Last week I thought I was being very clever having come up with the hashtag #PlasticFreeForLent to accompany my rant about the amount of unnecessary plastic you encounter in the fruit and veg department of most supermarkets. However, I now see that #PlasticFreeForLent had already taken flight on Twitter before I coined it. Nevertheless, although my self esteem is a little dented, it’s still a great idea. And although I am about two days later than I had hoped blogging about it, Lent is 40 days long so there is plenty of time to get onboard.
I am sure I don’t need to explain just why we need to cut down on plastic; it’s killing our wildlife, our marine life, our planet and ultimately it will kill us. It has become one of the most pernicious inventions ever, although of course it is a brilliantly versatile product.
At this point let me remind you of the original slogan for recycling – REDUCE, REUSE AND RECYCLE. So many of us comfort ourselves by placing plastics, rinsed and clean into our green bin. We think, that’s great. I am recycling and all is well. But recycling is the last resort. We need to reduce the amount of plastic we are buying as a matter of urgency. That is the first step and that is why the campaign – OK, maybe it’s not a campaign – the idea of going PlasticFreeForLent is so important. For the next 40 days – well about 34 now – we can all make real progress on reducing the plastic we use and bring into our homes. So, along with the help from some good people on Twitter, here are some of the suggestions we have come up with so far.
IN THE KITCHEN:
- Ditch the clingfilm and foil. Beeswax wraps are great for wrapping food. Also, what about the old-fashioned idea of putting something in a bowl with a plate on top.
- Invest in glass jars instead of Tupperware.
- Ditch the washing liquid for the washing machine. Go back to buying washing powder that comes in a box.
- Also wash as much as possible at 30 degrees. This reduces the plastic fibres that come off our clothes and go straight into the ocean. We also need to put pressure on manufacturers to design washing machines that can trap these fibres.
- Dry clothes outdoors as often as is possible.
IN THE BATHROOM
The bathroom freaks me out because of the number of plastic bottles involved; shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and a myriad of other vital products in a home with three women. It’s a great room to begin your drive to use less plastic.
- Soap – we initially dispensed with liquid soap (dispensed… get it?) and replaced it with bars of soap in a soap dish. However, that became problematic when the soap sat in a puddle and made a mess and kind of melted. So, I sourced a wooden grid type of soap dish from willowcottage.ie (€5.50) which drains the water and keeps soap dry and so lasts longer. Willow Cottage also do fabulous natural soaps that smell amazing. Then I found another company making fabulous soaps – dalkeyhandmadesoaps.ie. I bought a glass bottle of the most fab peppermint liquid soap from The Sustainable Shop Dublin which have a stall in Blackrock Market at the weekend. I then bought a foamer dispenser in TKMaxx (by mistake) which means I only use 1/5 soap and 4/5 water and the dispenser dispenses foam. Really cutting down. And the soap is much nicer than anything I have bought before. This is the big win of #PlasticFreeForLent for me.
- I also bought a shampoo bar (also from Dalkey Handmade Soaps). The chap in the shop did say that it takes two weeks for your hair to get used to the natural product. But I thought I would give it a go. It is also a totally natural product using essential oils. It didn’t lather much when I applied it to my hair and massaged it as best I could. The good news is that I didn’t need to use conditioner. But that was because, as I discovered when I dried my hair, it left my barnet very greasy. Not a great look. If I were off to live in a cave or up a mountain where greasy hair was acceptable, I might persevere but given that I am around other people I will abandon this project and donate the shampoo bar to himself. Although I have had suggestions to try the ones from Lush. So I will do that next week.
- Loo roll – why are they always wrapped in plastic? No, I don’t know either. However, you can go online to whogivesacrap.org and order loo roll wrapped in, wait for it, paper! Imagine that. A bit pricey. But it is an option.
IN THE GARDEN
This was actually brought to my attention by a neighbour and enthusiastic gardener. Garden Centres are FULL of single use plastic pots. It’s apparently Springtime and so many of us will be visiting these centres to buy plants and shrubs for our gardens. And we will end up with lots of pots which apparently Garden Centres won’t take back because of the possibility of contamination. And I don’t think they can be recycled in the green bin either.
So please put pressure on our garden centres to in turn talk to their growers to put plants into compostable pots. How much easier would that be too. Just plant the whole yoke in the garden. I can’t believe I didn’t notice this before. And of all the cases of single use plastics this one should be one of the easiest to solve.
ON THE MOVE
- Please, please buy a water bottle and refill it rather than buy a bottle of water from a shop. There are all sizes and shapes of water bottles available everywhere so please stop buying bottled water. And talk to your kids about it too.
- And while you are at it get a ‘keep cup’ for your takeaway coffee, or alternatively make time to go into the café, sit down and enjoy your flat white. We rush about pretending to be too busy anyway.
- Cocktails? Insist on paper straws. At home invest in some bamboo or steel ones. Someone on twitter mentioned that they are hard to clean. I bought a straw brush in The Sustainable Shop in Blackrock Market.
- Going for a walk on the beach? Why not bring a bag with you and pick up some plastic as you go?
Ok, so we are great in Ireland for bringing our bags for life with us shopping. But we really need to stop putting stuff in plastic bags in the supermarket that don’t need to be bagged. Specifically, fruit and veg, most of which can put loose into your trolley. If you insist on bagging stuff then bring your own canvas bag.
Don’t waste your hard-earned cash on buying expensive mini toiletries. Instead buy your own containers and refill each time. Save the planet and save a fortune.
So that’s it for the moment. I am really keen to hear the changes you might make and suggestions you might have to make lasting changes to how we run our homes and what we buy. Don’t forget that it is women who still do most of the buying. We have the power to put pressure on manufacturers, supermarkets, suppliers to make the changes we need to make and make urgently. Leave a comment with your suggestions and ideas.