Will-power is probably the most important thing you need if you’re trying to avoid single-use plastics. But it will certainly help if you have a few bits and pieces to hand that will ease your journey.
It might seem ironic to stock up when you’re working to reduce waste and minimise plastic, but I’ve found that it’s almost impossible without a few core essentials.
So what’s in my plastic-free* kit?
Here are some of the things I use on an almost daily basis (pictured above):
Reusable water bottle – As you’ll see from the bright yellow glare in the picture above, mine is most definitely made of plastic, but I’ve had it for ages and it’s still going strong. I don’t want to bin it (recycle) until it’s necessary. When it eventually bites the dust, I’ll choose differently. For now, it has meant that I’ve avoided buying any disposable water bottles since last May and that’s good enough for me!
Coffee cup – A self-confessed caffeine nut, if there’s half a chance for a fancy coffee (or even a less fancy one) on a commute or on the footie side lines, I try to make sure that I’ve got either my ceramic or steel reusable cup with me. No more plastic lined disposables and lids if I can avoid it!
Canvas bags – I’ve become a hoarder of canvas and woven bags, admittedly this is – in part at least – because in the early days I often forgot to travel with them and I had to buy another one to avoid a plastic bag. Now I have a bag of bags in the car and an even bigger pile – including some old plastic bags – stacked up under the sink. You’ll definitely need a few of these if you’re going plastic-free.
Tupperware – Yes it’s plastic – but it’s also one of the best ways of storing food in the fridge or freezer and transporting fresh meat/fish from the shops. My trusty Tupperware is filled up by the fishmonger on Tuesdays and with some meat at a local butcher, deli counter or farm shop at the weekend. I’ve had mine for ages and, so long as I can still find the partner lid for each tub, I’m hoping it will last a good few years longer!
Glass jars – Good old jam and Kilner jars are another failsafe for storage of granola, spices, nuts, seeds, lentils, pasta and more. If you’re lucky enough to live near a whole or bulk foods store, you can often weigh your jars on the way in and fill up on a range of goodies. (I don’t incidentally – mine are mainly used to store herbs, dressings and store cupboard goods). And there is the added bonus that you can see what’s inside… unlike that mystery pot that so many of us seem to have lurking at the back of one or more of our kitchen cupboards!
Beeswax wrap – While I’m an advocate of the age old ‘plate on a bowl’ method for keeping food protected in the fridge, sometimes you need other options or to cover a larger surface area. Beeswax wraps are now readily available online and are a great way of covering food. If you want to cover meat and need something more readily washable – silicone or rubber lids are another option.
Paper sandwich bags – I love these biodegradable paper sandwich bags. Admittedly half the cheese falls out of the kids’ sandwiches, unlike when I used to wrap them in cling film and they were compactly pressed together, but they look so much more appetising and we can live with a bit of grated cheese on the floor. (A winner for the dog!) I use these bags and other brown paper bags for a whole range of food storage, especially when my boys go to sports camps in the half terms and holidays. I also use the same brand of greaseproof paper when cooking and to wrap food.
Flannels – Washing my face used to be a nightly ritual of cotton pads and cleanser, but flannels and a moisturising soap and/or some coconut oil do just as good a job. So make sure you have a few soft cotton flannels you can use and throw in the wash.
Soap – Endless bottles of handwash, shower gel and even shampoo can be replaced by a bar or two of soap. There are some gorgeous-smelling ones on the market – try Lush for choice on the high street and small local retailers for their handmade delights. There are also many independent handmade soap stores online. I love this rosemary and lavender shampoo bar from Wild Sage & Co – the company doesn’t use any plastic in its packaging and I love their moisturisers (balms) too!
Tea towels – From clearing up at least one cup of spilt milk, water or juice a day to wrapping loaves of bread, I’ve become far more reliant on tea towels since avoiding plastic. No disposable wipes and no plastic-wrapped kitchen roll (although I have discovered a great range of kitchen roll in compostable packaging again via the Ethical Superstore). Tea towels or even squares of old bath towels do a great job.
Compostable food caddy liners – Compostable caddy liners are a great replacement for when you find yourself reaching for a plastic bag. I don’t use them regularly, but I do keep a roll to hand for emergencies. I have used them for anything from stocking up on frozen and loose fruit at the shops, to wrapping homemade pizzas in the freezer and bagging up dirty kids’ clothes after a particularly messy dog walk and more.
These are my core essentials, although there are certainly others I could add. The great news is that none of these things cost a fortune and they are all easily accessible – you’ve probably got most in your home already.
Over to you… What are your plastic-free essentials?
*Note: When I talk about going plastic-free, I don’t mean to suggest that we live without any plastic at all. Our approach is to do what we can to cut out single-use plastics and avoid other plastics where possible. This doesn’t mean getting rid of any plastics in our possession – that would likely cause un-necessary waste – or that we don’t incur failures along the way. We certainly do! But it does mean using and re-using any plastic we own and avoiding disposable plastic wherever we can.