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How to be plastic-free at home: tips from a zero-waste expert

The ‘new normal’ doesn’t have to mean increasing your plastic footprint

James Manning
Written by
James Manning

Let’s be real: sustainability probably isn’t top of your mind right now. Most of us are essentially in survival mode, and if plastic gloves and antiseptic wipes are making us feel safer, that’s understandable. But Earth Day (April 22) is a good chance to take a look at our individual impact on the planet – and even under stay-at-home conditions, there’s plenty we could all be doing to make our lives a bit friendlier to the planet.

Beth Noy knows a thing or two about sustainability – since 2018, she’s been running Plastic Freedom, a British online shop that now stocks almost 7,000 plastic-free products – so we asked her for advice on how we could reduce our plastic use at home. Here are her ten ways you can make your home life more sustainable – and save some money and stress along the way.

1. ‘Make your own dips: a great snack to have in the fridge for those long working-from-home days. One of the things that inspired me to start Plastic Freedom was the fact that I’m absolutely obsessed with hummus, but I resented how it only ever came in those little plastic tubs. When I looked into making my own, I realised it was super-easy, very tasty and not full of preservatives.’

2. ‘Explore grocery box delivery options in your area, as an alternative to shopping at supermarkets. Plastic-free veg is getting harder to come across, and big supermarkets can be pretty stressful places these days, but there are companies in most big cities delivering straight to your door – and you can usually request plastic-free packaging for the veg in your box.’

3. ‘Look for other local delivery options to save on your carbon footprint. For instance, my local deli is delivering wine, cheese, tea and coffee plastic-free. Why not drop yours a message on Facebook and see what they can do? Some places also offer collection, and many local restaurants have also turned themselves into delis, or have started delivering food even if they didn’t before. Again, see if you can get items delivered in cardboard packaging – it doesn’t hurt to ask.’

Black canvas tote bag for shopping
Photograph: Unsplash/He's Her Lobster

4. ‘Keep toting that canvas bag. Many supermarkets and shops have reverted back to using lots of plastic bags, due to the increase in demand. When you do have to go out and about to the shops, don’t leave the house without your backpack or tote bag to ensure you’re not purchasing plastic bags unnecessarily.’ [Note: Current science suggests that viral transmission is less likely from fabric than from smooth, non-porous surfaces like plastic.]

5. ‘Swap out plastic wrap for reusable alternatives. With everyone cooking so much more at home, there will be plenty more leftovers. But you don’t need to use plastic film to keep them fresh: you can switch it out and use beeswax wraps or glass storage containers. They can go straight in the freezer, be reused multiple times and keep ingredients incredibly fresh.’

Bamboo toothbrushes in a jar
Photograph: Unsplash/Superkitina

6. ‘Try some plastic-free alternatives in the bathroom. With time to shake up your beauty and grooming routine, this is the perfect opportunity to check out the new generation of plastic-free shampoo, razors and toothbrushes. You can even get your hands on plastic-free versions of almost every skin product, from moisturisers and cleansing water to make-up and face masks.’

7. ‘Ditch the single-use wipes. Wet wipes are one of the most harmful domestic products for the environment. By replacing these with reusable cotton pads and cloths, your skin will thank you – and so will your wallet. You’ll be reducing not only waste but also the number of trips you have to do to the shops.’

8. ‘Switch up your cleaning products. Spending most of your time at home will more than likely mean dirtier rooms – yet more time to clean them! Buying refillable bottles of cleaning detergent eliminates all plastic waste, and in many places you can replenish them via mail order, so you don’t even need to leave your house to top up.’

9. ‘Add some fizz – sustainably. Fizzy water lovers might want to think about investing some of the cash they’re not spending on going out on a Soda Stream or similar, to save on buying plastic bottles. It’s also a great way to add some excitement to your home bartending game.’

10. ‘Got some outdoor space? Get composting! It’s an awesome way to reduce waste going into landfill. If you’re in the UK, most councils have incentives or discounts on composting bins – check your local authority’s website. The compost is also awesome if you’re considering growing your own herbs and plants – especially while most garden centres are shut.’

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