I have been away for a while I know and I’m very sorry, it’s been a couple of intense months and I didn’t feel much like writing or posting.. But I’m back!
So here we are at the end of Week 1 of Plastic Free July, this year for the occasion I am trying to post one zero waste/plastic-free tip every day. I will also post weekly here on the blog to share all the week’s tips and go a little more in deep!
Tip #1: Use bamboo toothbrushes!
Switching from plastic to bamboo toothbrushes is one of those things that anyone can do, nowadays there are so many brands around that most people should be able to find at least one brand.
It is true that they cost more than most plastic toothbrushes but moving to zero waste lifestyle you will learn to spend your money in a different way, spending a little more for quality or for more eco-friendly products, while, at the same time, saving a lot on beauty products and disposables items (once you replace them with reusables).
Personally I use a TEA Natura toothbrush, which is an Italian brand. We started using this particular toothbrush when we were living in Italy and kept using it once we moved to the UK because we thought it had compostable bristles. Unfortunately after a bit of research they contacted their producer and found out that they weren’t made just with bamboo but with bamboo infused plastic, making the bristles not compostable. They are still looking for other alternatives but in general I thought that it was very nice that they took time to give me a very detailed explanation.
Nonetheless once we finish the toothbrushes that we had already bought we’d like to try other companies. In general most companies use nylon bristles which are BPA-free and recyclable, all you need to do to dispose of the toothbrush is to take off the bristles first and recycle them (if possible in your area), and then you’ll be able to either compost or reuse the bamboo handle.
Here is a list of companies I found online and the country in which they are based:
TEA Natura - Italy
Brush with Bamboo - US
The Environmental Toothbrush - Australia
HydroPhil - Germany
The Bamboo Toothbrush - UK
My Boo Company - France
If you know other Bamboo Toothbrushes Companies let me know and I’ll add them to the list!
Tip #2: Zero waste/plastic free gifts!
This one is not strictly related to the theme but July 2nd was my birthday so I couldn’t resist speaking about this!
In general I believe that there are many ways to make low-waste gifts, usually what we do is that we make a list of the things we want, and than the other one (or our families) decide what to give us, this way we avoid at least the useless gifts that end up forgotten in some corner or box.
In my case it’s often things like clothes or zero waste substitutes that I need but are a bit expensive, before adding them to my list I consider the material, where they are produced, the packaging and of course if they are things that we really need. This way I’m able to diminish or avoid completely the amount of plastic involved.
The other easy way to make zero waste and plastic free gifts is to choose experiences over objects! An experience can be a nice homemade special dinner, a surprise party, a little vacation, the tickets for a particular concert or sport and so on
It can be anything, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be something that you can buy, just something made with love and thought.
This year for my birthday Giulio, my boyfriend, took me to an amazing Hotel with SPA surrounded by nature, he didn’t tell me where we were going, just that we were going somewhere for the night. It was perfect because in these past few months we were both to busy and stressed to find the time or energy to enjoy some special quality time together, this way we got to relax and to spend some nice time together!
Tip #3: Choose solid alternatives!
There are a lot of brands that produce solid shampoos, soap bars and so on in plastic-free packaging. You can find them at super markets, in shops like Lush or online (always check Easy, supporting local companies is always great!).
Solid products are smaller and easier to bring around, especially when travelling, usually last a lot longer than liquid ones (especially if you dry them properly) and don’t need plastic!
Personally I try to use only products that are 100% natural and without pollutant ingredients, which is why I stopped using Lush’s shampoo bars, but I do understand that this makes it harder to find the perfect shampoo, which is why I still think that Lush is great company for promoting awareness around packagings, ingredients etc
Below you can find a list of some companies that make solid shampoos and soap bars:
Lush - UK based but available in most countries
Funky Soap - UK based but ships in all Europe
Living Naturally - UK based
Lamazuna - France based but ships in all Europe
Ethique - New Zealand based
If you know other companies let me know and I’ll add them!
Tip #4: buy loose, refuse the plastic produce bag!
I’m referring mainly to fruits and vegetables as most of them can be found loose also at supermarkets!
In general I would suggest to buy local and go to farmers markets when possible, but this is not always an option. If you can do it though, it is one of the easiest way to get package-free products as very few products come packaged at markets and you get to take the time to explain why you’re refusing the packaging, meaning that the next time they will remember! Also, I think that farmers understand a lot more the concept of not needing packaging, as they know that it is often excessive or not needed at all.
Personally I always ate a lot of fruit and used to buy mostly local products (even if I could never resist avocados and bananas) but when I went to a nutritionist a few weeks ago, she informed me that I wasn’t getting enough nutrients and suggested me to variate more, so now I buy all kinds of fruits, which, being in England, means that a lot of it unfortunately is not local!
For what regards supermarkets you should be able to find some fruits and vegetables loose, but they supermarkets usually offer some cheap plastic produce bags. What I do is to just skip it, and most of the times I don’t even use my reusable produce bags!
If you live in a country where supermarkets require you to weight your loose products by yourself, like in Italy, you can simply weight it all together loose and put the sticker with the price directly on one of the products. I did it many times in different supermarkets in Italy and never had any problems!
If instead, like the UK, the cashier weights the products herself it’s even easier, I just try to put them in an ordinate way so to make it easier, but don’t use any bag or packaging! I do this at Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Co-Op and never heard a complaint!
Of course not all packaging can be avoided, personally I still buy packaged spinaches/baby spinaches, berries (I can’t seem to find a place where you can return the package even at the farmers market) and cucumbers, which for some reason come packaged in plastic 99.9% of the times in the UK!
Tip #5: Find a water bottle and never leave it again!
Using a water bottle is one of those things that everyone knows they should do but very few people actually remember to do.
I think that like with the tote bags it’s one of those things that takes a little bit of time to become a habit, but that in general it isn’t a very hard thing to do. Now every time I get out I check if I have my phone, my keys and my water bottle!
Since I started bringing it with me I finally started drinking more water because any time I am thirsty I have some with me!
In Rome the water is pretty good so I just refilled my water bottle straight from the tap, while here in Cambridge the taste isn’t great so I filter it with a little charcoal filter!
For what regards the actual water bottle you can use any water bottle you already own, an old glass bottle (like the one in the picture) or simply a jar (as long as it’s airtight!). If you are buying it new I would suggest to invest in a good quality plastic-free one, they last a lot longer, you don’t risk having nasty chemicals leaking into your water and you’ll support an eco-friendly company!
Tip #6: Say no to disposable coffee cups!
This is quite an easy one in Italy as in our tradition you rarely get take-away coffee, you will usually drink it directly at the cafe served in real ceramic mugs, even if you are in a hurry!
But in general around the world that of disposable cups is a pretty big issue, especially since not only the top is made of plastic but the actual cup is made of a mixed material and is therefore not recyclable or compostable (unless it says explicitly that it is 100% compostable)!
In this case I would suggest trying to take a little extra time and drinking the coffee directly at the cafe with real mugs, as most places do have real mugs (even Starbucks!). Otherwise you can get either a reusable cup, an insulated flask or simply use a jar with a thick sock or sleeve to avoid getting burnt!
Yes an airtight jar will solve most of your problems (for everything else there is coconut oil!).
Personally I got this KeepCup made of glass, cork and BPA-free plastic, but there are a lot of brands, and a lot of cafes sell their own reusable alternatives as well (usually it’s the ones that also give a discount if you use your own cup).
Tip #7: Say goodbye to plastic bags!
I know that this one should have been the first tip haha But it’s my first time trying to organise something like this so I’m still learning :D
Anyway once again it’s one of those things that most people know they should do and have the necessary reusable bags at home, but still very few people actually do it. And this is not because it’s something particularly hard to do but because it’s just a matter of habits.
If you have a lot of tote bags I would suggest putting one in each bag/backpack you use, at least at the beginning, this will help you get used to the idea of having one with you at all times and in the end it will help you remember to check if you have it no matter where you're going or what you're doing!
The great thing about tote bags is that they are very resistant, don’t weight much and can fit anywhere, even in a clutch bag (I tried and succeeded)!
I’ve always loved tote bags, for a few years in high school I only used tote bags and didn’t have any “actual” bags, so I’ve had a lot of them for a long time. I’ve only bought 2 new recently, the first one is the one showed in the picture as we needed somewhere to store our vinyls but didn’t have the money or space for an actual sealed box, be didn’t use the old ones because they were too thin in shape and therefore the vinyls didn’t fit (at least not all together). The other tote bag I bought is the one with the Zero Waste Path logo, which was made by a lovely Scottish girl which I found on Etsy, I really wanted something that said that Zero Waste on the front, plus this tote bag is much much bigger than the other ones I have so often it’s the only one I need when going grocery shopping!