Plastic Free July – my limited success…

For me plastic free July was not about completely avoiding plastic, I knew that was too much to attempt in one go. It was about becoming more aware of the plastic I was using and finding ways to begin reducing it. I decided to focus on reducing my use of single use plastic. Here are some of the things I found out:

Three easy switches:

  • Hand wash – Easiest of all. Instead of plastic bottles of hand wash I now have a soap dish at each sink, although finding ceramic rather than plastic soap dishes was a challenge in itself.
  • Toilet paper – To economise I usually buy whichever multipack is on special offer, different brands but always wrapped in plastic. I scoped out various local supermarkets and couldn’t find any paper wrapped rolls. So I ordered from Who Gives A Crap whose recycled toilet paper is paper wrapped. The rolls are also double wrapped so they last longer than the big brand ones I used to get, the box I ordered is going to last us ages and work out an even better bargain than the special offers I used to get. 
The bargains are always plastic wrapped.
  • Peanut butter – I use a lot of peanut butter and usually buy the larger plastic containers which work out cheaper. Switching back to glass jars is easy, but more expensive. And other ethical choices I make are also more expensive, organic fruit and veg, farmers market instead of supermarket for meat and so on. All those little additional costs add up and my budget doesn’t have a lot of leeway.

More Challenging: 

  • Plastic Bags – I always have at least three reusable shopping bags in my handbag and take extra when I know I’ll need them. So this was an area I’d thought I was doing well in. I realised this month I’m not doing as well as I’d thought. I buy organic veg from local producers, and a surprising amount of it comes in plastic bags. When I buy additional fruit and veg from the supermarket there’s very little of it not prepacked in plastic. When I shop at the farmers market everything is either in plastic bags or clingfilm. 
  • Bread – As far as I can tell there is no way to buy bread at the supermarket without plastic. Even the paper bags my supermarket uses for the store baked loaves have plastic panels. I can bake bread at home, plastic free, but I don’t have the time to do that every time. I tried a couple of the more upmarket supermarkets, plastic everywhere. Eventually I found a small bakery in the city centre which doesn’t use plastic. And more importantly they make fantastic bread. So now I either shop there or bake my own. 

Three I’ve not yet solved:

  • Toiletries – other than soap everything comes in plastic. 
  • Pet food – wet food now comes in plastic trays rather than tins as it used to, and the dry food comes in plasticised sacks.
  • Cleaning products – my only success here was finding a shop that will refill washing up liquid bottles, so I’m still using the same plastic bottle. Other than that all my cleaning products come in plastic. 

    I’m glad I’ve taken part in plastic free July, its made me a lot more aware of what I’m using and what the alternatives are. Hopefully I’ll keep on being a more aware consumer, and build on the changes I’ve made so far. 

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    Pondering plastic free, the cause of clutter, and a recycled top tip. 

    I know I use too much plastic, and the more I hear about the damage plastic does to the environment the more I worry about how much I use. But it’s so hard to avoid. And so easy to slip up. So I decided to sign up to Plastic Free July

    I knew when I signed up that completely avoiding plastic would not be possible, not least because I didn’t sign up until July had already started and my fridge was already full of plastic wrapped food. So my aim is not to avoid plastic completely, but to be far more aware of it and identify the single use plastics I can easily avoid and those I’m going to have to work harder at. 

    It didn’t start well. In hindsight starting on the day I returned to work after several weeks off sick and had to get my son to his work experience was not the best plan. Neither me nor my son are good with changes to our routines or mornings! There I was congratulating myself on remembering reusable shopping bags when I realised I’d just filled the reusable shopping bags with prepackaged lunches covered in single use plastic. Oops! I’d failed on the first day!

    But these days I don’t give up that easily. Today I took homemade lunch to work, in a reusable box; remembered my water bottle as well as my shopping bags; and chose to sit in and have a cuppa in a proper cup rather than get a take away. Several lots of single use plastic avoided. I’ll build from here.

    I’m hoping avoiding plastic will also help me avoid clutter. I’m trying to purge my house of clutter, which is a very gradual process, and in doing so I’ve realised something really important:

    The most important part of decluttering is not deciding how to get rid of the clutter, developing organisational methods to rearrange clutter, or reading lots of online decluttering advice. The most important part of decluttering is STOP BUYING MORE CLUTTER! It doesn’t matter how prettily you organise it, if you have more stuff than you need you’ll end up with mess, stress and expense. 

    I am both an impulse shopper and a hoarder. I love a bargain, and I hate to get rid of anything that might one day be useful. Hence the amount of clutter grows and grows. Its a habit I need to break, especially as my recent reduction in work hours means that our already tight budget is getting ever tighter. 

    And I’ve found a way to stop myself spending that’s working for me (so far!)

    It’s a variation on thesecretblogofa30yearsee‘s BIGGEST tip on saying NO. Deceptively simple and incredibly effective. She gives the tip about saying no to unhealthy food: 

    Get yourself a notebook and pen, throughout the day every single time to resist something naughty, write it down… Then at the end of the day add up the syns you said no to, you will be amazed at what that number on the bottom of the page says. 

    Read the whole blog post here

    I tried it with food and it works. And then I expanded it and found it works for saying no to buying stuff I don’t need too. 

    Take today. I had an hour to kill in town before I collected my son, so I wandered round the shops and went for a cuppa. There are so many sales on at the moment, and so much lovely stuff at bargain prices. 

    I saw a gorgeous lamp, less than half price (still over £30!) And I said No to myself. 

    I saw the whole of the range of one my favourite, treat myself, can’t afford it full price toiletries was at least half price and the perfume 66% off! Last time this happened I spent more than £50 stocking up. And I said No to myself. 

    I mooched around T K Maxx where I can always find multiple things I could buy, but I knew I didn’t really need any of them. And I said No to myself. 

    Total non essential things bought : cuppa and scone £5 (no single use plastic)

    Total non essential things NOT bought: at least £100 (and a lot of clutter)

    I think this works because generally we remember our failures rather than our successes. We remember we ate the one chocolate bar, but forget all the cookies we said no to. I could quite easily beat myself up for “wasting” £5, and never remember how much more I could have wasted. I see all the clutter that is in the house, and forget how hard I’m working to stop more being added. Writing it down and quantifying it makes it more concrete, and you can see that really you’re doing quite well, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I find that helps me a lot.

    Now if I could just persuade the rest of my family not to add to the clutter we might get somewhere!