Going plastic free: I tried for a week - this is what happened

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Can you live a life of less plastic? Is it possible to stop the single use plastic entirely? Our editor, Georgina Wilson-Powell sets out on a seven day challenge for Plastic Free July.

Georgina Wilson-Powell 19 July 2018

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We all know the stats. It's pretty gloomy reading. But what can we do to limit our reliance on single use? We talk a lot on pebble about having a zero waste kit - and I've been pretty reliant on my reusable water bottle, KeepCup and wooden cutlery set for a while now - which cuts down the first easy layer of plastic consumption.

Rather than gear up for this week like a survival expedition and plan it all out to the max, I decide (and the lack of time helps) to live it as near to normal as I can to see where my plastic pain points are and how I can learn to avoid them. For us to ditch the disposables for more than a few days once a year, it's got to be convenient and nearly as cheap and come from manufacturers, government as well as well as us. The louder we ask, the more they've got to listen. 

And the tide is changing. According to recent figures released by Sodastream, 77% of British people are aware of plastic consumption and want action and a third of us carry a reusable water bottle, 80% of us don't use plastic bags and half of us are refusing plastic straws.

Read on for my plastic free week

Monday

There’s something indulgent about working from home on a Monday, especially as the close location to my kitchen means there’s no need for any plastic usage today. Homemade egg muffins for lunch, homemade banana bread (domestic halo shining) for a snack, so far so good.

Not so good is making dinner, which calls for yoghurt and fish, both of which are pretty impossible to find without plastic. My local Morrisons still has plastic bags for veg so I adapt the recipe to suit what I can buy loose and I’m using up store cupboard ingredients before going out and buying more dried goods from a zero waste shop - partly because there’s not one very near me and it’s been too hot to face cycling over there at the weekend.

I also tried: Sodastream

The Sodastream Crystal is a plastic free way to create fizzy water at home. The 80s icon gets a modern makeover; it looks like a larger Nutribullet and you simply sling in the glass litre bottle full of tap water, push the gas button (CO2 cylinders are recyclable and refillable) a few times and like magic, fizz. You don’t have to plug it in and it takes 30 seconds.

Everyone has their pain points. Fizzy water is my partner’s vice and we’ve moved from plastic bottles to glass but the Sodastream will allow us to ditch single use glass as well - and save money. Hello...reusable freedom.

Check out our Instagram video on IGTV to see how it works.

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Plastic free lunch courtesy of Pret A Manger

Tuesday

A breakfast meeting does away with having to think about plastic this morning. My trusty water bottle and Keepcup see me through until lunchtime - and a slight disaster, I’ve forgotten the lunch I made. 

It’s incredibly difficult to find much on the high street for a takeaway lunch that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic, but Pret A Manger have a veggie wrap that comes in corrugated cardboard, so crisis averted. 

Needing some sugar later on in the heat I grabbed a glass bottle of kombucha and sat in a cafe, rather than a grab and go plastic bottle.

I also tried: Who Gives A Crap

You might have seen this brand on social media (or is it just me whose Facebook feed is full of sustainable loo roll?) 

Who Gives A Crap is an Aussie company who package up and send out cardboard boxes of recycled paper loo rolls, covered in paper not plastic. They use 50% of the profits to fund toilet building programmes…and if you think your backside deserves it, you can opt for the super soft version made of bamboo fibre.

Click here to discover other ways to make your bathroom a plastic free space.

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Plastic free loo roll anyone?

Wednesday

It’s the World Cup semi final, and I’m concerned I’m not going to find an outside space that will let me have a drink in the sunshine without using single use plastic cups. I’m not sure my bag is big enough to start carrying round stainless steel wine glasses (you heard it here first) and anyway turning up for a meeting clanking with glasses might not be the best look.

I end up watching the disastrous semi final (for England) at home with tins of tonic and bottles of wine, but guests bring pizzas which come obviously covered in plastic. It’s the convenience factor that's the continual battle - no surprise there, but it feels a little relentless and helpless when it comes to trying to affect other people’s behaviours.

Thursday

I wasn’t the only one feeling the strain the following morning and being not very well prepared for the day. Heading into work I went for a muffin over a breakfast granola pot because it came in a paper bag and for lunch, I ate in a nearby restaurant rather than get a plastic covered takeaway salad.

I know this wouldn’t have happened had I been more prepared but, as most salad, fish and lunch-y kind of snacks from my nearby supermarket come in plastic too, it’s more complex than just buying food in to last the week. 

Avoiding single use plastic when you’re eating out and about comes with a couple of other two downsides - questionable food choices and more expensive lunches. 

In the evening, I went out to a party to celebrate Toast Ale’s success and was hugely happy to find all the beers were poured into proper glasses and all the food was plastic free or surplus food from people like Chic P hummus and Elysia, who specialise in zero waste catering. It felt like a much needed win to be able to go to an event and find there was nothing disposable used at all.

I also tried: Awake Organic Natural Deodorant

It’s a tough week to try an all natural deodorant in a glass jar. Perhaps the toughest. But Awake Organic’s award-winning little beauty is made of tough stuff - well actually, arrowroot, British clay and coconut oil - but surprisingly doesn’t feel sticky. You rub a little amount on with your fingers and it dries really quickly. There’s no aluminium here but after a day or rushing around - no underarm pong. Even more of a relief when you've got something on after work.

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Would you switch to an all natural deodorant?

Friday

It’s been a long week - the heat, the football...and running a fast growing business have taken their toll.

My partner has friends staying and bought a Gousto box - which does massively help with food waste but doesn’t exactly help trying to live a plastic free life. Until there are large scale changes and easily ready alternatives from supermarkets and online suppliers, choosing less plastic often means upping the ante on other issues that I care about just as deeply. 

Cooking for guests for a couple of nights would normally result in quite a few random ingredients being left over to sit at the back of the shelves or be thrown away - with a delivery box there is none of that but the packaging is a big problem.

I also tried: LUSH’s Slap Stick foundation.

One of LUSH’s new ‘naked’ products, this solid stick foundation comes in 40 colours and is made from coconut and argan oil. It looks like half an egg and comes in what looks like a little matchbox, wrapped in paper. I’m sceptical that it won’t melt in the heat, but if a few days in my handbag on the London Underground won’t melt it, I’m pretty sure you’re safe. You apply it straight onto the skin - or with a brush - and rub in. I’m surprised it doesn’t feel greasy despite gliding on. Once it’s on, it feels airy and light and gives my sweaty summer face a decent matt base.

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The LUSH Slap Stick foundation comes in 40 shades

Saturday

And rest. Coffees in bed, lunch in the pub and we stock up on beers, wine and cordial for our friends, stash them in reusable and cycle home clanking feeling smug without any plastic. Outside of food and drink, I don’t tend to buy more than I desperately need. I made a pact with myself to only buy clothes from ethical brands - which means I automatically buy less as I don’t have a big budget and they tend to come with less plastic packaging.

Sunday

The feeling doesn’t last long. We have a gig booked at Somerset House that’s been in the diary for months. I cross my fingers hoping that such a forward thinking venue might have thought about its single use plastic use over the summer series of concerts and films they have every year. Sadly, that’s not the case. Plastic beer bottles, plastic wine bottles and plastic water bottles. No other drinks are allowed in obviously, so I give in and hate myself for doing it.

So what have I learnt?

  • Planning is absolutely vital but there needs to be more plastic free options in supermarkets, having zero waste shops is fantastic but it doesn't replace convenience shopping for busy workers.
  • Even when you try your hardest, life sometimes throws a curve plastic ball from which there is no escape.
  • However, you can cut down a huge amount using a zero waste kit - like this one here - namely, a reusable cup, bottle, cutlery set and bag...and if you get it together to make lunch everyday - then outside of your food shop, you could definitely stop most of your single use plastic.

Come and meet more people who care about the issues you do


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