We are about six months into our slow but steady mission to reduce our family’s plastic footprint. As time goes on, old products get used up and more earth-friendly alternatives are discovered. Our first top 10 plastic-free tips post is a great starting point for those embarking on plastic reduction, and we continue the series with our second helping of everyday vegan friendly alternatives to going plastic-free.
Charcoal water filter – I discovered these about three months ago now and am a convert. Standard water filters are a plastic nightmare; however, these come completely plastic-free, are so easy to use, are a completely natural product and make the water taste great – best of all, they are cheaper too. I can’t sing the praises of these enough – a great plastic-free find that works better that anything I’ve tried before. You just boil the filters, leave to cool, add to your water and leave overnight. Boil to clear every two weeks and replace every two months. For more details click here, also includes some of the handy things you can do with used-up charcoal before composting.
Grown your own veg – such a simple and cost-effective solution to getting your veggies free from packaging, without the need for a huge garden. I’ve grown tomatoes, salad leaves and herbs in gardenless flats many times in the past. Of course, the bigger your space the more you can grow; but every little helps and going zero-waste is like going vegan – it’s about doing everything you can for your own situation to reduce the damage we humans so often leave in our wake. This is a fantastic clip showing how you can collect seeds from your food and start your own mini garden. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jze8utzpLhg
Find a zero-waste store – I am aware that living in London makes finding such shops much easier, but they are popping up all over the country and there are also great online shops and refill services UK-wide such as www.zero-waste-club.com . You can also find zero-waste items in supermarkets too – it’s just looking out for how the same foods are packed differently by different brands. For example, Tesco has some of its oats in plastic and some in cardboard. Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to get everything perfect in one shop – small steps can end up making a huge difference.
Make your own non-toxic cruelty-free vegan cleaning solutions – experiment with making your own surface cleaners and homemade cleaning products. Not only do you end up with plastic-free (or reusing old bottles) and cruelty-free products, but they are much less toxic too. My favourite cheap and easy cleaner consists of half a bottle of white vinegar topped up with water and lemon and orange peels. Leave as long as you can (ideally 4 weeks) before using so the citrus peels can make the solution smell nicer. There are thousands of hints, recipes and tips online – search and find one you like the look of, grab an old spray bottle and get scrubbing!
Second-hand clothes – last year, I watched an incredible documentary called The True Cost. It shocked me just how environmentally and socially catastrophic the fashion industry is and how irresponsible the chain of consumers, cotton-seed suppliers, high-street brands and everything in between, ending up with the high-end fashion labels is. It’s one of the most powerful films I’ve seen and has completely changed the way I shop. Any new clothes I buy are now from shops that have clear social and environmental traceable ethics – everything else is second-hand.
Keep packaging and reuse – before you recycle or dump items in landfill, begin to look at your rubbish creatively. Give items a new lease of life, make do and mend, give things like tin cans a new purpose but using them as storage aids –break the throwaway culture we have all fallen for. Reuse envelopes, bubble wrap and any other everyday items – this will save you money as well.
Your bottom – yes, even your bum ‘n’ bits can be eco-friendlier these days. Who Gives A Crap (WGAC) is a great loo roll company making waves in bathrooms everywhere. They use bamboo instead of traditional paper which is much more sustainable, it comes completely plastic-free, and best of all WGAC uses profits to help build toilets in communities in need. You can ask your workplace to switch too if that’s an option.
Stop, think, search and replace with an eco-alternative – okay, so this is not always going to be possible but just getting into the hang of searching for more eco-friendly versions of your purchases and it soon becomes a habit. It’s amazing what companies big and small are creating as the trend to zero waste and eco-friendly products grows.
Olio – do you have spare food you know you won’t get through? Are you going away on holiday with a fridge full of veg? Sign up with organisations such as Olio that can connect you to your local community by sharing food and helping out your neighbours. Its free to use and you can add as much or as little as you like. If you have purchased any non-vegan food in error (it happens to the best of us!), give it to a food bank rather than chuck it – most of the big supermarkets have food-bank collection bins at the exit area of their store.
Give it back to the supermarkets – return by post excess and non-recyclable packaging – don’t leave it at the till. Dumping packaging at the till will add pressure to the person just trying to do their job and annoy the people in the queue. Instead, find the supermarket’s freepost address online, build up a bag’s worth at home and return to their customer services department with a letter explaining why you are returning it. They will deal with the waste and most importantly log your complaint.
In a few months’ time, we will continue this series of zero-waste tips as we learn more along the way – until then follow us on Instagram for daily vegan and plastic free life posts.