So you've watched the nature documentaries, and flicked through the endless photos of sea creatures struggling against ocean currents filled with plastic, basically, you've seen the writing on the wall.
Single use plastic is OUT.
But what next?
With blogger after blogger now following in the footsteps of Bea Johnson (AKA The Mother of the Zero Waste Movement) and documenting their journey to Zero it's easy to scroll through those Instagram feeds and feel totally overwhelmed. But it's not nearly so hard as you might first think.
Sure, if you try to go from Environmentally Ignorant to Zerowaste Goddess overnight then you might struggle. But follow these 5 easy steps and you'll be well on your way to joining the waste free revolution!
1. Get inspired - not intimidated
Apologies if you're doing a social media detox, but trust me, it'll be worth briefly breaking that resolution. Fill your feeds with people who inspire you. Look up tips and tricks, read How To's, and surround yourself with images of your goals. Don't forget to follow the ones who haven't quite made it yet. It can be heartening to read about people making mistakes because it shows we're all human and we're all walking the same path - the trick is to keep moving forward, no matter how slowly you feel you're going.
Don't forget that even the people who look like they've got it all figured out had to start somewhere.
2. Make small, sustainable changes
It's nigh on impossible to achieve your goals on Day 1, so start where you are. Challenge yourself to tackle just one thing this week and see how you go. If you've cracked that without breaking a sweat then move onto something else, if you're still struggling, that's OK. The important thing is that you're trying, you're aware, and you're not giving up.
Do you continually forget to take your reusable bags to the supermarket and end up having to use the plastic carriers at the checkout? Make it impossible for you NOT to remember by folding some cloth totes and sticking them in your handbag or coat pockets. Keep a few in your car, and stick some in your desk drawer at work. Hang one on the coat hooks by the door so you have a visual reminder as you're leaving the house.
Get into the habit of saying "No straw, thanks" with your drink order.
Think of a more creative way to store food in the fridge than by smothering it in plastic wrap.
[caption id="attachment_256" align="aligncenter" width="381"] Some great plastic free food storage ideas from Eco With Em[/caption]
Invest in a reusable coffee cup and keep it in your bag/car so you can enjoy your latte without adding to landfill (lots of cafes, both chain and indie, give discounts for this now).
Instead of using paper towels, try cloths and throw them in the washing machine instead of the bin.
There are tonnes of small habits to change, and small steps add up to make a BIG impact
3. Address all areas
Coffee cups, drinking straws and carrier bags are the obvious ones but there probably aren't many areas of your life which don't involve plastic.
Many people don't think of their clothes as having an environmental impact but how many wears did you actually get out of that £3 top from Primark? Donating garments you've fallen out of love with to your local charity shop is great, but chucking it in the bin because it's fallen apart, shrunken or discoloured after only a few washes is bordering on criminal. There is no "away" to throw this stuff.
Your bathroom is another hotbed for waste if you're not vigilant. From toothpaste to showergel and razors to shampoo there is no end of plastic packaging to get through, many of which is not even recyclable. A few years ago the only way to avoid these products was to make your own - and for DIY lovers there are a tonne of recipes out there to try - but now that zero waste is officially A Thing you can't move for companies who are happy to do it for you. Toothtabs in glass jars, reusable safety razors and of course, the humble bar of soap, are just some of the ways you can reduce the plastic in your bathroom.
4. Buy less, buy better
OK, so the elephant in the room is most definitely the cost of products which are designed to be used over and over again rather than just once and then doomed to landfill forever more. When you see sleek stainless steel water bottles for £30, or the metal safety razor mentioned in the previous point for around £25, and then compare to a plastic bottle for a quid, or a packet of three disposable razors for anything from £3 to £15, it's not surprising that loads of us shake our heads in horror and hurry away, clutching our debit cards.
But when you stop and calculate the price per cost of these items the numbers add up a little more in your favour. Say you do go for a top of the range fancy pants water bottle for £30 (although there are loads for cheaper, always shop around!), compared to a bottle of water from a shop for £1 that's a massive difference. But then you drink that water, throw the bottle in the bin, and buy another. And another and another and even imagining you only drink one bottle a day (that's not enough! Drink more water!) after a month you're neck and neck with the stainless steel, price wise.
Your reusable bottle, on the other hand, should last you years, and you can refill that baby as many times in a day as you like. I'm seeing more and more cafes and bars with the ReFill sign in the window to encourage people to ask for their bottles to be replenished, but even if there isn't one you're entitled to free drinking water - it's the law!
So it's a much larger initial outlay but after that first month you're quids in and laughing all the way to the bank. And it's the same with clothes and shoes. Spending more on a few really well made, classic items does cost more to begin with than cheap, fast fashion but they will last you longer, wash better and stay looking lovely for ages after that £3 top gave up the ghost.
If money is short (and isn't it always?) that's even more reason to buy better, so that you can buy less. Yes, it might take some planning and saving up, but it's more than worth it in the long run, for your pocket and your planet.
The money you spend reflects the world you want to live in. Every pound you spend on a reusable, well made, hardy product which will last you years is a pound spent on a healthier environment.
5. Give up on perfection
When Baby Green Fig was, well, a baby, I did my best to use cloth nappies as often as I could. While this is nowhere near as scary and labour intensive as it sounds, sometimes I did struggle. There were periods in her nappy-wearing career when we were 100% cloth, but honestly? They were the exception, not the rule. Far more frequently I would find myself packing disposables because I knew we were going to be out all day and hefting a bag of bulky, pooey cloth around with me as well as all the other baby paraphernalia and the actual baby did not seem doable.
Did I let this stress me out? Heck no! (OK a little bit, but then I found a grip and some perspective and moved on). Even if I'd only used one cloth nappy a day that'd be almost 1000 disposables that didn't end up in landfill! And that does make a difference. (If you can't get your head around cloth there are biodegradeable disposables available, so it's not always one or the other.)
Even Bea Johnson, Queen of the War on Plastic, isn't 100% zero waste, so don't beat yourself up for not being perfect, congratulate yourself on trying, and try again tomorrow.[caption id="attachment_258" align="aligncenter" width="286"] (Print by Alexandra Snowdon)[/caption]