5 Things I Learnt From Reducing My Plastic Use

30 June 2018

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Our planet's need for us, its inhabitants, to reduce our plastic use is something that's been on my radar for a while but (being totally honest) it isn't something I'd actively looked into until April of this year. I was staying at my boyfriend's house and it struck me how different the recycling facilities where we live are - his family compost coffee grounds, get their milk delivered in glass bottles and recycle everything from teabags to potato peelings and we... well, we've got a black bin and a green bin! It made me wonder why our area of the UK isn't as well-equipped to deal with our waste as his, and after emailing my local council about the issue I started researching other ways I could help and do my bit.

The following month, I received an email from BRITA asking if I'd like to take part in a challenge where I ditched single-use plastic for a week/weekend. I'm so glad they did as it was an eye-opening experience, and I thought I'd share my #SwapForGood findings with you (in classic Meg Says style, so get ready for some verbs!)

The initial step is to evaluate: how much single-use plastic do you consume in a week? I kept an eye on how much I was getting through and was really surprised at just how prevalent plastic is. It's everywhere which can feel quite overwhelming, but a good tip is to remember that every little helps - starting to make changes and educate yourself is far better than staying the same. I found that a lot of the single-use plastic I use is actually down to convenience rather than necessity (for example, buying coffee in takeaway cups) and I was excited to see where I could improve and how to change my ways for the better.

When it comes to food shopping, I usually order online. Living in the countryside (an hour's round trip from the nearest store) and being chronically ill means that it's the easiest option for me, but I have noticed the large amount of unnecessary packaging that comes along with it - even bananas, a food that literally comes pre-packaged by nature, are in an unrecyclable bag. I went to the shop in the search of single-use plastic free food, and my findings were interesting! The first thing that struck me was that it isn't the easiest thing to do a single-use plastic free food shop in a supermarket but there are ways around it, like picking loose fruit and vegetables (without putting them in one of those little plastic bags) over pre-packaged and opting for food in brown paper bags where possible. 

After walking round on my own and seeing which foods were harder (meat, fish, snacks) and which were easier (fruit, veg, fresh bread) I asked an employee for advice, and they were really helpful! She told me that if you're purchasing food from the deli counter you can bring your own Tupperware containers to fill up, and also informed me that a lot of teabags contain plastic. I had no idea and it made me think of the food bin in my boyfriend's kitchen - even though the teabags in there get recycled, the polypropylene in them can lead to plastic pollution. As a result, I bought biodegradable Teapigs Everyday Brew.

I know my journey with consuming less plastic will be a lifelong one where I'll constantly be learning new things, but after my first foray into more environmentally friendly shopping I'd say: go local where possible (we buy our eggs and lots of our vegetables from farmers), ask your supermarket whether they have any re-filling schemes (e.g. olive oil on tap), always take your own hessian bag and buy in bulk to save packaging as well as money.

Now that I know the basics of a single-use plastic free food shop I'm all good when I'm working from home - I've got my Teapigs cuppa that tastes even better because I've used filtered water, more on that later - and I need to be more eco-conscious when I'm out and about. I didn't go to London for events as planned over the weekend as I had a to-do list as long as my arm, but if I had I can tell you how it would've gone plastic-wise: a meal deal at the train station and maybe a coffee on the way to Will's. That's a sandwich wrapper, crisp packet, water bottle and takeaway cup - all are single-use and get 'thrown away', which makes me feel really uneasy now that I'm learning about plastic pollution.

From now on I won't be purchasing any food or drink on the go packaged in single-use plastic wherever possible and instead, I'll be planning ahead by taking my own reusable bottle and packing lunch or snacks too. My BRITA Fill & Go Vital Bottle fits perfectly in my handbag (video demonstration here) and has a high-tech filtration system which means cleaner, fresher water that saves a. you money and b. the planet. My London-dwelling best friend only buys bottled water as he doesn't like the taste of tap, so I'll be introducing him to this innovative bottle ASAP. It comes in cute colours too - anyone surprised mine's pink?

The most important thing I've learnt from taking part in BRITA's challenge is that things need to change. It gave me the push I needed to actually do some research, and the reality is that the way we're currently producing and consuming plastic is damaging and unsustainable. It doesn't seem like a 'big deal' to buy some water, but the process of producing it creates greenhouse gases which contribute towards climate change and the actual bottle itself will remain on Earth for hundreds if not thousands of years. 

The BRITA Style Jug is a more sustainable and cost-effective alternative to bottled water, and as we've already covered my love for a good cup of tea in this post I need to tell you about my new discovery - this makes a GREAT cup of tea! Tap water in the UK comes on a scale from soft, moderately soft, slightly hard, moderately hard, hard and very hard, and I live in a 'very hard' area - this means our kettle is full of limescale and my brews, as a result, often have scales on top. My mate Josh calls it 'tea scum' and if that doesn't tell you that it's not the most pleasant thing then I don't know what does, so I'm delighted be able to fill my kettle with beautiful filtered water from my BRITA jug and eliminate that issue. As well as being more budget-friendly and ideal for cooking thanks to the way it reduces impurities that affect your water's taste, it also releases the full flavour of tea and coffee. 

I've got a lot more to learn, and that excites me - I think it's common amongst online creators to worry that you don't know enough about a subject or that you'll be criticised for not being 'perfect', but that shouldn't put us off sharing our experiences. It's also easy to think 'I'm only one person, it won't make any difference', but the truth is that it can and it will. When you buy an item you're contributing towards a demand for more of that item to be produced, and this week has taught me that consuming comes with a responsibility and the smallest changes can create positive ripple effects. We got this!

Learn more about BRITA and their work with the Marine Conservation Society here, and do let me know if you've tried any of their products for yourself. I'd also highly recommend checking out my friend Zanna, as she's a great example of someone who discusses the effects of plastic on our world in a really honest and welcoming way.

This post is sponsored by BRITA. All opinions and words are 100% my own and honest. Affiliate links have not been used. For more information, please see my disclaimer here

Photos by Megan Duffield Photography

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