival organisers are encouraging reusable food and drink materials for their guests and are open to new thoughts about managing plastic waste.
We seem to finally be heading in a positive direction on a mass scale.
The question I asked myself was: “What can I do, as one person, to make a difference?”
So I came up with this guide to plastic-free living and the amazing range of eco-friendly products out there.
You’re on a night out, waiting at the bar for your cocktail and when it’s finally placed in front of you, there is literally SEVEN straws in your glass. Why?
We use them for a couple of minutes in most cases and yet research predicts they take 200 years to break down.
Plus, most of us only drink from one straw, right?
Of course, not all straws end up in the ocean (or on the floor) but half of the battle is tackling the demand for single-use plastic items.
Surely, if everyone reduced their dependency on plastic then we wouldn’t get as much waste product and (fingers crossed) it wouldn’t continue to pollute our planet?
Well… some of us may not have a choice in the matter. The government are now proposing to ban plastic straws in England to cut down on plastic waste. This is a massive positive shift.
But in the mean time, whenever you’re out for a meal or cocktails, why not try asking for your drinks plastic free?
Or when you’re next out shopping, swap a pack of plastic straws for biodegradable ones.
These small acts may seem (to some) like a drop in the ocean (pun totally intended there) but it means that one less person adds to the mountain of plastic being thrown away every day.
And believe me, you’re not alone in your efforts. It WILL make a difference.
2. Eco-friendly alternatives to cling film and plastic bags
They may not be everywhere (at the moment) but reusable, eco-friendly food wraps are on the up!
Instead of reaching for the cling film or foil, try out a sandwich wrap. Made from cotton and a washable lining, you can reuse it again and again (and not just for sandwiches.)
Or when you need to cover the leftovers in the fridge, try using some food wrap. It’s usually made from a combination of organic cotton and beeswax which is great for keeping food fresh and gripping round bowls or tubs.
Want to use it again? Just rinse it with warm water and wash with mild soap and you’re good to go.
Another way to reduce your single-use plastic consumption starts with your local shop or supermarket.
Most of us at one time have used plastic bags to hold fresh fruit and veg or nuts/seeds, right? When used on a mass scale, these small bags are contributing to the single-use plastic problem.
Canvas or reusable mesh bags can do the job just as well and help to reduce your carbon footprint when shopping. The hardest part is remembering to take them with you…
3. Carry a reusable water bottle or reusable coffee cup
The great thing about this tip is that you don’t even have to buy two separate containers for your drinks.
For a relatively small expense, you can get your hands on a good quality flask that can keep your coffee hot or your water ice cold.
A lot of disposable hot drink cups, even though seemingly made from cardboard, can be deceiving and are often not as recyclable as everyone thinks.
If you’re a lover of ‘on the go’ coffee, it’s also becoming really easy to use a reusable cup. Most coffee chains are actually encouraging it…
Just a few months ago, Starbucks began a three-month coffee cup charge trial across 35 London branches. Known as the “Latte Levy”, customers are being charged an extra 5p for using disposable cups.
In January, Pret A Manger doubled the discount for customers using reusable cups in an effort to reduce waste.
Some great reusable coffee cup brands include:
While it may be slow, stories like these prove that change is happening.
4. Remember your reusable shopping bags!
I feel like I’m running an advertisement on the side of a bus with this one but I will openly admit that it’s easy to forget.
I always carry around a small, foldable shopping bag and I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve used it.
Without it, I’d have no choice but to purchase 5p plastic bags (which get stuffed in the cupboard never to be seen again.) The next time I go shopping, I forget said plastic bags and have to buy more…
So…the unnecessary circle of plastic use keeps turning.
The introduction of the 5p bag charge has undoubtedly helped cut down on the amount of plastic bag waste in the UK.
But I believe it now takes that extra bit of effort from all of us to keep the reusable lifestyle going.
Do we really need a small paper bag with our lunch? Or the plastic bag for our take-away?
The decision to help in the fight against unnecessary waste is in the every day things and your weekly/monthly shop is a great starting point.
5. Go plastic free with your beauty/sanitary products
This one is not just for the ladies!
Have you ever wondered how much plastic goes into making cotton buds, toothpicks and toothbrushes?
Or how much plastic and toxic waste comes from tampons, panty liners and sanitary pads? According to the Women’s Environmental Network, these sanitary products alone produce more than 200,000 tons of waste per year.
The current crisis in our oceans is one clear sign that plastic is not the way forward. Luckily, there are loads of environmentally-friendly products out there which can turn any bathroom into a plastic-free paradise.
Mooncup is an eco-friendly alternative to tampons and sanitary pads. Fancy spending less on sanitary products each month? It can save you money too as it’s reusable and made to last for years.
Bamboo toothbrushes are now widely available online. Organic, sustainable and biodegradable, these earth-friendly brushes are a fantastic alternative to the everyday plastic toothbrush. Some even have BPA free bristles which is an added bonus!
Now for my favourite find…
Surfers Against Sewage are now selling bamboo cotton buds! For just £2.50, you can grab yourself a recycled box of 100% plastic free and biodegradable cotton buds. What a fantastic alternative!
So it just goes to show that a life without so much plastic IS possible. In the not so distant future, I hope our dependency on this toxic stuff can be greatly cut down.
With a little bit of hard work from everyone, we could be looking at a totally different Earth Day in 2019.
Happy Earth Day everyone! Keep up the fight for our oceans, our wildlife and our beautiful planet.