Updated: Oct 9, 2019
Hands up if you watched Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘War on Plastic’ recently? I did, but I had to watch it in bitesize chunks because… and this is super embarrassing to admit… because I kept crying. I was crying over the mountains of ‘recycled’ plastic that we, the UK, had dumped in Malaysia. I was crying over the micro-plastics in our toiletries that get into our water systems and harm marine life. I cried because when we wash synthetic clothing in our washing machines, tiny fibres make their way to the sea. I cried over fatbergs caused by flushing baby wipes and the fact that it’s more expensive to buy loose produce in supermarkets than it is to buy them wrapped in non-recyclable single use plastic. I cried for the people out there that aren’t as sensitive as I and aren’t likely to change their habits for the sake of our planet. I was overwhelmed and had to turn off the telly and hug my dog.
I’m not a militant person, you’re not likely to see me marching around holding a placard or lobbying parliament. Extinction Rebellion is just not for me. I’m not a joiner of groups and handing out leaflets fills me with dread. You’re more likely to meet me solo litter picking in the park or on the beach. You might strike up a conversation with me while out dog-walking and find out how I feel about single-use plastics and recycling Tetra-Pak (the online debates about Tetra-Pak in Hastings and St Leonards are real, man) and I might tell you about the things I’m doing to make a difference, albeit a tiny one. I am a very strong believer that change begins with oneself- you can wake up and decide to do something or not do something anymore and that’s how all change begins. I'm going to tell you what I’ve been up to and that may inspire you to make a small change too. I hope so anyway. Watch some Blue Planet after you’ve finished this- if I can’t persuade you, then David Attenborough can.
Firstly, I want you to know that it’s ok to use plastic! You don't suddenly have to chuck everything you own out. I have all sorts of plastic stuff at home- containers, products that come in plastic bottles, plastic bags etc. We all do. It’s not about shunning plastic altogether, it’s about reusing the stuff we can reuse, recycling the bits that can be recycled and not buying the things that can’t be recycled. We need to be smart about it. So, for example, I wash and save my shampoo and washing powder bottles so that I can refill them with other things from my local refill shop, Wonderfill (I recently wrote a post all about his lovely little shop in St Leonards-on-Sea… if you care to read it, here’s the link) When I go shopping I take my old carrier bags with me and I reuse packaging for my Etsy shop sales, which is thrifty as well as environmentally friendly! I try really hard not to buy produce that is packaged in crinkly plastic wrapping- I go to the local greengrocer for fruit and vegetables as much as possible (I felt soooooo guilty when I bought some lettuce from Lidl that was wrapped in non-recyclable plastic that I really do try not to do it.... mainstream supermarkets do not make it easy though, especially when you're on a tight budget!). I try and shop locally as much as possible too. Although in the pursuit of eco-living I have made some Amazon purchases that have (unknowingly) come from China and I feel guilty as hell about it. I now have some washable kitchen towels which will last for ages... but does their re-usability outweigh their carbon footprint? I don’t know. Lesson learned. This plastic free life is a roller-coaster of a journey.
Embracing the Vegetarian and Vegan Life
I’ve been on the plant-based journey since 5th March 2018- my mum’s birthday last year in fact. We went to a lovely country pub and it was my first meal out that I had to really think about. I had absolutely no problem with giving up meat- in fact it was all a breeze. I just made up my mind and that was that. I was exclusively vegan for around 8 months, but illness and convenience had me reaching for non-vegan snacks and cheese sandwiches again… but that didn’t last long and now I’d say I’m 90% vegan… the 10% is chocolate and salted caramel ice-cream, which I’m working on folks. I'll be 100% by the end of this week. Promise.
Litter-Pickers Wear Smaller Knickers
The litter-picking started last year- I was inspired by Emma from @pop_in_p_u_p, who would walk the beach each morning picking up rubbish, documenting her finds. I started taking a litter-picker and bags down to the beach, combining it with a walk for Polly and just like that I was doing something that I’d never done before and a new habit was formed. I began doing it in our local park too, which is pretty grotty a lot of the time and now I tend to pick up random bits of rubbish whenever I see them and quietly put them in the nearest bin. It’s so ingrained now that I can’t not do it. There are local litter-picking and environmental groups in my area for those who prefer being in a bunch- Hastings Beach Clean, Clean Seas Please and Tidy Up St Leonards. Personally I like to be by myself, stopping to chat to the people that ask about it (especially children, I love talking to children about it… my Henry is a pro-at litter-picking… ‘people are disgusting Auntie!’). I like to, you know, casually poke around in the undergrowth, doing my bit quietly. I recently found a man in a bush… yes, a man, a real-life man… he was alive, don’t worry- he alerted me to his presence and in true British style, I backed out with a quick ‘Oh, I’m so sorry!’. No questions asked.
The Travel Bag of Reusable Stuff
The next thing was the ‘travel bag of reusable stuff’- a little cloth bag of items that I tend to use when out and about. My bag contains:
Two metal drinking straws (one for me, one for whoever I am with)
One bamboo mug (for tea, hot chocolate, smoothies, juice etc.)
One collapsible silicone cup (If I need to pour a drink or something, or doubles as a spare tea cup for companions)
Bamboo cutlery- spoon, fork and knife
A large cloth bag for any shopping I do
Brita Water Filter Bottle- this doesn’t fit into my bag, but it’s always on my person. When I need to refill it I check the Refill app for the nearest place I can fill it up, or just chance it in petrol stations and cafes.
The difference between me-before and me-after is that now I actively think about the impact my lifestyle and the things I’m using and buying are going to make on the environment. There’s not really an exact point I can say was ‘before’ and is now ‘after’, the message has just gradually filtered through from the ‘Attenborough Effect’, being an avid Instagram fan and seeing others’ plastic-free and eco-journeys, marketing influencers, telly, the news and from shopping in wholefood shops when I can afford to, where I’ve been exposed to more environmentally friendly products. Now it’s my turn to lend my voice to the cause- so let’s go, who’s up for making a change?
Next in This Plastic Free Life series is the eco-products I've been trying- shampoo bars and deodorant.