Life without plastic - 10 easy sustainable swaps
Reducing plastic doesn’t have to mean missing out. If you’re interested in making some steps towards a more eco friendly lifestyle, here’s some easy swaps to get you started that will save you money and kick start your journey to a lower waste lifestyle.
1. Water bottles
Water companies don’t sell water, they sell plastic bottles. In Ireland alone we dispose of 220,000 plastic bottles every day and that plastic takes 450 years or more to break down in landfills. And by break down we really mean break up because it just breaks into smaller pieces, it doesn’t actually decompose.
This one is a no brainer for us because we have such good quality tap water in Ireland, it’s keeping money in your pocket every time you use a reusable bottle. There are bottles for everyone's taste these days and whichever type you like, they all get the job done.
If you like a simple aesthetic Black & Blum are a great choice.. These stainless steel workhorses last forever and have a really wide neck with the threads on the inside so they are really nice to drink from and they’re wide enough to easily pop in a few ice cubes.
If you like more colour in your life try the famous Chilly’s Bottles range or Neon Kactus's gorgeous glass bottles made from practically unbreakable borosilicate glass and sustainable silicone grips and bamboo lids.
If you don’t like the taste of the tap water in your area, or prefer filtered water - you can do what the Japanese have been doing for thousands of years and use a natural charcoal water filter. They last for months and when they’re done, you can just pop them in your compost bin or break them up and use as plant fertiliser. No need for plastic water filters!
2. Soap Bars
Ditch plastic bottles in favour of solid shampoos, conditioners and soaps. As well as cutting out plastic bottles, you’ll save money (80-90% of liquid shampoo is just water) and with so many good locally made brands like Three Hills, Palm Free and Organicules you are reducing the air miles. To help your soap bar last longer let it dry out between use on a soap dish or soap rest that allows air to circulate.
3. Makeup Remover Wipes
Cotton is a fabulous natural material but it’s also very water and resource heavy to grow and it’s a shame to waste this great material for single use products like disposable cotton pads and wipes. Reusable cotton and bamboo makeup wipes are the answer - they are silky smooth on one side and soft and slightly exfoliating on the other. Great for removing makeup and applying toner.
You just wash them in the washing machine on a cool wash. They last indefinitely. If you do want to replace them you can just cut them up and add them to your compost bin,
4. Coffee Cups
Single Use paper coffee cups are the worst! They’re not ‘paper’ either as they are lined with a plastic layer so they can’t be recycled and go straight to landfill. Unfortunately ‘compostable’ cups aren’t much better. We hate to knock anyone’s attempts to cut down on plastic but these are just well-intentioned greenwashing. They might make us feel a little bit better but while they might be technically compostable in commercial hot composting systems, in reality recycling companies can’t check each disposable cup to see if it’s compostable or not so they are all treated as non recyclable and they go straight to landfill or incineration.
When it comes to coffee, the sustainable solution is to avoid the cup completely and just bring your own. And that’s where it gets fun, because there are so many great cups to choose from! These are some of our favourites:
The world first ‘barista standard’ travel cup, KeepCup come in endless colours and styles. All materials are either sustainable or recyclable. Their new Thermal Cups will keep your drink hot for hours there's something very satisfying about holding these, the cup feels really balanced in your hand.
Our go to cups when we’re out and about are the Stojo foldable cups. When not in use, it folds up and you can pop in a bag or pocket. We have gotten so much use out of these. If we’re going out for the day they are small enough to pop in a jacket pocket so we’re never caught without a cup. Even though they are collapsible they are surprisingly solid and the experience of using them is just like using any cup really. The cup itself is made from silicone so there’s no rubbery taste when using it.
The reusable coffee cups from Neon Kactus are simple and stylish and they are made from great quality and sustainable materials. The cups are made from borosilicate glass which is resistant to thermal shock meaning it won’t shatter if you surprise it with boiling hot water, and it’s very durable compared to regular toughened glass. Their insulated coffee cups do everything they’re supposed to do (keeps your drink hot for hours, leak proof, lightweight etc.) but honestly it’s the bright colours we love.
Virtually impossible to recycle and full of questionable ingredients like zinc and aluminium, aerosol deodorants and antiperspirants are bad for the planet for lots of reasons. This was honestly one of the best eco swaps we ever made. Our work shirts were constantly being destroyed with yellow and white stains in the armpits and no matter what we tried we couldn’t stop the staining.
We picked up a solid deodorant cream from Warrior Botanicals on a trip to West Cork a few years ago and we haven’t looked back since. Applying deodorant now feels more like using a moisturiser. It feels hydrating with no clumpy residue and we really do stay fresh all day. And we're happy not to be breathing in all those chemicals every morning in the confined space of the bathroom. As well as Warrior there are super options from Organicules, Three Hills and Pit Putty.
6. Eco Cleaning
Swap out cleaners full of toxic ingredients for sustainable options like Lilly’s Eco Clean, who are a small family-owned business making cleaners based on traditional biodegradable ingredients like vinegar and lemon. We came across Lilly’s by chance years ago when they had a stand at Bloom in the Park and we were very pleasantly surprised to find they work really well and they smell great, no vinegary smell at all! They do come in plastic spray bottles but these are recycled, recyclable and refillable.
You can also make your own cleaning products easily at home and use natural essential oils like lemon, lime and eucalyptus for fragrance.
The average woman uses approximately 11,000 disposable period products in her lifetime. The majority of conventional disposable period products can be made from between 6% and 90% plastic. According to the Irish Times the average pack of sanitary towels contains as much plastic as six plastic bags! Period products are the fifth most common item found on Europe’s beaches.
In terms of environmental impact, switching to plastic free period products is one of the most beneficial changes you can make. That can be as simple as switching to plastic-free disposable tampons, pads and liners from brands like Grace and Green, using washable and reusable pads or a silicone menstrual cup to collect blood flow. Menstrual cups can be used for 10 years and work out at about 18c for each menstrual cycle.
8. Beeswax wraps
Cling film can’t be recycled so a reusable option for covering food is an easy environmental win. Try Ireland Beeswax Wraps made with local beeswax or for a vegan alternative try a DIY Wax Wrap kit with wax made from candelilla wax, pine resin, and jojoba oil.
This is one of the easiest swaps and you don’t even need to swap plastic straws for the reusable versions - just ask for no straw when you’re ordering your drink. If you or your kids like to use a straw then reusable silicone, bamboo or stainless steel straws are a good option and are easy to clean.
10. Shopping Bags
If you want to up your bag for life game, check out our range of colourful string bags from Turtle Bags. They are great for veggie shopping in the supermarket as they are see through and air can circulate freely.
Turtle bags were originally inspired by the plight of the turtle who mistake plastic bags as a food source, but the impact of plastic bags on the environment goes much further... Say no to plastic bags and help stop the plastic pollution with these 100% organic cotton string bags. Because plastic never really goes away.