Wooden Boxes | Going Plastic Free

Reducing Our Plastic Waste

Author: Naomi Liddell

This topic has gathered a lot of attention recently since our beloved David Attenborough highlighted the problems that we all face because of plastics. It’s a minefield of a topic, with lots of information and equally lots of misinformation. I’m sure we’ve all seen the videos of the disastrous effect plastic use is having on our oceans and the poor animals feeding plastic to their babies, so I have no intentions of eco-shaming or high horsing here. I just want to share the very personal story of why and how we’re reducing our plastic waste on our household.

It all started with a conversation on a bus three years ago when we lived in an old hippie town in Australia called Fremantle. It was the kind of town where even the council were championing cycle paths and free water bottle refill stations. I sat beside a chatty older lady who spotted my shopping bags and was cooing at Ethan. In that conversation, she taught me two things (that no matter how deeply I denied for a while after), I couldn’t unlearn.

“Have you ever opened your fridge and seen how much plastic there is compared to food in there?”

Completely stumped, I promised her I would have a good look when I got home.

“Do you realise that most of that ends up contaminated or mismanaged so it doesn’t get recycled? And most plastics can only be recycled a few of times before they inevitably end up in oceans or landfill. It’s also probably not good for you and the little man’s health.”

On that bus, I won’t lie, I felt mildly defensive towards this little old lady and her canvas bags. But the cogs in my mind turned and when I got home I opened my fridge. She was right. More plastic than food.

That day, Gavin returned home to find me deep in a ‘zero waste’ and ‘plastic toxins’ internet rabbit hole, full of energy and new ideas about how we were going to lead a 100% plastic-free life, like, immediately. Well, it’s been three years and we’re still not entirely plastic free. The process is long and it’s difficult. But one thing I’ve learned for sure is that (as with most things in life) it’s not about achieving perfection, it’s about one-by-one making smaller, better choices.

While it’s been challenging, we haven’t looked back. We’re so committed now and enjoying our changes that in the summer we’ll be launching a side business to make it easier for other local people to make small changes too.

It’s a colossal topic, so here’s an overview of the progress we’ve made in the last few years.

The very first thing I did was stop buying plastic water bottles. I think I had always known it was a con, being sold bottles of stuff that’s free in a tap. But when I threw in my new plastic-free motivation (and the fact that one of my friends called it plastic tea on account of the plastic leaching into the water), it was by far the easiest thing to cut out. I bought a Zulu glass water bottle and now I’m completely unashamed to walk into a bar or cafe and ask for a refill (something that caused a bit of embarrassment in the beginning). For festivals and gigs where the policy is plastic cups only for drinks, you can pop one of these handy collapsable silicone cups in your bag.

Plastic bags were pretty easy to give up, although in the beginning, I was duped into buying the ‘bags for life’ which are really just more plastic bags (albeit robust ones). I now use trolley bags and produce bags for my weekly shopping and have bought a few nice structured canvas bags too. I find that totes, while great for stuffing into your handbag, just squish most of my shopping as they have no structure.

Straws were equally easy to eliminate. I mean, if it comes in a cup or glass, you can drink it without a straw. The most difficult thing about this one was remembering to say “No straw please”, especially when ordering food for Ethan in a restaurant. They always seem to bring kids straws for some reason. I’ve bought these beautiful stainless steel straws for home use.

Since buying my KeepCup, I actually find drinking tea or hot chocolate out of plastic cups to be a really unpleasant experience. I mean, I can taste the plastic (and almost all paper cups are lined in plastic). It grosses me out. The bonus is that most cafes will give you a discount for bringing a reusable cup. We usually have a couple in the car so it’s easy to grab them if we end up on an impromptu cafe stop.

In Australia, we had several bulk buy shops near us which made reducing plastic packaging in our grocery shopping WAY easier. Living in rural Scotland, I don’t have those luxuries. So while we’re still working on things like finding a milkman that delivers in glass bottles, I’ve switched our fruit and veggie shop to an organic farm box supplier who rarely uses plastic packaging. To be honest, we’ve had to completely change the way we eat to avoid plastic packaging. Interestingly, it’s made our diet infinitely healthier and forces me to cook most things from scratch. I typically shop around the perimeter of the shop (with the centre being heavily packaged foods) and will choose any brand that uses glass, stainless steel or paper over plastic packaged ones. Reducing plastic while grocery shopping is an entire post of its own and while I choose to make some compromises (hello Tesco’s awesome gluten free pasta!), it makes a massive impact on our household waste.

We’re currently in the process of tackling our bathroom. Man, that place is a haven for plastic bottles. Some switches we’ve made are bulk buying toilet paper (did you know that we’re literally cutting down trees just to wipe our bums?!), I’ve swapped regular toothpaste (almost impossible to recycle those tubes) to this toothpaste which I adore, their floss is awesome too and this deodorant actually works. We don’t use liquid soap anymore and use good old bars of soap for our handwashing and another in the shower as a substitute for shower gel.

I swapped my period products for a Lunette and now I’m in love. It’s super easy to use and makes me feel so clean during what is otherwise a pretty rubbish time of the month.

Things I still need to do better: I have yet to buy a set of cutlery for my handbag which would stop the inevitable “Damn, I need a plastic fork for my takeaway salad” problem. In fact, it’s happened so many times that I’ve just added this one to my Amazon cart while writing this. I’m also in the market for a decent shampoo and conditioner, either in a glass bottle or a bar.

One thing that I have many people comment on is “How the hell can you afford to pay £9.90 for toothpaste?!”. Honestly, in my experience over the last three years, I’ve worked out that we only spend 5% more on groceries. Item by item, it’s a more expensive way to shop, that’s for sure. But when I look at our overall spend, the fact that we’re being far more discerning about the quality of the products we buy, and we’re mostly cooking from scratch, means that I’m not tempted to chuck 10 plastic wrapped extras or packaged foods in my trolley each week. Reducing our plastic waste has kind of come with its own type of minimalism. Instead of a million bottles in the bathroom, we’ll spend the same amount on a few substitute products. I’d say overall, we have fewer things now, but we can, therefore, afford to buy better.

And that 5% extra we do spend on better quality things, makes me really happy. I also personally look at it as 5% more of my grocery money invested in my kids future (a bit grandiose, I’ll grant you, but it’s how I feel nonetheless).

Well done for making it to the end of this mammoth post!

Are you thinking of (or currently) reducing your plastic waste?
Do you have any favourite plastic free products or ones you wish there was a plastic-free version of?
And if you have any questions about how we do things, ask me anything! I’m an open book, but no expert, so I’ll try my best to answer.

Naomi loves daytime baths, learning things and rock music.
(Oh and her kids. She loves them too)
Follow Naomi on Instagram @naomiliddell
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87 thoughts on “Reducing Our Plastic Waste

  1. Brilliant article and great ideas thanks! This has been bothering me too since seeing blue planet. It makes me want to cry when I go to the supermarket and nearly every piece of veg is wrapped in pointless cellophane.
    One of the biggest revelations for us in terms of reducing waste has been reusable (cloth) nappies. Friends were very sceptical thinking it would be too much hard work, but in fact the washing is now just part of the daily routine and easy to manage (even when I work full time!) Plus the nappies look so much nicer! My daughter loves requesting her choice of nappy pattern on the cover….’blue flowers nappy today please mummy’!!

    1. Cloth nappies are on my agenda for baby #2 Megan. I’m a bit nervous about the change as with my son we used disposable, but I’m determined to make it work. Nice to hear you’re having such a good experience. What brand are you using?

      1. We used cloth too, for the first year of our daughter’s life – until we had our extension built last year and couldn’t use our tumble dryer or washing machine for a while, and felt that it would have been too hard to keep on top of the washing (bearing in mind our garden also turned into a building site, so we also couldn’t hang a line out!) I do wish that we’d been able to get back in to the habit once the work was done, but we never did, and now that she’s too we’re hopeful that potty training will be round the corner…

        We used a combination of little lamb pocket nappies and charlie banana pocket nappies. The little lamb worked best for us, I think because of their relative width, they always felt pretty solid (though we did have one that lost a popper. At the start we also used some little lamb shaped nappies with a separate wrap, and they were also pretty good for that stage. We’ve now passed on our stash to some friends who are expecting in June, so I feel that we’re still doing some good, even if we lost the way ourselves.

        Excellent post too – one of your previous articles over on RMF sent me down a plastic free internet rabbit hole, and I think this one might do the same. When I was younger I used to be more clued up and interested in this kind of thing, and I think I just got a bit lazy. I’m definitely going to grab some of those stainless steel straws!

        1. Good work on the nappies, and passing them on! That’s a huge benefit too I suppose. I think it’s harder to keep interest as life gets more hectic and the to do’s become longer. Glad I’m enabling some environmental purchases though 😉

          1. I thought I’d pop back and leave a little follow up – I’ve been busy researching today, between work tasks, and have made a few purchases – although I’ve decided some of it needs to wait for payday. Is it sad to say that I’m looking forward to trying out the floss you recommended above?

            Thanks for giving me the little push today, to act on things I’ve been thinking about for a while. And also on your tip to Lauren below, about planning ahead so you don’t fall back on convenience – makes so much sense.

            And also, seconding the recommendation for the nappylady, below. Excellent resource, and I found myself back on the site earlier researching training pants.

      2. We use a mixture of all in ones from bambino mio and charlie banana during the day, and two part little lambs at night because they hold much more liquid. If you have a nappy library nearby you might be able to hire a kit (usually £5ish for a few weeks) so you can try lots of different brands – a bit like with clothes they’re all a slightly different fit so its a case of finding which shape fits your baby best. Our all in ones have fitted from about 10lb/6 weeks old, and are still going strong on a 25lb two year old! Overall the cost is generally a lot less than disposables over 2-3 years, even taking into account washing costs, and even more of a saving if you resell afterwards. You can pick up a lot second hand too to reduce the initial outlay.
        We use a heated airer for drying in winter which uses a lot less electricity than a tumbledrier, and in summer good old sunshine is brilliant for bleaching out orange stains! One of the best resources for advice is nappylady.co.uk. Good luck!! x

        1. I’m off to look up local nappy libraries! I really hope there is one, what a genius idea. I’ve been wanting one of those fancy heated airers so you’ve now just given me the perfect excuse!! Must check out nappylady too (my how life changes) 😂

  2. Since having my daughter I’ve really tried to make more of an effort but it is very hard isn’t it! I’ve swapped the bar soap instead of shower gel and looking for a shampoo too but no luck yet.
    I’ce looked at cloth nappies and reusable sanpro a lot but I can’t get over the initial icky factor 😕

    One thing I did learn is that some supermarkets (I think Waitrose and Morrison’s at the mo) will put stuff from the butcher/fish or deli counter into your reusable boxes rather than using plastic 👍🏻

      1. I’ve tried them, but none were the right formula for me (I’ve got a very dry scalp so really need an anti dandruff shampoo). But Gavin LOVES the cinnamon shampoo bar from Lush.

        1. Hi Naomi, I have a really dry scalp as well, and have been looking for a solution. I’ve come across these in New Zealand. I’m pretty sure they ship internationally or you might be able to pick up somewhere. I haven’t tried yet but the reviews sound good: https://ethiquebeauty.com/heali-kiwi-shampoo-for-dandruff-or-scalp-problems/

          One of the first things I noticed living in the UK was how much plastic packaging there is on everything. In NZ most of your fruit and vegetables are just sold as they are (no individually wrapped pieces of broccoli (so unnecessary!) but after six years away I’ve noticed more packaging starting to creep in 🙁

          On the flip side my time living in Wales means that I have a habit of carrying reusable shopping bags everywhere and never use plastic ones. Need to get better at some of the other tings though!

    1. I’ve got the ick about cloth nappies and wipes too to be honest. But I’m going to give them a whirl. My husband recently pointed out that we didn’t think twice about putting poo covered baby clothes in the washing machine, so why not slightly soiled nappies?
      As for the shampoo, I’ll share if I find any winners. Also good tip on the supermarket meat counters 👍🏼

      1. Yes! Exactly this! I think lots of people are put off by the idea of a bit of poo going in the washing machine but it’s an inevitability with a baby, either on their clothes or your own!! I love that you don’t get poo explosions with cloth nappies too, thanks to their elasticated backs.

    2. Hi Emma, Great tip about the butcher/deli counters thanks. Lush do some amazing solid shampoo and conditioners!

  3. Thanks for this post, it’s really interesting. We’re trying our best to reduce plastic waste and waste in general. It’s tough though!! A local shop does Ecover refills so we use that for fabric softener and washing up liquid. I’ve started shopping at Lush for hair and face products. It’s a bit hit and miss but I’ve found a couple of things that work for me (shampoo bar and face moisturiser so far…) and I’m not giving up! You can return any black plastic pots to them and they recycle/reuse them. We do our food shop at Aldi and the amount of plastic on the fruit and veg makes me sad. We shop at our greengrocer when we can but it’s double the price. Same with the butcher. But we swap what we can afford to and I’m (fairly) happy with that. I’ve also make gift tags from old Christmas cards and cut up envelopes to make a note pad (using a small bulldog clip). Small things but it reduces what we put in the bin. Good luck with your new venture, I’d be interested to hear about it.

    1. Sarah it sounds like your doing heaps! Also I think when you start noticing the changes that could be made it’s easy to beat yourself up for not doing ALL THE THINGS. But really, every tiny adjustment makes a big difference. Slow and steady wins the race.

  4. Really interesting post thank you! The Netflix documentary Plastic Ocean was fascinating. I’d definitely be interested in a future post on your supermarket food shop. This is where the bulk of our household plastic comes from and where I don’t know how to begin to reduce it in a manageable way. Thank you!!

    1. I haven’t seen that documentary Nicky, will def look it up (although those things do make me really sad to watch, I like being informed). I’d be happy to write more on the supermarket side of things (here if it’s of general interest or on insta). It is hard to do for sure! And I’m definitely not perfect at it either but there are some tricks to share.

  5. This is interesting and I know a lot of my friends are making it a rule to live by but I ummm….can’t find the inclination to be honest. Its just one step too far to make balancing my life impossible v just about manageable.

    I get the point, I really do. And having read your article we are doing some of these things. I use proper canvas bags for shopping (the ALDI ones that you can separate your shopping in are brilliant for saving time unpacking too) and I will always buy veg and fruit loose rather than in plastic packaging. Again however, that’s more for selfish reasons rather than an environmental one. Plastic bags split and fit bugger all in (and are now 5p). Veg stays fresher out of plastic and I don’t need to get rid of it at home causing more waste for another tip run beyond the fortnightly one we get at home.

    Another commenter above made the point about cost too. We buy our meat from the butcher and its no more expensive than Aldi or Lidl. We can buy more appropriate cuts which makes the pricing more competitive.

    1. I think it’s a tough thing to do if you aren’t interested in the environmental aspect (for me, that’s my main motivation). And like I said, at times even then it can be difficult. But I think even the small changes you’ve made certainly contribute to the supermarkets making better choices more convenient and cost effective for everyone. Voting with your £ and all that. Thanks for being so honest.

  6. Yes! It’s still a work in progress but I inherited the recycling as comments sense gene from hippie parents.

    We use reusable nappies and wipes and I’ve got a set of washable wipes for make up removal. I’m looking at getting a set of washable sanitary pads from cheeky wipes.

    Plastic on the grocery shop is a massive bug bear as I sue online shopping as I can’t abide the actual task! Working 31 hours, plus house, husband, dog, child, running a girl guide unit…… I throw money at the grocery shop problem but I’m going to look at getting a veg delivery from Abel and Cole.

    We also have a compost bin and recycle everything we can. Our council doesn’t collect glass so we have a take it to Asda or wherever. Annoyingly the council only collect no 1, 2 & 4 plastic. All my yogurt comes in 5s!
    I think the bathroom will be the last area I tackle!

    1. Claire I’ve been looking at cheeky wipes but hadn’t noticed they did sanitary pads too! That would be good for postpartum (I can’t use my cup then).
      As for the supermarket thing, I’ve found that switching to a delivered fruit and veg box has helped heaps. But it sounds like you’re doing great regardless!

      1. Nappy wise we use Bambino Mio solos and popins by close parent. Close parent bibs are fantastic too

          1. Check if your local council does cash back on cloth nappy purchases. Leeds does. Also Bambino Mio is sold a lot on the high street. I’ve seen them in Aldi, Morrisons, Asda, Sainsbury’s and boots

    2. Abel and Cole are very good have been using them for a few months. Much less packaging and anything they send to you you can return them for recycling if your council won’t take it (the delivery boxes are re-used so tuck any packaging inside and they driver picks them up each week when they deliver your new boxes).

      I’d be interested in period cup info – how many people here have used one, how do you find them? Do they last enough during the day or do you need to wash them while at work?! Are they comfortable? Any brands better than others?

      1. Ok here’s my thought Beth, I’ve used both Diva Cup and Lunette, I much preferred the Lunette, found it easier to get in/out. Typically you just pop it in in the morning then change it in the evening. It takes a bit of practice to get used to fitting it properly but the instructions are pretty good. I don’t feel mine once it’s in properly. As for cleaning them, before getting pregnant I just tipped it in the loo then brazenly washed it in the toilet sink, but I’ve heard of folk using disabled loos for a bit more sink privacy. Overall I feel far more clean (no blood to deal with for most of the day) and highly recommend.

        1. I’ve used a Moon Cup for about 15 years – originally bought to save buying hard to find sanitary products when backpacking as a teenager but found it so easy to use I haven’t bought a tampon since and love the idea of having no waste going to landfill.
          An interesting point about post-partum bleeding, Naomi – we’ve used Cheeky Wipes instead of baby wipes so will look in to their towel options this time round!

      2. Another vote for Mooncup. Try it, you won’t go back. It’s a little fiddly to begin with but not really much more so that using an non-applicator tampon. The positives of using it far outweigh any negatives.

  7. Love this post – there is definitely more I could do to reduce plastic waste. I use a reusable water bottle (which is ace as it keeps the water ice cold!) but I could do more to remember to take it everywhere, rather than just to work and back. I’ve got a reusable straw and cutlery on my shopping list (otherwise all our forks end up at work…!) and I really do need to switch to bar soap in the bathroom and for shampoo/conditioner/body wash.

    The one place I find really difficult to switch from plastic is the supermarket. We don’t have a car so for convenience we get it delivered instead. However, this really limits how much control you have over choosing products with little or no plastic. Even when we request loose fruit and veg, it inevitably comes in a plastic bag. Also given the state of the crates they use, I’m not sure if I would be happy for it to all be loose in there though. Paper bags would surely be a far more preferable alternative?! I definitely think supermarkets have a massive role to play in reducing plastic as well – it can’t always be on the shoulders of the consumers, but I get that change can sometimes only happen if the public mood switches and pushes the big companies to find suitable alternatives.

    1. You’re so right about supermarkets needing to take more responsibility Jo. And I think that by even just requesting loose fruit etc. you’re sending that message. The best thing we can do is vote with our £. Although it’s encouraging to see them currently pitted against each other to reduce the plastic. It seems the message is getting through!!

  8. Well done everyone for starting to change habits- it’s hard to do when we are all so used to convenience, but I truly believe that if everyone starts by changing 3 things to start with, it will start to make a difference. Retailers & producers need to be taking the lead with this, and with recent public pressure, this is now a massive push topic in the industry with many improvements being made. But, what about other sectors, the medical industry for instance, where minimal plastic is either recyclable or biodegradable?

    1. The medical industry is a tough nut to crack Danielle, I agree. Well out of my area of knowledge though so I’m glad there are a growing amount of experts in that field pushing for change. But I have faith that by basic consumer habit changes it will become a ripple effect across all industries. 🤞🏼

      1. Interestingly there are companies who are trying to provide cost effective solutions to the medical industry for recyclable plastics. You just don’t hear about it because its not a very sexy subject!

        I know someone who just got awarded an NHS contract for recyclable plastic items!

  9. This is a great post – and whilst i have been doing bits and pieces to reduce plastic – it has made me realise i could actually be doing SO so much more – and so i am going to educate myself more and start making more of a positive impact – starting with a veg box from a local supplier – zero plastic packaging and locally grown produce.
    I do agree with others who have mentioned above that the lead for this really does need to be coming from retailers, producers and suppliers who can make a huge difference – the wheels of change can sometimes take a while with big business though – so we the general public need to keep the pressure on!
    Again – great post – and has been the kicker for me to actually do something rather than just thinking about it – thank you!

    1. Aw Janey this comment makes me so happy. I’m glad you’re on board. The fruit and veg box thing is a godsend and it’s definitely become far more affordable now (demand has increased I suppose). But remember, small changes one at a time and you barely notice it. Also a big tip is to buy in advance. Don’t wait for your usual purchases to run out because then the convenience is far too tempting to stick to old habits (something I’ve done heaps of times).

  10. I really try and reduce where I can and feel inspired to try and reduce plastic in the bathroom now. How do you store your food/meat in your freezer though as I use a fair amount of Ziploc bags for this purpose but I would love to reduce the amount I use!

    1. IKEA glass tupperware containers ☺️ They’re cheap, tempered and my meat etc has been fine, no freezer burn and super convenient to defrost/clean containers etc.

  11. I feel the same as Janey. I thought I’d been doing my bit to reduce waste but there’s so much more I can do.
    As I mentioned to you the other day Naomi, reading this made me feel how you must have sat on the bus three years ago. Such an eye-opener!

    1. Don’t get too overwhelmed, start small and buy swaps in advance so you’re not tempted by convenience. That’s probably the most concise I can get. 😂 You know you can sling me questions anytime anyway lovely. ☺️

  12. We’ve started slowly but surely and like everyone not having fruit and veg loose at the supermarket is a real big bear. I tried to go to the farm shop when I can and to get my fresh fruit and vegetable as I can just carry this loose in the canvas bags to have in the car . Switching to having a milkman in glass bottles is great and I love having the milk there in the morning Plus they do fresh bread from a Local bakery which is brilliant . Switching over the house at the moment back to soap bars as although you can recycle the bottle the dispenser part is not recyclable. My little boy likes the soap bar better as he struggled with a pump. Also the bathroom always has a nice soapy smell which we didn’t get with the liquid. We did buy cloth nappies before we had Zach as the disposable ones take 100s of years to degrade however that was a fail as he arrived a bit early and was too tiny so switched to disposables and unfortunately got hooked on how easy they are.
    I think we really do have to make the effort and some of the small changes are super easy and not expensive

    1. Oh I’m jealous of your milkman Helen (that sounded a tad naughty didn’t it?). Also I can attest to the soap scenting the bathroom, so nice! I’m going to give cloth nappies a go this time. Wish me luck. For some reason I think it might be the most defficult change so far 🙈. Hopefully the up front cost will be a good motivator.

      1. Roughly where are you in Scotland Naomi? We have just had a glass milkman extend services in our area (we are just outside Dunblane) so check out his facebook page “David McIntosh Milk Deliveries Ltd.”

            1. If this milkman can’t help it might be worth checking out milk & more – they have an online form to register interest if they don’t deliver in your area currently. We swapped to glass bottles milk about 6 months ago and I wouldn’t go back purely because of the reduction in waste!

              The one thing I haven’t looked at is the processing costs. I’d buy milk at a higher price to make sure it’s profitable for the farmers, not just the dairies.

              I’ve tried to cut down on plastic as much as I can (we are lucky here with the range of things that are collected for recycling – and as an adult I have a huge sense of guilt every time I throw something away!) but I do think there’s more to sustainability than just plastic.

  13. A great post thanks Naomi. We use cloth nappies (little lamb) and cheeky wipes for our son. They actually contain those ‘explosions’ alot better than disposable ones and the washing isn’t that bad. I rinse any excess off under the flush before washing (sorry for of that’s too much info!). We have a set of wipes for bottom and a set of hands/faces.

    You’ve really got me thinking on toilet roll and toothpaste now.

    I wish I had a local butcher and farm shop/green grocer.

    1. Great to hear your comments on cloth nappies (and there is never too much information! I have so many questions). Also good tip on having two sets of cheeky wipes! As for farm shop /green grocers, have a look further afield. Mine are based in Inverness (a million miles away from me) but they network with farmers all over Scotland and deliver Scotland wide too so while our food is local, the head office is based up north. I found them online. Hope that helps.

  14. This might be a really daft question, but it’s been playing on my mind since I read your article this morning (top tips and links btw!)… What about plastic wrapped things like crisps and chocolate? I would very much like to reduce my plastic use, but realistically I’m not going to give up either of those!

    1. Not a daft question at all. I love chocolate and find that Lidl and Aldi own brand (Particularly Aldi’s Moser Roth range) to be excellent paper packaged chocolate. Green and blacks is also paper and foil and often on offer. We don’t eat crisps much in our house. But there was a great article/petition recently in Country Living trying to get crisp companies to make compost able or even just recyclable packaging (https://www.countryliving.com/uk/wildlife/countryside/amp19826273/petition-walkers-plastic-crisp-packets/). It might be the thing you compromise on (like my pasta preference). I tend to think of most good habits as an 80/20 rule. If I can get it right 80% of the time I’m happy.

  15. Really useful post. Have never heard of the Lunette thingy and it has excellent reviews so may just give this a go (thanks also for the explanation re emptying it- no way in a million years I would want to do that in front of colleagues!) I have always thought I do ok on this front so going to greengrocers and butchers when possible. As a few people have mentioned above for me it’s all about having as little waste as possible, plastic or otherwise. I like that I know I will only need 3 carrots for a meal as opposed to a bag of 15! Also I think there are real cost saving elements – separate veg are usually cheaper per kilo than the equivalent plastic wrapped version in the supermarket, a bar of soap lasts way longer than a plastic bottle of shower gel and now the Lunette, God knows how much I have spent on Tampax over the years. Thanks for all the tips!

    1. Catherine, you’re so right. Food waste is a massive issue in and of itself. I find that meal planning around our weekly veg delivery is helpful. And you’re right, while there are some products more expensive, we definitely save on other areas as well by going plastic free.

  16. I have been trying to reduce my waste too. At work we have two onsite Costas selling 500 drinks a week. I organised an order of Ecoffee cups at trade prices plus a little to our charity of the year. I got orders for 267 from an office of 900 (I was thrilled). It’s wonderful to see all these colourful cups all over the office now. I’m trying to get a colleague to do an order for the beeswax cloth alternative to clingfilm now.

    I go to the greengrocer most Saturdays but otherwise shop mostly at Lidl or Aldi and hate that they package their veg in so much plastic. I’m a veggie and can’t get meatfree alternatives in loose form.

    I’ve also been thinking about getting cheeky wipes make up removal pads as I use two of these a day. I ensure I buy cardboard stick cotton buds. I have seen that cheeky wipes do adult alternatives to loo roll but can’t get my head around that 🙂 I wish I could give up liquid soap/shampoo etc but I am squeamish about soap bars, yuck! Even worse when they get hair stuck on them and I have a boyfriend who permanently moults!

    1. Massive round of applause Bunny!!!! What a great job ordering all those cups. The beeswax wraps are also excellent as well as glass tupperware.
      I bulk buy cotton facecloths and have them in a massive jar in my bathroom. I use two a day and just chuck them in with my towel washing.
      As for loo roll, I’m pretty happy with my Who Gives A Crap bamboo toilet paper, not sure I can do cloths 🙈
      Haha, soap bars are a preference, but maybe you could have a his and hers?…

  17. Fab post Naomi. It’s so positive that reducing plastic waste is on so many people’s minds. I am also on the look out for shampoo and conditioner. I’ve tried the lush shampoo bars and didn’t get on with them. I have a couple of Aesop face products which are glass so could look there, guessing it’ll be pricey though!
    Where I live the Wildlife Trust are promoting Plastic Free Coastlines and it’s great the number of businesses and individuals on board. Good luck with your new business venture! x

  18. Definitely inspired me to make some changes to living a life with less plastic! Difficult areas will be online shopping…no more ASOS?! And bathroom products…I have so many bottles of lotions and potions, but I generally think none-plastic packaging looks so much more tasteful, so I hope there are some good alternatives around.

    1. I’m hoping that the non-plastic use in the beauty industry begins to catch on more. I love the look of one little shelf in my bathroom where my non-plastic things sit. Makes me so happy. ASOS is a tough one because they sell some good brands, maybe it’s a case of sending a message with orders asking for recyclable packaging only? I might try this myself.

  19. Bravo Naomi this is great! We just got two metal straws from The Kittn on Etsy and I couldn’t be more pleased with them and they were a bargain to boot. I have to admit to being very complacent as our council only does every 3 weeks for bins and instead weekly recycling for almost all plastics, glass, paper and compostable stuff so having adjusted to that I felt we were doing ok. Then boom, supposedly recycled waste from here being burnt or dumped in the sea. Not so smug now. Have also recently ditched the bags for life, but I am stuck on bin bags. I use the green biodegradable ones for the compost bin so I guess I can just switch to them everywhere?

    Also I still feel guilty about failing with cloth nappies: bought a tonne but S had skinny legs and just leaked and leaked til I gave up and put them in a collection for refugee camp mamas, thinking they could help someone else.

    Also thinking of making the swap to cloth sanitary pads and cup, but with the cloths I need to double check they aren’t micro fibre as tiny bits of plastic come off those each time they are washed…

    Finally, after the weekend of sun we just had we can all do a good old bit of litter picking to fight this at the other end. We filled up our two buckets full of plastic at the end of our day on the beach on Sunday- didn’t take long and was well worth doing.

    1. Regarding bin bags Lucy, we just don’t use them now. With recyclables getting rinsed and our food waste going in a caddy, our bin doesn’t get too grimy. So we use compostable food waste bags, but just chuck everything else straight in the house bins then tip them into the wheelies. We rinse the bins out about once a month.

      I think most cloth sanitary pads are made from bamboo or organic cotton so you shouldn’t have a problem with microfibres. It’s something I’ve been looking out for in our choice of cloth nappies too.

      Good on you for the beach clean up! I know a lot gets washed up, but who are these people dropping litter in this day and age?!

      1. An ice cream shop in Nairn is giving free ice cream to people who collect a bag of rubbish from the beach, genius! Lx

  20. Great article Naomi and lots of good tips, there’s definitely a few more things for me to add to my list! We are expecting baby number 2 as well and I’m also thinking hard about reusable nappies having seen just how many you get through with 1! So it’s great to have lots of recommendations on here to work through. I have to say I really love your attitude of every little helps and the 80:20 idea – I think this is way more appealing and less intimidating to people who perhaps hadn’t considered some of these things before, and in my opinion more likely to encourage people to try to make a difference themselves xx

  21. If anyone a National Trust member they listened to the readers who asked for something to be done about the plastic the mag arrives in each month so they changed it to one made of potato starch so it can go in your composter or blue bin etc

    1. That’s awesome. There are some really amazing advances on plastic alternatives these days. Have you seen the potato starch packing peanuts too?! Such a great idea.

  22. This is a great post and something I have really been thinking about lately so thanks for the helpful tips! I agree that its good to make even small changes at first and go from there. I started off with my canvas bags, I have invested in a keep cup and next on my list is plastic straws and cutlery (love those you have linked) and also a water bottle. I love the glass bottles but I have a thing about drinking warm water so was going to opt for stainless steel which I hope isn’t worse for you than glass – will be having a research x

  23. I loved that you lived in Fremantle…I’m from just up the road (but have been living in London for a while). Though not perfect, I think Australia is streets ahead when it comes to recycling. I remember a campaign from back home called ‘Keep Australia Beautiful’ which was about littering and I think a lot of the recycling mentality started from that. My anxiety levels sky rocket with all the free newspapers on the tube and the waste/lack of recycling in my office is disgusting. I bought keep cups back with me from my last trip home and I loved visiting the bulk buy shops especially the coffee ones. So excited for your new business.

    1. You’re right Nadia, Australia is pretty far ahead in a lot of this stuff. We learned so much from our time there. It definitely influenced our choice to start up the business too!

  24. Brillant post! We’ve been trying to reduce our plastic waste slowly and I’ve definitely got a few tips from reading this. Do you follow “Trash is for Tossers”? Lauren has some great ideas about how to go plastic free incoulding how to make your own cleaning and beauty products. With regards to recommendations for cleaning out your bathroom I’ve been trying to go for glass containers and have found online stores like Content Beauty helpful. On there you can search by reuse, refillab, recycle, glass and biodegradable. They have a store in London if you want to reduce your packaging too.

    1. I do follow Lauren. She is not mucking about with the zero waste thing, is she?! Love her posts (and her businesses are a big inspiration). I’ve never used Content Beauty. Off to have a nosey! Their search sounds fab!

  25. Such a great article, really inspiring! I’ve already started making the small steps of bar soap/re-usuable water bottles and coffee cups but still a long way to go so some really useful tips.

  26. Brilliant article! So difficult to find wholesale produce anywhere in Scotland so I am very excited for your new venture. This weeks mission for me is to attempt to make our own beeswax wraps for food storage…easy enough to buy online but making our own will be more cost effective and will be a fun activity for the kids. Also going to attempt to make our own shampoo and conditioner…Ela Gale’s you tube channel has lots of good ideas for natural/zero waste beauty products.
    On a side note I am loving the georganics toothpaste but hate that it comes wrapped in unnecessary one use plastic!

    1. Really excited to hear how the wraps turn out Sonia! You have to report back. I haven’t heard of Ela Gale so will def give that a look.
      As for the toothpaste, I totally agree. I also hate the little spatula thing that comes with… No need! And it gets lost in 10 mins.

  27. Great article Naomi! Liquid hand wash was something that I didn’t even think about until the other day and felt shocked at the wastage. We try to do what we can to reduce plastic waste and be more eco-friendly as can’t stand the sight of turtles, etc being killed and disrupted by plastic, not to mention wanting to take action for our children. Online shopping is probably the hardest as with busy jobs and a baby getting out to the shops for birthday presents and the like can be tough, but we’re working on it.

    Would also love to know tips for how to cut down on food shopping plastic waste and which reusable baby wipes people recommend? We have bambino mio nappies which we’re using more frequently and heard cheeky wipes are good?

    Another one to watch out for: teabags. They more often than not contain small amounts of plastic which mean they don’t biodegrade properly and get into the environment, so we’re switching to loose leaf.

    This is also a great read which got me thinking if anyone is interested https://www.the-pool.com/food-home/home/2018/7/Lucy-Dunn-on-plastic-free-eco-friendly-kitchen (but RMS is still my favourite 😉), and so was your previous post on homemade products.

    Sorry for the long post but so interested in this topic! Well done to everyone who has made small changes and continues to do so 🙌 it’s not easy sometimes these days.

    On my way to the shops now to buy a good old-fashioned bar of soap!

    1. Danni, yes! The teabags! I was shocked when I first heard this. I’ll admit to still buying regular ones, but you’ve inspired me now to switch to loose leaf (which I actually like better anyway).

      As for baby wipes, the recommendations I’ve received for Cheeky Wipes have been coming from everywhere. I’m pretty much considering them my only choice now. ☺️

  28. Something else to add- which you have mentioned in getting your farm shop veg boxes-is buying local when you can. Yes things like loose fruit at supermarkets is better than a bag of pears etc but think of all the packaging used behind the scenes to transport the goods before the supermarket unwraps it. Not just the food industry. I am a florist and aim to buy most of my flowers from a local farm however during the winter months (or when a bride wants flowers that are only available as imports) i rely on using a wholesaler – flowers come from holland, italy, south america and africa (its amazing how many people dont realise this) and i’d say for an average wedding i fill 2 of those huge blue ikea bags full of plastic wrapping, now think of that times 30 weddings a year- and i am one of many many UK florists. So few people realise that their valentines day roses are grown in Columbia, picked and packaged by women on low pay and shipped in plastic across the globe to fill the shelves at tesco, it really frustrates me. Flowers aside, there is so much i could do on a personal level to reduce waste but my main focus has generally to stop consuming so much!- i have consciously been buying less clothing or home decor unless i feel its something i will get a lot of use from as i feel like we are just forever consuming stuff and that’s a pretty easy place to start cutting back!

  29. I only just had the chance to read trough this and I love this article. I’ve been starting to make changes but this has pushed me to do more. I’d love an article on incorporating this, and general waste, with children. Plastic lunch boxes, plates, toys… I could go on. And the huge quantity of stuff they get, I hate it. Also making sure their clothes are being made fairly, sustainably etc. I hate thinking that my children’s clothes are made in a factory by children 😔 but it’s a minefield!

  30. Excellent article Naomi!! We’re trying to cut plastic too. We have a veg box from Abel and Cole which I love as it makes me more creative and cook seasonally. Our water bottles and coffee cups are all stainless steel Klean Kanteens and I’ve switched to glass food storage. My most recent purchase has been a shampoo bar from Babipur. https://www.babipur.co.uk/natural-toiletries-skincare/hair-body-bars.html
    Babipur is very addictive for green items. Like you we didn’t cloth bum and if we’re lucky enough to have a second that’s my target!!

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