So you’ve listened to David Attenborough talking about wildlife on One Planet and you want to help. You care about the planet but you’re not quite ready to go full hippy and live off nature in the wild. Zero waste sounds intimidating and you don’t want to inconvenience your family or flatmates with your new found love for the environment (or say, the whole of London by protesting for nine days over Easter. Yes, climate change is a problem. But I need to get home from work at 2am).
So here are a few changes that are easy to make. No consequence to your life but a slowly increasing benefit to the planet.
Make a ‘Zero Waste Kit’
- Shopping bag
- Water bottle
- Reusable cutlery (also known as, your normal cutlery)
- Coffee cup if you drink hot drinks on the go and…
- A reusable straw, if you really insist on using a straw. Or if you need to.
Making this kit won’t immediately make you zero waste, but it does tackle four or five of the biggest disposable single use plastics. The absolute easiest is a reusable shopping bag. Fold it up, stuff it in your pocket or at the bottom of your bag, never have to pay 5p for plastic bag again. Plus, if you go fabric, it is much less likely to split when you fill it with heavy items like milk, potatoes or say, alcohol.
Say no to straws
Some people genuinely need them. Fair enough. Try bringing your own metal or bamboo straw, you won’t even notice it tucked into your bag. For people who don’t need a straw, stop asking for one. I’m seriously tempted to ask my work to stop providing them, its infuriating how unnecessary they are.
Prep your own lunches
Getting food on the go is one of my personal biggest producers of waste and could be avoided if I did some meal prep and took a lunch box with me. You’re also likely to be eating healthier food, with more control over what goes into it and it’d cost less.
If you’re feeling really ambitious, check out a bulk store and get a load of pasta or couscous in your own jars to make a really low waste lunch.
Buy loose veg…
And bring cotton bags for buying bread. I’ve admitted it, food shopping is a struggle. But one easy change you can do is buying loose vegetables rather than plastic wrapped or bagged. It’s a tiny change that you won’t notice but will add up over time and if enough people do it, eventually supermarkets will stop wrapping so much in plastic. My local Morrisons has taken the plastic shrink wrap off cucumbers and lets people buy meat from the deli counter in their own tupperware which is a great start and shows that consumer power makes a difference.
Try a plastic-free period
Menstrual cups are a fantastic alternative to tampons. For those who are worried about inserting a little cup into themselves, get yourself some washable pads or underwear. Underwear may feel more secure to you, bamboo pads are more affordable with some brands offering up to 6 pads for £24. On my simple bartenders budget, that was more achievable than having to buy several pairs of underwear at £30 a pop. Shop around, find something that suits your budget and flow. The numbers on how many period products you use are pretty staggering – some people estimate a woman uses 12,000 pads or tampons through her menstruating life. So if you’re looking for a simple change that will really make a difference, get yourself some reusable pads or a menstrual cup.
Fun story: I had a colleague ask me if I had a spare pad the other day. I panicked for a moment and then remembered I had a couple of disposable ones leftover in a back pocket. But I also showed her my (clean) reusable ones and she seemed interested. Give it a go people, it may well lead to some very feminine conversations.
And try other plastic free hygiene products
Bamboo toothbrushes. Recyclable and reusable metal razors. Shampoo bars rather than liquids in bottles, almost anything from Lush.
Fighting climate change, one toothbrush at a time
If you stay at my house, I will likely offer you a compostable bamboo toothbrush. If every person in London switched to a bamboo toothbrush that’d be 8 million less plastic sticks heading to landfill, which really demonstrates how important it is to get lots of people to make tiny changes. As a famous supermarket says, every little helps.
Shampoo bars are a dividing topic and work for some hair better than others. Lush have a great selection (I’m using Montalbano, which is a really tough wash because my hair gets really greasy. Others are gentler) and they carry loads of other hygiene products in recycled plastic pots. Not quite plastic free, but you can take tubs back to the shop where they get reused, so pretty damn close. Plus they haven’t ever used micro-beads and fight animal testing which are both great things. My face wash and salt scrub are the only things my skin needs, which also saves on pointless bottles of moisteriser and primer and shit in general. I’m lucky. I have good skin. But I also don’t coat it in layers of crap.
See this experiment for what happens to your skin when you don’t use any beauty products, by two people with psoriasis and acne. Or read this recap here
And finally, think about what you’re doing and buying
The most important part of being eco-conscious, is simply being conscious. Think about whether what you’re buying is really necessary, and then if there is an easy alternative that produces less waste. Think about where you’re throwing your rubbish, and whether it can be recycled. Does your council offer food waste recycling or could you compost? Take a little time to think through your actions and whether you could implement some simple habits. Then implement them.