With Plastic Free July upon us, we’ve put together 64 ways to reduce plastic waste at home.
It’s Plastic Free July again and this year we feel the focus has shifted somewhat. This time last year we were deeply focused on how to reduce plastic waste.
We had just brought out the “plastic free” issue of Pip Magazine (Issue #14), we ran our own Plastic Free July Challenge that people could sign up to, and we even held a plastic free-focused event with zero waste champions Lauren and Oberon Carter, authors of ‘A Family Guide to Waste-Free Living’, and Erin Rhoads, author of ‘Waste Not’.
This year, although striving to reduce plastic waste is as important as ever, somehow it seems to be less at the forefront of our minds.
The use of KeepCups has seemed a little redundant during lockdown as many cafes weren’t (and many still aren’t) allowing reusable cups to be used. Many bulk food stores shut down and we weren’t able to go in and use our own jars.
We’ve also seen a huge increase in the use of plastic bottles of hand sanitiser as our health needs have taken priority over our need to eliminate plastic use.
More time or less time for plastic free living?
The pandemic has certainly shaken things up and moved the goal posts. For some, they find themselves with more time at home, time to start growing their own food, making sourdough bread, experimenting with fermenting and preserving, and other waste-free practices that they previously didn’t have time for.
For others though, the past few months have been especially challenging as they try and manage working from home, home schooling kids, coping with a full house of people, all of whom are hungry and need to be fed and cleaned up after.
The allure of some easy shortcuts that can help maintain a bit of sanity (but might not be the most eco-friendly thing to do) has been winning out over usual green habits.
Either way, Plastic Free July is a chance to take stock. For many of us, being at home has shone a light on the amount of waste we create, as we aren’t throwing it in a bin outside our home. Every piece of rubbish is now ending up in our own bins. This has been quite shocking for some and a cause of concern.
So what to do about it? Where to start?
With everything going on at the moment, let’s not create another rod to flagellate ourselves with. Let’s not find something else to feel guilty about. Instead, let’s look at this in a positive light.
If we are feeling guilty about the waste (and plastic waste in particular) that we are producing right now, that means we have an awareness and we are conscious of the problem – that is the first step.
Now for the second step… let’s not try and solve the world’s plastic pollution problem by taking it all on ourselves. Instead, let’s try and find one thing that we are feeling guilty when it comes to striving to reduce plastic waste and start there.
Do you have a lot of plastic bread bags, with the little plastic tie? Is there a way you can solve that one problem? Perhaps by finding a bakery that sells its bread in paper bags. Or could you bring your own bag to the bakery? Or have a go at baking your own? There are lots of options.
Is the amount of plastic product bottles in the bathroom your bugbear? What are the alternatives? Could you make some of these products yourself, or buy in reusable containers? Could you use less?
Is it clothing? Is it food waste? Is it takeaway containers?
Find the one thing that really trips you up when trying to reduce plastic waste and work out what you can do to change that one thing. Once you have success with that, you will feel empowered. Then when you have that mastered, move on to the next problem and slowly make changes as they work for you.
Do you love growing food? Then find one thing that you buy that creates waste and see if you can grow it yourself. Do you love sewing? Mend a garment or make something new. Are you not really into this whole growing and DIY caper, well what business can you support that has a low waste or zero waste philosophy?
Identify your problem area (or room in your home) and follow our 64 tips on how to reduce plastic waste. We know you can’t do “all of the things”, but even choosing one problem area to tackle can make a world of difference to the amount of waste your household produces each year.
64 ways to reduce plastic use at home
1. Make your own reusable bags (or at least buy a couple).
5. Learn some easy recipes to create your own food from scratch. You could try sourdough crackers and pasta, tomato passata, tortillas, rhubarb champagne, pancakes and green tomato chutney. (For a full list of our recipes see here.)
8. Go foraging! Many so-called “weeds” are actual edible, such as dandelion, chickweed and onion weed.
9. Make your own greaseproof baking paper.
10. Swap out paper towels for cloth towels, and paper napkins for cloth napkins.
11. Swap cling wrap for beeswax wraps (or simply pop a plate over a bowl to store food in the fridge).
12. Swap teabags for a teapot and loose-leaf tea, and coffee pods for ground coffee and a French press. Or make your own dandelion tea.
13. Use glass jars to store food instead of plastic Tupperware.
14. Ditch synthetic sponges and opt for compostable dishcloths. Use these DIY broom millet scrubbing brushes instead of plastic brushes.
15. Buy dishwashing powder from a bulk foods store or buy powder in a cardboard box.
16. Line your bin with newspaper, or if you don’t deposit any food waste into your bin, let your bin go “naked”.
17. Reduce plastic waste by making some (or all!) of your own beauty products from scratch, like plastic free deodorant, homemade toothpaste, body scrub, shampoo, shaving soap and gardener’s hand scrub. Watch the latest video from our Simple Skills for Self-Sufficiency Series where we show you how to whip up three plastic free beauty products, and also check out Issue #15 of Pip Magazine for more plastic free beauty recipes.
18. Use shampoo and conditioner bars instead of bottled shampoo and conditioner.
19. Or wash your hair with bi-carb and water: 1 tsp of bicarb to a cup of water. Or do the no-poo challenge. It is actually possible to wash your hair without shampoo at all. It takes a few weeks to get through the transition phase but after that, miraculously your hair can do without.
20. Replace your plastic toothbrush with a bamboo one and plastic cotton buds for bamboo cotton buds.
21. Use eco-friendly dental floss that comes in a glass tube (like this one).
22. Use soap bars instead of body wash and liquid hand wash.
23. Use a shaving soap bar instead of shaving gel or foam.
24. Use a stainless steel safety razor with a changeable blade instead of disposable razors.
25. Use hankies instead of tissues.
26. Use reusable makeup rounds instead of disposable ones.
27. Use a reusable moon cup and reusable pads instead of single-use pads/tampons.
28. Find a skincare brand and makeup brand that has products in glass, paper or tin packaging.
29. Go with a company that creates recycled paper toilet paper and wraps it in paper. Who Gives a Crap not only use no plastic at all in their packaging, they are also doing lots of good in the world by donating 50% of profits to help build toilets for those in need.
30. Go cloth! There is a movement of people using “personal cloth” instead of toilet paper.
31. Install a composting toilet. We promise it’s not as scary as it sounds! A waterless toilet reuses human waste and saves valuable water.
32. Try to keep plastic pollution out of your greywater using these methods.
33. Ditch single use cloths and plastic microfibre and make your own cotton crochet swiffers.
34. Make your own cleaning products. With just bicarbonate soda, vinegar and lemons you can keep your home sparkling clean. Or why not try making your own apple scrap vinegar to clean with? Or our delicious smelling DIY citrus cleaner recipe.
35. Make your own washing detergent with soapberries. Soapberries (or soap nuts) come from a tropical tree in the lychee family, and make a surprisingly good sud. They’re also economical and easy to use.
36. Or use coconut soap laundry powder.
37. Swap plastic pegs for stainless steel pegs.
38. Add ¼ cup of white vinegar to your final rinse cycle instead of fabric softener.
39. DIY your own stain remover with 1 tbsp baking soda, 4 tbsp dish soap and 8 tbsp hydrogen peroxide.
40. Use a reusable lint brush instead of a refillable lint brush.
41. Make your own baby food from scratch.
42. If bottle-feeding use glass baby bottles and pair these with natural rubber bottle teats, which can later be upcycled.
43. Also use natural rubber teethers and pacifiers, and a rubber bath mat.
44. When your little one graduates to a sippy cup, use a stainless steel or glass and silicone one.
45. Use regular tableware (for the brave!) or bamboo or stainless steel feeding equipment instead of plastic.
46. Give cloth nappies and wipes whirl. A huge range of pre-fold, clip-up nappies are available now in beautiful patterns and soft absorbable natural fibres.
47. Use organic olive oil instead of nappy cream.
48. Choose sustainable and ethically made wooden toys, buy toys second-hand or join a toy library.
49. Borrow books from your local library.
51. Shop for larger items like bikes or cubby houses second-hand.
52. Ask friends and family to gift experiences instead of toys, such as trips to the zoo, museum or movies.
53. Choose sustainable and ethically made children’s clothing in natural fabrics like 100% cotton or wool instead of polyester, acrylic or nylon, or buy second-hand clothes. (This is a great online option.) And when clothing starts to look a little worse for wear, have a go at mending.
54. Send your kids to school with a stainless steel lunchbox and a stainless steel water bottle. Include homemade snacks like muffins, crackers, savoury slices, muesli bars, energy balls, veggie sticks and dips.
55. Upcycle odds and ends to make craft projects.
56. Repurpose your kids’ artwork into gift-wrapping paper (and recycle it afterwards).
57. Make your own recycled bunting for birthdays and celebrations instead of buying plastic decorations.
58. Use metal, tin or ceramic pet feeding and water bowls instead of plastic.
59. Use natural materials such as old woollen blankets for pet bedding. Op shops often sell “pet blankets”.
60. Choose natural materials such as sisal and wooden cat scratchers. You can buy wool, leather, coconut and feather cat and dog toys from pet shops.
61. Look for cat litter made from plant-based materials such as corn and wheat, which makes it easier to dispose of. Or opt for recycled paper litter.
62. Make your own pet food. Buy meat and bones in bulk from the butcher, wrapped in paper, and make up your own pet food in large batches that can be frozen in small meals. Check out Issue #14 of Pip for our recipe for home made pet food.
63. Grow your own chook food.
64. Check out our DIY pet-poo worm farm featured in Issue #14, which can turn pet waste into a resource for your garden. You can convert pet poo to compost, which can be used on ornamental plants and fruit trees.