Small changes: long term effects for a little effort
About 3 months ago I found myself standing in the fruit and veg section in my local large supermarket, literally paralysed by plastic. I mean I stood there and didn't know what to do. Not a single option to buy loose jacket potatoes, nor loose mushrooms. I could get loose peppers and lemons, but no unencumbered bunches of asparagus. I managed to buy some broccoli that wasn't shrink wrapped to hell. There were no paper bags available to put loose produce in.
When I got home I stared in dismay at all the packaging.
I understand why soft produce needs protection. I don't understand why they can't be protected in cardboard instead of plastic. I definitely don't know why potatoes need to be prepacked, other than it's a ploy by the supermarkets to get us to buy more than we really need.
That afternoon I did some research and found these great little veg bags on Not on the High Street.
They are actually by a brand called A Slice of Green, and they have so many great products. I will definitely cut out the middle man and buy direct next time. Buying the bags wasn't enough though, if I couldn't use them in my local supermarket. So I did more research and found two farm shops local to me and currently I am testing them out. I've already learnt not to go on a Sunday as what's left isn't worth having. I have used these bags each time and the person at the till hasn't batted an eyelid, other than one day to tell me what a great idea they were.
I have also used them in the supermarket where I can. In Norwich I go to the market and buy my week's veg in one go; they use paper bags, and put it all in my reusable tote. The produce I have bought from Norwich market has been excellent and had no shorter lifespan than that I've bought in the supermarket. It is definitely my preferred place to shop for produce right now, and it's supporting local businesses, so what's not to love?
I appreciate that some of you won't have the time to go to separate shops, or maybe won't even have anything suitable nearby, but at least when you're in the supermarket, try and buy loose produce. A friend of mine has told me that if you like, once you have paid, you can remove all the packaging from the produce, put it in your own bags, and leave the plastic for the supermarket to dispose of. This has a great value in showing the supermarkets how you feel and how much plastic is pointless. I've found it's much more tricky to control this if you shop online.
As an aside, if you are still using new carrier bags every time you shop then what the hell is wrong with you? There is absolutely no excuse for that at all.
Currently the big supermarkets are promising the following*:
Aldi has pledged to make all of its own-label packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022.
It also aims to reduce packaging by 50 per cent by 2025 and has stopped selling 5p plastic bags from all of its stores across the UK.
The budget supermarket aims to get rid of 80 million bags from circulation every year by imposing this ban.
In September 2018, Asda pledged to remove plastic from its stores where possible, revealing it would get rid of 5p plastic bags from its stores by the end of the year.
The supermarket has also vowed to replace the polystyrene boards on all fresh pizzas with cardboard, a move it says will eliminate 178 tonnes of polystyrene.
Asda also plans to launch a zero profit re-usable coffee cup and replace 2.4m plastic drinking straws in its cafes with paper alternatives.
In January, Morrisons raised the cost of its plastic bags to 15p and introduced a new paper version in a trial aimed at reducing plastic use across the company.
Morrisons said the new bags were being launched in response to customers stating that reducing plastic is their top environmental concern.
The supermarket has also said it will work with suppliers to avoid the use of mixed polymers wherever possible.
Sainsburys has reduced its own brand packaging by 35 per cent since 2005 and revealed that nearly 40 per cent of its packaging already uses recycled materials.
Tesco (the supermarket in which I had my mini melt-down) recently announced that it is launching a trial to remove a selection of plastic-wrapped fruit and vegetables in a bid to cut down on packaging waste.
in March, the supermarket ran a month-long pilot programme at two of its Extra stores, in Watford and Swindon.The trial saw the company remove plastic packaging from 45 food products where loose alternatives are available.
The supermarket has also vowed to ensure that all paper and board used will be 100 per cent sustainable by 2025, and aims to halve packaging weight by 2025 compared to 2007.
Waitrose has said it is committed to stop using black plastic packaging for all own label goods by the end of 2019.
It also no longer sells single use plastic straws and has removed all takeaway disposable coffee cups from its shops, saving more than 52 million cups a year.
I also notice that Co-Op carrier bags are now made of the same compostable plastic that food waste bags are made from so on the rare occasion I've gotten a bag from them, I use it in my compost bin.
We need to keep the pressure on our large supermarkets though.
Two other great finds which have been making me feel better about what I can do for the planet have been Who Gives a Crap? and Splosh.
Who Gives a Crap not only sell environmentally friendly 100% recycled loo roll, made from bamboo and with zero-plastic, really cool, packaging, but they also donate a whopping 50% of their profits to charities who support clean water and enable provision of toilets to those who don't have them - that's 40% of the world's population!
There is literally nothing to lose by buying your loo roll from them and everything to gain. In their own words, "Good for your bum, great for the world". And wait until you see the cool packaging. (In case you're interested we bought the premium box which looks like that)
Splosh are my favourite find to date. Incredibly eco-friendly, home cleaning and laundry products delivered to your door in refillable bottles and boxes. How does it work? It's so easy. They have a store that sells the initial product and after that you just order the refills. If you already have your own suitable bottles and boxes, that's fine too, you can just purchase the refills and make them up and store them in your existing containers. All refills are either concentrated or complete like-for-like and there are very clear instructions on how to make them up (e.g. the washing up liquid is concentrate, and you dilute it with water).
But how do they send you the refills? This is the clever bit. They come in pouches through the post in letterbox size packaging so you don't even need to be there to receive them. These pouches aren't normally easily recyclable, but with each refill you buy, you get a label and when you have 8 empty pouches, you simply post them back to Splosh using the prepaid label and one of their boxes and they recycle them themselves. Genius. They have also recently started selling shower gel, so hopefully their range will soon extend further.
I have tried the washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets and fabric softener for which I already had my own containers and the laundry detergent, kitchen cleaner, bathroom cleaner and toilet bowl cleaner that I bought in the reusable bottles as I didn't have anything suitable to use. I looked into buying my own glass bottles but they were more expensive and Splosh will replace bottles purchased from them at anytime in the future should they become unusable. I have been really impressed with the products I've tried and honestly can't tell the difference between those and my old products. I also have a referral code for Splosh which can get you 15% off your first purchase (this is not an ad or a gift, it's a code that all their new customers can access to pass on to friends, so once you shop with them you will be able to share a code with your friends too!)
It might take a little more organisation to use these sites (obvs, you don't want to run out of loo roll, but WGAC even have that covered by making sure the last few toilet rolls tell you it's time to order more!) but let's face it, it's just a couple of the clicks on the internet - and Splosh deliver super quick.
I've tried a couple of things that haven't worked out - I like those plastic body puff things you use in the shower. I tried one of the natural ones and it was not good, like scrubbing at my skin with a crap flannel like your mum used to do, only worse. In fact I think that a flannel would be better and of course you can wash one of those. I also haven't found a shampoo bar that doesn't make my hair feel like straw. However, when I look at the efforts I *am* making, (we are making obvs as Ian is involved in all of this!) I feel confident that I am trying my best. And to be honest, that's all anyone can do. None of us is perfect, but we can all try our best, and remember this from "Earth is Hiring"
Don't forget to let me know via Facebook and Instagram what changes you're making and also, contact me if you'd like the code for Splosh
*Source: The Independent 28.3.19
I have also linked to each supermarket's individual pledge pages.