Life can be busy, and when we’re busy, we can easily forget things. But there’s no reason the environment should suffer for our forgetfullness. If you find you’re always on the go and want to live sustainably whilst you do so, stick to these 10 top tips for how to get around plastic-free and save money, save resources, and save yourself from buying plastic, helping to end plastic pollution.
Quick Eco-Facts and Tips
- You will use either 5 menstrual cups or 12,000 disposable menstrual products in your lifetime – A Waste Free World
- 1 bamboo toothbrush = 4 plastic toothbrushes – Charlie Fiest
- 1 cloth tote bag = 170 single-use shopping bags – Charlie Fiest
- 1 reusable coffee cup = 500 single-use coffee cups – Charlie Fiest
- Polyester takes 20 – 200 years to decompose in a landfill – Charlie Fiest
- Almond milk uses over 6,000 litres of water just to make 1 litre of almond milk – switch to oat milk instead
- An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day – take shorter showers! – Eco Chic Cayman
- Soft plastics (such as straws and the soft film from fruit punnets) will pollute for 200 years
- Styrofoam takes between 500 years and forever to break down
- Plastic bags take 500 – 1000 years to break down
- Plastic bottles take 70 – 450 years to break down
10 Tips to go Plastic-Free on the Move
1. Always carry a reusable water bottle with you, wherever you go.
Why? Because a plastic bottle (for juice, water, energy drinks) will be used for an average of 3 minutes and will remain on the earth for approximately 450 years, giving off harmful chemicals, falling into the sea and wiping out animals, and emitting micro-plastics that will end up in our bodies. Most decent restaurants and cafes will re-fill your reusable bottle for you. Plus, if you’re travelling abroad, many airports (such as Luton) have taps with fresh water specifically to refill a water bottle. HIP Water Bottle Cloud 650ml, £14.95, harveynichols.com
2. Always carry a tote bag.
This is an important one for those who cook for themselves, and for those travelling abroad. Bring a tote bag or two when going on holiday, so that if you go shopping, you have somewhere to put all your goodies rather than choosing to be given a plastic bag that will take about 1000 years to break down, and that do the same damage as plastic bottles do (above). You could opt to be given a paper bag which many shops now do, such as Zara and Primark – but what’s the point if it’s only going to be used until you get home? Bring your own tote bag and be conscious of where the disposable bags will end up. The Dior bag below is a great size for carrying groceries. Alternatively, get a plain tote bag here that can be stuffed into your smaller bag, if you don’t feel like carrying it around all day. Dior book tote Oblique bag, £1,950, dior.com
3. Bring your own tupperware to pick up takeaways.
I discovered this a few weeks ago – if you bring your own tupperware when picking up a take-away (make sure to call and let them know before hand), the restaurant will pack it tight with your order, even more than if they were using their own packaging, and some places will even give money off. You might think that the plastic tupperwares are useful anyway, because they can often be reused. But how many times can they actually be re-used before they start to break? And where will they end up afterwards? In the bin, just a little bit later than if you’d accepted them from the restaurnat in the first place. Bring your own and cut down on the demand for plastic packaging. Adoni Leak Resistant Lunch Box, £18, asliceofgreen.co.uk
4. Bring your own straw.
Meeting friends after work for cocktails? Carry your own straw with you and be prepared should you happen to be going to a bar that is ‘behind’ in the sense they that they are still selling straws that will be used for one drink and will proceed to take 500 years to decompose (that is, if it doesnt end up in the sea, endangering the lives of any animals that comes near it). These make a great present for eco-friendly friends and family, too. Box of 6 Toile de Jouy straws, £120, dior.com
5. Carry a reusable cup for hot drinks.
Forgive us if this strikes you as obvious, but there are still those buying single use coffee cups, even though bringing your own will often mean you are charged less for the drink. There are tons of beautifully designed coffee cups, such as those from Ecoffee Cup and Keep Cup, but if your main quarm about getting a reusable cup is that you don’t want to carry it round all day or it’s too heavy or too large, get a collapsible one. Stojo Collapsible Reusable Pocket Cup, £9.99, johnlewis.com
6. Carry your own cutlery.
Grabbing lunch on the go? Whole Foods has biodegradable cutlery, but many places such as Pret and Itsu are still selling single-use plastic cutlery. They won’t be able to for long, as the EU has implemented a law to ban them, amongst other unneccessary single-use plastics. ‘These products [plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks and cotton buds], which make up over 70% of marine litter, will be banned from the EU market from 2021′ – europarl.europa.eu. In the meantime, get your own eco-friendly cutlery set so that if you’re eating on the go, you don’t have to take (and therefore create demand for) single-use plastic cutlery. Cutlery roll, £12, tabithaeve.co.uk
7. Request no plastic in your room.
Booking a hotel or renting a holiday home? Save yourself the feeling of despair when walking in from travelling to find plastic bathroom products and bottles by the bed. Contact the hotel or host before arriving and request that no plastic products are inside the room when you get there.
8. Smoke smarter.
For busy people on the go, smoking can provide a moment of relief and the chance to get outside. But does it feel relieving to know that the filters on cigarettes, made of plastic, can take up to 10 years to decompose? Not only are these horrid to see on beaches, but any animal could easily pick this up, as could a young child. So that cigarette that feels good for 1-2 minutes will remain on the earth for 10 years. Is it worth it? We don’t think so. Switch to an electronic cigarette by blu, who can recylcle your old one when you’re done with it, and who when sending a product, only use cardboard packaging. Blu.com
9. Be prepared.
As I said before, life can be busy. But if you take a little time to prepare plastic-free options, and carry the necessary daily bits and bobs mentioned above, there is no valid reason to buy single-use plastics again. The best way to have everything you need is to be prepared. Sleeping out and need to pick up a sandwich in the morning? Know the places around you that have plastic-free options (try local cafes rather than supermarkets – Sainsburys and Marks & Spencers are the worst culprits, not selling one single item in their respective ‘grab and go’ areas that are not packaged in single-use plastic). Need an emergency punnet of strawberries? Know the local off licences or grocery stores that sell loose fruit. Desperate for an emergency mascara? Know the brands that use recyclable packaging (and also make sure the company is cruelty-free, too). Basically, do your research and you’ll be prepared for any last-minute shopping inspiration.
10. Switch to reusable food wraps.
One of the best ways to save money, avoid buying single-use plastic and be healthier all at the same time, is to bring meals in to work. So instead of using cling film, of which ‘more than 1.2 billion metres, equating to 745,000 miles of cling film is used by households across Britain every year – enough to go around the circumference of the world 30 times over’ – beebeewraps.com, and is very difficult to recycle, use a natural alternative that can be reused. The same thing can be said for makeup wipes – get yourself some of those, too. Bee’s Wrap Assorted 3-Pack, £15.50, thewisehouse.co.uk.
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