Plastic free and zero waste are the latest buzzwords that have been on the lips of most people, especially people who care about the environment and want to live life in an eco-friendly way. But many don’t know how to get started with reducing their plastic use or eliminating it completely, which can be difficult because most things come in plastic packaging these days. Let's explore how to take those crucial first steps in getting rid of your plastic addiction and living more sustainably!
It's crucial to have achievable goals. Be mindful of what you can handle. If you set your sights too high and tackle too many things at once, your original priorities can quickly become forgotten. Don't try to take on too much to interfere with your lifestyle. Retreat if it becomes overwhelming and try again with something simpler. Long-term efforts will bring more results than attempts at big activities for a short duration. If you have decided not to take a plastic bag at retailers while shopping and you happen to shop impromptu, get the plastic bag, reuse it and don’t kick yourself for it. Take lessons learned and keep a foldable bag in your car for the next time. Living an organic life and sustainable living helps achieve this goal. The zero waste revolution is catching up fast worldwide because we want back to nature and sustainable living. So, start small, but keep in mind what's sustainable living means to you!
Involve family and friends
Get family members, roommates, and friends involved in this change. Try something new, but do it one thing at a time to make sure everyone can adjust. e.g. announce that as a family you are going to refuse all single-use plastic bags from small and big retailers, make sure all family members and housemates agree, feel listened to and are comfortable. If the goal starts to feel too difficult for the group to handle, be willing to withdraw and approach something easier. Remember the efforts that happen over a longer period of time will result in more significant progress than a shorter, sporadic stint.
Go slow and steady
Your house is full of plastics, all around. You cannot throw all the containers, bags, toys etc. (this will be a bigger environmental disaster). But you can phase them out, as old plastic containers and items start to wear off around the house, make a point to replace them with glass reusable containers. Reduce more plastic coming into the house by buying refillable products. Close your doors to all kinds of plastic. Let family and friends know that you would appreciate plastic-free gifts, not wrapped in plastic-coated paper for all family celebrations. It would help the earth to celebrate your happy occasion as much as your family and friends.
Make packaging a consideration for choosing what to buy
Packaging must become a criterion for choosing what to buy. Avoid items with unnecessary dual, triple packaging. Buy refills or choose package-free or recyclable packaging for household items like shampoos, lotions and kitchen and pantry items. Avoid buying too many small packets like multi-pack chips as they use much more plastic packaging. Prefer buying in bulk in a single large unit. Save money and earth!
Attack single-use plastics as a 1st step
Before jumping on to hard reusable plastics, focus on soft plastics, which are easier to avoid. Take enough of reusable bags for shopping. Refuse all plastic bags. If you ever end up with a plastic bag, reuse it and never-ever, ever, ever throw it in the bin (An unpardonable eco sin!). Recycle soft plastic packaging waste in Coles or Woolies, there is a bin next to registers in almost all the stores of these major retailers in Australia. Many councils too are now offering advanced recycling services which include soft plastics.
Buy Refillable Products
Buy refills for hand washes, laundry liquids etc. Take your own coffee mug to the coffee shop, and containers to take-aways. They would appreciate that as much as the environment Gods would.
Sort and recycle plastics
Don't underestimate the impact proper sorting of recyclable plastic can have on the waste management supply chain. Waste is best sorted at the source, hence, it is extremely important to sort and recycle plastics properly between soft and hard plastics. They cannot be recycled together so should not be mixed. Learn how to read the code on hard plastic and recycle accordingly. Check with your council what can be recycled. Recycle icon on the product does not mean that your local council is capable of doing so too. You are better off keeping the non-recyclables out of the recycling bin.
Take your no-plastic attitude to work
Locate recycling bins at your workplace or ask your employer if there are any recycling services in place for you. Demand for products packaged in cardboard, glass, metal or ceramic packaging instead of plastics when possible. Talk about it during the safety shares, staff meetings and other opportunities. There is nothing more contagious than a no-plastic attitude. Pass the bug!
Single use made reusable
Seemingly single-use containers can easily be reused e.g. soap pumps, lotion bottles. Why throw them if they are perfectly good. Moccona glass containers are such a good addition to the kitchen pantry. I have been collecting them for a few years and almost replaced all plastic canisters with them. With time, your waste will come down drastically, leading back to natural life. You may soon start seeing health benefits - mental and physical, while living an organic life.
Micro Plastics - an invisible intruder
If you don’t see it, does not mean it doesn’t have it. Microplastics are everywhere - in your creams, lotions, sanitary pads and household cleaners and all. They are absorbed in the bodies when we apply them to our skin, are leeched into soil and water, when we wash our clothes, shampoos and soaps. They have well and truly entered our food chain, experts believe that every year humans are consuming plastic equal to the size of a credit card. The health implications of microplastics across generations over decades and centuries will be significant and hazardous. Microplastics are not easy to be spotted but opting for organic natural products is a sure-shot way to dodge them. Be conscious of the ingredients in the household and personal care products as much as you pay attention to food items
Celebrate and spread the message among your span of influence. Have small family rituals around No Plastic life. Get together with friends and family without using any single-use plastics. Bring a nude food plate with family and friends. Wooden/ No plastic toys play date for kids. They will enjoy each other’s company, and their imagination and create lasting memories of the organic life they once lived before plastic came into our lives. For adults, organise activities you can do without plastics like hiking, fishing, rock-climbing, roller-skating etc. and , go explore a new environment without using any single-use plastics from home!