My plastic free month

by ZSL on

ZSL Zookeeper Colette Gibbings decided to try and go completely disposable plastic-free for 31 days! See how she got on below. 

Some things, like swapping plastic bags and water bottles for reusable ones were easy, but finding non-plastic toothbrushes was a challenge! 

Colette Gibbings
Colette Gibbings, ZSL Zookeeper

I really wanted to try and raise awareness of how much plastic is in our daily lives and see what the likelihood is that I can adopt plastic-free living in the long term. The challenge has made life tricky.

I've had to adjust where I shop, travelling far and wide for basic supplies such as milk in a glass bottle. Add to that buying food, toiletries and household products, I can tell you that it really wasn’t easy and doing it strictly would not be for everyone.

However, I've managed to find alternatives for most things which is enouraging. There are things we can all do to help reduce our usage of these plastics, and if we all do what we can than that will certainly help our planet (and us!). 

Here are the things I will be 100% keeping after this month:

  • Reusable water bottles – metal and insulated ones.
  • Paper bags – for fruit/veg/bread shopping, good for sandwiches too. Top tip, you can get these free if you look in the mushroom area of the supermarkets, just remember to let the cashier know that you've taken them so you don't get charged wrongly. 
  • Eco Egg - Not only saves a huge amount of plastic when washing laundry but also saves a lot of money! Simple pop it in with your wash, it has natural mineral balls inside to wash your clothes the replace washing powder and fabric condictioner, and the pack can last up to 720 washes which is 3 years of washing for under 4p per wash. 
  • Ecoleaf toilet rolls/kitchen rolls – wrapped in potato starch instead of plastic and 100% recycled too.
  • Milk – glass bottles (mine from Dawlicious local jersey farm and is delicious!) but milkman is a great idea.
  • Lush products – shampoo bars, conditioner bar (great for shaving with), toothpaste powder, deodorant bar. Take the pots back clean and they 100% recycle the pots themselves into new pots for the stores and take back five for a free face mask!
  • Reusable shopping bags – cloth bags and my amazing ones made from old t-shirts and jeans. Techincally the cotton reusable bags are not actually better for the environment in terms of the energy/water requirements, but you can make your own from old clothes as an alternative!
  • Moon Cup - Reusable silicone menstrual cup that saves on pad and tampon plastic and its packaging. Can take a little while to get use to but I'll never go back!
  • Taking my own containers - Some supermarkets allow you to take in your own containers for meat and cheese. You can also refill other things at Wholefoods and Planet Organic, such as pasta, rice, nuts, dried fruits and cereal. 

The easiest things I found to change were not using plastic bottles, I have carried my own stainless steel bottles around for a long time, but it gave me an opportunity to buy a few more for the challenge to try out insulated ones too – and they are great. I honestly don’t know why people don’t just carry a bottle with them and most places will fill your bottle up for you if you ask whilst you’re out and about.

As well as this, a huge pet peeve of mine is the flimsy plastic bags that supermarkets supply for their fruit and veg. You can easily buy paper bags to take with you instead to save this pointless wastage of plastic.

Ecoleaf toilet paper and kitchen towls were easy too, some shops stock them, but you can get them online from a shop called ethicalsuperstore – they are wrapped in a potato starch material instead of plastic, they are very soft too and just generally good products. 

Colette using a reusable bag at the farm shop
Colette using a reusable bag at the farm shop

Things that I will attempt to upkeep wherever I can and where possible are:

  • Refill products – wherever I can I will aim to get refills of rice, pulses, pasta, dried fruits, nuts, oils and vinegars.
  • Butchers and fishmongers – I will be shopping much more at my local butcher.
  • Bread - I'm aiming to get my bread from the bakers or supermarkets that have fresh loaves.
  • Metal straws / non-plastic straws – I will try where possible, the metal straws are great, but I’d recommend buying paper straws or bamboo straws are great to carry with you.
  • Homemade chips – will look into a chip cutter that my friend has to aid me making my own, but again it needs prep time which I don’t always have.
  • Homemade crisps – they are great, but not convenient, so will make them as a treat as I do not have the time to make them.
  • Clothes – I aim to look into clothes that are 100% cotton and organic, however for some things you cannot get 100% cotton.
  • Metal safety razor – I’m still trialing the razor I bought, but I do see me using this in future. 

Trips to the butchers and fish mongers if you have them near you are easy to do, better quality meat, fresher and if you take your own containers they are happy to oblige.

Colette taking her own reusable boxes to the butchers to avoid plastic packaging
Colette taking her own reusable boxes to the butchers to avoid plastic packaging

And finally things that just aren’t feasible for me to keep after this month’s challenge:

  • Organic and farm shops – might be good for a few things, but very expensive and out of my way.
  • Cereal – for me there is no substitute to shop bought cereal, but I’ll keep looking. At least you can recycle the plastic packets at supermarkets though!
  • Sunscreen – Lush do sunscreen, but I haven’t tried it yet, so maybe in future, but for now I’ll stick with the lotion.
  • Bamboo toothbrush – a bit painful to use, kept hurting myself with the wooden handle on my wisdom tooth and the bristles are plastic anyway. However, there may be better designs out there that I haven't tried yet!
  • Crisps and biscuits – It is too time consuming to keep making these, and I personally cannot give these up. I did find Walkers Stax crisps that come in a cardboard tube which can be recycled. 
  • Internet shopping – sometimes a lot of plastic involved, but I will be trying to ask suppliers not to use It where possible – however I will not be stopping ordering online.

So that’s my month in a nutshell really, there’s a lot I will keep doing and buying to use less plastic. I suggest if you are environment and animal conscious that you look at what you use and buy to see where you can cut back and remove plastic too. If we all do a little then that’s certainly a start towards helping our planet and ourselves. Read more on my blog page.

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