Starting Your Plastic Free Journey

I’ve recently been talking about Plastic Free July with Karen from the Kind Shop. This is a campaign I have been supporting for several years now. I have done a tiny bit of social media but feel a bit of a fraud at the moment as Covid has changed my plastic-free journey. Firstly, shielding meant I couldn’t shop for myself and so relied more on deliveries which of course came wrapped in plastic. In 2018 I wrote that Plastic Free wasn’t easy due to finding the shops which stocked products. In just three years the landscape of high street shops and online businesses has changed. We see more and more zero waste/ plastic free businesses on the high street. More thought into packaging from many online businesses. More veg box schemes allowing you to avoid the heavily plastic laden veg in the supermarkets. More box schemes popping up locally with Covid.

“In 2018 I worried that living plastic-free was harder for those on a budget”

I don’t think that’s the case anymore, even the high street stores now have many plastic-free products. I have found toilet roll and dishwasher tablets in Aldi, yes they may not have the same eco credentials as many of the online products which I became more aware of during Covid, but these rolling delivery based products are often priced at a premium.

Eco Communities is working with many individuals and groups including Kind Shop on our Carbon Footprint, using the tool Giki launched around 12 months ago. So I have pulled together all the plastic-free items that show on Giki and tried to provide as much information for you as possible here.

What is Giki?
Giki is a free to download mobile app that provides ethical and sustainability information about more than 250,000 products. The 13 ‘badges’ that are awarded to products based on how ethical, sustainable or healthy they are. They can tell you anything from whether the packaging is recyclable to whether ingredients were sourced responsibly or if it’s a healthier option for you. The website tool also has the best Eco Step Tracker ever!

Giki Step – Stop using single-use plastic water bottles
I recently completed a ZeroWaste talk to a group with an environmental conscience – only 20% of that group never bought plastic bottled water. As an environmental campaigner, you might be surprised to hear I am at Silverstone Formula 1 this weekend. I have been once before and I know they advertise water refill points, yet I see so many people buying bottled water which costs £2.50 for a small bottle. The queues as the small number of refill stations are the longest you will see here. Refill is a fantastic organisation, its app lists all the refill points in the UK, so where you live or visit, or you can just watch out for the refill sign.

The average UK household uses 480 plastic bottles a year, but only recycles 270 of them . Therefore nearly half are not put in the recycling. This means that nationally, out of the over 35 million plastic bottles being used every day, nearly 16 million plastic bottles aren’t being recycled.

Source: Refill.org.uk

Giki Step – Switch to a reusable coffee cup
Takeaway coffee has become a staple of modern life for many. Covid has resulted in a backtrack here. Many businesses wouldn’t provide refills during Covid and are nay now cautiously getting back on track. We see lots of businesses trying to change, compostables being the main one. They are being greenwashed by cup suppliers in most cases. Very few areas in the UK can accept compostable products, so these go to landfill or mostly these days to energy from waste (incinerators).

pretty heart coffee travel cup hug in a mug
Hug in a Mug Reusable Coffee Cup
pretty travel mug bee be kind flower floral
Be Kind Travel Mug
travel mug make magic happen rainbow cup
Make Magic Happen Coffee Cup

Giki Step – Buy in bulk and or refill
I used to buy items like pasta, rice, washing liquid, hand soap, house cleaner, washing up liquid in large plastic containers and I then decant them into specific glass jars and tubs. Reusing these larger bottles to make storage containers but even without reusing, it’s still a lot less plastic to waste.

Giki step – Try refills for cleaning products
Now we have Just Footprints in Chester, I refill more items and have started to look at products from The Kind Shop like cleaning products from Bide, which come concentrated and come in home compostable containers or paper depending on the product. I use one eco cleaner for everything, I have seen peoples cupboards full of different cleaners for their floors, surfaces etc. I’m also not a fan of antibacterial cleaners and don’t use any forms of cleaning wipes, which are a huge expense and waste in comparison to a cloth you can wash and use for many years. The antibacterial hand sanitiser has been a huge but necessary annoyance and increase in plastic use in the UK, plus those single use face masks (no I don’t use them) plus gloves you see everywhere these days discarded, and littering the countrywide. It’s been important to me to buy eco home cleaning products for many years. I suffer from asthma and eczema and find the chemical-free eco-options are much better for my health.

Eco Friendly Cleaning Products, Plastic Free – Christmas Ultimate Bide Box
Bide Eco Cleaning Products
Ekologik Plastic Free Refillable Cleaning Pod Kit - Multi Purpose Cleaner, Toilet & Bathroom Cleaner
Ekologik Plastic Free Cleaning

Giki Step – Switch from shower gel to soap and/or wash your hair with a bar of shampoo
I went through the pain of getting my hubby back to soaps for the shower a couple of years ago. He’s still using plastic bottled shampoo of a well-known brand I’m struggling to get him to give up. Since we bought a Motorhome a few months ago I have stopped him from bringing in his plastic. So shampoo soap and for the body. He’s not happy about remembering which is which though. I have done a bit of research and seems if you have dry hair it might be fine to use the shampoo bar for everything. They are formulated differently for lathering, moisturising but will not weigh hair down. I’m sure with his more oily short hair he could just use the body soap which is all natural for everything. For those that are less bothered about using lots of soaps but find conditioning bars not great. I have been using a refill conditioner from Faith in Nature in coconut but going to try a dual shampoo and conditioner bar soon from Zero Waste Path which Debbie stocks in her Zero Waste Shop (Just Footprints) in Chester, see if you can get it near you.

Simple Plastic Free Swaps:

  • Recycle everything you can each week
  • Avoid plastic wet wipes
  • Try refills for cleaning products
  • Stop using single use plastic water bottles
  • Switch to a reusable coffee cup
  • Switch to glass bottles for your milk
  • Wash your hair with a bar of shampoo
  • Switch from shower gel to soap
  • Try a zero waste shop
  • Recycle your on the go packaging
  • Recycle plastic bags, and lots more, at the supermarket
  • Change to plastic free periods

All the steps and more can be found in on the Giki website, such a useful way to track your sustainable swaps.

Happy Plastic Free Living!

I’m Helen Tandy, Partner of Castlefield where I provide Ethical financial advice. I give one day a week to volunteering and more recently created Eco Communities, plus I’m a long term environmental campaigner. I have been working with Karen owner of the fantastic Kind Shop UK recently and she’s supporting my Community Interest Company Eco Communities.

Helen Tandy Eco Communities Friends of the Earth
Kind Shop
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