Let's start by addressing the big, flapping, made-of-money elephant in the room. Most eco- friendly and plastic free swaps are more expensive, at least for the short term. Some are better value in the long term, some are a straight up investment in doing your bit for the environment.
If you can afford to make the changes that you think others cannot then consider donating reusable essentials to your local food bank (a simple online search will bring your nearest up, and Trussell Trust have banks all over the UK. They list non-food essentials here. You can also set up regular financial donations) or local shelter. More on this throughout.
I've done a big old brain dump below of the steps we've taken over the last year towards become plastic-free. I'm proud of how long this list is, but I've tried to make it scannable for those looking for a specific swap!
First up Period Pants! Or as I call them, my magic pants. I switched from disposable pads early last year and I haven't looked back. I have pairs from ModiBodi (mixed online reviews, plus the fabric has developed a couple of small holes but they do offer different absorbencies) and UK based Wuka (no complaints, only adoration).
If you want to support people who menstruate, who are on a lower income, you can donate sanitary products to your local food bank or shelter. If you're not sure what to supply, call and ask them. Or consider supporting organisations like The Cup Effect, or buying your products from companies that run a Buy One, Donate One scheme like RubyCup, or Hey Girls, who sell period pants and reusable pads as well as cups.
We've made a lot of changes in the bathroom alone.
We signed up to a Who Gives a Crap toilet roll subscription (which was a relief when everyone lost their minds and started stockpiling earlier in the year).
We switched from regular sponges to natural loofahs. Face wipes, to washable muslin cloths and I'm excited to try this cleansing sponge by Konjac. Single use cotton buds for silicon reusables.
I switched deodorants to plastic-free, Isle of Wight based Earth Concious over a year ago and not only does it ease my conscious and my footprint, it's done a fair amount for my general musk! Turns out all I needed to do to fix any body odor issues was stop clogging up my glands with chemical nasties and perfumes. Makes sense when you think about it, huh.
I stopped buying moisturiser and started making my own with coconut oil and a few drops of essential oils, stored in old glass jars. There are loads of recipes online, it's super quick, lasts for ages and my skin is much improved. Coconut oil is just that - oily - so if you have oily/combi skin you may be better trying shea butter or just avoiding your t-zone! Next up I'm trying to make my own rose water toner before our roses finish in the garden.
Bottle shampoo to Lush shampoo bars seems a pricey switch, but it has reduced the amount I need to wash my hair from every other day to every 3-4 days! The bars also last a long time, especially if you keep them somewhere dry between uses (we invested in a cork pot after getting sick of knocking a kitchen container off the shower shelf every day).
We switched from bubble baths for the girls (which was doing nothing for their skin, no matter which brand we tried) to twice weekly Lush bath bombs. Pricey again but we can get between two-four baths out of each bomb with a simple dip-and-grab (plus the girls get so excited about the colour and smell that it's no longer a battle to get them in the tub!). Plus their skin is so soft that we no longer have to use creams for eczema flare ups like we did when using bubble baths. Between bombs we use Epsom salts or just plain old water.
We expanded our Who Gives a Crap subscription to kitchen roll after we realised that regular kitchen roll is made up with plastic fibres and is neither recyclable or biodegradable. We tried supermarket recyclable paper towels first and they were practically pointless.
Regular laundry and dishwasher tabs to Smol, which are actually cheaper than the usual household brands (woo hoo!), plus free of chemical nasties, and are delivered through the letterbox on subscription in completely plastic-free cardboard packaging.
We also tried the Eco egg for a while last summer and I was initially really impressed by how well it worked. The downside was having a heavy egg kerplunking around your washing machine with all your clothes really takes a toll on the fabric. I started only using it for towels or other items where a bit of battering wouldn't matter so much, and then eventually switched to Smol completely.
Straws to stainless steel, kid's tableware to bamboo and cutlery we just gave them regular teaspoons and dessert forks!
We use flannels when at home to clean up the girls messes, and switched to biodegradable wet wipes for when we're out and about. I know this isn't perfect, we could definitely take a wet flannel in a sealed container out with us now that they're older and potty trained so we'll be making this switch once our current load of wipes has run out.
I also ordered this brilliant kitchen box from Greener Home Box this month to help me start switching out other kitchen items like sponges and washing up liquid, and even cling film. I was pretty horrified by these facts about the common kitchen sponge, plus was so happy to be supporting a small, Black-owned business like Tara's.
We started getting milk in glass bottles from Milk & More, and the pandemic finally pushed us to get our fruit and veg via a local box scheme. As well as growing our own berries, tomatoes, and herbs, we also learned how easy it was to grow our own salad from PREVIOUS SALAD. Stick an old stump of lettuce, celery, pak choi in a little jar of water and prepare to have your mind blown within a matter of days.
Snacks are still a definite pain point, plastic wise. We make our own granola, and so can make granola bars from this too. My aim is to start making our own biscuits on the regular to at least save on this bit of packaging going into our bin every week (or every couple of days, ahem). We love this gluten free oat cookie recipe (but we add dark chocolate because we're addicts).
And speaking of what goes in the bin, there's not much point in making a load of biodegradable switches if that biodegradable stuff is then sealed up in a black plastic bag forever and hauled to landfill. We switched from regular black bin bags to biodegradable.
There are plenty of alternatives out there that aren't applicable to us, so I highly recommend if you find yourself regularly throwing plastic into the bin that you google an eco friendly switch. Coffee pods, electric toothbrush heads, even environmentally friendly logs for your fireplace.
The secret is to stop assuming what you're using is the only option. It's not anymore.
I'd love to chat about all of this, so find me on Instagram and tell me about the swaps you've made this month!