The Eco Warrior Starter Kit
Updated: Apr 3
A plastic planet
Plastic is literally everywhere. Our landscapes, our oceans, our air and our drinking water.
We have become so used to comfortably throwing things “away”, without considering where “away” actually is. Every single piece of plastic that we have ever used in our lifetime still exists somewhere on our planet as it takes hundreds of years to break down.
The only advantage that using single-use plastic products for a regular person is convenience.
Plastic bottles or bags are widely available, we use them once and then they’ve served their purpose. In fact, about 50% of the plastic we are using are things that we use once and then throw away.
Most of the beaches I’ve been to have had plastic items washed onto them and I think we’ve all seen the pictures of wildlife that has choked on or swallowed too much plastic and died.
Of course, most efforts need to come from big corporations, but imagine if everyone believed their actions mattered and would start being more mindful about their consumption.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” and all that, right? 😊
I’ve put together a list of everyday-items that could easily be switched or implemented into your lifestyle. I didn’t start doing all of it at the same time and there is still much more that I want to change about my habits, but I thought a “Starter Kit” might be helpful for anyone that is thinking of reducing their plastic.
Here we go!
More than 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes are used worldwide every year. Most of them are manufactured with non-recyclable hard plastic out of crude oil. So they’re not only adding to the plastic problem, but also to the climate crisis.
Luckily, someone came up with bamboo toothbrushes! Bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials, because it grows fast (up to a meter a day), doesn’t require fertiliser and biodegrades.
I haven’t seen bamboo toothbrushes in a lot of mainstream supermarkets, but most plastic-free or health shops (like Planet Organic, Whole Foods, etc) have a selection, as well as them being widely available online.
2) Tote Bag
Worldwide shoppers use approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags every year. When was the last time you went for a walk and didn’t come across a plastic bag floating around somewhere? For me, here in London, there’s always a few – be it stuck in a tree, floating on the street, carelessly thrown away on a patch of grass or in the river.
Bringing a tote bag every time I go out took a while to make it a habit.
I would stop by the supermarket after work and realise I didn’t have anywhere to put my groceries, so I stuffed it all in my handbag and/or carried it in my arms. I wouldn’t allow myself to get a plastic bag and eventually I started remembering every time I left the house. Now I always have at least one bag stuffed in my hand bag and am always prepared.
I love tote bags, because you can get one with any statement, picture or quote. You can even personalize them or decorate them yourself.
I’ve got a wide selection at home now – from branded tote bags, to painted bags by local artists, to basic supermarket ones. They are available anywhere now, I think every supermarket I go to has some displayed, so whether you go for one of those or one with a catchy quote, the choices are endless.
3) Reusable Water Bottle
One million plastic bottles per minute. That’s how many bottles are bought worldwide. The majority of these is not recycled and ends up in landfill, where it will stay for hundreds of years.
Luckily free filtered water-refill stations are becoming widely available – here in London there is over 2,500 of them and you can even get an app to find out where the closest one to you is.
I used to really hate the taste of London tap water and I know that’s an issue for many. Back in those days I just added Baobab (a superfood packed with Vitamin C) powder to my water, which gives it a citrus-y taste.
When I’m in countries where it is not recommended to drink the tap water and I can’t get around buying plastic bottled water, I try and at least minimize the plastic, by buying big bottles that I can then fill into my reusable one.
4) Reusable Coffee Cup
Did you know that the standard takeaway cups we get at pretty much every coffee shop are non-recyclable? They are lined with a plastic film to keep the hot drink from leaking and that means every single time we are getting a coffee to-go, the cup is eventually thrown into landfill, where it slowly breaks down into microplastic to come back and haunt us.
4 billion cups are thrown away annually from Starbucks alone.
I usually get a coffee every time before I start work and – I did the math – would go through more than 1000 cups in 10 years. Like the tote bag, this one took a while to make into a habit. I’d leave the house, realize I left my KeepCup at home and didn’t allow myself to get coffee. Eventually I started remembering and now it’s practically always with me.
Keys? -Check. Phone? -Check. Wallet? -Check. KeepCup? – Always Check.
What' also great about those KeepCups in particular, is that you can reorder parts, when yours break or you lose it. I lost the cup (without the lid) at a festival and was able to reorder both the glass and the cork parts.
5) Glass or Metal Straws
Have you seen that video of the little turtle that has a straw stuck in her nostrils? Imagine how many must be out there that aren’t lucky enough to have compassionate humans around to help them.
A study estimates that about 8.3 billion straws pollute the world’s beaches.
And I know many restaurants and bars, especially here in London, have now phased out plastic straws and introduced paper version.
Of course, this is great, but you know what’s even better? (Obviously not using one at all, but if you’re like me and just really are a sucker for straws, then - ) Bringing your own straw with you!
This doesn’t work every time, sometimes I forget to say that I don’t need a straw or the waiter/waitress forgets to pass it on to the barkeeper, but often enough.
I have a metal straw that was part of a cutlery set (another useful item to have, especially if you love food markets) and there’s so many options now – even collapsible ones that you can put on your key ring!
Additionally to those items, I am now way more aware of what I’m buying and especially try to avoid fruit and vegetables that are wrapped in plastic. This is not always possible, sometimes the plastically wrapped broccoli is more than 1£ cheaper than the loose one and I can’t always go for the more expensive option.
Another great option are bulk shops, where you can bring your own containers and just fill those up, which is, if bought in large quantities, even cheaper than getting small packages.
One of these shops (not pictured) is quite close to where I live and when it opened I got really excited and motivated to do my shopping there, until I paid 17£ for filling up my 1,5l laundry detergent bottle.
So I get how only a small percentage of the population can do their regular shopping at places like that, but I think, as always, being aware of what we buy and its impact is a step in the right direction.
For all you fellow Londoners, these are the shops where i get most of my plastic-free needs:
https://greenerhabits.com/ (based in East London, but also available online)
https://thesourcebulkfoods.co.uk/ (originally from Australia, now has 2 stores in London)