Remember years ago when we realised that our overuse of paper products was destroying the rainforests? Well, it seems our Plan B was a dud. The introduction of plastic, predominantly in the form of shopping bags, whilst being convenient, has resulted in an ecological disaster. Shopping bags and other plastic waste is finding its way into our waterways and oceans, harming our sealife and contaminating a valuable food resource.
Whilst the act of recycling has been ingrained into our daily routines for quite some time now, it is estimated that only around 9% of plastic is recycled so environmental organisations are concentrating efforts on the importance of reducing our reliance on single-use plastic.
A global campaign, Plastic Free July is underway, so what better time to look at what you and your family can do to reduce the amount of plastic that we dispose of. Here’s 7 ways to get started.
Reusable shopping bags
Supermarkets are phasing out the use of plastic shopping bags to encourage shoppers to bring along their reusable bags. Now I’m sure we are all aware of what a “Bag for Life” is (unlike Mr Simon Cowell in the video below), but remembering them is a different story. Get into the habit of popping your reusable bags back into the car boot after you’ve unpacked your groceries and you won’t be caught short next time you shop. A small bag that rolls up into a pocket size is ideal for keeping in the handbag for smaller shopping items whilst you’re out and about – try craft or dollar shops.
Our Pick: The Recycled Bag Bag is a unique concept – a reusable tote bag made from woven plastic shopping bags! Get yours now from Wrapt Weaving.
Eco-friendly produce bags
So you’ve got your reusable shopping bag but what do you do when you enter the fruit and veg aisle at the local supermarket and you want to purchase something like tomatoes or grapes? You need to keep them together for weighing purposes (and so they’re not rolling around in the trolley), but you don’t want to use the small plastic bags. Luckily, reusable produce bags are now quite commonplace. Throw a few in with your reusable shopping bags and you’re on your way to being plastic-free.
Our Pick: Purely Natural NZ has organic cotton drawstring bags that are a great size.
Ditch the bottled water
Drinking bottled water may give you a clean and clear taste but at what cost? Plastic water bottles are a huge environmental problem. Opt for a drink bottle that you can refill with tap water and you’ll be helping the environment and your budget. If you don’t like the taste of tap water than try refrigerating it before filling up your drink bottle, use a filter or infuse with fruit.
Our Pick: Double-walled stainless steel drink bottles keep your water cold for up to 12 hours. We love this bright and funky design from Bath Boutique.
Bring your own coffee cup
Billions of disposable coffee cups are used around the world every year. We don’t look like breaking our takeaway coffee habit anytime soon and mixed messages over what is recycleable, compostable or biodegradable is causing confusion. Some cafes have started mug recycling – you use a ceramic mug for your takeaway and return it the next time you visit. A great option is a reusable coffee cup that still gives you convenience without the waste.
Our Pick: Chance of coffee? Extreme! Check out this cool Cuppa Coffee Cup from Not Socks.
Reusable drinking straws
Cafes and restaurants are starting to get on board the plastic-free juggernaut by no longer supplying plastic straws with drinks. Some offer the paper version but we prefer the BYO waste-free option of stainless steel drinking straws. You will get some strange looks from the fast food outlets when you tell them they can keep their straw but somehow they even make the drink taste better!
Our Pick: Add some fun to your drink with rainbow coloured stainless steel straws from Purely Natural NZ.
Better lunch boxes
Bento-style lunch boxes are great for giving kids a range of foods for their school day breaks without the need for plastic wrap to keep things from getting jumbled up together. There’s a huge variety to choose from so consider how much food your child devours to find one that suits. Leak-proof styles are even more versatile.
Our Pick: The Rainebeau range of lunch boxes from Living Green are large enough for a sandwich, muesli bar and a couple of good-sized snacks. They’re leakproof and the fruity motifs are totes amazing!
Wrap it up!
It’s easy to ditch the plastic wrap or sandwich/snack bags with some clever product ideas. Beeswax wraps are not only reusable, they shape around your sandwich or snack easily and stay put. You can also get wraps that secure with a handy fastening.
Our Pick: For sandwiches, snacks, leftovers or cheese, Honeywraps from Living Green are very versatile.
What changes are you making to reduce your use of single-use plastics? Join our discussion in the comments below.
This article was written by Julie Scanlon, Editor for Kidspot NZ.
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