It’s that time of year again, Plastic-Free July, when zero-waste enthusiasts around the world grab their recycled paper and refillable pens, and plan out new ways to reduce their plastic consumption over the course of the month. The best part about the global challenge is that it isn’t only limited to the more radical environmentalists. Absolutely anyone can get involved - it’s just about setting the goals that work for your lifestyle. And with so many plastic-free alternatives out there, sometimes the hardest thing is just doing the research about which ones to buy!
That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the 5 most essential swaps for any budding environmentalist. Wherever you are in your eco-journey, or whether or not you’re taking part in Plastic-Free July, there’s something in here for you. So without further ado, let’s jump right in!
The bamboo toothbrush has seen a huge rise in popularity in recent years, with several major brands stocking their own version of the sustainable toothbrush, even commercial giant Colgate. And for good reason.
Before bamboo toothbrushes were even a thing, most of us didn’t think twice about purchasing a plastic one. But billions of other people thought the same way too and so the result was (and still is) billions of plastic toothbrushes making their way into landfill and our oceans every year. That’s when bamboo entered the mainstream market.
Bamboo is incredibly fast growing, sustainable, and not too expensive (it’s no wonder it’s being adopted by many more supermarkets and dentist offices now). If you’re after something plain and simple that gets the job done, look no further than The Eco Brush (and while you’re at it, try some of their eco floss too, it comes in the cutest jar!). Otherwise if you’re a little bit more boujee, check out this 4-pack from Kappi (use code OURTRACE10 for 10% off!). Every brush has a different symbol for each of the four seasons, so you’ll always remember to replace them on time. Kappi is also a member of 1% For The Planet.
Reusable water bottle
The second must-have for any environmentalist is a reusable bottle. When you’re out and about, it’s super easy to find yourself in a situation where you’re thirsty but there’s no fountain or cafe nearby to get a drink from. Usually the only option that remains in this case is to purchase a plastic bottle of water to satiate one’s thirst. Now before you succumb to an Evian, it’s worth learning that an estimated 1,500 plastic bottles are thrown away every second. Think about how long it took you to read that last sentence and how many bottles were unnecessarily discarded in that time. That’s why I always carry around a reusable water bottle with me.
Keeping your bottle on you at all times is a surefire way to avoid ever having to buy a plastic one again. Seriously, bring it to the office, the gym, take it with you when you go for a walk… And I mean as a secondary benefit it probably means you’ll actually drink enough water during the day - double win right? When choosing your bottle, you want to invest in something that you will love to drink from, without any of the nasties (look for BPA free). I love these trendy glass marble ones from Chuchka, or if you’re after a classic clear bottle, check out frank green. These guys also offer you the option to customise your purchase - select from different lid types, colours and monograms.
Not too long ago, the KeepCup was reserved for a very specific ‘vegan, hipster, environmentalist-type’. Now ol’ Dave from the office brings it to the cafe on the corner every morning before work to get 50c off his coffee (seriously, whoever is on the marketing team for the KeepCup deserves a raise).
If you’ve missed the memo, or you’re just scared to use a keep cup during COVID (you still can! Read all about it on our previous blog here), I just have one question - what’s keeping you from getting one now? Over 16 billion disposable coffee cups are used each year. This costs like what, $25 and you can use it for a lifetime? It’s a no brainer really.
If you’re unlikely to carry one around with you all the time, I recommend buying a couple (or just supplementing with some mugs from home) and keeping one at each of your main life stations; at work, at home, at your best friend’s house for all those times you sleep on the couch and head out for a caffeine revitaliser on a Sunday morning… Most coffee shops stock their KeepCups at the counter, otherwise shop online here.
It might not seem like it’s worth mentioning anymore, given that most major supermarkets have phased them out, but plastic bags are still commonplace in a lot of other stores - over 5 trillion plastic bags continue to be used worldwide every year.
And even though a lot of us might now have reusable bags at home on a hook by the door or in the backseat of our car, there are still a lot of situations where we can be caught without one. Now if that happens and you don’t want to be seen walking down High Street with potatoes sticking out of your jacket pocket (true story!), I’d recommend looking for a bag that folds up small so you can carry it around easily.
Reusable bags are sold pretty much everywhere; supermarkets, clothing stores, Etsy… Heck if you have a bit of time and aren’t half bad with a sewing machine you can even make your own. Otherwise we really like the range by Sisterworks - 50% of the profit from their products, including these reusable tote bags and produce bags, goes directly to the refugee and migrant women who made them. Pretty cool huh!
Now I’ll admit I didn’t really know that a safety razor was a viable alternative until last year - I thought I was sentenced to using disposables my whole life. Well luckily for you and me (and our legs!), the safety razor has become very popular in recent times. They work better than their disposable counterparts for a cleaner shave, look hella cute on your bathroom shelf, and the best part? They can prevent billions of disposable razors being thrown into landfill every year.
For those of you in NZ, my personal favourite is from CaliWoods. Each blade can be used for up to 15 shaves, then when you’ve used up 40 blades slip them into a little envelope that comes with purchase, return to sender and CaliWoods will recycle them for you! If you’re in Australia, there are some other great options here. *mini disclaimer that these razors need only the slightest touch, just make sure you give the manual a quick read before using but otherwise you’re good to go!
So there you have it folks. Invest in these five plastic-free swaps and I promise you’ll never look back. They work better, look better, AND are better for the environment - just think how much plastic you’ll avoid sending to landfill in your lifetime by using them.
For these alternatives and countless other eco-products I love to shop on Flora and Fauna, Kappi (use code OURTRACE10 for 10% off!), Tigs and Boo, and Oh Natural. They have a great selection online to make reducing your plastic consumption easy, for Plastic-Free July and beyond!