19: Softly, softly, plastic-free!

white textile

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Today the sun is shining, there’s a gentle breeze in the air, and it’s a perfect day to get some washing out on the line (I know – I should really get out more!).

I recently swapped my laundry liquid for washing powder in a cardboard box (a little less plastic), but nowhere on my local supermarket shelves could I find fabric softener that wasn’t in a plastic bottle. I live in a very hard water area, and if I don’t use some kind of softening agent in the washing machine, we end up looking like cardboard cut-outs in our clothes.

According to the Plastic Free July website, you can use white vinegar instead of fabric softener in the washing machine. Really?…surely not. Unless you want to smell like you work in a fish and chip shop. Well, I ran out of fabric softener yesterday and duly put the plastic bottle in the recycling bin. What have I got to lose? And there’s all those sheets to wash.

I can now report that I have just done my first wash with white vinegar in that little compartment where the fabric softener liquid usually goes. You only need a capful…..and it works! Not only do my sheets smell fresh (not a whiff of chips about them!) but the white vinegar is descaling my washing machine at the same time. It goes without saying that you will buy white vinegar in glass bottles and not plastic ones. Most supermarkets stock it as well as some hardware stores.

As a bonus, white vinegar is not usually tested on animals (unlike a lot of fabric conditioners), perfectly fine for vegans and vegetarians to use, and is great for people with sensitive skin. AND it’s a whole lot cheaper than fabric softener to boot….although don’t put your boots in the washing machne. I learnt my lesson.

18: Plastic-free movies

multi colored chairs in row

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If, like me, you’re a film fan, you’ve probably got lots of dvds around the house; maybe even videos for the serious old school movie buffs. I can honestly say that I own lots of films that I’ve seen more than 20 times each – seriously! I love my fave movies that much, but apparently that’s not normal!

Obviously, don’t throw out your favourite movies. I’m not going to. After all, if you plan to watch them often they’re not single-use, are they? But how many times have you picked up a cheap dvd on special offer at the checkout, just because it’s cheap? And how many times did you watch that bargain dvd? Once, and then it went to the charity shop, right? You may think you’re recycling, but really you’re just delaying that plastic going into landfill by moving yourself one step further away from the responsibility of it.

Well, here’s an idea: the next time you’re tempted to buy a dvd on special offer, ask yourself, ‘How many times will I watch this?’ If the answer is ‘just once,’ then consider saving your money and not buying it at all!

If it’s a recent film, treat yourself and go and watch it at the cinema. Make a night of it with some friends, perhaps. There’s nothing like watching a great movie on the big screen.  If it’s an older film, why not check your local public library to see if they have a copy you can borrow? If it’s not on the shelf, you can ask for it to be ordered from another branch. Most libraries in the UK lend dvds either for free or for a very small cost. And you’ll be supporting your local library at the same time.

Also, there are so many ways to watch movies (legally please!) online, not to mention the multiple channels on TV, both free and on subscription.

Of course, if it’s a real favourite movie, and you know you’re going to watch it again and again (as I have done with 12 Angry Men, Cabaret, Doctor Strangelove, to name just 3) then by all means buy a copy for your home library.

All that is being suggested is that you stop, think and ask yourself if you really need that cheap bit of plastic before you part with your hard-earned cash – even if it’s cheap!

17: Don’t Cling to the Film!

Another simple change today: Ditch the cling film/plastic wrap/whatever it’s called where you live. How strange we humans are to think that wrapping food in single-use plastic is the best way to keep food fresh or clean or safe. Clearly it isn’t. Here are a few ways to replace it:

  1. Use tin foil instead. It’s only a little more expensive but you can re-use it, and it doesn’t stick together when you try to pull it out of its box, rendering it completely useless! Tin foil is also stronger and keeps food just as fresh. It’s also easy to recycle.
  2. Use paper instead. Obviously not so useful if you’re storing food in the fridge, but perfect for sandwiches or picnic food because you can re-use the paper for wiping your hands/face/clothing if you’re a messy eater!
  3. Invest in a few re-usable containers. Try to buy ones made of recycled plastic, if you can. For the price of 2 or 3 boxes of cling film, you can buy a couple of containers that will last for years if you look after them. Most can be put in the freezer too.
  4. Invest in a couple of glass containers or dishes if your leftovers are going in the fridge…or give the leftovers to the cat or dog to save on pet food! (obviously only things that your pet can actually eat safely!)
  5. If you’ve bought cling film to wrap your torso in (a la ‘The Full Monty’) in order to lose weight, don’t bother. It doesn’t work. Go to the gym instead!
  6. If you’ve just had a tattoo and the artist tries to wrap your anchor/naked lady/skull inky artwork in the plastic stuff, ask them what the hell they used before cling film and ask them to do that instead!

Really, I can’t thing of a good reason to use cling film over any of the suggestions above. So, it’s simple. Stop clinging to the film and strike it from your shopping list today!

foil cooked on metal grill

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16: Football, beer – what more do you need?

Did you know there was a World Cup on? Yes, so did I. And on a lovely, warm summer’s evening, what more do you need except a big TV and some beer (or soft drink of your choice)?

I’ll tell you what we don’t need: those annoying plastic ‘ringos’ that hold 4 cans together. Not only are they annoying for humans to pull off and chuck away, they’re absolutely lethal for wildlife. Millions of birds, animals and fish get caught up in those every year with devastating results.

Why do we need them? Simply so that a person can carry four cans of beer or soft drinks with one hand. Well, this is where I get tough – if you’re man (or woman) enough to drink four cans of lager, you’re man (or woman) enough to carry them with two hands! Or use a reusable bag and put them in there! Seriously!!

Now, in some supermarkets it’s actually cheaper to buy four cans, held together with a piece of plastic, than four seperate cans with no plastic at all. Why? How does that work? Don’t let them get away with it! Pick up four single cans and demand that they sell them to you for the same price (as long as the quantity of liquid is the same, of course). OR buy bottles, which don’t have those stupid ringos on them, instead. It goes without saying that you will then recycle the glass bottles and tin cans.

Even better, invite some friends round and splash out on a box – yes, cardboard box – of 12 beers with no plastic anywhere at all. Or more than 12 if you have lots of friends. The same goes for soft drinks.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not advocating the use of alcohol. If you must drink, be alcohol aware, and never, ever drink and drive. Thank you.

Now…..COME ON ENGLAND!!

flat screen television

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15: Smile!

This one is for the serious plastic-free warrior. Why? Because it will either take a bit of effort or cost a little more money. We’re talking about toothpaste.

We all use it (hopefully) but pretty much every squeeze of the white stuff that you’ll find in your local supermarket comes in a plastic tube. And it’s not re-usable and not easy to recycle. There must be millions of empty toothpaste tubes in the world. But there are solutions and ways to replace them in your bathroom.

First, the easy but slightly more expensive alternative is to buy toothpaste products in plastic-free packaging. They do exist, but will cost you a little more than your normal brand. Lush do a range of toothpaste and mouthwash ‘tablets’ that really work and are cruelty free, but sadly they come in little plastic bottles – come on, Lush, find an alternative!

Georganics do nothing else but make smile assisters (do you see what I did there?) that are totally plastic AND cruelty free. They are also vegan friendly, unlike most toothpaste brands you’ll find on the high street. Their natural toothpastes (in glass jars) cost about a pound or two more than Colgate or Sensodyne, so if you’re struggling with the shopping bill, you might have to count the pennies. But if you can, it’s worth it on so many levels! They also sell bamboo toothbrushes, floss, dental supplements and ‘toothsoap’ (I’ve got to try that one!). Their online shop can be found at https://georganics.co.uk

Second, the less easy but very cheap alternative that will save you money and increase your range of skills….make your own toothpaste! Yes, you can. Some ingredients will need to be found at the chemist, but most may be in your cupboard already. The people at Plastic Free July have several recipes for you to try. Why not get the children involved, if you have some to hand? Only be careful with some of the ingredients around little ones. Check out four homemade toothpaste recipes here: https://www.earthcarers.org.au/library/file/Plastic%20Free%20July/Toolbox%20-%20Living%20Plastic%20Free/Recipe-HomemadeToothpaste.pdf

So, grab your bamboo toothbrush and smile!images

14: Don’t squeeze it – pour it!

Another simple shopping switch today. Simply swap those ‘handy’ squeezy bottles of ketchup, mayonnaise, HP sauce (for you Brits) for glass bottles instead! Glass is far easier to recycle than plastic and, if you’re handy at making things like jam, you can re-use the mayonnaise jars. (If you’re not handy at making those things – I’m not – find a friend who is and they’ll thank you for it!)

In actual fact, I’m not sure what the real benefits of squeezing are compared to pouring. Sure, it means you don’t have to slap that ketchup bottle on the bottom to get those first, thick drops out, but after that – why is it better? It’s even more difficult to get the last bits out of the bottom of the squeezy bottle without diluting with vinegar, at least in my experience.

And as for mayonnaise, was I really just buying the plastic bottle version just so that I didn’t have to wash up a knife or a spoon to get it out with? I guess I was. And that’s just silly!

I’ve checked with my local supermarket, and when I compared how much the products cost per 100g, on average it was actually cheaper to buy mayonnaise in glass bottles and only a couple of pence more expensive to buy the ketchup in bottles. Check out the sauce of your choice. If it’s really only a penny or two to swap to glass, is it really going to affect your purse that much? And if you find out it’s cheaper, then it’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?

food vegetables red tomatoes

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13: Cruelty-Free Plastic-Free

As we reach idea number 13 (only 352 to go!) it occurs to me that some of you might now be trying out new products and changing the things you put in your shopping bags – hopefully! I’m doing it too.

While I start to alter my ways and move towards a more plastic-free lifestyle, I remember that this blog was inspired by images I’d seen of wildlife around the world being strangled, starved and killed by the single-use plastic we’ve all thrown in the bin. I just don’t want to do that anymore, which is why I’ve set myself this ridiculous challenge! But that wish to protect our planet’s wildlife as much as possible extends to the products themselves, whether they’re covered in plastic or not. I’m talking about Cruelty-Free.

Some of the sharp-eyed shoppers among you will be used to looking out for the ‘leaping bunny’ logo that appears on products that are made without being tested on animals. And be advised that ‘testing’ on animals usually means ultimately ‘killing’ animals. There’s no getting around that.

So, if you want to make sure that you’re not protecting some animals while others are being killed for your sun cream, lipstick, toilet cleaner, shampoo, etc., there is a simple way to check. Cruelty Free International have a website, updated regularly, where you can check whether or not a product is cruelty free, including household products. You can even check whether it’s vegan or vegetarian. Simply visit:

https://www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/LeapingBunny

It’s well worth taking a look and adjusting your shopping list, should you wish to. All of these are ideas and none of it is compulsory. Of course, many cruelty-free brands are still using single-use plastic in their products, particularly cosmetics companies, but I guess you can’t fix everything at once!

Keep a look out for that bunny!