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!

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21 Responses

  1. Vickwa says:

    I live in Kenya and they LOVE plastic here but have recently banned all plastic bags, we have started buying bamboo toothbrushes and I bought a set of metal straws which I carry in my handbag with me always. I just ask for my weekly milkshake to have no straw ��

  2. PixieMum says:

    Tradecraft Breakfast blend loose tea makes a really good cup of tea here in London where the water is hard. I much prefer loose tea. The leaves go in our compost bin, we don’t dry them first, sometimes I will empty the pot straight around a plant, switch the pot around with water and add directly to the garden.

    Tradecraft sell some lovely foodstuffs, plus many years ago I bought a silk scarf from them, it is multi coloured sections so it goes with all outfits, warm but not heavy, one of my favourite things.

  3. Susan Rayner says:

    Lovely to read about all your changes – it makes so much sense! I have not as yet found any decent de-caff loose leaf tea – I am allergic to Caffeine but will keep looking! What about the nylon in sock yarn – I am so interested in your no nylon sock wool reviews and am trying to stick to pure wool. Also avoiding cotton as it is so environmentally unfriendly to grow and process – linen is the top eco choice! Hessian shopping bags populate my car boot and are used on a daily basis. Now all I need is an Aga and two teenage girls to keep me on track!

  4. Unknown says:

    Eco egg for the washing machine for everything except the very filthy/greasy

    Lush solid shampoo, the orange coloured one, gives plenty of lather. (I wish I could get on with solid conditioner 🙁 )

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the tips you have shared for using less plastic.

    We too are trying to reduce the amount we use, and although we are starting small it is at least a start. For example, my daughter and I took one hessian bag with us when we went clothes shopping for her at the weekend (she's sprouting overnight!) and used that instead of getting a bag from each shop. When we got home I realised that single act had saved us from using 6 new plastic bags that would only get placed in a drawer to be recycled. If we can make a few regular changes but avoid using that much plastic each time then hopefully together with other people it will add up. Acorns and oak trees… (can't think of a marine equivalent off the top of my head, sorry – coral and reefs maybe?)
    Vicky from Brum

  6. Groatie says:

    Hi Christine and fellow sockers, I've found two online providers of loo paper made sustainably and not wrapped in plastic: and
    Being a solo householder in a small flat, I'm going to offer to do an order to split among members of my local U3A. Many also live solo and don't have a huge amount of storage space.

  7. Lazy Days & Sundays says:

    It looks like you have made great progress in reducing your plastic waste Christine. It's surprising just how many things we use in life that are contained within some sort of plastic.


  8. Qiviut-Queen says:

    Great post, very thought provoking ! Here in Canada we have been using Biodegradable shopping bags for years. I have several large re-usable shopping bags that are also biodegradable.

  9. Lilly's Mom says:

    I commend you for your diligence in saving our planet. I too do not like plastics and last year the state of California banned plastic shopping bags; you have to pay money for a recycleable one so I now use my cloth shopping bags. Loose tea is my tea of choice as the flavor is great .Your tea subscription looks like a fun adventure and money having too. Enjoy your day dear friend, Pat

  10. Unknown says:

    I had the exact same tea realisation last year! A bit of a pain at the start, but before you know it you can't go back to teabags because loose leaf is just SO much tastier!

    My plastic reduction journey looks a lot like yours, although I'm fortunate to have a bulk foods store nearby where you can bring your own jars and containers and fill them up with pasta, rice, flour, lentils, etc. So that's helped a lot. I also keep an aluminium straw in my handbag when out and about, just in case I feel like stopping for a milkshake (or a cocktail…).

  11. tandlcarp says:

    So, you got me going. I ordered my tea pot (purple too) and some English Breakfast tea. I never knew you could just brew with loose leaf without using a defuser (tea ball). Have you ever tried the decaf? I have trouble sleeping but went for the regular tea anyway because you made it sound so good. Tea and knitting just go together.

  12. Gretchen Hrusovsky says:

    My goodness you are diverse! I've been sharing your gardening posts with my gardening sister, and will definitely share this post with my eco-minded husband! Now, a change of subject and request, if possible – my knitting daughter will be traveling to London and Manchester later this month to attend a wedding and she, of course, wants to visit at least ONE yarn shop while in your country. Do you have any recommendations/ suggestions for either London or Manchester, or both? I reminded her that London is a really big city and thought perhaps she would want something close to where she'd be staying, but she said "no", so it's wide open. Thank you so much for any thoughts.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      I haven't visited any of these yarn shops personally but I got the names from the Winwick Mum Knit n Natter Facebook group so I imagine that they have been tried and tested! For London, try Loop, iKnit, Knit with Attitude and Wild & Woolly. In Manchester, there's Countess Ablaze in the Northern Quarter (only open certain days so do check on the website) and Fred Aldous, also in the Northern Quarter but that's more general crafts and their yarn selection is quite small. There's a website called which might be useful, but do check any suggestions it gives you as sometimes it's a bit out of date. Hope your daughter has a lovely trip! xx

    • Gretchen Hrusovsky says:

      Wonderful info! Thanks so much – daughter did mention the Loop but I know she will be excited to have so many other possibilities. The website will be great, too. So kind of you to compile the info and so quickly, too. (If you should ever need any info about northeastern Ohio here in the United States, don't hesitate to ask!)

  13. Jean says:

    An interesting post. I heard that clear glass is a brilliant piece of packaging as it can be recycled again and again and again. I did think about getting the beeswax wraps but was put off by the thought of how to keep them clean, how do you find it?
    Loose leaf tea does sound lovely, maybe I should give it a go as we do like tea in out house. Jean

    • Denise says:

      I've been using my beeswax wraps for about 6 months now, just wash them in the kitchen sink with cool water and whatever soapy stuff you generally use for dishes, then leave to air dry. Works well.

  14. Caroline says:

    Interesting post Christine and well done! Just a thought about the hessian bags….I inherited some from dad and the hessian us bonded onto plastic. Beware!

    • Winwick Mum says:

      They sound like the ones that I have, but as mine are around 12 years old now then I don't consider them to be single use and the bags themselves aren't showing any signs of wear so I hope to be using them for another 12 years! 🙂 xx

  15. Christina says:

    It isn’t easy to reduce plastic but well worth the effort. I only drink leaf tea on the rare occasions I drink tea. It seems ludicrous that teabags should contain plastic! I make our own beeswax wrappers, easy and far cheaper than buying them (posted about this maybe a year ago if you want to find out more. Will email you with another plastic saving tip of a more personal nature.

  16. Unknown says:

    Interesting read about reducing plastic. Here in Gibraltar they’re really working on it lately. Even supermarkets are encouraging us to change our ways which is good .

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