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Plastic Free July: My 5-point beginners' guide to cutting plastic and saving money

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The Indie's GreenWatch correspondent, Louise Tennekoon, writes about the global environment from a local perspective...

Louise Tennekoon's son Seb, 5, and daughter Saffron, 8, centre, with friends at Northgate Primary School (13847309)
Louise Tennekoon's son Seb, 5, and daughter Saffron, 8, centre, with friends at Northgate Primary School (13847309)

There’s a growing global movement to cut our use of plastics. The annual statistics are staggering: A trillion single-use plastic bags, enough bubble wrap to wrap around the equator 10 times, eight million tonnes of plastics ending up in the oceans.

But it seems the tide is turning and this week I’ve been inspired by Plastic Free July, a global movement which in 2018 saw 120 million people in 177 countries pledging to reduce their use of plastics. They have a great website, www.plasticfreejuly.org, packed full of ideas and advice.

In the spirit of Plastic Free July, here is my beginners’ guide to cutting your use of plastic (and saving money) today.

1. Use a refillable bottle and carry a reusable coffee cup

Pop a reusable, plastic-free bottle in your bag when you're out and about. Costa Coffee, Greggs and Prontaprint are just a few of the places in town that have pledged to refill your water bottle for free. When you're away from home, download a free app such as Tap or Refill to locate your nearest refill point.

Try a folding reusable coffee cup to save space in your bag. The StoJo is leakproof, collapsible and made from recyclable materials. It comes in bright colours and goes in the dishwasher. Stockists include John Lewis and Robert Dyas.

2. Remember your reusable shopping bag

Not just for groceries, but for all shopping, everywhere.

3. Try a solid shampoo bar

The benefits: natural ingredients, recyclable packaging, great value (super-concentrated), they take up less room on the bathroom shelf and you can keep them in your hand luggage (in a nifty travel tin, of course) when you fly.

Your hair may take a week or two to adapt and you will need a soap dish with drainage to keep them looking good.

Friendly Soap’s lavender and geranium shampoo bar smells wonderful and is great value at less than £3. Check out www.friendlysoap.co.uk.

4. Make your own lunch and pack it in a reusable wrap

According to eco charity Hubbub, lunch on the go generates 10.5 billion items of packaging waste in the UK and costs us £9.9 billion more than if we made lunch at home! So make your own sandwiches, but instead of clingfilm or foil, how about a pretty, reusable wrap?

Keep Leaf reusable food wraps are made from printed cotton with a water resistant liner. Just pop in your sandwich, fold it up and secure with Velcro. When unfolded, it doubles as a plate and can be washed in the dishwasher or washing machine. Featuring funky, colourful designs, they are made by a women’s co-operative in India. Everybody wins. From www.greentulip.co.uk.

5. Ditch the plastic pan scrub

I’d never really stopped to think about the plastic in my pan scrub until I started looking at eco-alternatives, which include coconut or cactus fibre brushes. I’m switching to a loofah (not a sea creature, as I thought, but a fruit that’s part of the cucumber family) as it’s durable, grows readily and is biodegradable.

Of course, this is just scratching the surface of the plastic mountain that underpins our lives.

For lots of local inspiration and ideas, check out the Plastic Free Bishop’s Stortford group on Facebook, which also provides lots of fabulous info about where to recycle things that can’t go in your blue bin. And do join in the conversation online by sharing your own tips.

This week’s swap

My washing machine is on most days and I’ve recently started using Soapnuts in place of laundry liquid.

These wrinkly brown berries are harvested from a tree that’s part of the lychee family – each tree produces fruit for around 90 years, so it’s pretty sustainable.

They are organic, non-toxic, vegan and free of any chemicals.

You simply pop a handful of soap nuts in a little bag and stick it in with your wash.

I was pretty sceptical at first, but I’m really happy with the results and I love the fact that after four or five washes I can just throw them on the garden to biodegrade.

I also love the price (I get around 240 washes for less than a tenner) and, best of all, there’s no yucky scum on my washing machine, sparing me my least favourite cleaning job.

The family's verdict on Soapnuts? The kids like them as they're a bit weird and kind of cool, and Dad hasn't noticed, which can only mean they are ok.

Visit www.soapnuts.co.uk.

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