Here we are, two years on (and more) into our attempt at plastic-free living and I’ve had a moment this week to look back and think about what’s changed over that time.
Most importantly, we’re still attempting to live without single-use plastic free and I’d say we’re about 90% there. But, two years into that journey, we’ve got a better sense of what has worked and what hasn’t. What have been the biggest changes and what are we still struggling with?
The big changes
When it comes to food, we buy local, little and often, from farm shops, butchers and fishmongers, rarely ordering from the supermarket. This does take more time and it can be more expensive, so we’ve cut back in other ways like reducing the amount of meat we eat. And this means that we have to plan our meals; something I’d not always done before.
Today’s fridge contents are a perfect example, beyond the glass bottles of milk, ketchup and jams, there’s a box of dates waiting to be used in energy bars, left over black bean filling from fajitas, a bunch of beetroot and ginger. Delicious! But – truth be told – it’s hard to concoct a family lunch out of this… not without whipping up a batch of tortilla wraps.
Baking is no longer a novelty or entertainment for the kids, it’s a priority. Homemade bread, cakes and biscuits are part of the weekly staple. The kids have become pretty handy at knocking up a batch of biscuits or brownies in the kitchen while I’m working. They know we can’t buy them off the shelf any more, so if they want a treat, we have to make it.
We have a milk bottle delivery and, for cereal and store cupboard goods, we go to our nearest plastic-free shops or online stores. Cling film has been replaced with homemade beeswax covers and plate covered bowls, kitchen roll with tea towels, sponges with cloths and flannels. We carry reusable containers and use a soda stream to make sparkling drinks.
In the bathroom, we use soaps, flannels and refills, and we clean the house primarily with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Wrapping paper is a roll of brown paper, which we try to make more decorative with ink stamps, and we have deliveries of who gives a crap toilet paper and Splosh cleaning products. We buy store-cupboard goods from a couple of local plastic-free shops and from the Plastic Free Pantry.
While we can’t avoid plastic-fibres in clothing, we’re buying what more and more second-hand. I’m not great at rummaging (or shopping generally), but we use sites like ReRun for replacement running clothes, eBay for bundles of clothes for the boys and Oxfam when I needed a dress for a recent wedding.
What we STILL get wrong
I’d love to say that our bathroom looks like the zen space you might see in a magazine, with just a handful of bottles on show and bamboo toothbrushes. But we’re far from that! We do have bamboo toothbrushes that we use when we go away, but we still use our old electric toothbrushes on a day-to-day basis. It seems more wasteful to get rid of them un-necessarily and they do a great job.
We still have a collection of plastic bottles – mostly containing refills, but there are a couple of products that we’re yet to replace. We tried using glass jars of toothpaste, but they didn’t work for all the family and so we’re using mainstream toothpaste in plastic tubes, but we do collect and recycle the empty tubes in a local dental surgery.
Suncream can be tricky too; there are plastic-free options, but they are not always that easy to apply and that means the boys wriggle away before we’re done, so I go for those with all-day coverage to reduce the amount we need (and therefore the waste) and those with more natural ingredients where possible. Generally, we have to let medicines slide – most come in some sort of plastic.
When ordering online, we still have our share of plastic-free fails; you can’t always tell what packaging will be used when you click ‘buy’. And when choosing glass jars or bottles off the shop floor, it’s hard to avoid the plastic seals or lids .
New challenges crop up all the time and it isn’t always easy to find a solution that works for the long-term. We’re still making plenty of mistakes and this just goes to show that it’s a long and – at times – turbulent journey.
People often ask for more specific suggestions of what products really work and what changes won’t break the bank. So, over the coming weeks, I’ll be pulling together more information about those. Watch this space!