Simple ways to go plastic-free at home
As a society, preserving our planet is a topic that we are becoming increasingly passionate about and now going plastic-free is a way of life for many. If you’ve been thinking about becoming more responsible about your impact on the environment, here’s our simple guide to cutting down on disposable plastic.
One of the biggest threats to our rivers, lakes, and oceans today is single-use plastics, which we have been using en masse since the 1950s. Astronomical amounts of this imperishable man-made waste are floating about in our seas and oceans, having a huge impact on the quality of our beaches and the health of marine wildlife. They can accidentally become entangled in it or ingest it, which can make them feel full, cause them to stop eating, and die of starvation.
Items which are used once before being discarded cause the biggest problem, like plastic bottles, disposable cutlery, earbuds, and straws. Our waste management systems simply can’t keep up with the quantities we throw away, and the majority never gets recycled despite our best intentions at home to separate rubbish. It is estimated that over 80% of the plastic found in our oceans originated from overflowing landfills, which has then been washed away to collect in large masses. You may well have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a mass of plastic estimated to be even larger than the state of Texas that constantly moves with the currents.
Plastic never biodegrades, it only eventually breaks down into toxic microparticles which remain in our environment for hundreds of years. These microparticles are consumed by animals and go on to pollute every stage of the food chain, finally ending up in the fish that we eat at our tables.
Yes, you can make a difference…
It’s commonly assumed that one person’s efforts can’t make a difference to such a large-scale problem. However, it only takes one straw to become lodged in a turtle’s stomach, or one six-pack ring to strangle a gull.
Don’t underestimate the influence you can have; even if you start making the smallest of changes, you can cause a ripple effect. Your friends, family, and colleagues may well sit up and take notice of what you are doing, and become more conscious about their plastic consumption. Your local restaurant could change their plastic use policies if they hear their customers speaking up to ask for plastic-free alternatives. More and more people are starting to realise that change begins with them.
Changes you can make at home…
Food shopping: Make a promise to never use any more plastic bags from the supermarket. Use the ones you have already, or treat yourself to some reusable fabric shopper bags –keep one in the car so you won’t forget on your way to the shops. Look at getting fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables from local farm shops or markets; by doing this, you’re supporting local businesses, eating fresher food, and will be cutting back on excessive plastic packaging. If you don’t have time and love the convenience of online grocery shopping, consider searching for a local delivery service who will deliver a crate of seasonal, locally-grown fruit and veg. You can also hand over your Tupperware box and ask your local butcher or fishmonger to put your order inside for you, rather than covering it in plastic.
Toiletries: It might be tempting to throw away all of your plastic bottles and tubs in a declaration of your new plastic-free life, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping hold of your old plastic containers to use when you visit your local refill shop for washing up liquid or detergent – it’s throwing them away that causes the damage. Try to introduce plastic-free options over time; products like shampoo bars, stainless steel razors, and exfoliating gloves made from natural materials are great and cut down on the plastic in your bathroom. We also go through a lot of plastic toothbrushes over our lifetimes, so opting for a bamboo toothbrush could also be a great place to start.
Eating on the go: Grabbing a quick latte from your favourite coffee house in the morning or a healthy salad on your lunch break may be convenient, but it also contributes to a lot of disposable plastic. Kit yourself out with a good quality reusable thermal mug to take everywhere with you for hot drinks on the go. You will find that a stainless steel cutlery set and reusable water bottles also come in very handy.
Storing food: Beeswax wraps are an environmentally friendly, natural alternative to cling film and tin foil. Your food will stay fresh for longer and they can be reused over and over again. What’s more, they usually come in a range of fun designs! Glass mason jars, paper sandwich bags, and stainless steel lunch box containers are all fantastic alternatives.
Not everything is as it seems…
It’s not always easy to navigate your way around the environmentally friendly market; there are products out there that claim to be good for the environment but are not as great in reality.
Be wary of ‘eco-friendly’ straws –those which are made from bamboo are great, while others still take up to a year to biodegrade, which is plenty of time to cause damage to our marine wildlife.
There are plenty of biodegradable bin bags out there, but it’s still best to opt for those that only take months to decompose.
Going plastic free at Westbury…
One of the biggest ways businesses can help is to take responsibility for their own plastic consumption. At Westbury, we minimise our impact on the environment through sustainable design. Our timber products are made from a natural and renewable material, rather than harmful UPVC or WPC doors and windows which will end up in a landfill site after a few years. You can find out more about the sustainability of our specialist doors and windows here.
Some businesses just make small changes so they can claim to be doing their bit for the environment. At Westbury, we’ve incorporated plastic-free living into our workplace environment. Each member of staff has their own personalised reusable water bottle to keep with them at their desk. At lunch time, our bins are not filled with plastic sandwich packaging and discarded yoghurt pots; we have a wonderful house keeper who cooks fresh lunches for everyone, every day. We even have reusable hessian bags for our customers to use if they want to take away brochures and samples with them after a visit to our showroom.