Plastic Free July – A Sustainability Start

One of the things that I have been working on over the past few years is trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle by making conscious choices in what I buy and how I shop. Some of this has led to focusing on shopping local, focusing on slow/ethical/sustainable fashion, and buying less in general. In addition to that, I have been trying to reduce the amount of plastic in my life and I wanted to share the start of my sustainability journey as part of Plastic Free July.

Reusable Produce Bags, Glass Jars, Beeswax Wraps
Reusable Produce Bags, Glass Jars, Beeswax Wraps

Starting with my trips to the grocery store and markets – I think it is quite common to see people with reusable bags/totes and I am definitely one of those. I like to carry a mix of lightweight nylon bags and heavier fabric type bags (bonus points for cute designs). I have also started to use reusable produce bags, my set is from the 2020 Spring Causebox (links to my referral code) and it comes with both mesh and muslin bags in varying sizes. I feel like the muslin bags are an option for other bulk items but I am a little scared to try it in store – might need to do a test at home first. Speaking of bulk items, I am now a mason/glass jar convert and despite not being into making jams and preserves, I have several to hold bulk items like dried beans and coffee etc. A dozen jars and lids are pretty affordable, but you can use other jars (my mom likes to re-use salsa jars etc.) like the one pictured above that once held a delicious treat from a local bakery. Some stores like Bulk Barn let you bring in your own jars and fill them with goods, just remember to bring it to the front and have them tare the weight. Although in the current COVID-19 times, I would say, check with stores to see if bringing in containers is an option before hauling them with you.

Once at home, I have been trying to use beeswax wraps and silicone lids to reduce the amount of plastic wrap I use for leftovers etc. I like these options since both are fairly easy to clean and re-use. The beeswax wraps are also great for oddly shaped containers and for keeping certain foods fresh for longer.

Water Bottle, Bento Box
Water Bottle, Bento Box

It’s not as relevant right now, but when I was going into the office, one of the things I would try to avoid was using disposable/single use plastics at work. Normally, I would bring my own lunch, so I have built up a lovely collection of bento boxes and containers (including tiny mason jars), which would allow me to buy things in larger containers and portion them out, hopefully saving on the amount of plastic used/bought. I do also like to use the (mainly yogurt) containers to hold leftovers that are being popped into the freezer. Another upside to bringing a container for lunch each day is whenever I would go for dinner after work, I could pack the leftovers (if any) into my own container and take it home: 1) thereby reducing single use goods and more importantly 2) having lunch already packed in a container for the next day!

I also have a lot of metal water bottles and usually leave one at work and one (or more) at home. I like to have different sizes and weights, so that I can have an appropriate one for different activities. The heaviest ones, like the one above are for work since I don’t have to carry them to anything other than a meeting. As coffee makes my world go ’round, I keep several different cups on my desk too, making my Starbucks run single use free and cheaper. Also in my work cabinets, I leave a bowl, plate and utensils for days when I want to head over to the cafe for lunch – depending on the area, sometimes, they will let me use my own containers, which keeps my lunch eco-friendly.

Reusable Utensils and Straws
Reusable Utensils and Straws

Besides the plethora of stuff I keep at work, I also carry a few reusable items in my purse/backpack. I bought this set of cutlery from Daiso in Vancouver and I use it all the time when going for fast casual type meals. It also comes with chopsticks, but they don’t really have great grip for most Asian food, so I have the metal chopsticks for that (you just need to screw it all together). Since eliminating plastic straws seems to be the thing, I do carry a metal straw and I did try bamboo straws for a while, but found them harder to clean. I used to struggle with using the plastic bubble tea/boba straws, but my silver straws were much too small for boba. I have solved that issue by finally finding a nice metal boba straw from a bubble tea shop (The BBT Shop) in Vancouver, so I am very excited to try that out with my next bubble tea purchase. I know this seems like a lot, but everything tucks away neatly in the black pouch and takes up very little space in my bag, although lol my bag isn’t very small either. 😀

Electric Toothbrush, Toothpaste Tablets, Shampoo Bar
Electric Toothbrush, Toothpaste Tablets, Shampoo Bar

The area that I have struggled the most in reducing plastic use has been in the washroom, although I have been making some tiny steps. The first has been to move to an electric toothbrush, which means I only need to replace the heads when they wear out, so that helps a little bit. Plus, I do feel like my teeth feel cleaner compared to a manual toothbrush, but that’s just me. I have also started using toothpaste tablets (Change Toothpaste), that I picked up at a local, super eco-friendly, zero waste store (check out Re:Plenish if you’re in Edmonton!). The toothpaste tablets are very easy to use, just bite down, chew a few times and then brush away! While I would like to say I exclusively use these, I can’t because I have sensitive teeth, so I still purchase a tube of toothpaste to help with that, but using the tablets does reduce the number of toothpaste tubes I am buying (small things?). The latest thing I have started using are shampoo and conditioner bars for my hair. It keeps my shower looking tidier with fewer bottles, but also works great as there are different formulations available for different hair types. It also doesn’t “melt” as quickly as I thought, so I have managed to get more washes out of the bar than I expected. I would definitely say it’s worth a try!

As I continue on this sustainability journey, I will probably update with new things I find and try. And if you’re just starting to think about how you can include more sustainable options into your daily life, remember that many small things will add up and you don’t need do an overhaul at all once. I think gradually incorporating things is much easier to manage since it is one new habit at a time and also easier on one’s finances, especially in tough times. Please let me know if you have any tips, tricks and/or recommendations – I would love to continue incorporating new things into my daily routine! ❤

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