I’m a self-confessed glass jar hoarder and I put apple cider vinegar on my face.
There are many weird and wonderful ways to reduce our plastic use, some more palatable than others (re-usable toilet wipes anyone?). This blog post came about because I wasn’t actually sure you could go plastic free and save money.
My first assumption was that it costs more to buy the environmentally friendly alternative. All the eco-friendly cleaning and laundry products in the supermarket seem so much more expensive than their toxic counterparts.
I was quite worried that I was going to have a huge dilemma on whether to save money or save the oceans (slightly overdramatic but you know what I mean). Luckily I found that there are ways to do both.
‘Plastic-free’ feels like it’s only just become a ‘thing’ recently. The horrified gasps from the last episode of Blue Planet 2 have led to countless articles, videos and social media discussions on the evils of plastic.
Actually, there have been worries about the dangers of plastics since the 1980s, but as more and more images of floating plastic waste, and dead sea life emerge, people are starting to sit up and take notice.
Just before we dive into the money saving part (which is always my favourite #moneynerd), I lost about 3 hours today in researching the zero waste and plastic free movement. Once I started reading I just couldn’t stop.
Most of what I watched or read resulted in a horrified look on my face and various expletives muttered under my breath. I really had no idea that things were so bad.
So, here are a few of the things I learned this morning that can give us all a kick up the backside to start reducing our plastic consumption.
So, what is the issue with plastic?
Get ready to be horrified, people.
Plastic never EVER leaves the planet once it has been created. It might get broken down over decades or centuries but that just means that the pieces get smaller. It never actually dissolves or disappears.
When you and I have shuffled off this mortal coil, the plastic bag we got at Sainsbury’s or the mascara tube in our make up bag, will continue to live on in the sea or in the ground. Forever.
The even more scary bit.
As plastic gets smaller and smaller in the sea, it becomes ‘microplastic’ and can be ingested further down the ocean food chain.
By plankton and shrimps for example. These can be a major food source for fish. And who eats the fish? Us.
Scientists in Belgium found that we could be ingesting up to 11,000 pieces of microplastic if we eat a lot of seafood. Only a very small percentage of that gets absorbed by the body but still, I didn’t order my moules frites with a side of carrier bag.
But I recycle?
All of that plastic that you throw in your recycling bin? Only 9% of it gets recycled. The rest goes to a landfill or ends up in the sea.
While watching A Plastic Tide on YouTube, they said that “by 2050, the plastic in the sea could weigh more than all the fish”.
The big problem is the ‘single-use’ plastic which accounts for 40% of plastic manufacturing. Single-use means your shampoo bottles, Starbucks lids, clingfilm. Anything that you use once and then throw away.
It’s actually horrifying once you think of it. The washing up liquid bottle you bought a couple of months ago, will soon get chucked in the bin, and will continue to exist somewhere on the planet for evermore.
Thinking that you recycle is actually a fallacy when it comes to plastic, better to stop buying it wherever possible.
Plastic, plastic, everywhere
If like me, you are just thinking about swapping out shampoo bottles for bars or taking your lunch to work, the problem actually goes much deeper.
Plastic is literally everywhere. There’s the obvious plastics like bottled water, cleanser, moisturizer etc. Then you’ve got all of your food packagings.
As an experiment I looked in our dry food cupboard, I really didn’t think we were that bad with plastic, but having counted it all up, 30 out of 45 items were either wholly made of plastic, or had plastic elements. That is 67% of one cupboard in my house. Sh*t bricks.
Plastic is also in your clothes. No joke. Synthetic fabrics have very small plastic fibres which slip through washing machine filters and out into the rivers, streams and ultimately, oceans.
Can you save money by going plastic free?
At first glance, you may think that going plastic-free is going to be pretty spenny. Eco products for the house, pure cashmere for your wardrobe, surely this is going to cost a fortune?!
Well, there are two things at play here;
- You can swap out the products you buy for non-plastic alternatives. This may be more expensive as an initial outlay but could be much cheaper in the long run.
- You can stop buying the products altogether.
I don’t know where to start!
Once I realised how much plastic there was in the house, I started eyeing it all suspiciously. It had turned into an evil substance, lurking darkly in the corners like some kind of synthetic supervillain.
I fought the urge to go on a manic google search to find alternatives for all of the plastic products I currently own. But, then realised there is no point in chucking away what is already there, I need to use what I have and then find replacements one by one.
Because I love a good poke around in google though, I’ve been through some of the major categories to see what kind of alternatives are available.
So without any further ado, here are 10 ways you can save money and reduce plastic.
Some of the products below are affiliate links. This means that if you purchase through the link, you pay nothing more but I may get a small commission. As always, please don’t buy anything if you can get it for free, borrow it or make it yourself.
1. Make your own food
The most obvious one for saving money and reducing plastic is to take your food to work with you. You will save a fortune doing this. And if you stop the daily sandwich wrapper toss, you’ll be saving the fishes too.
Yes, it is a bit of a faff and takes some planning, but one big cook up on a Sunday and you have all your lunches for the week. There are loads of websites out there for ideas on what to make. Have a look on Pinterest for ‘freezer meals’ for some recipes.
If you already own Tupperware or clip locks then just use those for your lunches, otherwise, you could get a stainless steel lunch box like one of these on Amazon.
2. Make your own beauty products
I’ve been using apple cider vinegar as a cleanser for a couple of years now and it works a treat. I just put it neat onto a cotton pad (which will soon be a re-usable cotton one!), rub it over my face then rinse with water.
I tried to use coconut oil as a moisturiser but found it too heavy although it may be fine for you. There are other oil options (olive oil, argan oil etc) but I also found some recipes for making your own moisturiser which I may have to give a go!
Morning Chores also has a fab article on home-made lotion bars if you want to experiment with different colours and scents.
Obviously, it costs money to purchase the ingredients to make your own products, but this should be a much less frequent cost than buying ready-made products every couple of months.
For Shampoo and Conditioner, there are a lot of people that go No Poo, as in they don’t wash their hair with anything other than water.
Not sure I am brave enough for that although I might try the Bi-carb and Vinegar method. Although I probably won’t tell my partner, he already thinks I am insane for putting vinegar on my face, let along my hair.
One thing I am not going to mess about with making my own mascara. I’d probably end up looking like Marilyn Manson. So for now, I have bought some cake mascara from Etsy which comes in a tin. I have an old mascara wand which I can use to apply it.
3. Make your own cleaning products
I’ll admit I haven’t tried this one yet but you can actually make your own cleaning products from natural ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar, and lemons.
Wellness Mama has some amazing tips here for making your own kitchen and bathroom cleaners, soaps and so much more!
If you don’t fancy making your own, then there are eco-friendly alternatives. Washing powder can be bought in cardboard boxes, or you could try Soap Nuts. I am quite intrigued by these, once our existing laundry liquid is finished, I might have to give these a whirl!
4. Take coffee in a re-useable cup and avoid coffee pod machines!
It’s so easy just to pop into Starbucks or Pret A Manger on your way to work. So easy in fact that in the UK alone we throw away 7 million of them. A DAY.
Contrary to popular believe (and advertising), less than 1% of these are recycled as they contain plastic to keep them watertight. So again, straight into the sea and landfills.
In a bid to be more environmentally friendly, some coffee chains have started to offer incentives for you to bring your own mug. In the UK, Pret will give you 50p off for customers that bring in a reusable mug (with lid), Starbucks gives you 25p and Costa is 25p.
You can buy plastic-free reusable cups from a number of places, this eCoffee cup is made of bamboo, biodegradable and BPA free.
Of course, if you are going to buy a reusable coffee cup then the cheaper option is just to make your coffee at home. Avoid coffee pod machines though as the pods are not biodegradable. Even the founder of one of the pod machines ‘K-Cups’ regrets inventing it due to the negative environmental impact.
For my fellow tea-lovers, loose leaf tea is the best option as tea bags also contain plastic (I was quite shocked by this!).
5. Stop buying bottled water
Images of empty plastic water bottles floating on the sea are everywhere. I have to say I have been very guilty of buying water in bottles in the past but have recently switched to a metal one.
It’s actually quite hard to find one without plastic elements, I found this one by One Green Bottle on Amazon but you can obviously you can do your own shopping around.
6. Decide if you really need it
There are so many items that we buy for ‘convenience’ that actually haven’t been around that long, and if we think about it, we probably don’t need.
Wet wipes for example. These contain plastic, are single-use items and weren’t common a couple of generations ago.
They get flushed down the toilet but they do not break down due to the plastic element. They get swept out to sea and end up in the stomach of an unsuspecting bird or fish. Because the stomach is full but no nutrients are entering the body, the bird or fish starve to death. Yikes.
For wet wipes alternatives, it depends who you are using them for. There are plenty of baby alternatives, I found a forum here having a discussion about using fleece or a flannel instead which can be washed and re-used.
For makeup removal, again a flannel and some olive oil will do the trick, I have just bought a meter of organic cotton jersey fabric from Ali Express for $8/£5 to make reusable makeup wipes with. I’ll let you know how I get on!
7. Make your own gifts
Homemade beauty products, home cooked brownies, cards designed and printed at home. There are so many ways to make gifts that are inexpensive and plastic free. I think this topic might need to be a full post at some point!
8. Wear natural fibres
Natural fibres like 100% cotton, cashmere or wool are not cheap but quality clothing will last a lot longer than cheap stuff bought in high street shops. You absolutely do not need to buy full price either, you can wait for the sales, go to a charity shop or pick up awesome bargains on eBay.
By the way, I’m only talking about replacing clothing items once your existing ones have worn out. I don’t mean you need to go and make it rain in the cashmere section of M&S 😉
9. Buy vegetables loose (or get a veg box)
Loose veg in the supermarket is cheaper than buying the pre-packaged or pre-cut stuff. I also saw a great suggestion somewhere that some supermarkets have paper bags in their bakery section, so you could get some of those to use for your veg instead of the plastic bags.
An alternative is to get a veg box delivered. We use Abel and Cole but there are plenty of others out there. Our veg gets delivered weekly in a cardboard box without any packaging, we then return the box the following week for them to reuse.
Unfortunately, the meat and fish in our weekly food box is wrapped in plastic, I have emailed them to see what plans they have to reduce this. Another idea could be to cancel the meat box and go to the butchers with your own containers instead.
10. Save glass jars for food storage and bulk buying
I bloody love a glass jar and have been known to hoard them obsessively. They are awesome for storing homemade salad dressings, bread crumbs, and all sorts.
There are also bulk food stores (which I haven’t tried yet) which allow you to take your own containers and fill with dry foods like lentils, beans, cereals etc.
There is so much plastic everywhere, it can seem a little overwhelming to think about going completely ‘plastic-free’.
It’s like everything though, the only thing that you need to do is start. It will take a long time to get out of habits formed over many years, and maybe we will never be 100% plastic free.
I know I will sleep better at night knowing I am trying to reduce the plastic in my life though, and if I can save money in the process – bonus!
Do you worry about your plastic consumption? What steps are you taking to reduce it?