Plastic Free July - Top Tips from me and my team
Taking the plastic free July challenge? Here is a few things me and my team do to make a difference! To show you just how easy it can be, we’ve put together a few of our absolute essentials when it comes to living plastic-free.
Note: we didn’t include every single thing that we use or do, just a few things that we couldn’t live without and have been easy changes.
Working for over 49 councils throughout New Zealand means I am forever on the road, and forever busy! This doesn’t mean I can’t do my bit in reducing my plastic waste throughout my many journeys though. Here are my “on the road again” essentials that are with me everywhere I go.
1. A good book – Life on the road doesn’t give me much downtime – but when I get it, I love to immerse myself in a good book, here’s my current book of choice! I have a stash of them. They are literally everywhere so I never forget to take one with me on the road.
2. Reusable takeaway coffee cup – Being busy means coffee is an extremely important ingredient to my day, but that doesn’t mean single use takeaway cups need to be! This cup has diverted a countless number of cups from going to landfill, with plenty more on the horizon.
3. Small foldable tote bag – Being able to clip my shopping bags to my travel bag means I never have an excuse to not have them on me. Super handy! The number of times people have been surprised I have my own bag clipped to the outside of my bag is incredible. It is so easy and that way I never forget my bag.
4. Insulated water bottle – I have a stainless steel water bottle from Camelbak that I have had for about 4 years now. Having this bottle with me at all times means I stay hydrated without the trail of unnecessary single use bottles following me. It’s also super sturdy, which means it puts up with the rigors of travel. Previously I had a glass one but this one has stood the test of time.
The other thing I do when I am on the road is make better choices. I recently used Uber Eats for one of my favourite restaurants down in Wellington. The food arrived at my hotel which was super awesome, but the packaging was not. There were 4 plastic lined non-recyclable, non-compostable boxes, plastic knives and forks, and three little containers of sauce. Here I was thinking it was super handy but when I saw all of the packaging I felt really bad because I could have just gone to the restaurant and had dinner there, with no impact. It all comes down to the small choices you make on the road. Uber Eats is on the out for me now as I don’t want to have excessive packaging for one meal and I need the exercise anyway.
At the halfway mark of my first year living out of my childhood home, it’s safe to say there have been some challenges! And keeping waste to a minimum has been one of them. Flatting with 5 other people means living with a whole bunch of different routines and rituals – I’ve certainly learned to worry about myself and do my best. Here are my essentials this Plastic Free July.
1. Cotton tote bag – Super easy this one, I’ve just made it essential if I’m ever leaving the house with any chance of needing a bag. It doubles as a postbag when I head off to send things, and a grocery bag on the way back. I find it helps to have a bag that you like using, like my one here with a print from one of my favorite bands at the moment on it. I also have a tee shirt bag from an op shop that holds heaps – great to have different sized bags too!
2. Reusable produce bags – Something that I feel is becoming more and more common to see when you head off to do your groceries, a real “no-brainer” and one of the easiest products to use when it comes to cutting out single-use plastic. For some reason their “Stretchy-ness” really appeals to me – they’re better than their single-use alternative in every way!
3. Cutlery – I keep these in my car or backpack if heading into the city and plan on having a takeaway lunch. I find using cutlery from home super easy, I could invest in some especially for this task, but I just grab some from the kitchen plus a cloth to wrap them in to avoid dirty dishes touching the rest of the contents of my bag.
4. “No Advertising Mail” sticker – This is one of my additions this PFJ, we recently moved to a new flat and amongst the organising, I hadn’t got around to applying my sticker, that changes now! Ecomailbox is an amazing initiative who combat the 30kg of junk mail waste that is delivered to each household per annum. Getting a sticker is super easy, google Ecomailbox for more info.
5. Natural package-less shaving bar – This plastic-free bar is amazing for preparing my face for a shave – which if you know me, isn’t that often, so I think this will last a fair while! This is a packaging solution that more and more companies are opting for, so where possible, choose bars and blocks over tubed products.
6. Bamboo toothbrush – A really easy alternative that I’ve found is also a cool little conversation starter when away for work or sport. Often get asked about my “Wooden toothbrush”. What’s great is that I can just put into our home compost bin once I’ve used it for a season, after pulling out the plastic bristles.
7. Reusable takeaway coffee cup – Probably one of the most universal waste-savers. It’s my most used tool on this list apart from the tote bag I’d say. I really have nothing nice to say about takeaway coffee cups these days, really one of those things that makes zero sense to me. It’s Keepcup or “have-here”, there’s no other option!
Being in my last year of uni, my days consist mainly of studying in the library and working from my laptop. So my Plastic Free July essentials are things I always make sure I’ve got in my uni backpack.
1. Reusable takeaway coffee cup – These are something I’m seeing a whole lot more of when I’m out and about which is fantastic. It’s no longer an odd request to have your coffee made in your own cup and loads of cafes actually offer discounts for bringing your own. Mine was around $30 but you can definitely keep cheaper ones if you don’t opt for glass (but it is the best option).
2. Wooden cutlery – These are great to have handy for quick takeaway lunches and save you from having to use single-use plastic or bamboo options that are usually available. Just like reusable takeaway coffee cups, I find it’s best to wash these as soon as I get home and then put them straight back in my bag, that way I’m never caught out.
3. Lip balm in plastic-free packaging – I go through a lot of lip balm, especially in winter, so I make sure to only buy lip balm that’s in a tin and not a plastic tube. I’ve kept a couple of empty tins and am going to make it one of my Plastic Free July goals to make my own lip balm reusing those tins. These tins would also be great for other DIY projects like homemade kids face paint or watercolours etc.
4. Stainless steel water bottle – Reusable water bottles really are a no-brainer and I’d say most people use them now anyway, but stainless-steel bottles are definitely the way to go. They keep your water cold all day and pose no threat of water beading on the outside which could damage other items in your bag. I have a $7 one from Kmart, and it’s just as good as the $40 ones from outdoor shops.
5. Cotton tote bag – A reusable bag that folds up small is a great thing to have in your handbag, backpack, glovebox etc. It’ll ensure you’re never caught out, especially on those days where you just need to grab a couple of ingredients for dinner on your way home
My most recent waste-free mission has been overhauling my skincare routine, and it’s been a tricky one. Pretty much 99% of skincare, haircare, and cosmetics come in plastic packaging. For many of us, it’s kind of impossible to completely avoid, but I’m doing my best to find alternatives packaged in glass or metal and have actually found quite a few. The biggest change for me has been getting a reusable makeup wipe and oil cleansing instead of using single-use wipes and harsh makeup remover. You can find all sorts of reusable makeup wipes or makeup-removing face cloths online (mine was unnecessarily overpriced but it’s lasted a good couple of years now) or you could make your own. Instead of using makeup remover, I use a pure non-comedogenic oil like jojoba or argan oil. It easily breaks down waterproof mascara and foundation and can then just be rinsed off. So while this aspect of my lifestyle may not be strictly plastic-free, I’m definitely moving in the right direction.
As a busy mum of 3, it’s always a challenge to keep things running smoothly, especially on school mornings where you’ll find me trying to make lunches and get everyone out the door in time! I’m by no means perfect but do my best to reduce packaging by buying in bulk and making better choices with what products I buy. Here are my essentials for when I leave the house.
1. Cotton tote bag – I take this everywhere I go, as it’s small enough to fit in my handbag and saves me having to juggle the things I buy.
2. Recycled glass jars for food storage – This has been a simple change, I take my jar to the local shop, they weigh the jar, I fill it with whatever I need, then they weigh it again and take off the weight of the jar. This saves me a whole bunch of packaging and is a great way to reuse the jars before they’re recycled.
3. Mints in plastic-free packaging – I choose to buy my mints in a tin so then I don’t have lots of individual chewing gum wrappers or non-recyclable plastic containers. There are always options that can cut down on your waste, that may not even be obvious!
4. Natural package-free deodorant – I use these deodorant bars as an excellent alternative for traditional plastic or aerosol canned deodorants. They are super easy to use!
5. Reusable cloth tea bag – Tea bags containing plastic create a load of waste and can’t be composted, so I’ve invested in this cloth tea bag that I can fill with loose leaf tea, and reuse over and over again.
6. Recycle glass bottle – I buy juice in glass bottles then reuse them for drink bottles until the next one is empty.
To continue on with what I do at home, I tend to bake in bulk a lot and freeze it all in threes for easy lunch-making, by the time they come to eat it it’s all nicely defrosted. I make Easiyo yogurt and freeze in Kai carriers and bake loaves that I slice and freeze. I also use the fruit we grow to make orange marmalade, strawberry and raspberry jam, bread and butter pickles and stew up our apples for apple crumble, I scoop out the feijoas and freeze them in containers to join our apples in the crumble, make feijoas loaves and feijoas sorbet. My next challenge is to make my own crackers which will reduce packing entering my house even more. We as a household of 5 and 4 pets have gone from a rubbish bag a week to now only putting one out every 4 weeks.
So there we have it, our #plasticfreejuly essentials. It’s important to note that we all live quite different lifestyles, but are able to do our best to cut down our impact through a combination of simple changes. We hope we were able to inspire you to make some changes, or even to just think a bit more about your choices and what you purchase and consume. Plastic Free July is a great way to begin new waste minimisation journeys, as well as being that extra bit of motivation to keep up what you’re already doing. Thanks for reading, and best of luck for the rest of July – 2019 and beyond!