Learn how to reduce your plastic consumption with these 5 easy to implement tips
Living a totally plastic-free life is challenging and requires a lot of sacrifice, but there are easy ways to reduce the amount you consume on a day to day basis.
We all know that plastic waste is congesting our landfills and polluting our oceans. It is an alarming fact to fathom, but almost every piece of plastic ever made still exists somewhere in the world.
We treat plastic as a disposable material, but it isn't. It ends up in landfill and the sea, washing up on beaches or being blown into forests with detrimental effects on the environment and wildlife. Approximately 100,000 birds and marine animals a year are killed by plastic bags alone.
Plastic is everywhere and is difficult to avoid entirely - sometimes there is simply no other viable alternative material for essential products. However, many plastic items are unnecessary or can easily be replaced with more eco-friendly and sustainable alternatives with little downside or loss of convenience.
It's time we reconsider the impact of our daily habits, and make it a priority to respect and care for our planet. There are simple and pain-free changes we can make to use less plastic day to day, and every little helps.
Easy changes to live a reduced or plastic-free life
1. Bring your own shopping bags
Most of us own canvas, cotton, or even recycled-plastic bags, but often forget to take them with us when we go shopping. One way to keep them handy is to stash these reusable bags in your handbag, coat pocket, or the glove compartment of you car so they're always there when you need them.
2. Carry a reusable water bottle
Plastic bottles are also one of the most common bits of rubbish found on beaches and in rivers, especially in developing nations where tap water may not always be safe to drink and there are fewer alternatives.
At home and in Europe there is no excuse for buying bottled water - just fill up a re-usable bottle from a tap or water fountain.
If you're travelling somewhere like Indonesia or Bali where tap water isn't an option avoiding bottled water is much harder, but consider using filters to purify your own water or as a minimum buy one large water container and re-fill from that rather than buy new 500ml bottles every day. Drinking more hot drinks like tea or green tea can also reduce the number of bottles you go through, as normal water is safe to drink once boiled.
3. Pack your lunch in a reusable container
Packing your own lunch to take to work or school (or even out on day trips) is a great way to save money and stick to a healthy diet, and has the extra benefit of reducing the amount of food packaging and plastic wrappers you throw away.
There are a number of reusable food containers on the market, but the go-to for most is still the typical tupperware box. Tupperware is certainly better than throwing away new packages each day, but it's also still plastic that can easily be cut out of your life.
Instead consider using stainless steel containers, re-usable beeswax food wraps, or bamboo Japanese-style bento boxes. Metal thermos flasks can also be great for soups in winter.
4. Say no to straws
Straws are one of the top 10 items of rubbish and plastic waste that wash up on beaches around the world - and there are even more of them floating around in the oceans. Drinking out of a straw is simply unnecessary however old you are. Cut it out, or use a glass or bamboo alternative instead.
5. Switch to a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush
There is no good reason to use plastic toothbrushes, which again are among the most numerous items of plastic waste clogging our oceans - as you'd expect with around 7 billion people throwing 6 or more of them away every year.
In fact our bamboo brushes both feel and look much better than plastic brushes, and are every bit as effective at cleaning your teeth. Plus they're naturally antibacterial, so you can use them for months without getting funky (though we do recommend you follow standard dental advice and replace every two months).
The bamboo handles themselves are totally biodegradable. We use nylon-4 for our bristles - our top priority is creating a toothbrush that functions as well as a plastic brush, and so far there is no other viable alternatives other than un-vegetarian-friendly pig hair!
"It has been reported that nylon 4 was degraded in the soil and in the activated sludge. The results confirmed that Nylon 4 is readily degradable in the environment. Furthermore, the biodegradability of nylon 4 and nylon 6 blends was investigated in compost and activated sludge. The nylon 4 in the blend was completely degraded in 4 months while nylon 6 was not degraded." (Tokiwa, Yutaka et al. “Biodegradability of Plastics.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences 10.9, 2009)
This means they should be fine to go in your green bio-waste bin along with the handle.