It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you set out with a task to completely change things by cutting out or even just cutting down on plastic. After all, it’s everywhere! Bottles, bags, food packaging, cleaning products, shampoo bottles, make-up and – my current pet peeve – plastic sleeves around gift cards. Our lives seem to be swamped with single-use plastics and it’s hard to break that mould.
Going cold turkey with no single-use plastic might not be feasible or sustainable for everyone. We took on the Marine Conservation Society‘s plastic-free challenge and tried to live without any single-use plastics for all of June. For us, it was an incredible experience; a real eye-opener to how much plastic we had in our lives and how difficult it can be to avoid. This campaign got us started on this path and I hugely recommend it, but it certainly wasn’t easy.
At one point I found myself battling tears of frustration in a supermarket aisle one day. We had run out of toothpaste . I raced into the supermarket ten minutes before it closed, only to realise that this was it – the moment that I was going to fail. I’d been so well-intentioned, worked so hard. There I was carrying my own bags and Tupperware for the deli counter, and yet I felt completely defeated. I was going to have to buy something in plastic packaging.
Yes, I know you can make toothpaste from bicarb, you can buy Euthymol in a metal tube elsewhere and other non-plastic wrapped alternatives online, but I had a work deadline looming, I was running out of time and I just couldn’t see my boys – aged 10, 9 and 7 at the time – playing ball with my homemade attempts. So I bought it.
Don’t get me wrong, there had been other failures along the way and across the family, but this was my first conscious breach of our no single-use plastics challenge month.
Now, I try not to get too down about any failures, but learn from it and try to find a more workable solution for next time and to plan ahead.
And, while I would recommend the Marine Conservation Society‘s plastic-free challenge to everybody, my top tip for reducing plastic over the longer-term is to take it one step at a time. Think of one thing you can change and, once you’ve mastered that, move on to the next.
So, if you want a gentler way to get started, here are five things you can change relatively easily and make a massive difference to plastic waste.