Let’s face it, plastic is not so fantastic after all.
You may have made the change to reusable shopping bags and a funky water bottle, but once you really start paying attention to just how much plastic is in our lives it gets a little scary. Almost everything we touch is plastic and it can be hard to know where to start to make a change away from using the man-made material that’s drowning our planet.
For inspiration on making a difference, look no further than the burgeoning army of waste warriors who are doing the hard work for us. Blazing the trail with research, road testings, education, design and development of sustainable products new to the market – or long since forgotten – to replace our dependence on plastic and begin to make a difference.
What’s the problem?
“It is mind-boggling how many regular household items aren’t good for the environment,” says Lottie. We simply don’t think about our waste enough. It is imperative we reduce consumption and reuse our resources. Even the tiniest changes such as swapping your kitchen sponge to a cotton dishcloth can make a world of difference. “When you consider the trillions [of plastic sponges] used each day in domestic and commercial kitchens the problem is immense,” says Kim.
Food waste is an enormous issue – how we buy and store our food impacts the environment in ways we haven’t even thought of – farming, processing, packaging and transporting our food to the supermarket leaves a significant footprint even before it’s in our hands, only to go off in the fridge before we use it.
“Australians throw out 20% of their groceries every year – averaging $1,300 per household!”Lottie Dalziel, Banish
Where to start?
The simple answer is to go natural wherever possible. Just like the war on sugar and processed foods, getting back to basics by choosing cleaning tools and products made with natural resources is the key to creating a circular environment – where everything we use can ultimately be returned to the earth at the end of its life.
“I believe that scourers, like straws, plastic bags and single use cups is a global issue that all of us can solve.”Kim Wood, Important Ants
What to expect
“The biggest surprise for me was that they were more cost efficient than I expected,” says Kim. “The initial cost might be more than plastic but the sustainable alternative often lasts longer.” Remember to consider the entire product too. “For an item to be truly sustainable you need to look at the whole thing,” says Kim. “Is it over packaged or is there plastic in the packaging?”
“Don’t assume anything. Just because something is branded with the phrase “eco” or “looks” natural doesn’t mean it is,” Lottie warns. “Read the label make sure it isn’t tested on animals, is non-toxic and is biodegradable,” she suggests, adding that she was surprised by how ‘old school’ many of the best alternatives are. “From hand knitted dishcloths to beeswax wraps – we forgot about the classics!” she says.
What if I return to old habits?
“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” says Lottie and Kim agrees – it’s important to start small and forgive slip-ups. “Like anything you are giving up, just think of is as part of the process of changing to a more plastic-free lifestyle. After a while you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner,” says Kim.
“Change is uncomfortable and it does take time, but we have a social responsibility to make steps towards a greener future for our children and their children.”Lottie Dalziel, Banish
5 quick swaps you can make:
1. Plastic bags ==> Reusable food storage
Make up your mind to never again accept a plastic bag when you shop – this includes fashion and other non-food purchases. Choose paper or boxes at the liquor store and opt for loose fruit and vegetables, rather than packaged on trays and wrapped in more plastic. Use produce bags and baskets instead. Store your food in Swag Bags in the fridge – it lasts longer too!
2. Sponge/scourer ==> Natural fibre brushes
Replace your plastic dish brush and kitchen scourer with coconut fibre brush options that should last more than 6 months, as opposed to dozens of nylon scourers and plastic brushes who’s bristles flatten, quickly get greasy and lose their scrubbing power.
“Small changes make all the difference so start with what works for you and make the changes slowly.”Lottie Dalziel, Banish
3. Plastic ==> Natural toilet brush
Did you even know there was an alternative here? “Coconut fibre is naturally antibacterial so it doesn’t get smelly and looks so much nicer”, says Kim.
4. Kitchen bin bags ==> A lift-out bucket
Your bin may already have a separate bucket inside you can press into action, or you can improvise. “I found a great second-hand metal kitchen bin with a galvanised lift out bucket,” says Kim. “I love it. No need to line it and I can just rinse it out when I empty it.”
5. Disposable razors ==> Old school safety razor
“Every plastic razor we’ve ever used still exits on this planet somewhere!” exclaims Lottie. “I have the closest shave from a safety razor and they aren’t as scary as everyone says.”
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