How to be plastic free

I first started using canvas bags, reusable cups and cutlery when I was 16 (mostly because I was a cheapskate and trying to save money!) and I remember getting into lots of arguments with people trying to get them to put my tea in my mug not a single use cup, or refill my water bottle for free.

Since then it has become much easier to find plastic free options and places that will refill for me, so when I decided to take part in Plastic Free July last year, I thought it would be very easy. I was wrong! I couldn’t believe how much single-use plastic was a part of everyday items I used.

Over the month I made lots of sacrifices (mainly halloumi!), but also found some fantastic alternatives. This year I feel much more prepared and although I haven’t totally managed to avoid single-use plastic, I have massively reduced the amount I use. So here are some of my tips to help you on your Plastic Free July journey!

The basics

Water bottles, reusable shopping bags, keep cups/ thermos. You don’t really need me to tell you where to buy these. They are EVERYWHERE. In a variety of shapes, sizes and colours. So pick the one you like most!

Toiletries & personal hygiene

I have been using a safety razor for about three years now and I LOVE it. It initially cost me £25 and single blade replacements can be as little as 20p each. Over three years I have probably spent about £3 on replacement blades! So as well as being more environmentally friendly, they are so cheap in comparison to disposable razors! I got mine from Sheffield-based company Edwin Jagger who have a huge variety of styles.

Most of my toiletries come from LUSH. I love this shop as they do wonderful products with either no packaging or in recycled packaging. They also have a returns system where you take all your used containers and get free products- yay! I use their shampoo and conditioner bars that come with no packaging, smell great and are also perfect for travelling!

I buy bars of soap in paper wrapping from a huge variety of sources (including the wonderful LUSH). I recently got some from the Yorkshire Soap Company, and I also love neem soap!

Toothbrushes seem to make up a huge percentage of the plastic waste on Aldabra, so if you only change one thing permanently, this is the one I urge you to switch! Bamboo toothbrushes are becoming much easier to find in the UK, although they still don’t seem to have hit supermarket shelves. I use The Environmental Toothbrush which I buy at a local wholefood store, but it can be ordered online from a variety of places. The handle can be composted and bristles removed and recycled! Perfect!

UK brand Truthpaste make toothpaste that comes with zero plastic. I was a bit hesitant about making the switch after a disastrous attempt to make my own, but I really like it! My favourite is the Peppermint & Wintergreen!

For my plastic free deodorant, I turn to LUSH again. They make a variety of deodorant bars that look and smell amazing! I use the T’eo one (pictured). I’ve got to say I’ve yet to find one that works when I am doing exercise but I’ll keep looking!

Who gives a crap are a fantastic company! They produce toilet paper that comes in funky paper covers, is 100% recycled, delivered to your door AND helps build toilets across the world! I also buy Ecoleaf toilet paper from a local shop, the packaging is compostable!

Sanitary products

It used to be pretty difficult to get hold of plastic free sanitary products but now they are everywhere! Mooncup, Divacup and many others allow you to dramatically reduce the amount waste produced by other sanitary products. You can also get reusable sanitary towels from a number of places that normally come in some cool designs, and plastic free sanitary towels from Natracare that are available in a lot of stores.

Cleaning products

I have never really been one to use cleaning products sold in shops- they smell so strong and a lot of them give me rashes so I have always used something more traditional- white vinegar! Along with bicarbonate of soda, lemon juice and essential oils you have everything you need to clean almost anything in your house from the toilet to descaling your kettle! It is so cheap, and everything smells lovely after! Look online for various ways to use these products!

Ecoforce produce recycled sponges that come with no plastic packaging. You can buy them in supermarkets and I wash mine a few times to get more use out of them! You can also switch to wooden dish brushes that you can replace the heads on, and can be composted at the end of use!

Pet products

I have a dog and I have found it quite difficult to source plastic-free products for him but here are some options I found…

Beco produce bowls that are made from rice husk and can be composted at the end of use. They are available at Pets at Home and online.

There are lots of awesome handmade collars and leads available in the UK, from Etsy and other independent stores. I got mine from Furry Necks, but recently found some made of hemp on Etsy that I will go for next time! Benevo also makes plant-based poo bags that are biodegradable.

We’d love to hear of your experiences and any tips you have!

– Harriet Downey

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