Doing our bit to reduce plastic use
We’ve been on a bit of a mission in our house recently to try to reduce the amount of plastic that we’ve using. It’s no secret that the levels of plastic that are filling the oceans, the hedgerows and the landfill sites are reaching a worrying level, and it’s only by us all doing our bit that we’re going to make any kind of difference. We’ve always tried to shop consciously and to try not to send any more rubbish to landfill than we can help, but since watching the episode of the BBC programme Blue Planet II about plastic in the ocean (it’s episode 7, here’s a preview of a section of it), big daughter has decided that we need to up our game.
She started off by reading this book called No More Plastic by Martin Dorey. It’s only little and it’s a really quick read – I’d finished it pretty much by the time I’d finished my brew – but it’s full of good ideas which don’t take much effort to implement.
Martin Dorey is the founder of #2minutebeachclean and the #2minutesolution; his theory is that just two minutes can make all the difference to the environment and our planet and isn’t really much time to give up to do that. I can waste two minutes very easily so to use that time positively instead even once a day has to help in the long run.
Of course, this book is just a starting point. It’s not practical for us to throw away everything in the house that’s contained in plastic and buy a differently-packaged alternative, but it has made us think again about what we are buying and whether we could do things another way.
I’ve used my own shopping bags for years. I’ve got loads of these ones with a large gusset that opens out into a rectangular shape – big enough to hold boxes of cereal, bottles, fruit and veg – I’ve packed them to destruction but still haven’t had the handles fall off. I call that a sturdy bag! (The one on the right has the flowery panel on it as I wanted to cover up the shop logo.) They’re so much better even than than the bags for life which supermarkets sell and replace if they break, although I have to say that I haven’t seen them around for sale for a few years – these ones came from Asda when they first started selling re-usable shopping bags but now they all seem to be plastic.
As for everything else, I decided to start with the easy stuff. With two cats in the house, we go through a lot of cat food and whilst the pouches of food they were eating come in a cardboard box, the pouches themselves aren’t wanted in our recycling bin which means a lot of rubbish into the landfill. I’ve started buying tinned cat food so that we can recycle the cans; so far the cats aren’t turning their noses up at it and with one can a day between them (they also have crunchy biscuits), that’s a lot less rubbish than the pouches. I’ve also started buying washing powder in a box rather than liquid in a bottle. The bottle can be recycled but the box is bigger which means it will take longer to use up – and longer before I need to throw it into the recycling bin.
We’ve got re-fillable water bottles and hot drinks cups too …
That’s a start!
The hardest part of trying to use less plastic has been with buying food. I’ve bought eggs and potatoes from the local farm shop for years; they come in egg boxes and potato sacks which I take back so that they can re-use them, but some of their other fruit and veg is still packaged in plastic. The items you can see in the picture below come from two different supermarkets and the farm shop, although the farm shop at least has stopped offering plastic bags and uses paper ones instead now.
I know that the time will come when it will be much easier to buy loose fruit and veg again, and at least over the summer we will, hopefully, be eating our own tomatoes which will save some plastic boxes.
Small daughter has started to take her sandwiches to school wrapped up in these beeswax wraps. I had spotted some instructions on how to make reusable sandwich wrappers but when I was doing my research I discovered beeswax wraps which apparently do the trick but without you having to make anything yourself. Long on ideas but short on time to carry them out, I decided to give them a try.
These ones came from eBay; I decided to go for a relatively inexpensive pack first to see how we got on with them so eBay it was. There are six wraps in this packet: three larger circles and three smaller squares.
They’re much prettier than cling film and definitely easier to manage than greaseproof paper. They’re quite peculiar – sort of sticky but quite firm at the same time – but very easy to use as you just squish them around whatever you want them to cover up. Here’s a bread roll sandwich …
and here’s my new sourdough starter …
We’ve decided to start making our own bread and biscuits again, partly to save the plastic wrappers but also because we like them better. The bread maker produces a good sandwich loaf and we’ve been using Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s magic bread dough from his book River Cottage Veg Everyday which I bought on a whim ages ago, never read and was about to donate to the charity shop when I thought I’d just quickly flick through it – and have been using it ever since! His magic dough recipe is here too; this article is about pizza (and it does make very good pizza base) but you can use the dough for other things, not least bread rolls, pitta breads and flat breads. I wrote a post about no-knead Aga sourdough bread a few years ago and I’ve got out of the habit of making it, but I think it’s time to get back into it again. We love sourdough bread, and it makes the most fabulous toast!
What else? Well, we thought we’d try out shampoo soap, which has been quite an experience …
It has taken a bit of getting used to; it doesn’t lather like shampoo and it makes my hair feel very squeaky in the shower, but seems to clean it just fine. Big daughter hasn’t tried hers out yet and it’ll be interesting to see if she finds it easy to use as her hair is much longer than mine. I looked around at quite a few shampoo soaps and there’s plenty of choice depending on what type of hair you have and what you’re looking for. It made me smile that the one I chose says “for white and bright blonde hair” on the label; my hair is neither of those things although maybe it will be if I use the shampoo for long enough. I wonder if I get to choose! 🙂
Do you know, reading over this post again as I’m writing it, it’s made me realise that we’ve made quite a few changes to how we are living and none of them have felt arduous. It’s made me think that we can probably do a bit more without really inconveniencing ourselves in any way – and if we can do that, then hopefully a few more people can do their bit as well. I’ve spent years shrieking “turn the lights off, you’ll kill all the polar bears!” (probably not really true but it works with small girls who grow up to turn the lights off – most of the time 🙂 ) and now it feels like we’re all shrieking “don’t buy the plastic, you’ll kill the whales/turtles/ocean life!” It feels good to be bringing up girls with an environmental conscience.
Time for a brew, I’d say – and here’s our final nod to less plastic. Big daughter returned home from a shopping trip recently with loose leaf tea because apparently some brands of tea bags contain plastic. I groaned inwardly. What a faff this was going to be! Tea leaves clogging up the sink, the tea pot left out on the side for weeks as we kept saying “it’s not worth putting it away, we’ll be using it again later” and then not doing … I have to say that I wasn’t overjoyed to see that box of tea leaves, despite the risk of plastic in my mug and compost heap. Until she boiled the kettle, the tea steeped in the pot and we sat down with our mugs. Oh my life! What have I been missing?! I usually say that I’m not that bothered about tea and any old tea bags will do which is crazy as I do drink a fair bit of tea, but now I am a total convert to loose leaf. So much so, that I’ve set up a subscription with the Brew Tea Company for their super English Breakfast blend so that we never run out of tea – and because it comes in a huge one pound bag, we’re cutting our waste too.
Our first box arrived this morning, a fabulously wrapped parcel that felt like Christmas …
Our subscription came with a pound of tea, a one-person teapot (in a choice of colours, so I picked purple. Surprised? I didn’t think you would be!) and a scoop to get the right amount of tea into the pot. We’ve got a bigger teapot if big daughter and I are having a brew together, but otherwise the little one is perfect. After we’ve finished, we leave the teapot on the Aga so that the leaves dry out and then they go straight into the compost bin.
Brew Tea Company also ticks all the boxes for us in terms of ethical trading and they’re a certified member of B Corp which means that they’ll be using their business to try to make a difference in the world. We like that. It makes our brew taste better.
Over to you now – what’s your view on the plastic situation? And if you’ve got any more suggestions of easy ways that we can continue to use less plastic, do share!