This is a question I often ponder when I'm thinking of ways I can reduce my waste on a daily basis.
My grandparents were so frugal and modest in their lifestyle that the electric company once knocked on their door just to see how they managed to survive by using so little electricity!
While I'm still far far away from that level of conscientiousness I still find the 'old way' of living fascinating and inspiring, particularly with my current mission.
Modern living has become much faster, busier, and instantly gratifying, where convenience is king. But are we just mindlessly consuming things we've been told are convenient when in fact the alternative really isn't that much more inconvenient anyway?
Perhaps my favourite example is plastic wrap. It's been more than seven months since I last used plastic wrap...gee that sounds like something out of Single Use Plastics Anonymous! This makes me think that plastic wrap could be, in fact, completely replaceable, gasp! A simple overturned plate or bowl, a reusable silicone lid, beeswax wraps, or even a reusable container or Ziploc bag are all viable alternatives to wrapping things in plastic. We've been sold an idea that we must have this in our lives when in fact the reality is we more often than not do not.
Here are my top five tips for getting rid of single-use plastics in your life:
- Take a reusable shopping bag- you can roll up two lightweight cotton bags to fit snugly in your handbag or backpack to take everywhere with you. If you can make your bags out of old t-shirts you get extra brownie points.
- Refuse the produce poly bag- these seemingly harmless little bags send my blood pressure soaring every time I see them as they are forced on consumers at supermarkets at almost every opportunity. Reusables can be purchased online or you can make your own out of old net curtains, or funnily enough you can just put things straight into your bag or wrap in a handkerchief or tenugui!
- Skip the straw/lid/takeaway cup- it's so much nicer to drink out of a proper cup and it keeps a gazillion takeaway cups out of landfill or the incinerator. Invest in a good cup you can carry with you, and AGAIN do you really need that straw? For Japanese phrases to use look here.
- Take your own containers- just ask your local grocer/butcher/fish mongers/takeaway if they will fill your container, you may be pleasantly surprised just how easy it is. The worst that can happen is they'll say no. Keep the containers in the back of your car so you have them handy.
- Substitute plastic for glass/paper/metal etc.- this is possibly the most challenging one of all, it takes time and effort to seek out your favourite products at the supermarket plastic-free. You may need to go to different stores and the alternatives may be more expensive, so you'll have to weigh up your priorities. Also think about whether you can reduce the use of plastic packaging by making things from scratch.
In the end if you must buy plastic (yes unfortunately sometimes it's inevitable), try and pick the sturdiest container so that it can be re-purposed or recycled (the denser the plastic the more likely it is to be recycled).
Lastly, don't forget to keep all your reusables hygienic folks.