Ditching Plastic – 5 Super Easy Alternatives

I saw an argument erupt on Twitter the other day where a man claimed it wasn’t his country polluting the world with plastic so it “wasn’t his problem”. He was right, technically it isn’t his problem, he’s just one individual living in a country not in the top 5 for plastic consumption or waste. So when (or how) did we get to the point as human beings where something affecting our planet, our eco-system, our animals, our environment, even ourselves, is no longer our problem?

Only one straw
http://www.strawnomore.org – A campaign started by 10 year old Molly.

I agree living a plastic-free life isn’t easy. I myself do not lead a 100% plastic-free life. Currently, it’s more of a “plastic-reducing” one.

I also think it’s difficult for people to feel they’re helping, myself included when they have others telling them that they’re not doing enough. Don’t give up on trying to be environmentally friendly if you have to use a straw for medical reasons, don’t give up if you can’t afford biodegradable wipes. Reduce harm as much as you can and just do your best. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing! We have the power to make a difference. 

So, with it being #plasticfreejuly I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to share 5 super easy plastic alternative swaps* I’ve recently made, and ones I really recommend to others looking to reduce their plastic consumption. I hope you all enjoy my photos – I’m pretty confident nobody saw me snapping a photo of a toothbrush in the grass!

1. Bamboo Toothbrush

Probably the most reluctant of my changes and I have no idea why! I’d been debating whether to take the bamboo plunge for a while but the idea of a wooden toothbrush just seemed weird, I finally made the swap when the facts could no longer be ignored.

In the United States alone it is estimated that between 850 million to over a billion of the plastic pests are dumped in landfill every single year. That represents more than 24 million kilograms of waste! Traditional brushes (which account for 99% of the market)  are made from a combination of plastic and rubber, nylon for the bristles and plastic/cardboard for the packaging.

DSC04639.JPG

My bamboo toothbrush was purchased from https://www.zero-waste-club.com/ and retails for £6.99 (+ £1.99 UK shipping) it is slightly more expensive because the head is replaceable, but they have non-replaceable ones too, I chose replaceable because there’s less to throw away, it uses less bamboo and you save money in the long run!

The brushes from Zero Waste Club are 100% biodegradable and made from sustainable bamboo.

Needless to say, I definitely recommend making the switch to a bamboo toothbrush. It can feel strange to begin with, but I got used to the feeling quickly. I will never go back to using a plastic one again!

2. Tote bags

Perhaps the easiest of all plastic swaps! I’ve been using reusable canvas tote bags for years now. They’re pretty self-explanatory so I won’t go into tons of detail, but you can literally buy these anywhere and in all sorts of cool designs. I picked this one up from my recent trip to Monkey World in Dorset.

Bag

Of the 160,000 plastic bags used globally every second – that’s 5 trillion a year and enough to fit around the whole world 7 times every hour, only 1 to 3% are recycled. Plastic items can take up to 1000 years to decompose, meaning the 10% of bags in our oceans will be floating around for a long time.

3. Reusable cotton pads

My newest plastic free purchase was these reusable organic cotton pads, perfect for removing makeup or applying facial toner, these ones come with a super cute drawstring cotton wash bag too!

Unlike the cotton pads I had been purchasing from the supermarket, these are 100% plastic free – a super simple but effective swap for anyone looking to decrease their plastic consumption.

DSC04681.jpg

These retail at £8.50 for regular or £10.00 for organic cotton (+ £2.00 shipping to the UK),  have 12 pads in a bag and measure 8cm round. I brought them here https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/576187431/reusable-cotton-pads-12-makeup-remover?ref=shop_home_active_3

4. Reusable coffee cup

Another super easy change! Most people can barely get through the day without regular caffeine intake, myself included. Humans love coffee – it’s a survival tool. Except for me, I hate coffee. Tea or hot chocolate for me, please!

Anywho… Did you know the UK throws away around 7 million disposable coffee cups a day, totalling 2.5 billion a year? Every day half a million of these cups end up as litter along our roadsides, in our parks and on our beaches. Less than 1% are recycled. The cups that do make it to the bin, are either incinerated, exported or sent to landfill.

Half a trillion disposable cups are manufactured annually around the world, that’s over 70 cups for every person on the planet.

In the UK some coffee shops are offering customers discounts when they bring their own reusable cup into a store. Pret A Manger offers a 50p discount, while Starbucks and Costa are offering 25p.

DSC04670.JPG

I brought my cup from https://ecoffeecup.eco/ for a price of £8.95 for 340ml ( + £3.95 or £5.95 UK shipping) I think this is a super reasonable price considering how expensive some alternatives are on the market!

Ecoffee cups are made with natural bamboo fibre, and they are BPA and phthalate free. They’re light, comfortable to hold, sturdy and look stylish but can get very hot! So be aware… Regardless I would still recommend grabbing yourself one.

5. Bamboo straws

Plastic straws end up in our oceans for a few reasons, usually they are either 1) littered, 2) disposed of incorrectly or 3) blown out of bins or away from landfill sites because they are so lightweight. It is estimated that 71% of seabirds have consumed plastic products – by 2050 the figure is expected to rise to 99%. Plastic found inside birds include everything from bags and bottle caps to synthetic fibres from clothing and lighters. Albatross chicks, a pilot whale and a turtle with a straw stuck up its nostril, all these animals have been victims of plastic pollution in some way.

The UK throws away 8.5 billion straws every year, enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall a thousand times over. I’ve been there. It’s a big building. The Americans use 500 million every single day! Compared to the plastic bags, that’s enough straws to circle around the planet 2.5 times daily.

There a few alternatives to plastic straws already on the market including glass, metal, silicone and paper, but I chose to purchase a pair of bamboo ones because they are reusable and biodegradable.

Recently I read an article regarding plastic straw bans negatively affecting people with disabilities, and while people might be quick to recommend alternatives such as metal or paper, they can be seriously problematic. It was an educational read and I can 100% understand why people rely on them, why alternatives might not work and why some may consider a plastic-free life a “luxury lifestyle”. Forcing people to chose between the environment and their health is no doubt incredibly selfish, so more work needs to be done here to find a solution that works for everybody.

Bamboo

For those interested, my straws were purchased from https://www.zero-waste-club.com/plasticfreeshop/reusablebamboostraw for the price of £2.99 a pair (+ £1.99 UK shipping)

* Everyone of these products was purchased by myself, with my own money. All opinions are genuine and my own!

So, have my plastic swaps inspired you to make the change?

What single-use plastic products are you skipping this Plastic Free July? 

Have you already made a swap and can recommend another product for me to try?

Do you consider a plastic-free or plastic-reducing life as “luxury”?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Advertisements

The Other Ivory

The ivory trade – every year it’s estimated to be worth £17bn and responsible for the slaughter of 20,000 elephants. It’s an epidemic never far from my mind or any other animal rights campaigner for that matter.

In April 2018 the UK government announced the trade of items made from ivory to be banned, in what the environment secretary Michael Gove claimed to be “one of the toughest in the world.” 

The ban, which is still to be signed into law, comes after 85% of the public supported the proposed act. I’m concerned why the other 15% said otherwise. Many charities praised the move, WWF chief executive Tanya Steel even claimed the UK stance made it a ”global leader in tackling this bloody trade”.

Media attention, charity demands and public outcry brought forwards the act to further protect elephants from poaching, but as of yet, there is no UK wide ban that protects the other victims of this cruel industry, just talk between the government to extend the proposed ban to all other ivory-bearing creatures.

So, what exactly is ivory and who are the other animals affected by this despicable business?

– TOOTH AND BONE –

To put it simply, ivory is the teeth or tusks of animals – most commonly canine teeth, but in elephants, they are actually elongated incisors. Ivory is hard, dense, and made of dentine – a bony tissue, and wrapped in enamel. Depending on the animal, tusks serve many purposes such as digging, gathering food, defence and combat, giving the animals that have them an evolutionary advantage.

Elephant ivory is the most common form but ivory from other species has also been used for centuries to make a huge range of items, everything from false teeth, piano keys, and religious objects, to buttons and art.

– NARWHAL –

Dubbed for centuries as the “unicorn of the sea”, the unmistakable, spiralled tusk of the mysterious narwhal caused quite the stir among the Europeans, particularly monarchs, while the Arctic was still mostly unexplored.

Queen Elizabeth I is said to have spent £10,000 on one – equivalent roughly to £1.5m in today’s money. Now the average price for a tusk can vary drastically from between £3,000 to £12,000, while rare double tusks can fetch as much as £25,000.

The tusk, no longer considered that of a unicorn, is actually a protruding canine tooth – most commonly found on males. The tusk which has a sensory capability and up to 10 million nerve endings inside, can grow up to 10 feet long!

The IUCN does not consider the narwhal, a relative of the white beluga whale, to be at immediate risk; therefore they are currently listed as “least concern”. However, the impact of hunting and changes in their natural environment means thing could go south. And quickly.

Native Inuit permitted under a Canadian and Greenland permit, have hunted these whales as a source of food and income for centuries. A Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) study found that shops in Japan were selling narwhal tusks as a tonic to treat fever, measles and other diseases, with shop prices varying from £421£724 for 100g.

Ultimately the WWF and TRAFFIC concluded from a 2015 survey, that the effects of climate change mean the hunting of narwhal needs to be monitored and regulated more precisely, but they didn’t consider the current international trade to be a threat to the survival of the species today.

1c14018b9c4f9aa0ec57ff570334db4f_XL.jpg
Narwhal

 

– WARTHOG –

Unlike elephants, the tusks of a warthog are less sought after. The common warthog is identifiable by two pairs of tusks or canine teeth, that protrude from the mouth and curve upwards. The lower pair, far smaller than the upper, become razor sharp because they rub against the upper pair every time the mouth opens or closes.

The tusks that grow constantly throughout the animals lives are used for digging, for combat with other hogs and in defence against predators.

The upper set of tusks are the most common form of warthog ivory, typically being carved and sold to tourists in and around east and southern Africa.

warthog-1536875_1920
Common warthog

The common warthog is currently listed as “least concern” on the IUCN red list.

– WALRUS –

With tusks that can grow as long as 39 inches in males, walrus ivory comes from two modified canine teeth located in the upper jaw, just like the warthog.

The killing of these animals is illegal under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act – except for Alaskan natives, who hunt to eat them and use their tusks, bones and hides for traditional purposes, within restrictions by countries with territories in the Arctic. The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) believes an average of 5,406 animals were hunted from 2006 07 to 2010 11, which “equates to less than 3% and 4% of the estimated global populations of each subspecies”.

pacific-walrus-913796_1920.jpg
Pacific walrus

The Pacific walrus is currently listed as “data deficient” on the IUCN red list, whereas the Atlantic walrus is listed as “near threatened”.

– HIPPOPOTAMUS-

Hippopotamus teeth ivory is the second most common type of ivory. It is cheaper than that of elephants, easier to smuggle and extremely durable. The huge canines grow throughout their lives and can reach 60cm in length, their teeth also don’t yellow with age, unlike other ivories, meaning they are often valued higher on the market.

Unregulated hunting of not only their teeth but bones and skin too, coupled with habitat loss and increased human-hippo conflict have lead to a decline in hippo numbers in Africa. At current rates, of just 115,000130,000 across 29 African states, these animals could disappear within a century. While researching I found out this number represents little more than a quarter of Africa’s 400,000 elephant population, quite shocking when you think about it!

hippo-783522_1920.jpg
Hippopotamus

The hippotamus is currently listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN red list.

– SPERM WHALE –

The sperm whale is the largest of toothed whales and the largest of all toothed predators. Mature males average 52ft in length but some can reach as much as 67ft, with the head accounting for onethird of the animal’s whole length. Their sheer size means they have few natural predators, although calves and weakened individual can succumb to orca attacks.

Over the years orcas have also been a source of ivory – although nowadays it is rare for both species to be hunted in this way. Instead, sperm whales are typically hunted as food and they are now considered as “vulnerable” on the red list. In the days of the ”whaling era” (which occurred between the 17th and 20th centuries) it is believed as many as 1,000,000 of these whales were killed, poached for their blubber, oil and meat.

Orca, on the other hand, have not been massively hunted, however, they are still killed for the meat, skin, and internal organs. Capture for entertainment and habitat pollution is considered to be two big threats that endanger this species. As of 2017, they are listed as “data deficient” by the IUCN, something I was surprised to read.

wal-1632159_1920.jpg
Sperm whale