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Why I’m failing at going plastic free

via @Faire.Shop on Instagram

This quote has been doing the rounds on social media recently (I’m afraid I don’t know which is the original source). It made me feel a whole lot better about my own attempts at reducing my plastic consumption and being more environmentally friendly. Instagram is full of these accounts of people living entirely plastic free, eco concious lives and making it look easy. Of course it really should be. Sadly though, it’s not. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing anything.

I touched on the fact I’m trying to get rid of plastic waste throughout the business in a previous blog post. I use card mailing boxes rather than jiffy bags, card gift boxes, biodegradable bags for greetings cards and paper bags for use at fairs.

Any plastic that comes in deliveries of supplies I reuse. A few suppliers I’ve noticed, thankfully have ditched the plastic too. Let’s hope the rest follow. It’s a little frustrating when you put so much effort in, and the stack of card packaging you order arrives wrapped in plastic.

I’m waiting for the world to make a biodegradable self adhesive clear tape and I’ll be happy. I’ve switched to a paper tape for outside packaging and I’ve already enquired with a few suppliers  about clear tape and they say they are on it. I entered a debate about this on social media (something I really try not to do, on any subject) and the response I got from someone was a snide ‘Use string?’ The difficulty is, as a business and one that doesn’t make a necessity, but a luxury, I don’t want to compromise on the standards I’ve promised my customers and the plastic free swaps I make need to be of equal or better quality. I’m not going to gift wrap my items using ugly brown paper tape that completely jars with my style. I’ve perfected the art of wrapping most items now just with the aid of a paper sticker and some ribbon but some times for more complicated packages I just need a teensy bit of tape.

This is why the quote at the top really strikes a chord. The thing is, I don’t use much tape anyway. In the same way that I don’t really use plastic straws much, fly multiple times a year, or  have a daily takeaway coffee habit. Fixing these things then, is not the best place to start. What was my most wasteful area?

At home, the main thing I decided I needed to save on was shampoo bottles. I have loooong hair and use a lot of shampoo and conditioner. They are really thick plastic bottles with complex caps. There’s a loads of plastic in the packaging of these products and I was getting through quite a few of them. I switched to shampoo bars which are such a great idea -no plastic at all, great for travel, swim, gym (laughs, I don’t gym) and money saving too as they do last. I really really wanted to succeed with them  but failed. I tried several brands and all made my hair heavy and dirty feeling. Many manufacturers do say it can take a number of weeks for your hair to adjust. I went around with crappy feeling hair for months in the hope I’d adjust to them. I tried bicarb rinse, vinegar rinse, coconut milk – all the hints and tricks the internet provided me with. None worked. One day I got fed up of feeling yukky and picked up the shampoo bottle again. This isn’t to say don’t try them, please do and I hope they work for you.

The other biggest waste of plastic in my everyday life is food packaging. This one drives me crazy and when you live in a town with two, soon to be three, big supermarkets and no market, greengrocer etc it’s pretty hard to avoid.  I recently got an amazing haul of fruit and veg when passing through another town that cost a fraction of the shop prices and came with significantly less  – though still not zero – plastic. I wish we had a market in our town as driving somewhere in an attempt to be more eco friendly when everything I need is in walking distance is something I’m still weighing up.

Back to the shampoo and happily it wasn’t all disaster in this department. The solid conditioner I’m using is brilliant even though I didn’t get on with the shampoo so I have cut my plastic in this area by 50%  Also, there are refill stations popping up all over the place where you can refill old bottles with shampoos, conditioners and other household products so this is the route I’ll be taking for these products from now on.

I’ve got into growing things recently and this is great for two reasons – of course growing your own saves on any sort of packaging vs buying it from the shops but secondly, you start you look at any vessel that might otherwise have gone in the bin at your latest quirky plant pot!

While on topic I must mention this pet hate of mine. The constant talk of single use plastics I don’t think is particularly helpful. The best thing we can do with this plastic packaging that already exists is use it again. My kitchen cupboard contains a collection of ‘single use’ plastic bottles that I’ve used over and over. I understand that the term is generally used to describe things that are intended to be thrown away but by describing them as single-use we are only emphasising to people that’s exactly what they are.

Thanks for reading. Please comment with any plastic reducing  and general tips you have for living more eco friendly. I’d love to hear them.

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