Day 31: Plastic Free July 2014

Here it is, the final day of Plastic Free July 2014. Huge congratulations to those of you who have taken part in the challenge by cutting out every little piece of single-use plastic that you possibly can! I can imagine your relief, although my more manageable adaptation was mere child’s play in comparison.

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My own experience of Plastic Free July was worthwhile. Although not religiously cutting out all disposable plastics, I had a few things that I had banned for the month (cereals in plastic, shampoo, conditioner, juice in cartons to name a few) plus I avoided a whole lot more by mostly cooking from scratch and trying to choose plastic-light options where I could. Single-use plastic was on my mind a lot during the month and it definitely made me aware of how much it’s used everywhere.

There were three big wins for me this month:
1. Getting back into the habit of cooking and baking. I realised that it’s not too hard to squeeze in a bit of extra food preparation as long as I plan ahead. I found it satisfying to be providing the family with healthy options, and felt really good about reducing my food waste by using up as much as I could from my veg box. I might even have enjoyed it sometimes!

2. Reducing my rubbish. This is something that I always mean to focus on but never quite get around to. Not so funnily enough, when you cut down on single-use plastics, you cut down on what goes in the bin for landfill…

3. Tea bags! I learned that most tea companies use plastic to stick their bags together. As well as switching to tea leaves, it was satisfying to know that others were reading the blog and communicating with the companies they had (previously!) bought their bags from. In fact, if you are interested in this area, as I definitely am, then Lindsay at Treading My Own Path has a campaign to get individuals to contact the big companies. You can read all about it here – she’s even made it really easy for us all!

So will I be carrying on trying to reduce my single-use plastics?

Definitely! I think once you’ve thought about it, written about it, tried it and become slightly obsessed by it, it would be hard to go back to consuming plastic mindlessly. No doubt the topic will crop up in future blog posts so you’ll be able to see how I’m getting on.

What next?

I’ll carry on blogging of course, and my next challenge is just on the horizon. I’m a Blog Ambassador for Zero Waste Week 2014, for which the theme this year is ‘One More Thing’.

Zero Waste Week is happening from 1-7 September and Rae Strauss, who runs it, is looking for people to sign up with their pledge. Why not take a look at the website and consider joining in?

Thanks so much to everyone who has read my blog this month. To those of you who have commented and encouraged, you’ve helped me hugely! Cutting down on single-use plastics is  certainly a challenge, but blogging about it regularly is probably as much of a challenge. It is enjoyable and worthwhile, however, especially when I know it’s being read! Many thanks.

Day 6: Plastic Free July 2014

Yesterday I tried out my plastic-free shampoo and conditioners for the first time. I ordered these from Lush online and was somewhat taken aback by the packaging that they arrived in.

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On first glance, I thought the white things were polystyrene balls, but the box stated that they were fully compostable, and that the cardboard could be recycled. This made me feel better. Plastic Free July however, has got me thinking about ordering online, and the associated negative issue that it is hard to avoid plastic packaging.

Anyway…back to the hair products. I had somewhat stubbornly refused to try out my shampoo and conditioner bars before July, because I was convinced they would be a poor alternative to my usual brands, and I didn’t want to have to ‘suffer’ them before I had to.

Actually, as it turned out, I didn’t notice a difference. I felt that the Lush bars were quite expensive (you can check out prices on the website), but I hardly made a dent in them, so perhaps they will last me for a long time, and turn out to be good value for money.

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The conditioner is in a compostable wrap

Rubbing the shampoo bar on my hair felt like a strange thing to do, but it lathered up nicely and cleaned my hair perfectly well. I didn’t really know what to do with the conditioning bar, so I broke a corner off and squeezed it into a pulp, which I massaged through my hair. I don’t feel that I managed to distribute it as well as I would with liquid conditioner, but it seemed to work.

I have hair that is very dry so I really need hair products that are up to the job. I am optimistic that my new bars will get me through the month without turning my hair to straw – I’ll keep you updated!

A word of advice – do tell your family if you have shampoo that looks like soap. I found mine sitting on the sink, having already washed some little hands – at great expense!

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Last night I met a friend in Edinburgh for a meal and drinks. It was a plastic-free experience (I think!). I travelled into town on the bus, acquiring a paper ticket and managed to avoid any drinks straws or plastic cutlery, so the whole outing was stress-free.

Oh, and for those of you concerned that I am being forced into a dry July because of the plastic issue, I did manage a couple of glasses of wine. I will admit that I didn’t ask to examine the bottle for traces of plastic screw-tops or plastic-coated foil. I’m pretty sure I’d have found some!  I’m sticking to the if it’s not in my bin, it’s not my plastic* rule…no abuse of the rule is allowed though!

I’m still finding that the biggest change I’ve been making to eliminate plastics, is to make a lot more of my food from scratch. I’m constantly planning a meal or two ahead, and chopping and cooking up veg where I can, so that dishes can be thrown easily together when I need them. It’s all been really boring stuff so far, like tomato based sauces, so I’m going to have to up my game soon!

We had visitors for coffee this morning and I whipped up a batch of (almost) plastic-free fairy cakes instead of buying plastic-wrapped biscuits. Plus all of the orange squeezing is meaning that less rubbish is going into the bin from non-recyclable juice-cartons. Yay!

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As ever, thanks for all of the comments and encouragement, they’re really helping!

*thanks to @polytheenpam of Plastic Is Rubbish  and Plastic Free UK for this rule