37: What difference can one person make? Count it up…

This is the plastic question I get asked the most. ‘I’m only one person. What difference does it make if I stop using a bit of plastic?’ The truth is one person can make a huge difference. Try counting it up….

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Let’s take a look at just some of the ideas that have been posted on this blog so far and what happened when I personally made those changes:
1. Switching from liquid soap to bars of soap saved 2 plastic bottles a month (one in the bathroom, and one in the kitchen). That’s 24 bottles a year.
2. Switching from shower gel to bars of soap saved 1 plastic bottle a month. That’s 12 bottles a year.
3. Switching from laundry liquid to washing powder in a cardboard box saved one large plastic bottle a month. That’s 12 bottles a year.
4. Buying less fruit and veg in plastic bags and choosing loose options in the supermarket plus buying more fresh produce in markets saved at least 5 plastic bags a week. That’s at least 260 plastic bags a year.
5. Switching from liquid fabric softener to using white vinegar (in a glass bottle) saved one large plastic bottle a month. That’s 12 bottles a year.
6. Not buying bottled water any more, investing in a water filter jug at home and taking reusable bottles out with me saved at least 2 large plastic bottles a week. That’s at least 104 plastic bottles a year.
7. Saying ‘no’ to plastic carrier bags every time I do any kind of shopping and keeping a cloth bag with me or bags for life in the car saved at least 4 plastic carrier bags a week. That’s at least 208 plastic bags a year

24 + 12 + 12 + 260 + 12 + 104 + 208 = 632…at least!

These are just 7 of the changes I’ve made (I’ve made more) and all of them are simple, and none of them have cost me more than what I was previously spending. In fact, some of them have saved me money. But it means I have stopped at least 632 pieces of plastic from polluting the planet. Even if some of these could have been recycled (and not all of them can be) it is only possible to recycle plastic a handful of times. After that, it’s buried in the ground or ends up in the oceans. We’ve all seen on recent documentaries, just what this can cause.

If I’ve inspired just one person to make the simple changes above, then together we’ve stopped 1,264 more pieces of plastic getting out into the world. If I’ve inspired three people, then between us we’ve stopped 2,528 in one year.

Try the suggestions above for one month and then see how much emptier your plastic recycling bin is. Multiply that by 12 months to see the difference you can make in a year. Then encourage one friend and multiply that by 2….and one more friend…

Of course, the mountain of plastic continues to grow, and probably will do for some time. Do you want to be responsible for slowing that down, or for adding yet another plastic bottle to the top?¬†And don’t wait for the corporations, the manufacturers, the supermarkets to make the change for us. They’re too slow. In any case, they will only sell us what we want to buy. That’s commerce. If we don’t buy it, they can’t sell it and, more importantly, can’t make money from it.

Still think one person can’t make a difference? So did the other 7 billion people who put their empty plastic water bottle on the mountain.

Do the maths.

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Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

30: Aaah! The smell of plastic

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We’re talking about air fresheners! Many homes have them. If you have a pet, small child, or perhaps some digestive problems, you might need to use an air freshener regularly.

Use the choices that are available wisely. The next time you browse the supermarket shelves for some stink-masking fragrance, walk straight past the ones that come in plastic containers – please. There are many other options available:

  • Many air fresheners of the spray kind come in metal containers. These are better than plastic because they can be recycled (at least the metal parts can) and they will biodegrade quicker, but they may still end up in landfill for a long time.
  • Diffusers produce a more subtle, longer-lasting smell, and in the long run work out much cheaper. Choose the ones in glass bottles with wooden ‘sticks’. When the oil in them runs out, you don’t have to replace them with the slightly expensive refills. You can fill them with water and add a few drops of your favourite essential oil. It will last for ages and they’re perfect in a bathroom.
  • While we’re on essential oils, there are lovely little ceramic options available that are made of porous stones that you can drip lovely-smelling oils onto. You’ll have to look around craft fairs and gift shops for these, but they’ll last for ever if you don’t drop them on the floor! This is an even more cost-effective way to keep your air fresh and they make lovely gifts.
  • Scented candles are another way to go, and another lovely gift for friends, but make sure you keep them away from children and clumsy adults – obviously!
  • If you prefer the scent of a 1960s hippy commune, (just kidding!) joss sticks come in many flavours – not just patchouli! Again, treat them with care, as you would a candle. They’re not expensive but, of course, they burn down as you use them so they’re not as cost-effective as re-usable options.
  • Fresh herbs on a kitchen windowsill are perfect for those with green fingers, and you can eat most of them too. In days gone by, people used to dry lavender and hang it over doorways. It not only smells good, it keeps flies at bay too.
  • A simple way to keep a dustbin fresh in the kitchen is to sprinkle a little baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) in the bottom of the bin. It’s amazing stuff!
  • Pot-pourri (like your grandma used to have!) comes in lots of different kinds and doesn’t have to smell like an old lady’s handbag anymore!

These are just a few suggestions. I’ve heard that you can cut an onion in half and leave it in a room overnight to trap bad smells. I’ll leave you to have a go with that one. Or half a lemon will deodorize your fridge – that one really works.

Take your pick, just don’t pick up the plastic air freshener. Eventually, the manufacturers will get the point and stop producing them.

11: Cats love Cardboard!

P1020934Cats are contrary creatures. How many times have you bought your pampered puss a new toy or cat bed, only to find they’d rather just get in the box? It’s almost become a cliche. I’ve done it lots of times. In fact, we have a box full of little cat toys, plastic mice, little balls with bells in them, that either we’ve bought or have been given as gifts. All completely discarded after a cursory glance. They have more fun playing with a piece of string on the end of a stick – literally! – and that doesn’t cost anything.

So, this one is for all you pet lovers; whether you share your home with a cat, a dog, a guinea pig, some goldfish, a rabbit…Do they really need to be playing with plastic toys? Of course not. If you must buy a toy, look out for one made from natural materials. You can even get ones that are specifically designed to be good for your dog’s teeth. Mind you, I once knew a dog whose favourite toy was a thick broccoli stalk. He could chew on that thing for hours. Luckily, his owner ate a lot of broccoli.

Resolve to only buy your pets toys that aren’t plastic from now on. Better still, make some yourself. There are tons of craft websites that will show you how. Here are 3 DIY dog toy ideas from Country Living magazine to get you started:

If you love your pets that much, you’ll want to help look after the planet. It’s their home too. Happy playing!

8: De-Plastic your Pets

When looking round the house for all the single-use plastic that I wanted to try and replace, I realised that one of the most commonly thrown away things – at least six of them a day – were empty pouches of cat food; those little foil pouches that are coated in plastic. They’re not recyclable at the moment, and we get through lots.

We have two cats, and they’re very fussy eaters….okay, they’re spoilt. They just have to remember how to scratch themselves and they get treats, which also come in plastic pouches. Enough is enough!

So, I went shopping and bought cat food in tins, which can be recycled. They wouldn’t eat it. Then I went out and looked for cat food in foil containers – you know, the more expensive ‘gourmet’ stuff. (Gourmet? Our cats eat spiders, ffs!). They wouldn’t eat that either. Then I spent even more on organic, free-range, healthy cat kibbles in a lovely, brown paper bag. They turned their noses up and looked at me as if I was trying to poison them. Then, as a final attempt at ditching the pouches, we bought some cheaper cuts of chicken (free range thighs and legs), boiled them, cut them into pieces and put them in their food bowls. They couldn’t eat it quick enough.

Now, all this food preparation for two cats who regularly catch mice and chomp their heads in front of us, is a bit of a chore. If you have a cat or a dog or other carnivorous pet, you might soon get sick of doing this. Try cooking up enough for two or three days at a time and storing it in the fridge (take care to follow food guidelines and don’t reheat cooked meats). Believe it or not, it can actually work out cheaper than buying pre-packed pet food and is much healthier for your cat or dog. If you can’t face doing it every day, try replacing just half or a quarter of their pre-bought food with fresh. At least you’ll be reducing plastic waste if not eliminating it entirely.

Currently we are trying to convince them that the organic kibbles in the nice, paper bag are actually treats by putting them in their treat tin – yes, they have a dedicated treat tin! It’s working slowly. My meat-eating other half also gives them leftovers like bits of bacon and sausages to supplement their diet. They love it, but do it sparingly so they don’t get fat. Now we only buy kibbles that come in boxes or paper bags. If you buy in bulk, it can actually save you money too.

We’re also mixing their favourite pouch food with the other stuff in an attempt to convert them. Now, if your pets aren’t as fussy as ours, moving from pet food in plastic to a greener alternative could happen very quickly. Ours are taking a while, but we’re getting there.

So, when you’re out shopping in the pet food aisle, choose the stuff in cardboard or paper or tins or foil rather than plastic. Eventually the pet food manufacturers will notice and start to change their packaging. At this rate, they’ll probably change quicker than our spoilt cats!P1020955