Reusables: a good-enough guide
I just read a fantastic and inspiring post by @litterlessliving about the reusable stuff you can bring with you from home everyday, when you eat out, and when you go shopping. It’s a fantastic guide to avoiding single-use plastic items and packaging (which is horrendous for the planet) and you can read it here if you like.
However, it got me thinking. The post is beautiful and @litterlessliving has obviously spent a while gathering a lot of beautiful reusable products that help her to live more sustainably and to create less waste. But what if, like me, you’re just starting out on this journey to consume less and leave a lighter environmental footprint?
Should you rush out and buy a lot of stuff to help you live a mores sustainable life? Absolutely not! The idea that you can buy your way into sustainable living is a fallacy. By all means, buy beautiful plastic-free, recyclable products when the things you already have wear out but, until then, just use what you have and don’t worry… Your lifestyle doesn’t have to be picture-perfect to be worthwhile. As my Dad often says, good enough is good enough.
So here’s my good enough guide to creating less waste.
Carry these things with you on a daily basis.
Great: There are a lot of beautiful metal and glass water bottles around. Carrying one with you and refilling it means you can avoid buying water in single-use plastic bottles, which may NEVER naturally biodegrade. That’s right, I said NEVER! Those things can just keep floating around in the oceans forever!
Good enough: An old plastic water bottle works just as well, even if it doesn’t look as stylish. It doesn’t scream, “I’m environmentally friendly” but, rest assured, you are doing your bit. Plus, you probably have old bottles lying around at home that are perfect for the job.
We all know that plastic bags are a scourge on the environment. So using a canvas bag when you shop is fantastic, especially if it has a sexy environmental slogan on!
Great: You can get clever ones that fold up neatly and clip together with poppers or Velcro so they take up less space. And it’s a great idea great to carry one with you in case you do some unplanned shopping.
Good enough: Do you know what’s good enough? A plastic carrier bag! Raid that collection of Tesco bags that has been building under the sink and pop a couple in the bottom of your handbag. They’re exactly the right size and shape for your shopping. And what’s going to happen to that mountain of bags otherwise???
Ugggh! I hate straws. If you are older than two and still have all your teeth, there is just no need to use a straw. Plastic straws end up littering our beaches and oceans and eventually all that plastic ends up in the food chain, our oceans, and eventually in our drinking water. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish!
Great: If you really feel like you need a straw, there are a variety of reusable metal options in different sizes and shapes. Some come with their own carry cases and some are even foldable, so you can carry them on your key ring! So smart!
Good enough: If you do indeed have a full set of teeth, just practice the phrase, “no straw please” and say it EVERY time you order a drink, even when you order something that you never imagine would need a straw. Now you have one less thing to carry in your ever-expanding handbag. You’re welcome!!!
One disposable coffee cup a day on the way to work is 260 unnecessary pieces of trash every year!!! The lids are invariably single-use plastic and the paper cup is often unrecyclable because it is coated with polyethylene - that's what makes it waterproof. Less than 1 per cent of coffee cups are recycled.
Great: A reusable cup is a must if you are a regular take-away coffee or tea drinker. There are a whole bunch of practical solutions available and you can often buy them at the coffee shop, so no excuses. Some places even give you a discount for bringing your own cup to fill.
Good enough: I actually couldn’t come up with a good alternative. I guess you could always use an old jam jar! If you can wait a few minutes longer for your caffeine fix, then leave a nice mug at your office and make your own drink when you get there. If you can’t wait, make the investment in a reusable.
Take these if you are buying take-out food.
Plastic cutlery can take up to 1000 years to biodegrade and it’s hardly ever recyclable.
Great: Bringing your own set of bamboo cutlery is a fantastic idea. When you eat out, you use your own and take it home with you to wash. There are a lot of beautiful kits around that come with practical and pretty cases and bags.
Good enough: You know what works just as well as bamboo for cutlery? Metal. That stuff you already have in your kitchen drawer is really good enough. (Does everyone have odd forks and spoons that just appear in the cutlery drawer and don’t match the others? If so, use those!) Just wrap them in a cloth if you don’t want to jingle all the way down the street!
Reusable lunch box
Take away food often comes in polystyrene foam containers. These are extremely hard to recycle and do not biodegrade easily. Hence some cities have banned their use entirely. Even, outlets that use recyclable paper containers often use a plastic lid.
Great: Bring your own instead and ask the food seller to fill it for you. This actually works really well. Rather than looking at you like you are bonkers, most people will be interested to hear how you are taking care of the environment. There are a lot of smart and stylish food containers with separate layers and sections and handles that I am really lusting after but…
Good enough: A large Tupperware, or old ice cream tub works just as well. And I guarantee that you already have one at home.
At the supermarket
Keep a supermarket kit in your car or by your front door.
Great: Of course you will have reusable carrier bags in your supermarket kit but what about those pesky little plastic produce bags? Drawstring bags made of fabric are perfect for loose produce such as apples and potatoes. Just shake them out or wash them when you get home if they get dirty.
Good enough: If you don’t have any drawstring bags and haven’t yet gotten around to running some up from old offcuts (is it only me that can’t get this up to the top of the priority list?) then reuse old plastic bags from your last supermarket trip. If you forget, just put the produce loose in your trolley. Unless you are buying a LOT of apples then you should probably be able to corral them at the till!
Great: Mason jars and pretty glass containers are a great way to store your dried goods. You can see easily how much you have in the pantry so you don’t over shop. And you can take them with you to the store to fill with loose weight items (look for a bulk store, like GRAM, that lets you buy everything loose and avoid even more packaging).
Good enough: The good old Tupperware containers and ice cream tubs work just as well here, even if they are not as Instagram-worthy. I have it on good authority, that no one working at the bulk store will bat an eyelid if you come with an unpolished old jam jar with the label still half on!
With a little planning and forethought, we can all use less and create less waste. I hope that this list inspires you to make some simple changes. But, most of all, I hope it reminds you that you don’t have to be perfect. It’s always better to do something, no matter how small, than nothing at all. Simple swaps for the win!