If you are having these thoughts, you have made the first step – you are aware that something needs to be done.
Recycling plastic is fantastic, but we are producing and using more than our planet can handle. The way forward is to use less plastic in our life, and stop being a single use plastic society.
I'm sure you already know about the Great Garbage Patch, but here are a few more frightening facts for you that are closer to home:
- January 2019, a global study revealed that 100% of sea turtles tested were found with plastics in their stomach.
- November 2018, a dead sperm whale washed onto a beach in Indonesia filled with 1,000 pieces of plastic in its gut.
- October 2018 - a study on human stools found nine different types of plastic in every sample tested. Studies are now being done to find out the impact this has on human health. You read that correctly – humans are eating plastic.
Scary isn’t it - but it’s not too late. Large companies all around the world are taking steps to reduce their single use plastic so you are not alone, and if we all do our bit, we can #beatplasticpollution.
If you don’t know where to start, we will break it down for you. Our aim is give simple ideas for you to switch every day products that will be the most effective. These suggestions are very important for when you travel, because not all overseas countries have effective recycling/waste management systems.
Feet Do Travel share tips for living and travelling with less plastic.
Using less plastic starts with the way you think
If you are researching ways to reduce the amount of plastic you use in your life, you have already made the first step. Being aware of how much plastic is around you is like a lightbulb moment.
When I first started “reduce, reuse, recycle” and lowering my single use plastic consumption, I thought it was over whelming and never ending. So this post will start at the beginning. Baby steps – no point in running before you can walk.
When you are ready to take it a step further, we have provided a few more options – we don’t wish to swamp you at this early stage. The more you do, the more you will learn over time.
FIRST TIP: If you already have plastic in your life – keep using it until it can’t be used anymore. No point in replacing plastic with another item and throwing out the plastic (eg throwing away a plastic container and replacing it with glass). The aim is to REDUCE the amount of plastic WASTE and to REDUCE the plastic we BUY.
To make a start towards reducing plastic in your life, look at this infographic. Start at the top and work your way down.
If you want to gift someone who wants to reduce their plastic usage – a few items within this Green Pack will be perfect. Let me break it down for you.
Invest in a reusable water bottle
First and foremost, everyone bleats on about this. Buy a reusable water bottle which you can refill over and over. When you go on holiday, whether it be camping or overseas – take it with you. It is not possible to drink water from the tap in many countries, but if take your refillable bottle you will be able to refill instead of buying a plastic bottle. Save the planet AND saving money.
Many countries simply do not have the recycling or waste management systems in place to handle the amount of plastic created from water bottles.
In my personal opinion, purchase an aluminium bottle … simply because it’s not plastic. However if you do see a plastic bottle you want to buy, you are still cutting down on your single-use plastic and that is the main goal.
Bottles come in different sizes, 500ml, 750ml and 1 litre so choose the one which suits you best. They are also sold in different colours so if your favourite colour is pink, purple, blue or blood red – buy one that suits you! Hell you can even buy one to match your handbag (errrr yes I have a red bottle to match my red bag but you don’t have to take it that far!)
A foldable tote bag or canvas bag is one of the cheapest items you can buy and you should 100% start with this.
I always, ALWAYS carry a foldable bag with me. I have a small foldable bag in my handbag which has been used countless times – how often have you made an impromptu stop at a shop and needed a bag? This is where carrying a foldable bag helps.
When I plan to go shopping, I take a range of canvas bags, however if you have plastic carrier bags left over from shopping, use them, again and again. The aim is the reduce SINGLE-USE so it’s good to reuse.
Buy your foldable tote bag and canvas bags now even if you have plastic carriers hanging about so you can carry one with you at all times – the sooner you start the quicker it will become second nature.
There are many occasions when you need to eat on the fly, for example eating at a food court, festivals, friends’ BBQ’s, fish n chips by the seaside, street food in Asia – you get my drift. This usually means using single-use plastic cutlery.
Carry your own with you! Cutlery doesn’t take up a lot of room in your bag but if you don’t want to use your knife/spork/spoon from home there are other options. All are a 100% better than the plastic single-use option. You just have to change your mind set and remember to carry it with you, but once you get into the habit – bingo – you have instantly reduced the amount of single use plastic.
Sporks are small, lightweight and easy to carry around.
Bamboo cutlery do the job if you want a separate knife and fork.
I hate plastic straws. If I see one in someone’s can or bottle of soft drink I want to scream at them “Why don’t you just walk into the ocean now and shove that straw up a turtle’s nose”. Seriously, it offends me because straws are a huuuuuuuuge contributor to plastic in our ocean, and completely unnecessary for the majority of people.
The first option is to just #RefuseTheStraw.
A straw is not needed for a can or a bottle – either drink from it directly or pour into a glass. If there is a medical reason for needing a straw or if you have a cocktail/fresh coconut, then whip out your own to use.
There are four different options to buy, bamboo, aluminium, glass, paper which are easy to carry with you. Some come in a little carry bag (mine didn’t so I found something to use to carry it in – dedication!).
You just have to remember to say “no straw” when you order your drink.
The dental industry seems to be all about plastic (oh, and using palm oil and testing their products on animals, but I digress). Plastic toothbrushes, plastic toothpaste, plastic mouthwash, plastic floss etc.
More people are switching their plastic toothbrush for bamboo, and there are many different types on the market so I will break it down for you. When buying online, check reviews first because some are packaged individually in plastic – not good.
If you want to keep your toothbrush from rolling around your bag when you travel, place it in a bamboo toothbrush case.
There is currently no decent alternative for electric toothbrushes. There are bamboo-infused heads but they are still plastic and take 30 years to compost “if buried underground”.
Note: Most toothbrushes are not 100% biodegradable (despite claiming to be). Many use nylon bristles or a version of nylon which need to be plucked out before composting which is still a better option than your existing plastic toothbrush. One day we will be able to buy 100% biodegradable. A German company have designed bristles from viscose (called Rayon in the US and made from wood pulp). Another German company have bristles made with pig hair imported from China (currently the only place in the world where long-haired pig bristles can be sourced and are a by-produce of the meat trade - obviously these aren’t for vegetarians/vegans.).
Charcoal Infused Nylon, BPA-Free and Nylon-4 Bristles
Nylon is still plastic so need to be removed before composting. Nylon 4 is a synthetic polymer and allegedly biodegradable “under certain conditions” which requires very specific industrial processing to help it break down. In short, these bristles still need removing.
BPA free means they are a BPA-free polymer which haven’t used the harmful chemical bisphenol A in their nylon making process, however are still made from nylon and need to be removed.
Charcoal infused nylon is (allegedly) a scientifically proved ingredient to help remove stains caused by coffee, red wine, tobacco etc.
Green Tip: If you have green-fingers and enjoy gardening, don’t throw the toothbrush away when you have finished with it, use the handle as a plant/herb marker in your garden!
Toothpaste Powder or Tablets
This may also take a bit of getting used to. Nearly all top brand toothpastes have a lot of ingredients which are there for psychological reasons – to make your toothpaste look nice. It doesn’t have to be white, as sweet as it is or to foam up and a bug-bear of mine is they contain palm oil.
A toothpaste is an abrasive to assist you remove plaque from your teeth, it’s the brushing action that is the most important. Making the switch to a toothpaste powder will seem strange at first, but if you have to revert to a top brand in the future, you will probably find them too sweet.
If you use a product containing charcoal, it has been scientifically proven that your teeth will actually look whiter! Oh yes … whiter teeth and a clear conscience!
You could even go one further and make your own. I am in the process of trialling a batch so watch this space. If you try it, let us know how you get on!
If you floss and want to take it a step further at this stage, you can buy silk floss or for vegans there is charcoal.
Liquid shower gel is the product Friends of the Earth suggest you switch. This is a classic example of me thinking “why didn’t I think of this before”. Solid soaps are the way forward and shampoo bars tick four boxes for me:
✔ Reducing use of plastic ✔ Palm Oil Free ✔ Not tested on animals ✔ Less to carry (2-in-1)
Note: I have included palm oil free, but some shampoo bars do contain palm oil. If you care about the environment (which I hope you do as you are reading this post), please ensure palm oil is sustainably sourced (for example look at Green People) or stay away from it.
There are many different companies and soaps out there to choose from – more than you will initially think! If you use one and it doesn’t work for you, choose another - its trial and error … so keep trying until you find the one that works for you. I’m sure you haven’t been using your current shampoo/conditioner/soap your entire life and have switched it up many times.
Soap Bar wrapped in paper not plastic
It’s not just liquid shower gels we need to steer clear of but liquid soaps as well. We tend to have more than one soap around the house, but instead of having a plastic dispenser in your kitchen or in the bathroom/spare toilet, buy a bar of soap wrapped in paper.
When you next order your takeaway coffee, give them your own mug and ask them to fill it up. In the UK alone, 2.5 billion take away cups are thrown away each year. Obviously I’m not going to tell you to a) don’t order your morning coffee (I value my life too much!) or b) sit down and drink it (daily lives can be super hectic).
Next time you order your morning coffee, ask them to fill up your own collapsible mug. They are also perfect for travelling; you can produce it on the plane when you are offered a hot drink, in the airport for your take away coffee, or simply when you want a drink of water and don’t have a cup.
If you want to continue to learn more, follow pages on Social Media and join Zero Waste/Waste Free/Plastic Free groups on Facebook. Here are a couple of examples but there are lot to choose from.
Green Warriors BBC Earth Gili Shark Conservation Gili Eco Trust
Ready for the next step?
Stop using disposable razors
It is estimated that in the US alone, two billion disposable razors are sent to landfill every year. There are many options for shaving. Electric razors are one excellent choice, or opt for an old school safety razor with replaceable blades. They may take a little getting used to as they do offer a closer shave. It is easy to buy replaceable blade.
Use biodegradable ear buds
There are people that will tell you that you shouldn't be using cotton ear buds used anyway as they are not good for your ears, but if you are an earbud fan, I’m not going to tell you to stop using them. However, switch to wood or bamboo instead! Remember that adorably sad photo of a seahorse hitching a ride on a cotton bud? Let’s stop that from happening again.
Ditch the meat/veg bags in supermarkets – take your own produce bag with you
This is an easy one and will have a huge impact. For loose fruit and veg, whether you buy it at a supermarket or market, carry your own produce bags with you. Keep one solely for potatoes, carrots or other “earthy” products which may leave the bag a little dirty. You can also keep a collapsible grocery box in your car to make it easier for transporting and storing heavier items.
For meat, carry your own container and ask your supermarket/butcher to place the meat inside. Morrisons in the UK are now allowing this, but if your supermarket doesn’t approve, find one that does or use a butcher.
Carry a produce bag in your handbag/glove box. If you are out and about and are passing a bakery, the smell of freshly cooked bread, buns, pastries or cake may get the better of you! With your own produce bag, you can take them away guilt free (calories don’t count when you are saving the environment haha).
If you don’t already have a Tupperware box, purchase a pyrex/glass storage container although I appreciate this isn’t always possible or practical. The aim is to #UseLesPlastic and Tupperware is made from plastic, but we also want to reduce single use plastic and you will be re-using your container for years.
At home, store left over food in your container instead of using cling film or tin foil - #ReduceSingleUse.
Take your Tupperware with you when buying a take-away and ask them to use your container instead of giving you plastic pots.
I take it one step further again and carry a small Tupperware container with me when we go out for dinner. I hate wastage and if I can’t finish my meal and want to take it away with me, I can pop it in my box instead of asking for cling film/tin foil/polystyrene box.
You don’t need to buy butter or margarine in a plastic tub – go old school and use a butter dish! In truth, you don’t even have to do that, just keep the butter in its paper packaging to store in the fridge – we do. There are a huge range of butters and margarines wrapped in paper so make that switch today.
Fancy a fizzy drink?
Instead of a plastic bottle of coke, buy a can instead. In the Philippines they still use glass bottles for soft drinks – I love that!
Instead of bin liners – use cereal/bread bags/toilet roll bags instead
Now this may sound crazy but hear me out. I started doing this naturally in the Philippines and was shocked at how much plastic is used to package our products.
Instead of buying a bin liner (made from plastic) and throwing away the empty bread bag, cereal bags or toilet roll bags, I begun using them as our bin liner. OK so it didn’t stretch over the bin in a traditional way, but I would stand the bag in the bin and drop waste into it – it does the job that’s all that matters!
It may not work for you, not everything does, but if you live alone or live in a country with a plastic problem (Asia for example), then this is worth a try.
Disposable lighters are another bug-bear of mine as I see them all the time on beach clean ups. Go old-school again – use matches! Alternatively, buy a refillable metal lighter, you will look like Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction or James Dean flicking open your metal lighter. Don’t forget you can personalise them as well– no one can “forget” to return that to you, win-win!
Tip: Carry a portable ashtray with you instead of throwing cigarette butts on the floor/on the beach when there is no bin available.
I have lost count of the number of disposable nappies/diapers I have seen in the ocean when scuba diving. Although disposable nappies/diapers are convenient, they are another huge contributor to single use plastic waste, 20 MILLION are disposed of annually in the US alone. #ReduceSingleUse and return to using cloth – save money and the environment.
If you care about our planet and a better world, check out these related articles!
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10 Ways to Support World Oceans Day
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