Tuesday, March 6, 2018

6 Ways to Use Less Plastic without Going Crazy

Many folks in the United Kingdom are looking for ways to live plastic free or with less single use plastic for the 40 days of Lent. This is as part of a national Plastic Free (Less) Lent Challenge influenced by the BBC TV program Blue Planet 2: Seas of Life (this show has such gorgeous nature photography and information that I have no problem recommending it to you and using my affiliate links.)

So far, the folks I’m working with are excited when they find a plastic free bamboo toothbrush or their grocery store allows them to use reusable cloth produce bags and that's fantastic! (I am including affiliate links in this post for your convenience.)

But as they have been living awhile with the low plastic challenge, there are many people who are becoming overwhelmed, or are too time poor to DIY plastic free everything, or worse, being shamed when they admit that they can’t afford the perfect plastic free option. That’s not cool.

6 Ways to Go Plastic Free without Going Broke or Crazy
Pin this list of ideas for later and share it with your friends!

I feel for ya, because I think I am the only person in the world who lives in an area where my farmer’s market, bulk food bins, and fresh vegetable summer CSA subscriptions are typically more expensive than a conventional grocery store. I also don’t have the time to regularly grocery shop at three or more markets every other week when one conventional grocery store has everything I need.

My solution is to try to get an extra reuse out of everything (within reason) before it hits the bin. While this is not the “perfect” plastic free solution, doing so has allowed me to be almost debt free, and produce less than a paper grocery bag full of household trash a week.

In fact, one of my quick plastic free DIY tutorials appears in the book Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Habit and You Can Too by Beth Terry. I recommend this book for anyone trying to live without plastic and not because I’m in the book. Plastic Free is a good real world look at the hits and misses of someone trying to live without plastic and has a lot of helpful information on how to do it.

6 Ideas for Living Plastic Free Without Going Broke

Some green living and waste reducing practices may conflict with another green living and waste reducing practice. If depends upon factors like family size, priorities, where you live, what you like, etc. So don’t feel guilty if there are ideas in this post that you can’t do.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try, but there aren’t any 100% green living, one size fits all, all of the time solutions that will work for everyone. Personally I live by the 80/20 Rule. If I can do it green 80% of the time (now more like 90% but it makes me sound like a swot) I don't worry about the 20% I can't. This of this as a list of ideas and options, not absolutes.

1. Take care of the stuff you already have, repair it when it breaks, or have someone fix it for you. No one mentions this – ever! I don’t know why. It just seems like a given that stuff breaks and we just deal. We shouldn’t and frankly, I don’t as much as possible.

Repairs don’t always take special skills. It can be as simple as buying a replacement Anchor Hocking storage lid or dropping off a pair of shoes with a broken buckle at a shoe repair shop (something I keep forgetting to do.)

2. Consider doing a Trash or Recycling Bin Audit. That’s a fancy way of saying check to see what type of stuff is in your bin most often. Try to replace it easily with a plastic free option or by buying it in a larger container to reduce waste.

I saved our plastic for one week and this is the amount I sent to the landfill. The other plastic items in my tally I reused.

You might already have a solution on hand! For example I started storing leftovers in containers with lids I already had to replace plastic wrap. You can read about my  Nine Plastic Cling Wrap Alternatives here.

3. Consider replacing a plastic disposable option with a reusable option. Again, try to focus on the things you have on hand that will save you time and money first. If you have a reusable travel mug, tumbler with a straw, or sports bottle dig it out and start using it, even if it is made from plastic. You can upgrade to the spendy plastic free version when money and time allows – or not. Whatever works for you.

For example, instead of using plastic disposable razor or nicking my legs all to hell with a metal safety razor, I shave with a Panasonic Close Curves Wet/Dry Ladies Shaver.  Yep they have women's electric razors too. It has a plastic housing and uses a little electricity but it is a zero waste way to smooth skin that works for me.
Not shaving at all would be even cheaper and plastic free but that is. Never. Going. To. Happen. Ever.

Or consider something to make what you already have, like a pod coffee maker, less dependent on disposable plastic by replacing the plastic pods with  a reusable stainless steel K Cup  or reusable stainless steel Nespresso pod. This type of plastic free hack  will pay for itself in no time!

 4. Consider donating to a charity thrift shop or give away items you no long use instead of throwing them away. I’ve heard people use the excuse, “no one wants my beat up cheap junk.” That’s not always true. This blog is FULL of tutorials and a ton of Pinterest boards (follow me @condoblues on Pinterest pretty please?) on how to turn weird junk (some hauled from the side the road, even) into something clever, useful, or beautiful.

wraparound recycled fence wall shelves
You see a broken fence by the road. I see shelves.

If you want to make a bit of cash you can always sell your items on consignment or through eBay, ThredUp, etc. Heck I saw people buying empty toilet paper tubes on eBay! I thought it was weird until I saw them for sale at a craft store. OK, I still think it’s weird but one man’s trash…

5. Prioritize what works for your family and situation and do that instead of what someone else tells you must do it just like they do. This is one of the main reasons why I onsider myself a Slim Bin instead of Plastic Free.  I think plastic has its place (like for medical and safety equipment) or if it allows me to reduce my overall household waste I’ll buy the item in the large plastic container rather than have a dozen smaller glass containers of the item in my recycling bin.

There some are issues like plastic straws, that I can’t get all up in arms about because I almost never use them. I just drink from the glass. I could carry a reusable stainless steel straw in my purse like everyone says I should but I’d never use it so I don’t. I do have them at home for guests though.

On the other hand, there are a lot of plastic free options I do use, some with a small investment that quickly paid for themselves. Here are a few ideas to jump start your brain:
  • Food dries out in the cloth snack bags I tried first – yuck. Instead I  use reusable silicone zipper sandwich bags or containers I have instead of plastic zipper bags. But before that, I washed and reused disposable baggies that didn’t hold raw meat.

  • I buy and cook with as much ingredient type food as possible. It reduces waste, it healthier, cheaper, and way easier to deal with my dairy allergy. I don’t sweat it if my fresh broccoli or frozen green beans come in a plastic bag because:
    • It stays fresh longer
    • It is often less expensive (hi winter snow here)
    • It reduces my household waste because I use the empty bread, frozen fruit and veg, etc. bags for pet waste pick up. We are required to bag it. It is also good manners.
    • Again, apparently I’m the only person who’s vegetables dry out in the refrigerator in a cloth produce bag. I want to feed them to my family, not the compost bin.

  • I buy dishwashing detergent powder in a box. I store it in a repurposed plastic protein powder container so it won’t get clumpy. In fact, I store a lot of bits and bobs around the house in empty protein powder containers. My husband is a runner and not buying protein powder is not an option.

  • At different times of the year our city water tastes off. Instead of bottled water I keep our sports bottles with home filtered water in the refrigerator to chug throughout the day with wild abandon. If you can’t install a water filter then look into a water cooler service. It’s probably cheaper than buying bottled water.

  • Instead of buying bottles of carbonated water, my husband makes it with our Sodastream.  You don’t have to use the Sodastream concentrates to make pop either. I often drink it with a splash of lime juice (my LaCroix knock off hack) or you can make your own syrups like the book The Artisan Soda Workshop: 75 Homemade Recipes

  • I keep a stack of reusable shopping bags in the trunk of my car and use them as much as possible for all shopping, not only groceries.  If I get an plastic carrier bag, I use it for trash or pet pick up. I also reuse plastic parts and packaging bags for the same purpose. I can’t reuse it, I collect items like plastic packing pillows it in a reusable shopping bag hung on a doorknob in my laundry room and forget to take it to the plastic bag recycling bin at the grocery store.

6. DIYing your way into living with less plastic can take less time than you realize. You don’t have to DIY every single thing you can’t find plastic free. You don’t have to switch over all at one time either. I started make all but three of our household cleaners because I want to know what is in them for the health of my dog (I'll admit. I'm the crazy dog lady.) When doing so turned out to work just as well or better, is less expensive, and took less than 15 minutes. I never went back. Some examples are:

To keep yourself from driving yourself crazy, go slow and don’t beat yourself up if you have a swing and a miss. I didn’t slim my trash bin as it is now in a month. It took years.

Keep at it. It takes time to find out what works for you.

Perfection is not sustainable but trying is.

That are your easy hints and hacks for living with less plastic?

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