Plastic-free for two weeks? Here's how I did it

18 Dec 2017,
By Ellie, Student writer at The Common Room

I used to think I was environmentally aware. I recycled, thought about what I ate and tried to walk wherever I could.

But I've only recently started to consider the amount of single-use and un-recyclable plastic I use.

Single-use plastic is exactly what the name suggests – it's used once and then thrown away. The packaging used for food, carrier bags, and straws are all single-use.

So, I decided to embark on a two-week challenge to purchase the least amount of single-use plastic possible.

Realising local markets are the super ones

On the first day of my challenge, I needed to buy spinach. Usually I'd go to the nearest supermarket and buy the sealed plastic bag of ready-to-eat spinach. However, this was now a no-go. So I ventured to my nearest market instead.

There was such an incredible abundance of different food products at the market. I was surprised to find that not only was there minimal plastic but most of the produce was cheaper than at my usual shops. I could reduce my plastic usage and save money – a win-win situation!

Discovering non-plastic packaging

Did you know we produce 150 million tonnes of single-use plastic every year? The effects of this are catastrophic for both humans and the environment.

Every time you find an alternative to single-use plastic, you’re making a difference. And if other people see you eschewing single-use plastic, it's likely they'll think about their usage too.

During my plastic-free challenge, I visited Bulk Market – a zero-waste and package-free store in London. Here, I filled up my own reusable containers with various goods rather than buying them pre-packed.

I was amazed to find you could buy everything from plant-based milk to body lotion all packaged without plastic.

Shopping online – for the right reasons

The time I spent going plastic-free happened to coincide with Black Friday. I have to admit, I'm quite an avid online shopper and, apart from food, I buy almost everything online. However, this means I'm often left with plastic packaging that can't be recycled.

To stick to my plastic challenge, I've reused or saved any plastic packaging that did arrive as a result of my online ordering.

More generally, I'm trying to take a more mindful approach to online shopping. This means I'll only buy something if there's a significant financial saving involved – not just because it's convenient.

What the challenge taught me

The hardest part of the challenge was planning my shopping patterns. For example, I had to make sure the market would be open and that I had enough reusable bags and containers with me.

It was also tough realising just how pervasive single-use plastic is – I had so many of those pesky produce stickers by the end of the challenge.

Overall, I was very pleased with my effort. I'm now hyper-vigilant to the use of plastics and I'm saving money while cutting back on plastic use.

I plan to keep shopping at local markets as well as making a trip every so often to Bulk Market.

And I'm looking into plastic-free packaged alternatives for both household and beauty products – luckily, there are plenty of tips online.

My five tips to help you use less plastic

  1. Take your own bags with you
  2. Use a reusable water bottle and coffee cup
  3. Take a packed lunch from home
  4. Say no thanks to straws
  5. Shop at your local market
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By Ellie
Student writer at The Common Room