How to start your plastic-free journey
Here at spaZa, we believe in transparency so we’re going to keep it real - the biggest challenge in going plastic-free is going plastic-free. While you can understand the issue, commit to the cause and start making changes, you will inevitably find plastic creeping into your home and your trash at an alarming rate. That’s just the sad reality of the world we live in. But just because the omnipresence of plastic can make the journey difficult, it isn’t impossible!
This guide is not meant to overwhelm you but simply to show you that living plastic-free is a possibility. It just requires a bit of extra planning and some effort. Remember that the goal is progress, not perfection. So do your best, focus on substitutions and employ the three Rs - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle wherever possible.
Audit your plastic use
The word “audit” tends to bring about chest pains but it’s honestly so applicable here. Taking a good look at your plastic use will allow you to gain a good understanding of where you are in your plastic-free journey and what steps you need to take in order to reach your goals. In order to make a meaningful change, you need to be aware first. And that’s what this audit is about!
Eliminate the no-brainers
Focus on items that are easiest to swap out. Here are some examples:
Did you know that a single water bottle can take up to 450 years to degrade in a landfill? Surely that statistic alone will make you consider the convenience of a glass bottle.
These may appear to be paper on the outside but they’re lined with non-recyclable plastic film. That’s how they retain hot liquids without deteriorating. Consider a bamboo or ceramic alternative instead. This doesn’t only apply to cups that hold coffee though. Consider also carrying around a reusable cup when ordering smoothies and other beverages.
Takeaway cups also tend to come with lids that are made of single-use plastic. Ditch the lid and keep your beverage bug-free with a handy dish cover.
Plastic grocery bags
Not only are plastic grocery bags expensive but after a while, they end up piling up in your house. Non-plastic totes are reusable, convenient and a whole lot cheaper in the long run. A no-brainer, indeed.
Bag savers also come in handy here as they offer a safe place to store your reusable totes and are an easy solution for carrying multiple of them on shopping trips. They just make sense!
They’ve been on the bad list for some time now. They also take up to 200 years to degrade. Luckily for all of us, there are multiple alternatives available. Choose from metal, bamboo, glass, cardboard - it really is up to you.
Look at food storage options
Plastic-free grocery storage is a quick-win. Instead of Ziploc bags, look at organic alternatives. Trying to get rid of your plastic wrap? Simply purchase some handy cotton dish covers.
By switching out to plastic-free storage alternatives, not only are you keeping harmful contaminants from seeping into your food, it’ll also keep plastic out of the ocean and they’ll be useful for years to come.
Use plastic-free cleaning products
Almost every cleaning product on the market is sold with some plastic. From all purpose-cleaner to toilet brushes, there are traces of plastic in almost all household detergents and cleaning agents. If you’re up for the task, you could opt for creating DIY cleaning products with natural ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar.
However, for those looking for ready-made solutions, look for cleaning products that are either plastic-neutral or packaged in aluminum or glass bottles.
Make a change to your personal care routine
Your bathroom is one of the spots in your home that can oftentimes hide the most plastic. In most cases, every shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion is packaged in a bottle and it’s likely that even the very first bottle of shampoo that was used to wash your hair as a baby is still stuck at the bottom of a landfill somewhere. One of the ways you can mitigate this is to switch to refillable aluminum bottles instead of plastic. By one person making the switch, they could divert up to 600 shampoo bottles over their lifetime. Imagine that!
And it doesn’t just stop at shower products. Take a toothbrush, for example. This is a product that most of us change every three months. That means an average of 4 toothbrushes per year and about 40 toothbrushes being sent to a landfill within a 10 year period. By switching to a compostable, eco-friendly variant, you aren’t throwing plastic into a landfill every few months out of necessity.
Here are some other swaps you can try:
- Opt for plastic-free shampoo bars
- Try toothpaste tablets
- Use plastic-free loofas, sponges and cloths
- Experiment with deodorant creams or sticks
- Use toilet paper that comes in plastic-free packaging
Of course, this list isn’t extensive but it should hopefully be enough to get you started!
Keep plastic out of your closet
Sometimes the effects of plastic pollution pop up where you least expect them. Take your closet, for example. In a society where fast fashion has become the norm, we’re contributing to the ingestion and inhalation of microfibers all the time due to the way we wash and dispose of our clothes. If you absolutely must add to your clothing collection, consider sustainable clothing brands that are mindful of their environmental impact.
And when you’re getting rid of your old clothes, consider donating or recycling your clothing. Companies such as Helpsy and The Domino Foundation’s Recycle Swop Shop have drop-off points and offer collections so that you can get your unwanted clothing sorted through and recycled.
Think about your dining habits
Even though your control is limited in this regard, you can still make some simple changes to make your dining experiences a little more eco-friendly. Ask restaurants to hold the utensils when ordering takeout and if you have condiments in your fridge, let the restaurant keep theirs.
When dining out, consider bringing your own reusable cutlery set, which can come in handy even if you’re not sitting in and enjoying your meal. Our handy cutlery roll is the perfect accompaniment to any cutlery set and offers an easy, simple solution to using plastic cutlery.
Watch how you shop at the grocery store
Have you ever had a moment where you unpacked your entire grocery haul only to realise just how much plastic packaging everything comes in? Yeah, it can be overwhelming. But you can also work around it. Opt for reusable dry goods bags and glass containers when shopping for fresh food and bulk legumes.
For veggies and other delicate produce, make use of reusable produce bags and consider shopping at local grocers and farmer’s markets for lower waste alternatives and fresher produce options.
Stop plastic at the source
Don’t forget - this is more than just your journey into being plastic-free. It’s ours! Having bigger picture participation will help you maintain your momentum and open your eyes to other creative solutions that you can incorporate into your daily life. Community efforts can help hold you to account and can provide encouragement when you’re feeling uninspired.
Remember, our friends, family and colleagues are all making purchases on a daily basis and making their own choices regarding the world that we live in. Get them involved, press businesses to invest in more sustainable solutions and hold government officials and representatives to account.
We all have a role to play in this journey. Let’s do our best while we still can.