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10 Oct 2016

11 Things I Don't Buy | Zero-Waste

Since transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle I have noticed the huge amount of waste products I get through. I've always seen myself as an ecologically minded person, but the little things that go unnoticed add up over time and create a huge amount of waste. So I dove in head-first and took a hard look at what I consume that I can switch up for more eco-friendly options. And here's what I no longer buy:

plastic bags
If you've been looking into zero waste living I'm sure you've heard this one one hundred times already but it really is a biggie. Giving up plastic bags is so important and, luckily for us, it's probably the easiest step, too. Almost everyone has a tote bag and if by chance you're someone who doesn't, you can pick one up pretty much anywhere – I've collected mine through festivals, gifts, freebies and goody bags so they don't have to cost you a penny. They're generally made from cotton and are so sturdy they should last you a lifetime (don't even bother with those flimsy plastic 'bags for life' from the supermarkets... that's just more plastic).

plastic water bottles
This is another super obvious one, but one that makes such a humongous difference. You should be drinking at least 8oz of water a day – that's equivalent to 4 water bottles each day and if you're buying a new one each time, that's a lot of waste! And, quite frankly, is totally unnecessary. Buy a water bottle once and use it forever. There are some great ones out there so whether you're looking for something sleek and stylish or durable and insulated there's a bottle for you... just stick with earth-friendly materials – I like stainless steel as it doesn't hold onto smell so I can put any drink in there without contaminating the taste if I want to use it for water next time. It's also super lightweight and will never break or stain.

plastic coat hangers
If you already have them don't throw them out (they'll just end up in a landfill), but if you need new ones, buy wooden or metal hangers (without a nylon cover) that are durable and sturdy. This means you wont need to replace them so they wont end up in a bin bag.

plastic toothbrushes
The same goes for toothbrushes. By all means use the one you've got until it's reached the end of it's life. But then replace it with an eco-friendly option. I like bamboo toothbrushes as they are compostable (you can throw them in with food waste). But be careful – some brands are using pig hair for bristles which is not vegan / cruelty-free! I like to use ones with BPA-free nylon4 bristles (which are also biodegradable) so that I am not contributing to animal suffering.  

STOP using products with micro-beads! These can be found in face washes, toothpaste, shower gels, and body scrubs and are tiny beads of plastic that are sold to you under the guise of 'exfoliation'. These beads are being washed down sinks all over the world at such a rate that they're killing ocean life and filling the ocean rapidly. Instead, opt for products that have natural exfoliates like salt, coconut or clay. These are far better for your skin, too!

paper towels
I've never found much use in these – if a spilt something I'd clean it up with a cloth, if my hands needed cleaning I'd wash them with water... I'm really not sure what the paper towel is meant for. However, I have always lived in houses with other people who do buy paper towels and so I sometimes ended up using them just because they were there (usually as napkins). But now I notice when I go to grab a towel and instead ask myself if it can be cleaned with water or wiped on cloth instead (spoiler: it always can be). 

plastic packaging
Most things (in the UK and especially in the big city anyway) are wrapped in plastic... toys, cosmetics, cleaning products, clothes, even our food (which is bizarre to me). We may want this to change but nothing is going to happen unless we stop paying for it to happen. Every time we give our money for something to be given to us wrapped in plastic we are saying "yes please, give me more things wrapped in plastic... I approve" and quite frankly I'm not down with doing that anymore. My vote goes to all of the produce and household goods that come in natural and biodegradable / compostable packaging. The more we give our money to these sorts of solutions the higher the demand becomes to keep them in stock and the more companies will take note and supply us with what we want.

When we think about washing up from a zero-waste perspective we often take a closer look at soaps we're using. This is great and we do need to start using more ecological liquids so that our oceans aren't being polluted by chemicals, but we also need to take a harder look at our washing tools. Most of us currently use sponges, but a kitchen sponge takes over a year to decompose (and those are the ones not wrapped in plastic bin bags) and most households go through 1 per week. That's around 55 sponges going into the landfill before 1 can decompose. That's not sustainable at all. So, instead, I use a brush. They're made from bamboo or tampico which are both highly biodegradable and sustainable.
Tip: make sure it doesn't have any plastic elements to it like the handle or head. This is not sustainable.

cling film + tin foil
Giving up tin foil and cling film (saran wrap in the US), sounds quite tricky as most of us rely on them for so many things. But instead of wrapping up left overs or using it to pack your lunch, use glass tupperware which will keep your food fresher for longer, keep your fridge more organised so you can see what you have, and is easy to chuck in a bag without squishing what's inside. If you're used to putting your leftovers into a bowl and cling-filming the top, just plonk a plate on top instead. It's easier, quicker, and totally zero-waste. 

tea bags
Most tea bags are not completely biodegradable, made up of around 20% polypropylene. If you have a compost bin I'm sure you've notice tea bags being sifted from your compost. So I ditched the bags and opt for loose leaf tea instead which I use alongside my stainless steel tea infuser. Loose leaf tea is not only best for the environment and your compost, it's also far cheaper, much tastier, and doesn't have any added 'bad bits' like a lot of bagged tea does.

Plastic straws are everywhere from smoothie huts, coffee houses, restaurants and even our own homes. Firstly, straws are not necessary at all. We can all enjoy a drink without having the assistance of a straw... but they are fun and sometimes it's nice to sip through something. And I'll tell you what... it's even more fun to sip through stainless steel or glass straws. And they're a totally environmentally friendly option. I love my glass straws and feel totally chic and stylish when I drink from them (way more so than through a cheap and tacky plastic one) and my mind is totally at ease. They're super easy to clean (they come with straw cleaners), look great (visitors and Instagram followers will be asking where to get them), and feel good on the lips (sounds weird, but I'm totally addicted to the feeling of glass over plastic).
Tip: you can buy them straight or bent and they usually retail for around £2 per straw... that's amazing value as they last a lifetime!

Using eco-friendly, zero-waste options will save you a ton of money (as you will no longer need to make frequent repurchases) and the environment and all it's inhabitants will thank you for it.

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