We are onto the second week of Plastic Free July. Last week, WILD laid down the facts of the plastic crisis in Australia. This week, I’m going to share some easy actions you can take to help reduce your plastic consumption. Many people fear that living a sustainable life can be a costly one; however I am here to assure you that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can do your part for the environment and Mother Earth, without breaking the bank. I’ve been travelling the East Coast Australia for the past 6 months, and I’ve been trying to do it as sustainably and thrifty as possible. Here’s some tips that I’ve learnt on my journey so far:
BYO YOUR REUSABLES What’s the number 1 of any eco pack list? Bring your reusables with you. These can be purchased from the Op Shop/Facebook Marketplace or purchased brand new. As soon as you have your set, you won’t have to take any single use plastics when you’re out and about, because you’ll have your handy pack with you. The hardest part is remembering to bring your pack with you, therefore I suggest to create two packs, and leave 1 pack in your car, and 1 in your handbag/backpack. What should you bring? The basics I suggest are:
+Water bottle +Metal/Bamboo Straw +Cutlery set +Napkin (washable) +Coffee cup (I bring two just in case someone else needs one, or the other is not clean) +Tupperware/Reusable/Stainless steel container +Beeswax/Vegan wraps +Shopping bag +Whatever else you need to adapt this list
(Left to right) 1. My handy eco pack, ready to take in my car and to the shops. 2. Farmers market veggies wrapped in beeswax wrap. 3. Enjoying the beach with my reusable cup.
SHOP LOCAL & IN BULK
The best way to shop plastic free is to buy in bulk, or buy a small amount of something. Just bring your clean jar or tupperwear container, and fill it up at a bulk food store near you. You’ll be saving money and packaging, whilst supporting local community by putting your dollars in their store. Please note, some items are from overseas, so check on the containers where you’re nuts, seeds and flour is purchased from and try to preference the stores that sell Australian products. In most small towns, there will be a farmers market either every week or month. These are hands down the best place to local, organic, sustainable and delicious in season produce. You can chat to the farmers, try a different item that you may not have tasted before, and meet the people who are growing and producing your food. It is so important for us to connect to our food, and be aware of where it comes from. Sometimes, the produce may be a little pricier than your average shop at the supermarket, however I assure you it will last longer in a sealed container. Why? Because they were picked yesterday, compared to a few weeks ago – and they weren’t sprayed with nasty chemicals to make them keep longer, and most importantly – they haven’t been stored in chemical plastic storage.
If there is no farmers market near you, try to shop at the local general/vegetable store (if available). This supports the local community and farmers, rather than purchasing from Woolworths/Coles/Aldi. Australian farmers are currently suffering after all the natural disasters and pandemic, and they need our support.
COMPOST & RECYCLE
There’s three things I focus on when recycling, and that is soft plastics, recycling cardboard, bottles and cans, and my food waste. + Soft Plastics – Australia has a program run by redcycle which allows you to easily drop off your soft plastics (your clean chip packets, pasta bags, shopping bags and bread bags) to your local Coles and Woolworths. Redcycle collects the soft plastics from these stores and sends it to Replas who use the material as the resource to produce a huge range of recycled-plastic products, from fitness circuits to sturdy outdoor furniture, bollards, signage and more. You’ll find a bin like the one below inside every store. Drop it off, it’s free! Just make sure you clean the packaging as much as possible before you dispose of it in the bin.
Redcycle Bin (at your nearest Woolies and Coles)
Australian households throw away 2.5 million tonnes of edible food each year – that equates to nearly 300 kilograms per person. The average Australian household is sends roughly 4.9 kilograms of food waste to landfill each week. Source: Food Bank Australia
+ Compost – There's a few different ways to compost depending on how you live. As I'm currently travelling, I travel with a jar (see image below) for my compost. I pop my banana skins, vegetable leftovers, and coffee grounds in there and keep it in my esky until I find a compost on my journey. If I don't stay at homes that have a compost, I contact members from Share Waste (Australia and New Zealand) which connects people who wish to recycle their kitchen scraps with their neighbours who are already composting, worm-farming or keep chickens. I just drop it off at their door step, and go on my way!
If you are living in a home, why not create your own compost system? Your landfill bin will be reduced significantly, and your garden will love you. If you don't have the capacity or room to do this, you could drop your scraps at Share Waste site, or call your local council and ask them when they are going to implement kitchen composts for local residents. My previous council - Kingston VIC, had kitchen caddies where we could empty all our kitchen scraps (including egg shells, bread, paper, meat, veggies) into the green bin and it would be composted through the council. Encourage your council to implement this too!
+ Recycle - It's important to check with your council to make sure you are recycling your plastics, cardboard, and cans properly. Each council works with different recycling facilities and can only recycle certain materials. Depending on what state you live in, you can receive cash back for your cans and bottles with the federal Container Deposit Schemes (CDS), so save them and drop them off at a facility near you!
CHOOSE SUSTAINABLE ITEMS
With every purchase we make, we can make a kinder choice. Do you really need the item you are purchasing? What materials and ingredients have gone into the product you are purchasing? What will happen to your item after its use? Are the products you're buying able to be recycled, composted, or sold second hand? These are key questions to think of before making purchases. Here's some tips on purchasing sustainable items:
+ Cotton buds - An estimated 60% of sanitary (sewage-related) items found on beaches in Australia are cotton bud stems. Instead of using cotton buds, try finding paper or bamboo buds. And please, do not flush your cotton buds. (Source: Tangaroa Blue Foundation)
+ Masks - Think about choosing a reusable fabric mask instead of a single use plastic mask. On my rubbish clean ups over the past few months, I've found single use masks littered on streets and beaches on every single clean up.
+ Clothing - Choose sustainably purchased clothing, and shop second hand at op shops, second hand stores and online retailers. I try to keep a minimal wardrobe with me on my travels, packed with good quality hemp/cotton materials, and goods from op shops that I've found along my journey. WILD Apparel stock sustainable and ethically produced cotton items, and for every purchase - they plant 1 tree! + Sustainable periods - Did you know that there are reusable pads and tampons? You can switch your cycle to a plastic free one by purchasing period underwear, reusable pads and liners, and/or tampon menstrual cups. There are many Australian brands who are producing these, and once you purchase your kit depending on your flow, you'll never have to buy plastic pads and tampons again. I've been using period underwear for the past 6 months and it is by far the most comfortable, affordable and simple way to travel whilst on my period. Win-win for the budget, and the environment!
What are your favourite tips to make the switch for Plastic Free July? We love being inspired by our community, and sharing sustainable ideas together. It's also a great way to educate and empower your friends and family. Stay tuned, and stay plastic free - where you can be.
Written by Amy