So this morning I woke up very early with the Sun and since the milkman delivers early I actually got up and decided that I should put myself to use and reflect on the Plastic-free(ish) journey that I’ve been on this month. This turned into quite a long mind ramble and at the end I thought. This is pretty much a written blog post! So here we are.
Now the idea of Plastic Free July might be new to a lot of people, but it is a movement to encourage people to reduce their usage of single-use plastics around the home, workplace and out and about. Now some people do attempt to not use any plastic for the whole month, but I knew I was never going to achieve that but I wanted to do something that would result in changes that I actually keep up. So I joined a challenge group called Plastic Free-ish July, run by Jen Gale (author of Sustainable-ish – also a podcast and large online community) , I discovered Jen sometime last year I think and I just liked the way that she had lot of great ideas for improving sustainability on the individual level but encouraged you to not be too harsh on yourself if you can’t get everything perfect. It’s that idea that we don’t need a few people doing sustainability perfectly, we need lots of people doing it imperfectly!
So how did the month turn out then?
I won’t say that the month has been all successful as my plastic usage has definitely fluctuated quite a lot and I know that some weeks have been a lot worse than others. I did several plastic audits over then month (this is where you collect all of the plastic that you generate over a certain time period, in our case one week, and then you analyse what can be reused, repurposed or recycled and where all the different plastic came from, and decide how you can reduce it) and it was quite eye opening to see all the plastic that is around in our society and how most of it only gets used for a tiny fraction of time, and probably only one use, before it is discarded and will likely end up in landfill. If you haven’t done one I would highly recommend doing a plastic audit and seeing what changes you can make from there! A couple of sources for guides are Plastic Free July bin audit and Everyday Plastic although there are lots of other online resources!
However, this month is just the start and I’m going to reflect on what changes I have made, how I can keep them, and what other changes I can make in the future. I also need to make sure I don’t beat myself up (and the rest of you shouldn’t either!) if I have a bad day or month, but to think about what I can do to try and minimise that situation in the future, or balance it out with what improvements I have made! I actually thought before I started this reflection that I hadn’t made a huge amount of progress, but actually now that I have sat and actually gone through everything I feel a lot more positive! I actually have made a lot of changes this month!
Things I have changed this month / recently:
- Switched milk to milk man – I use milk and more but there are a number of different providers in different areas.
- Made my own oat milk. This was pretty successful for use in our overnight oats. Now I need to add it in to my schedule so it becomes a regular thing. I think the closest recipe to the one I use is this from simple vegan
- Have been making my own sourdough more regularly. We’re not massive bread eaters so this is one loaf a week, but I think I’ve only bought 1 loaf of normal bread in the last 6 months.
- Have made other stuff from scratch: flatbreads / naan bread is one of the most successful. Super simple and tasty. I use this recipe from BBC food
- Tried making my own cordial. So far I’ve done blackberry and mint versions and both have been successful so hopefully I can carry that on at least some of the year. Blackberry Recipe (Sainsburys), Mint recipe (Moorlands Eater)
- Most of fruit and veg from greengrocers / wholesalers (this has been a mixed success wrt plastic, some suppliers are much better than others, but definitely no worse than the supermarket)
- Tried to find non plastic packaged switches for some of my other products, so far: Oats, cordials, passata, salad cream, coffee
- Got refills of most household products. I like how these smell / feel so that will definitely be staying for the future. I have tried out the Hampshire Refillery for these recently. But other shops which I love in the Southampton area are Lemon & Jinja in Romsey and Rice Up Wholefoods in town.
- Changed toilet paper to ecoleaf by Suma – this was a trial but we like the paper so we’ll be trying to get that in future.
- Got some period pants from modibodi which seem successful, next up is to see about a reusable cup.
- Switched to using loose leaf tea more often. Not everytime we make tea, but definitely more than I used to.
- Growing my own produce in the garden. While I’m never going to be self-sustaining on the veg front it is nice to grow a few things and you get much more of an appreciation of how much time etc it takes for the stuff to get to your plate. Tomatoes, herbs, blackberries, green leaves and hopefully squash are the success this year.
- Made some snacks / treats from scratch instead of buying crisps and biscuits with lots of packaging. Chocolate Brownies (BBC Goodfood) and popcorn from the kernel have been winners.
- Found a few local businesses that do better on the packaging front, going forward I can start to work out which businesses are best for which products and hopefully that will help my planning. I still ideally need to try and find places like a butcher / fishmonger / cheese shop where I can hopefully use my own containers.
- Started posting about some of my eco purchases / getting recommendations on my social media and it’s nice to see that some of my friends are also interested in this. I know social media can very much be an echo chamber but hopefully starting the conversation will encourage other people to have more conversations themselves.
This selection of pictures show some of the changes I have made this month: Homemade naan bread, minimal packaging deliveries, my first milkman delivery, produce from the garden, my first attempt at making cordial and my household refills from the Hampshire refillery!
I think a lot of my thoughts on the month have then gone towards other areas of sustainability, and some of the different arguements / balances to be made around the energy required to make the other materials, the emissions generated by the transport of heavier items and the efficiencies of scale when producing certain items. So I think that is where I will try to go from here. I don’t think it will necessarily be easy and I think it can be very tough to find actual factual information, backed up with sources but hopefully with my background of science research I can learn some more about sustainability overall.
What changes can I make going forward?
Going forward I will be looking to make further changes and I have plans for the following:
- Changing my energy supplier – I think bulb is currently my favourite considering green energy, ethical rating and good reviews from friends.
- Make a concerted effort to declutter and reduce the amount of things that I bring in to the house. I did find this month that a lot of the plastic that I ended up throwing away was due to convenience, quick things to cook for meals, or food packaging from the supermarket, etc. I think one of my blockers to decluttering is finding someway in which the items can be reused, repurposed, or at a push, recycled. So I will be making a big effort to find places where my clutter will can get a new life!
- Have another go at insulating my house further before winter so I can hopefully reduce my heating, and possibly look into water saving measures.
- Make my own tomato ketchup and yoghurt. I sourced yoghurt in a glass jar from the milk man this morning so I am going to try that this weekend!
- Thinking more about how I can use my voice and spending power to support ethical businesses and encourage change from the big businesses and industry. I also want to think about looking into charities that support people to make changes that will help their sustainability. Over lockdown I started looking into food charities and places that provide training for how to cook etc. and while I know these aren’t a perfect solution I think that this is something I would like to look into further and support.
What other changes can you make?
Now while some people might be at a similar stage to me on their sustainability journey, or further along, others might just be starting out and trying to make little (or big) changes to get a more sustainable lifestyle so I thought I’d jot down a few ideas for things you can change. There is a huge amount of information out there though so I encourage looking for new ideas all the time!
- Change your search engine to Ecosia
- The most sustainable thing is the thing you already own! Don’t go buying lots of shiny new ‘eco-friendly’ items if you already have something that will do the job!
- Try to avoid fast-fashion if you can – do you really need the new items of clothing? (this also applies to all other purchases…) Can you use something you already have, repair the items, borrow from someone or buy secondhand? If you do need to buy new, try to buy something that you are going to get a lot of use out of and that will actually last!
- Reusable items! Try where possible to reuse your items. Good things for this are coffee cups, water bottles, food containers, cutlery, straws, crockery for picnics/parties.
- Try to avoid flying – currently this is quite easy… but maybe consider taking a holiday in the UK or somewhere you can reach by train or ferry. Making the journey part of the holiday can make this better rather than just thinking about trying to reach the destination as soon as possible.
- Take your own lunch / breakfast / coffee – if you are out and about quite frequently then try to avoid buying convenience foods that are wrapped in lots of non-recyclable plastic. If you can’t bring your own food then try to eat or drink in at a place that serves food packaging free.
- Reduce what you buy – now this is one thing that I definitely struggle with a lot. You get caught up in wanting new things or the latest advertising campaign and suddenly you have new purchases that you probably didn’t really need… So maybe try to implement a waiting period before making purchases where you consider if you actually need it.
- Do a digital declutter! All of those old email newsletters, those 20 cloud backups of your documents? They all take resources and energy to store so try going through and removing unnecessary things!
- Share your sustainability story. You might be surprised with the support that you get from your friends and social circle, and maybe you might inspire someone else to make a change in their life.
- Be kind! Now this is a super important one. Not everyone has the same circumstances to be able to make the same changes, so appreciate that and encourage people to do what they can, even if they might think it is a small change, or it is planning what changes they would like to make in future.
Well that turned out pretty long… So if you got all they way through to the end let me know your thoughts! Do you have any changes that you have made, or would like to make?!