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20 Steps to Plastic-Free Living

20 Steps to Plastic-Free Living
Written by Jennifer Nini

Plastic-Free July is finally over and I can now breathe a sigh of relief because THAT my friends was a pretty tough month. My partner Ben and I had many successes such as finding glass bottled milk, a wonderful butcher who welcomed our reusable containers and saying no to plastic at the shops.

We also had a few failures, like travelling for work and forgetting to pack soap, buying pet food in plastic bags and forgetting to tell bar tenders not to plastic straws in our glasses (note: even when you tell them this, it’s not guaranteed they will remember as it’s second nature to them!)

Nevertheless, I thought I’d put together a quick list of the top 20 things we learned this month to help you veto single-use plastic:

REUSABLE ITEMS

1. Bring your own food containers when going to the deli etc so you can purchase ham, cheese and other food items

Zero Waste ECO Lunch Box 3 in 1

Zero Waste ECO Lunch Box 3 in 1

2. Take your reusable coffee cup to avoid disposable one (that comes with a plastic lid)

3. Bring reusable shopping bags and produce bags when going shopping.

Muslin Organic Cotton Produce Bags

Muslin Organic Cotton Produce Bags

4. Invest in reusable bottles to avoid purchasing bottled water and make sure to pack them.

KINGSO 17oz Double Wall Vacuum Cool Insulation Stainless Steel Reusable Water Bottle Leak- proof Water Bottle

KINGSO 17oz Double Wall Vacuum Cool Insulation Stainless Steel Reusable Water Bottle

SHOPPING

5. Go to the farmers markets for your produce where you are more likely to avoid food items wrapped in plastic

6. Purchase milk in glass bottles (old school but there are brands are out there!) and reuse the bottles

7. Purchase from businesses/brands that do not actively use plastic packaging such as ettitude

Ivehome certified organic glass bottled milk,

BEAUTY

8. Make your own toothpaste with baking soda, coconut oil and essential oil

9. For shampoo use natural soap (it works trust me) or you can make your own using baking soda and apple cider vinegar

10. Make your own toner by mixing apple cider vinegar with water

11. Use coconut oil for deep hair conditioning

12. Make your own face cleanser by using coconut oil and wiping down with a cloth.

HOME

13. Make your own cleaning products using bicarbonate soda, vinegar and water

14. Prepare home cooked meals to avoid takeaway plastic containers

Home made pizza with organic ingredients from our gardens

PETS

15. Find alternatives to plastic packaged pet food by either purchasing meat from the butcher or boxed pet food

16. Avoid plastic liners in kitty litter. You can just wash it out as often as necessary

TRAVEL

17. Make sure to pack everything you need such as your DIY soap, shampoo and conditioner to avoid plastic-wrapped soap and other hotel amenities (did I mention we completely failed this?)

WATCH OUT FOR…

18. Say no to plastic straws when you order drinks at a pub, bar, restaurant (tell the waiter/bar tender before they serve and remind them as you watch them serve as it’s guaranteed they’ll forget!) Bring your own stainless steel straw and show them when ordering, just in case.

Bring a stainless steel drinking straw with you

Take a stainless steel drinking straw with you

19. Veto plastic bin liners (just as you do with the cat litter) and instead just wash the bin/s out once per week (if you’re composting food scraps there shouldn’t be much grimy rubbish anyway)

20. Avoid plastic cling wrap and opt for storing food in reusable containers or just buy or make your own food wraps.

Bee's Wrap Sustainable Reusable Food Storage 3 Pack

Bee’s Wrap Sustainable Reusable Food Storage 3 Pack

Bee's Wrap Sustainable Reusable Food Storage Assorted 3 Pack

Whilst I haven’t been able to find a local pet supplies place that offers plastic-free bulk pet food, I’ll keep looking. As we live on a farm and currently have two dogs on the property purchasing small boxes of pet food is neither economical or practical even if we are aiming to reduce plastic. Also we’re still on the lookout for tofu (all are wrapped in plastic) as I don’t want to give this food up either (I can give up lots of other food, but not tofu)

Still not sure whether I can attempt to do plastic-free for a year, but I’ve got the remainder of this year to keep working at it. Stay tuned!

We want to know if you attempted the Plastic-Free July challenge and if so, how did you go? What were the biggest lessons learned? Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below to help facilitate discussion and inspire others towards reducing single-use plastic.

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About the author

Jennifer Nini

Jennifer Nini is a writer, activist and the founding editor of Eco Warrior Princess. In 2010, after studying Fashion Business, she launched Eco Warrior Princess to explore her interests in fashion, politics, social justice and sustainability. Jennifer is also the founder of The Social Copywriter, a digital agency harnessing the power of copywriting and content marketing to help mindful businesses reach more people. When she's not perfecting a sentence or coaching business clients, you will find her at her certified organic farm reconnecting with nature.

13 Comments

  • These are great tips, but I am not able or willing to follow many of them. Because of time, convenience but mostly cost.
    Making my own beauty/cleaning products is a matter of convenience that I’m not sure I’m ready to shed. (But might in the future)
    Buying bulk food / from farmers markets, and things like bottled milk is an issue of cost + convenience.
    I hope in the future I will be able to implement more of these tips, but luckily I see some progress in society towards making it easier. So it is inspiring to see that you can make all of this work, though I cannot / am not ready to fully commit at the moment. If that makes me a bad person, so be it.

    • Ahhh yes I understand Johanne, your comments prompted me to remember how I was many years ago! I was in a very similar position to you! And you’re not a bad person, you’re a person that has lots of things going on! We all have competing demands on our time/resources and it’s hard. It’s not possible to ‘Do It All’ (I recently read Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ and fantastic for working women) and we shouldn’t be expected to. Also what is right for one person is not the same for another. Personal growth is different for everyone. I personally couldn’t do Plastic-Free Living year in year out. I am human and it requires planning! One day humanity will evolve to more eco-friendly living options, it’s slow but I see more options each year and I am hopeful.

    • There is a perception that packaged goods are cheaper and more convenient than other versions, but in most cases it simply isn’t the case. Take beauty for example. Most conventional products actually harm our skin’s natural protections and make us dependent on them. When I gave up conventional beauty products for home made versions my skin completely cleared up and I stopped needing to cleanser or toner at all. I just wash my face in water (or use jojoba oil if I’m wearing make up) and use the same natural body butter for face and body. The body butter I make once a year and it takes me 30 minutes, plus I always have extra which I use for lovely handmade gifts for girlfriends and family. I really do save time and a lot of money by switching to home made.

      It doesn’t make you a bad person because you prioritise convenience. Everyone who has chosen to make changes to thier lifestyle once believed that it was too hard for them and they could possibly fit big changes within your lifestyle, including myself. But it is really true that many of the changes required to live more sustainably actually end up being more convenient. Perhaps you test the water by making one small change and see how that fits for you?

  • I’ve been slowly reducing my plastic use bit by bit. I am not sure if I will avoid it entirely, but I believe that one small change after another can make a huge difference. Years ago I changed to entirely natural beauty products, mostly made by myself, and just recently I realised that my bathroom process is entirely zero-waste! That wasn’t even my intention at the time. My only concession is plastic containers for shampoo and conditioners, as I tried a few things, but just prefer the store bought natural ons rather than home made. But those containers are completely recyclable, and I only go through 4 plastic containers a year for that so I think that is a pretty good effort.

    I agree with you on the tofu issue. We could never give at tofu in our household either. I have seen brands that have tofu in plastic takeaway type boxes, which are recyclable- perhaps that is your best option? I am just waiting to find an organic or GMO-free version packaged like that before I make the switch.

    • I’m the same, it takes a lot of planning and I’m not going to beat myself up if I fail given that I try to be mindful most times. Perfection is not my aim, it is to reduce to a point where the household, not just me, can live sustainably.

      How wonderful that you are able to predominantly make your own natural beauty products! What shampoo and conditioner are you using at the moment? The last brand Eco Store was pretty good (I find other natural ones tend to leave my hair oily and these ones didn’t) but I haven’t purchased shampoo and conditioner in months because I’m trying to reduce plastic and also test whether DIY makes a difference to the texture of my hair. At the moment I’m trying natural soap for shampoo and coconut oil for conditioner. I’ll continue testing until I find a combo I like otherwise I’ll go back to buying.

      Also with the tofu I think I know the ones you mean but unfortunately not many tofu options here with Supa IGA and the local grocer (I’m vetoing Woolworths + Coles). Anyway glad to see the back of that month! haha

  • I wish going plastic-free wasn’t so difficult! Good job at doing your best to accomplish this for a full month! Love reading all of your tips. Luckily we have a local butcher that doesn’t use plastic—we get our raw milk in glass bottles there and they even make dog food 🙂 BUT, we still go to the food store and haven’t quite found ways to fully avoid purchasing things in plastic. We always recycle it, but would rather just not have to buy it in the first place. As long as we stay mindful and do our best we will find more and more ways around it!

  • I’m definitely keeping what you’ve said in mind to reduce my plastic use. I was curious to know how your conditioner with coconut oil went. Mine did not go well at all. I have a shampoo recipe I’m trying next and I’ll keep your suggestion in mind too. This was a great list to help me see what else I can do to avoid plastic!

    • Mine is a leave in conditioner, pure coconut oil, that’s it. I usually leave it in for several hours but you can do so overnight. My girlfriend who is Thai/German does this and she gets all credit for this conditioner tip. One day a couple of years ago I looked at her super lush long dark hair and asked how she maintained it and this was her secret! My hair was much shorter back then but now it’s long, this is the way to look after it 🙂

  • These I am sure are challenging to accomplish. I never really thought to go zero on plastic at all, but it is such a wonderful plan!

  • These I am sure are challenging to accomplish. I never really thought to go zero on plastic at all, but it is such a wonderful plan! I have certainly been reducing plastic in my home for years.

  • Hi Jennifer,

    great post with some helpful advice. For this one:

    “2. Take your reusable coffee cup to avoid disposable one (that comes with a plastic lid)”

    I would like to add that not only the lid is made from plastic but also the cup has a plastic coating inside. These cups are hard to recycle that is why they usually end up in landfill.

    Regards
    Juliane

    • Absolutely! Thanks for pointing that out Juliane. I have been using a KeepCup for almost 3 years now and glad I made the switch. I can only imagine how much waste I have saved the planet. Let’s help others do the same!

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