It's the 1st July, which means it's really starting to feel like summer, we have finally got used to writing 2019 instead of 2018, and it's start of Plastic Free July! Single use plastic seems to be everywhere, and it can feel overwhelming to know where to start in trying to cut it out of your daily life. While we treat plastic as a disposable item, it never really goes away - most of the plastic ever produced is still here on earth, with devastating effects. It's estimated that plastic kills 100,000 marine animals and 1 million marine birds every year.
I know, I know, I'm preaching to the choir. So what can you do to reduce your impact? Below are my top 5 ways to start your plastic free, low waste journey - happy July, guys!
General rule: there's no excuse for single use*
This may seem basic, but it's more challenging than you'd think! The more you start looking, the clearer it becomes that single use is everywhere. From dreaded disposable coffee cups to cotton pads and plastic takeaway containers, refusing single use can take a little bit of forward planning, but it soon becomes second nature to keep your reusable coffee cup in your bag, refill your stainless steel bottle before heading out for the day and take a metal lunchbox when eating on-the-go. Sometimes you'll need to be quick to tell the overzealous barman you don't need a plastic straw or wave your reusable bag around the bakery before they put your loaf in a plastic bag, but these small actions really do drive change.
1. Invest in a reusable water bottle
We are fortunate in the UK that our tap water is safe to drink, so we don't need to buy bottled water to have at home. But what about when you're out for the day, off on a run, travelling or simply need to smuggle prosecco somewhere?! Stainless steel, carbon neutral refillable bottles are your answer. Whether you're looking for a super lightweight everyday basic or a bottle that'll keep things cold for 24 hours and hot for 12, there are lots of options out there to make sure you never have to reuse a plastic bottle again (that plastic aftertaste and toxic leaching, tho!) or, even worse, throw one away. Investing in a reusable water bottle will completely cut plastic bottles out of your life, helping to tackle the 13 million we currently use every year in the UK alone.
2. Bring your own cup
Coffee, tea...pale ale?! Reusable cups can save around 300 disposable cups going to landfill per year, per person (double that if you're me and can't get enough of the java) - contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of coffee cups can't be recycled due to the thin plastic lining inside, meaning they often find their ways into our oceans and countryside. Invest in a reusable cup (make sure it isn't made of plastic!) and take it with you to the coffee shop, canteen, or bar (yes! You can use your cup in the place of a disposable plastic beer cup - we've got your back). With all different sizes, colours and designs, you're bound to find your forever cup and cut off your cup waste for good. Most cafes also offer discounts when customers bring their own cups - hurrah!
3. Take your own grocery bags
Sometimes you'll remember, half way home, that you don't have any hummus and need to make an unexpected stop at the supermarket. Making sure your reusable bags are always with you means you'll never have to use a plastic bag (or pay 5p!) again. With many supermarkets still not providing paper bags for loose fruit and veg, it's also a good idea to invest in some smaller grocery bags to make sure you don't have to go without those mushrooms a single day longer. Reusable bags are also amazing for the gym, the beach or travelling due to their teeny tiny size but quite astonishing stretching capabilities.
4. Clean up
How often are you walking down the street when you see a plastic cup fly by in the wind, shake your head and bemoan people's laziness to the heavens...but keep on walking? Yes, I know it can be gross touching other people's rubbish, but if you see stuff on the ground, it's so easy to pick it up (if safe!) and put it in the nearest bin. Chances are it'll travel much further than where you are and end up in a river, in the ocean or being eaten by wildlife. Beach or riverside cleanups are also amazing things to get involved in - it doesn't need to be a big organised event, but next time you're lucky enough to be stretched out in the sand, have a quick walk around to see what rubbish you can take away with you.
5. Reuse what you already have
While my heart sings every time I receive an order through NUITW, I don't want to encourage you to buy a lot of stuff that you just don't need. Bathroom cabinet full of plastic facewashes and serums? Use these up before moving to more eco friendly options. Just invested in an industrial size shower gel for the sweaty summer weather? Finish it off before buying our lovely soap bars. Try and be conscious about the waste you create and reuse things you already have wherever possible. Keep your eye out for an upcoming blog post soon on what to do with empty containers, jars and tubs!
A final note
What we need is lots of people doing this imperfectly, rather than few doing it perfectly - that's how we drive change. But, it's worth mentioning that not everyone has the means to overhaul their lifestyle - investing £5 in a reusable bag is a privilege that isn't available or relatable to everybody, and it's important to be mindful of that. There are great organisations working to provide eco kits accessible to those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, helping them to save money in the long run with reusable items - @wastenotbristol is an amazing example.
*Of course, sometimes single use items are necessary and incredibly important, such as with medical equipment. You know I'm talking about those nasty non-essentials!