The bad word of the century, in terms of plastic pollution, is 'single-use' and the keyword is 'reusable'.
Things you can do to reduce single-use plastic - some you probably didn't even know contained plastic - is to stop smoking, stop using disposable razor blades (ok, that's obvious), stop chewing gum and stop using certain types of Facewash. A single tube of Facewash can contain up to 300 000 plastic beads!
With that in mind, here are ten tips and products to get you going in the right direction today.
1. Reusable Straws
Plastic straws are an unnecessary evil and one of the biggest through-away plastic contaminants on earth! This one we can all do to reduce single-use plastic. I'm not a fan of paper straws and they're not truly reusable, are they? They look beautiful at parties, but they get soggy and soft after a few sips so they're not suitable for longterm use.
If you don't have a reusable straw when you're out, choose not to take a straw and join the #strawless movement on social media. Even our children are happy to have drinks without straws because they've seen the devastating effect straws have on our oceans. We're so used to drinking with straws when we're out, that we forget to refuse it!
Water filter straws can help to reduce single-use plastic because you won't have to buy bottled water anymore. You can drink straight from any water source, even in developing countries. Simply refill your water bottle direct from the source and drink through the emergency water filter straw. They're a must-have when camping, hiking and travelling.
2. Reusable Foldable Travel Cups
You don't need to take the disposable coffee cup at the coffee shop just because they give it to you. Have your reusable cup ready and ask if they will make your take away coffee in your own cup.
Many major coffee chains are not yet geared to recycle disposable cups. Make it easier by being prepared. Telescopic cups can be folded small enough to fit in your bag or they come with a carabiner to attach to your bag or backpack.
3. Reusable Travel Cutlery
Carry your own reusable travel cutlery set that fits nicely into your handbag or backpack, so that you won't have to use through-away cutlery when you're out and about. You can reduce single-use plastic pollution every time you get a takeaway if you're prepared.
If a portable bamboo cutlery set is not your style, the stainless steel dinnerware might suit you better.
During flights, you may have to leave it in your checked baggage because I'm not sure you'll be allowed to take it onto a plane in carry-on luggage for security reasons. Do check with your airline.
My telescopic straw, foldable coffee cup and bamboo cutlery set, neatly fit into my handbag or backpack without taking up too much space. If I use a smaller bag, they can all clip onto the outside with handy carabiners and if one or two hang on the outside, people will see and ask about them, won't they? And there you go spreading awareness.
4. Organic Handmade Soap
An alternative to shop-bought shampoo, conditioner and shower in plastic bottles, is natural handmade bars made of pure organic vegan-friendly ingredients. Try it out before you ditch the idea. It's certainly a great option for someone like me who doesn't always get the self-made version done in time, on time, just right or at all.
The organic wash pouch will help with the foaming action to build up that nice lather we love so much.
5. Eco-Friendly Organic Toiletries
These are basic products that you have to buy anyway. When you're current plastic version is ready to be retired, check locally if it can be recycled, dispose of it responsibly and buy sustainable eco-friendly alternatives.
I'm trying them all out myself and I can tell that they work just great and they are worth every penny because each help to reduce single-use plastic. It takes time to get used to the taste of toothpaste tablets, but for the greater good, I'm happy to push through to get clean teeth and clean oceans.
Anti-static bamboo combs, bamboo toothbrushes, bamboo cotton swabs, tube squeezers are all basic items that get the job done while being kind to the environment.
Try eco-friendly floss
6. Reusable Feminine Hygiene Products
Did you know that sanitary pads consist largely of plastic? A disposable sanitary pad requires about 500–800 years to decompose.
Thousands of tons of disposable sanitary waste is generated every month all over the world. The toxins in female sanitary products are not only harmful to your body, but they seep into ground soil at landfills, poison the environment, cause horrific odour pollution and widespread health problems.
Healthier options are washable cloth pads and silicone menstrual cups.
Silicone is safe because it does not leak chemicals and as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic, it decomposes more easily without spreading toxins.
Use your cup together with a washable cloth pad during heavy flow and switch to one or the other on lighter days. Menstrual cups and reusable pads may be more expensive than a box of tampons, but with proper care can last for more than 10 years.
Yes, it's a big adjustment for us and it will take time to get the hang of it, but it is so worth the effort ladies!
7. Choose Items That Are Packaged Plastic-Free
This is harder said than done, I know. Once you're aware of the issue, you notice that almost everything comes wrapped in plastic! It's the same as when you get a new car. Suddenly you notice that everyone's driving it when you've never seen them on the road before.
The sad thing is that most crinkly plastic packaging and plastic bags cannot be recycled. Check the back of the package to see if it is recyclable or not.
Shop for fresh produce at your local farmers market where you can buy fruit and veg loose. Opt for unwrapped items in the supermarket if they have it.
Have your reusable mesh bags to hand to bundle lose produce or use the paper bread bags available at farmers markets and stores instead of plastic. Sometimes you just have to ask for them. If you have the option to choose between something packaged in plastic or in a cardboard box, go for the latter. Should you have no alternative, at least check if the plastic packaging is recyclable.
Make sure you always have a reusable foldable shopping bag at hand. They easily fit into a purse or pocket, but unfold to a large size, perfect for those impulse buys when you would normally end up using a dreaded plastic bag.
Repurpose the jars, cans, plastic bottles, ice cream tubs your groceries come in. Wash and use what you can in the house instead of buying more Tupperware and unnecessary containers.
Drive down consumerism by not buying everything brand new, but find ways to make old things into new creations.
9. Make It From Scratch
Instead of buying it in a plastic bottle, make what you can from scratch. Yes, it's cheaper and easier than you think and there are some cracking recipes out there for you; really easy recipes that even I not only want to but manage to make.
From homemade shampoo and conditioner to cleaning products, you can make it with chemical-free ingredients, which you may already have in your kitchen. It's worth a try!
I'm currently trying out poo-free hair wash. It's not what you think! Poo-free is short for shampoo-free, but because the wash is chemical-free you can call it poo-free in that sense! You use baking soda and water, and you can choose to rinse with apple cider vinegar and water or not. It works for some and not for others. I've found that adding a teensy tiny bit of coconut oil to my mixture helps with shine and dryness. Not too much or the hair may feel heavy and oily.
Here's a fun post for you about how to go Poo-Free
Some of the best ingredients that you can use for hair treatment is mayonnaise (apparently a great moisturising hair mask on its own), coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, banana and yoghurt.
Read this blogpost for homemade treatments ideas. You can buy chemical-free cleaning products from eco-conscious shops, but the problem we want to solve is to stop continuously buying the product in plastic containers. Some shops will allow you to use your containers to refill when you buy again, like the Clean Shop, who produce chemical-free eco-friendly household cleaning products.
10. Opt For Sustainable Plastic-Free Products
Select products made of metal or sustainable wood, such as bamboo. Silicone products are a more eco-friendly alternative to plastic and so is glass. Buy silicone, stainless steel and glass for your kitchen. Get wooden toys for the kids, search for natural organic and bio-degradable products everywhere else.
Here at GetThingumajigs.com we are trying to keep the cost down to make these eco options affordable for everyone because we want to be part of the revolution to make every home plastic-free.
The green options are out there for you to find. They may be a tad more expensive than cheap plastic versions but think of the impact those few extra pennies will have on the future of our planet and the health of our oceans. Remarkable!
The original version of this post first appeared on FamilyTravelExplore.com here.