Plastic Free July is upon us

It is almost July and plastic free july is a challenge some of us has pledged for.

“Imagine a world without plastic waste. That’s our mission – to build a global movement that dramatically reduces plastic use and improves recycling, worldwide.

​Will you join us and give up single-use plastic this July?”

This started in 2011 and now is in 150 countries, which is impressive. The idea is to get rid of disposable, go reusable and never look back.

I have also pledged but it is probably easier for us than some as we have been doing almost all the actions already for some time. Here are the things we do and it will also be counted for Plastic Free July 🙂

  1. No Bottled water: We religiously have been staying away from bottled water. First because it is unnecessary in most cases where you have access to clean water and can fill up a bottle, a cup or even use your hands to drink. I can argue any bacteria in your hand is far more benign than those in the bottled water. Second, the exact bacteria we talked about and many more toxins. I was just in an event with a scientist and he confided in me that any plastic out there is non-BPA Free (or it has BPA) and hence when warmed, i.e. under the sun or in a microwave will release all the toxins in it to the food it is containing and these toxins are not made for human consumption. Even BPA Free plastics are dangerous when put in a microwave so we started avoiding warming up anything in a plastic container in microwave. Back to the original point, there is no good reason to use bottled water, if you are in a place with no water, not even a dirty body of water that you can use personal filtering tools like those people use in camping, then maybe but except this extreme case your day to day life should be bottled water free 🙂
  2. Plastic bags: only convenient and the sheer number of plastic bags around us might entice you to use one as they are no good for anything. They can replaced with reusable bag for any usage so why not switch now. In Australia, the two big supermarkets finally pulled the plug on the soft plastic bags at the check outs but they still use them for online shopping and the grocery section which is either hypocritical or one could say one step at a time. Either way, at least something has been done. I even go further and try to divert already used plastic bags, banners, posters and so on from landfill by turning them into big reusable shopping bags.
  3. Plastic cutlery: this is hard to avoid unless you are carrying your own cutlery which is super easy and  cool as you can get the cutest cutlery and holders for your bag with cute shapes and colours. I got one for my now 17 month old daughter but have been using it myself ever since 😀 it has also extra space so I put extra/back up for us when we go out. I have to admit in this category, the wooden chopsticks that are not plastic are as much prolific so try avoiding those too.
  4. Cups/Coffee Cups: Thanks to KeepCup and FrankGreen these reusable coffee cups are fashionable now so more people use them but still a lot of people around me use disposable every now and then. I tend to sit in the coffee shop and drink my coffee when I dont have my reusable with me, have to note, you dont need KeepCup or any fancy pants cup, just a mug can work well.
  5. Straws: have to admit this one is not on my radar. First, I dont use straws ,just drink from a cup or bottle or glass. Second, I dont go clubbing so I never get a drink that needs straw anyway, so it might be easy for me to toss the disposable for good but not for some one that has straws in thei life. You tell me. Anyhow, there are reusable stainless steel straws in the market now that people include them int heir cutlery set, that could be for you is straws are big in your life.

Top 10 things to toss when you start a zero waste lifestyle

You might be interested in going zero waste but don’t know where to start or might be frightened by the enormity of the idea of no waste. I have to agree that the start point can be daunting and confusing. The fact is you always have to start somewhere and starting with this list of top 10 items to toss is an easy way to get your passion for sustainability fed and actually take a tangible step towards your zero waste lifestyle. The fact is I was in your shoes some time ago but I started my journey and tossing these items are tried and tested with 100% satisfaction.
The most important thing to remember is that the zero waste journey is a continuous one and you never have to stop if you don’t want to so you will always find new things to get rid of but to start always start with an easy one because the chances are you are not going to miss or you can replace with less wasteful options if need be.
Here goes the list that I started with and you can make your own list but these are things that you probably not going to miss or even notice being omitted from your life:

1st thing to toss: Bottled water

Bottled water must be one of the most over rated products on the market. In US, people are now drinking more bottled water than milk or beer. Bottled water mainly contains tap water that in some cases are treated and purified but mainly is a glorified tap water, however as bottlers aren’t required to list the source of the water on the bottles there is no way to prove or disprove their advertising claims that their water come from purest spring waters on the planet. Moreover, the plastic or even the glass bottles mount to ridiculously huge amount of rubbish in the landfill or at best recycling loads that require massive amount of energy, water, and time and man power to recycle.
Then there is the issue of fluoride that some bottled water companies use to lure the customers. They mention that you need fluoride for the health of your teeth. The fact is in most developed countries the fluoride is added to the tap water for some time already, for example back in 1945 fluoride was added to tap water in US. Therefore, you don’t need the bottled water to bring the all needed fluoride for the health of your teeth.

2nd thing to toss: Plastic bags

Plastic bags were made popular by a Swedish company in 1960’s. They were convenient and palatable to the 20th century man who was not largely as environmentally conscious as a 21st century one. Plastic bags are mostly not accepted by curb side recycling services and some stores like IKEA have banned them in their UK and US stores altogether (“IKEA to Phase Out Plastic Bags in U.S.”. GreenBiz. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2017). There are biodegradable options for plastic bags and given that 60% of the plastic bags are reused as bin liners or for other purposes (Plastic shopping bags in Australia Environment.gov.au 2010-06-13 Retrieved 7 May 2017), it is probably a good idea to use the biodegradable options to avoid extra methane and co2 emission in the landfill. But you can toss the plastic altogether by using your fold-able cloth bag.
In Australia, major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworth, do accept plastic bags and in general any crunch-able plastics, like wraps and other packaging that crunch in your hand, for recycling. They turn these plastics into outdoor furniture for Aussie primary schools and pre-schools. In 2016, customers returned more than 299 tonnes of plastic to only Coles stores to be recycled. I have to admit I hear more and more that these bags are not recycled and just dumped in landfill so don’t trust the recycling much specially as China is not buying our recycled material so less incentive for them to do proper recycling after all.

3rd thing to toss: Window cleaner

Windows get cleaned on regular bases; if counted you probably go through at least couple of bottles of window cleaner per year depending on how many windows you have, how many times a month they get cleaned and how you clean them. They are advertised as fast cleaners, grease removers and so on. Chances are the worst stain on your windows is dust and rain water marks that are easily cleaned by slightly wet newspapers. For more offensive stains you can use some diluted vinegar and a clean rag.

Cleaning low windows are easy and hazardless chores for the kids in your household. Therefore, handing them non-toxic material to work with such as diluted vinegar probably will add to your piece of mind and will not create any allergies for your kinds plus you can enjoy a cuppa when your little one(s) are fulfilling their duties! On this note, newspaper inks can be toxic so if you are putting your kids in charge of window or mirror cleaning probably stick to the vinegar and don’t use the newspaper option.

4th thing to toss: Stove cleaner/Oven cleaner

There is no need to mention that these sort of cleaning products contain chemicals that have fumes that could be harmful to general public when breath in, it is even mentioned on the cans of products purchased in supermarkets. You can save money and save your health by ditching these products altogether. Just clean your stove and oven frequently to avoid sticky mess that are stock for ages and for extra cleaning and shine use diluted vinegar.

I mixed one part vinegar and five part water to clean stove, oven, even fridge and freezer. You might think, girl your house must reek of vinegar. My response is, NOPE! The diluted vinegar does not have an overpowering smell and even the slight odour that might be sensed at the time of applying is not distinguishable after couple of minutes. Vinegar water is a perfect solution for almost all cleaning problems in the house.

5th thing to toss: Antibacterial wipes

Antibacterial wipes can spread superbugs. Disinfectant wipes routinely used in hospitals may actually spread drug-resistant bacteria rather than kill the dangerous infections; most cases are associated with hospitals, nursing homes or other health care facilities (reference
). So if these wipes are defeating the sole purpose of their existence seems logical to get rid of them. Risking sound like a broken record, I suggest you use diluted vinegar spray and a simple rag to clean your surfaces. Especially surfaces in the kitchen that contact your foods are sensitive places that you don’t want to be covered in superbugs. Water will clean most of the problems in the kitchen but to make sure all is clean acidity of diluted vinegar will do the job.

6th thing to toss: Coffee cups

Each of us drink at least a cuppa or two a day and these disposable coffee cups can be mount into a mountain of plastic or paper trash. The solution to this one is easy. This one is a replacement option and there are so many trendy reusable coffee mugs/cups you can enjoy instead of the disposable paper or plastic coffee cup. Get customised reusable cups and taste the caffeine in style. Or use some trendy designed cups for example on various sites.

Another part of the coffee cup that is wasteful is the coffee cup lids. They are usually made of plastic, the first of which was patented in 1967. When using a reusable cups, these lids are made of silicone or durable plastics that are washable and there is no need for tossing at least for couple of years.

7th thing to toss: Microwavable popcorn

I am all up for good old popcorn with my favourite movie but please ditch the microwavable one, save money and packaging and buy a kilo of corns from a bulk store and pop them in a pot on your stove. You’ll thank me for it.

The argument for these microwavable popcorns can be the ease of use and the speed of preparation. But the difference between the price of this type of corn and the bulk one can easily turn the argument against the use of microwavable ones.

8th thing to toss: Papers towels/tissues

Some paper towels can be used even multiple times but majority of them are disposed after only one use. In either case, using a simple rag can be your safe haven; you save money and the environment at one go.

You might use paper towels for other purposes, for all those you can utilize a more sustainable solution. For instance, make your own floor wipe with old clothing that are not useful anymore. Or design and sew your own cloth napkins instead using disposable tissues.

9th thing to toss: Antibacterial Hand wash

Refer to the 5th thing to toss as the same reason applies here. These hand washes are defeating their purposes and therefore using normal bar soap that can be bought in bulk therefore reduces packaging and waste is your way to go. In this way you eliminate bottles of hand wash, paying for expensive and often illusive products and still keeping hygienic household.
Another way to eliminate frequent shopping of bottled hand wash is to buy bulk. You can fill your liquid hand wash dispenser with a hand wash you bought in bulk to avoid packing but still have the ease of the use of liquid hand wash.

10th thing to toss: Body wash

I agree that we are increasingly using bunch of corporately produced and marketed chemicals and smear them all over our bodies’ everyday just to get by. These chemicals with their synthetic smells make us feel acceptable in the society and abandoning them seems too outrageous and even frowned upon in some communities. You have grown up believing these products make you clean like no other and nothing else can do the job. WRONG! Your body does not need them. Your body is meant to sweat to get rid of toxins and regulate its temperature. To keep the BO at bay you only need to keep the bacteria away from your skin surface that feed on your sweat and create the BO. These bacteria are easily washed away with a simple body scrub (wool or cotton one, even the synthetic will do the job). As long as you clean your body with water on a daily basis you will not have BO problem and do not have to use chemical to clean or cover the smell of your body, i.e., with deodorants and so forth.

Take the challenge and go chemical free and give a couple of weeks to your body to adjust to its chemical free life (like a rehab period for your body), and you will save money and time and your sanity next time you shop.

 

Let me know what you think about the list and if you are willing to pull the plug on these everyday items.

Step 2. Reduce the size

Reducing is the important part of the zero waste living, some refer to it as de-cluttering but I believe it is even more. De-cluttering is reducing your belongings but Reducing is minimising:

  • what you own
  • what you want
  • what you need both now and in the future

This step is by far the longest part of our journey as we still making changes, reducing on a daily basis what we own, what we buy, what we gather and what we think we should or should not bring to the house.

Eliminating things/stuff one by one was the approach that we decided upon, some go hand in hand with the previous step as we started making stuff in the house hence there was no need to buy them and some goes right into the fact that they were non-essential and could have been cut right out of our lives.

Here we go through each and every one of them, these eliminations might not be in order that they happened in our real life but they all happened at some point in early years of our zero waste journey:

What we eliminated with ease

  1. Bottled water

Bottled water must be one of the most over rated products on the market. In US people are now drinking more bottled water than milk or beer. Bottled water mainly contains tap water that in some cases are treated and purified but mainly is a glorified tap water, however as bottlers aren’t required to list the source of the water on the bottles there is no way to prove or disprove their advertising claims that their water come from purest spring waters on the planet. Moreover, the plastic or even the glass bottles mount to ridiculously huge amount of rubbish in the landfill or at best recycling loads that require massive amount of energy, water, time and man power to recycle.

Then there is the issue of fluoride that some bottled water companies use to lure the customers. They mention that you need fluoride for the health of your teeth. The fact is in most developed countries the fluoride is added to the tap water for some time already, for example back in 1945 fluoride was added to tap water in US. Therefore, you don’t need the bottled water to bring the all needed fluoride for the health of your teeth. Just fill your trusty water bottle

and enjoy all healthy and yummy drink that is water.

 

  1. Plastic bag

Plastic bags were made popular by a Swedish company in 1960’s. They were convenient and palatable to the 20th century men and women who were not largely as environmentally conscious as 21st century ones. Plastic bags are mostly not accepted by curb side recycling services and some stores like IKEA have banned them in their UK and US stores altogether (“IKEA to Phase Out Plastic Bags in U.S.”. GreenBiz. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2017). There are biodegradable options for plastic bags and given that 60% of the plastic bags are reused as bin liners or for other purposes (Plastic shopping bags in Australia. Environment.gov.au (2010-06-13). Retrieved 7 May 2017), it is probably a good idea to use the biodegradable options to avoid extra methane and CO2 emissions in the landfill. But you can toss the plastic altogether by using your fold-able cloth bag.

In Australia, major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworth, do accept plastic bags and in general any crunch-able plastics, like wraps and other packaging that crunch in your hand, for recycling. They turn these plastics into outdoor furniture for Aussie primary schools and pre-schools. In 2016, customers returned more than 299 tonnes of plastic to only Coles stores to be recycled.

While you are at it, get rid of plastic bags for good and replace them with produce bags like these

or get your own reusable shopping bags:

 

  1. Takeaway coffee cups

Each of us drink at least a cuppa or two a day and these disposable coffee cups can be mount into a mountain of plastic or paper trash. The solution to this one is easy. This one is a replacement option and there are so many trendy reusable coffee mugs/cups you can enjoy instead of the disposable paper or plastic coffee cup. Get customised reusable cups and taste the caffeine in style. Or use some trendy designed cups for example on various sites.

Another part of the coffee cup that is wasteful is the coffee cup lids. They are usually made of plastic, the first of which was patented in 1967. When using a reusable cups, these lids are made of silicones or durable plastics that are washable and there is no need for tossing at least for couple of years.

On an ABC program in 2017, War on Waste, they ran a whole episode dedicated to coffee cups that are perceived to be recycling by most Australians but they are not really! As the lining inside the cup that prevent the coffee leaking out is a type of plastic that doesn’t get recycled in a paper recycling process hence has to be taken out before putting into the recycling bin. and that by itself is an onerous task that no one is willing to do. So better and easier option to toss the disposable cups and use one that just need a rinse after each use.

More in the next post….