7 ways you can go plastic-free

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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  1. Shelz69 01/08/2018 at 7:20 pm

    I have recently come across norwex which has a lot of good products to say on plastic waste, They have these great covers for your salad bowls that you can use without gladwrap, they also have bags you can use for the fruit and vegs in the supermarket.

  2. felicity beets 30/07/2018 at 2:33 pm

    The reusable straws look fantastic and did not realise there were so many kinds that you can purchase. I also recently have used shampoo bars which have been great.

  3. Alezandra 29/07/2018 at 11:59 pm

    Recently bought stainless straws from Hakaa, it was a great idea and it comes with a thin brush to clean with. I enjoy having a variety of re-usable bags too, it’s only when I forget to bring them. The habit needs to start somehow. Plastic free July is such a wake-up call. I’ve been seeing videos lately showing beaches with lots of plastic bottles. It was horrible to see and I am saddened by the state of our world that we are leaving to our kids.

  4. Bevik1971 16/07/2018 at 11:19 am

    Loving this article 🙂 We are trying to cut down (if not cut out) our plastic use. I am looking for stainless steel straws for our daughter to use currently. Our local cafe uses paper/recycled cardboard straws and recyclable coffee cups which is awesome. We always have reusable shopping bags on hand to use at the supermarket, if I forget then I carry the stuff in my hands. I also want to get some wraps for our daughters school lunches.

  5. Mands1980 10/07/2018 at 7:55 pm

    I think this is great especially when you seeing the pictures of beach’s overseas it so horrible and horrendous for any wild life. We use reusable bottles, bags and the kids lunch box’s are good with lots of separate departments. I have been meaning to get bees wax wraps as they sounds great as well.

  6. kymmage 10/07/2018 at 6:49 pm

    I recently finally got some reusable shopping bags. But as soon as I had them I became so aware of all the other single use plastic I’m using. I’m about to order mesh bags for produce because it felt silly to be bagging fruit and vegetables in plastic after making the first switch!!

  7. Jen_Wiig 10/07/2018 at 6:44 pm

    My 3 boys and I have just over last 3 days made our own natural shampoo, washing liquid for both clothes and dishes, lavender and eucalyptus cleaning spray and some DIY honey wraps.. Mwe are loving challenging ourselves to use less plastic where we know we can easily enough and without breaking the bank… I just need to get into habit of taking my reusable shopping bags, have so many and always forget them grrrr

    • Julie Scanlon 12/07/2018 at 2:51 pm

      Would love to know how you make the lavender and eucalyptus cleaning spray?

      • Jen_Wiig 05/08/2018 at 11:04 am

        Hi so sorry just seen this reply.
        I use apple cider vinager (1part) cooled boiled water (3parts) and as many desired drips if lavender essential oil and eucalyptus essential oil. I used 10 drops of lavender and 5 of eucalyptus in a 1litre sized spare bottle. Apparently it’s great for spraying on linen and furniture too

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