How to take steps towards a plastic-free lifestyle
Over the past decade or so, there has been a focus in the media on how we can all take steps towards a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Energy-saving light bulbs are now the norm for many of us, we're encouraged to take public transport or walk rather than drive, and we're asked to recycle as much of our household waste as possible.
More recently, however, the focus has been on how we can dramatically reduce our use of plastic. Late last year, Sir David Attenborough's fascinating underwater wildlife documentary Blue Planet II hit our screens, shining a mesmerising light on life under the sea. But it also highlighted some shocking issues; namely, how our disposal of huge volumes of plastic waste is putting ocean creatures and plant life at risk.
Since the programme aired, there has been a greater focus on reducing plastic usage. People are being encouraged to take their own reusable cups to coffee shops, supermarkets are looking at ways to minimise plastic packaging, and plastic straws are being discouraged in pubs and restaurants.
So, how can you do your bit for the environment and move towards a plastic-free lifestyle?
Take your own bags to the supermarket
Taking your own bags to the supermarket, or investing in a reusable 'bag for life', is something that's been encouraged for quite a long time, and especially so since the introduction of the 5p charge for plastic bags in England back in October 2015.
This means that it's cheaper for you, and better for the environment, if you take your own bags with you every time you go grocery shopping. Keep a few reusable bags in the boot of your car, the pocket of your favourite coat or inside your handbag at all times, so you're never caught without.
Invest in a reusable straw
Plastic straws are being replaced with paper straws in pubs and restaurants across the UK. While this is a great move for the environment and in reducing plastic waste, paper straws can quickly go soggy and aren't necessarily the most robust option.
With this in mind, you may want to research reusable straws, which are becoming increasingly popular. Often made from stainless steel, these straws can easily be carried around with you in a bag or pocket, and they allow you to continue protecting both sensitive teeth and lipstick while enjoying a drink out and about.
Just make sure you wash your straw after each use to keep it as hygienic as possible. If you think you're likely to forget, invest in a couple and have them on rotation.
Stop using disposable cutlery and crockery
Plastic cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons have long made throwing a children's birthday party or a family barbecue a breeze, with no washing up and no risk of your best crockery ending up broken. However, this is exactly the kind of disposable plastic waste that we all need to be doing our best to reduce.
Swap to paper or cardboard options if you can, making sure you recycle them properly after using, or use your usual crockery and cutlery - just not your best set in case of any accidents.
Take your own bottle out with you
BYOB is taking on a new meaning - try to take a filled water bottle out with you everywhere you go, so you're not buying too many new bottles that you need to dispose of.
Remember that tap water is free and the best thing that you can drink, so save yourself some pennies and do your bit for the planet at the same time.
Buy loose fruit and veg where possible
Food packaging can be incredibly wasteful. Some supermarkets no longer sell loose carrots and the like, instead forcing you to buy them wrapped in plastic, which only creates more unnecessary waste.
Try to buy loose fruit and vegetables when you can, to reduce both food and plastic waste. If this isn't possible at your usual supermarket, go to a local grocer's instead, which means you'll be able to support an independent business too.
Taking small steps to adopting a plastic-free lifestyle, just one at a time, will build up over a longer period to significantly reduce your plastic use and waste, so get started today.
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