Plastic-free tips for busy families

There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans. Not only does this pollute our seas, it kills our wildlife, destroys our beautiful natural habitats and puts toxins into our food.

Plastics break down into micro plastics and toxic chemicals, polluting our water, crops and even the air we breathe.

You’ll be forgiven for being completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of messaging in social and news media about the issues caused by plastic pollution. And sometimes it feels just impossible to avoid the bags, straws and single use packaging thrust on us by supermarkets and the food industry.

But its not all doom and gloom!

Running a busy family home creates enough hard work, so let this article make the plastic free option easy for you and everyone at home.

Here are the six easiest and most impactful ways you can reduce your family’s plastic usage. If you do nothing else to avoid single use plastics, do this!

1. Always carry a tote bag in your handbag or pocket

Believe it or not, but plastic bags were actually invented to save the planet.  Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin created them in 1959 as an alternative to paper bags, which were considered bad for the environment because they resulted in forests being chopped down. Being significantly stronger than paper bags, plastic bags could be used over and over again. Thulin himself would would always carry a plastic bag in his pocket. In theory, a great idea! In practise, the convenience generation drove plastic bags to become one of the many plastic items used only once, then carelessly thrown away.

These days, we are more clued up and, since the major supermarkets stopped providing free plastic shopping bags to customers, we have become more accustomed bringing our own shopping bags (ironically, exactly what Thulin intended the plastic bag to be used for).

However, even the most committed plastic free warrior has been caught out at the checkout from time to time.

Avoid wobbling back to your car with armfuls of loose veg with this top tip.

We’re all liable to forgetting our reusable tote, produce bags or reused plastic bag from time to time. If you spend five minutes filling your pockets, bags and car with your reusable totes then, you can be part of the war on waste.

Australians use over 9.7 billion single-use plastic bags annually which take from 20-1000 years to degrade, and the micro plastics and toxic chemicals released will pollute the environment if these bags don’t make it to landfill. So with a bag in every pocket you won’t get caught out, and you can pop your plastic free shop in an equally green bag.

Try these great options, perfectly formed to fit into your pocket or handbag:

Never again forget your shopping bag, with this one from Save Planet A. This cool & lightweight shopping tote bag is made out of Recycled plastic bottles that would have been otherwise destined for landfill. They also are incredibly compact, folding up into a pouch, super strong & super convenient to carry so you can always have them with you. 

Compact and small enough to fit into your purse, this Oatmeal cotton string shopping bag from E-string Bags is the perfect accessory. Lightweight yet strong, Estring Cotton Bags are a classic natural alternative for shopping at your local markets and shops. Available with short and long handles.

2. Pick lunchboxes over pre-packaged food.

Preparation is key when it comes to avoiding single use packaging. Choose snack boxes, insulated canteen or lunch bags to go plastic free in style. There are a range of sizes for every lunchbox snack item. Bringing your own lunch to work means you won’t have to buy a packaged option at break time. Packing snacks in the car or your bag, means snacking on the go without plastic wherever your busy day takes you.

3. Find a reusable bottle or flask that will keep you beverage hot or cold.

You can take your coffee to go without waste and avoid the dreaded PBA bottles. Put a bottle in each of your kids schoolbags! Having a insulated bottle or flask in your bag means you can bring healthy drinks with you everywhere with no toxic chemicals leaching into them. Lots of your local cafes will do a discount on a hot drink if you bring your reusable flask too!

Try these great options of insulated water bottles:

The 1l Stainless Steel Water Bottle by Better Than is double-wall insulated so it keeps your liquids ice cold or steeping hot. It holds 1 litre, so you only need to fill it twice to hit your recommended daily water intake or can fill it with tea for your next picnic. The stylish, minimalist design makes it perfect for everyone in the family. Timeless and durable, is your water bottle Better Than?

New York design company S’well has taken the insulated bottle market and tipped it upside down! Sexiness and insulated thermo bottles are not typically used in the same breath, until now. Designed for performance, S’well thermo bottles will keep cold drinks cold for 24 hours and hot ones hot for 12 – and they look great while they do it. Go incognito with S’well’s Metallic Camo collection. 

4. Go for bar-soaps in the bathroom

A myriad of plastic personal hygiene products are thrown at us by the beauty industry, but one bar beats all in this no plastic tip. If you haven’t yet made the switch to a plastic free shower routine, bar soap should be your first port of call.

Plastic dispensers for hand soap, shower gel bottles and more can be swapped for one of our delicious smelling soaps. With multiple uses and eco-friendly packaging, the humble bar soap can reduce so much of your household’s bathroom waste with one swap.

5. Make your next toothbrush a bamboo one

Our bamboo or bio brushes save plastic from heading to landfill and can be composted. Grab one for every member of the family as they come in kids sizes too.

If the rest of your oral care routine contains plastic, then this swap can be the easy first step towards a plastic free future. TerraCycle has teamed up with Colgate in Australia and now recycle your plastic oral care waste to make your swap as efficient as possible. Check out the TerraCycle website to see where to send your family’s old plastic brushes for recycling.

Our last tip is one of the biggest offenders in the plastic waste world…

6. Switch baby wipes for reusable or (truly) biodegradable options

Baby wipes are clogging our sewers, lining our riverbeds and releasing micro plastics into the water. But dayum! They are convenient for busy families

Don’t worry… whoever changes nappies, wipes noses, removes makeup and cleans surfaces in your house can put a stop to the unnecessary plastic pollution caused by baby wipes with these nifty tools.

These Ecoriginals Eco Baby Wipes (70 Pack) are hypoallergenic and biodegradable, and have thick, embossed sheets for easier wiping. Their natural ingredients include soothing chamomile, cucumber and green tea extracts. Plus, they’re free of alcohol, fragrances, phthalates and parabens. (Just don’t flush them down the toilet!)

Earth Tribe’s super luxurious Reusable Bamboo Cotton Face And Baby Wipes are a great alternative to disposable face and baby wipes. They’re made of super soft bamboo cotton fabric and the edges serged for durability and to prevent fraying. With natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, these wipes are great for delicate baby skin and sensitive faces.

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Jess Marais

I am passionate about all things sustainability, studying BSC Sustainability and Environmental Management at university in the UK, participating in climate activism and blogging about natural healing. I want share what I’ve learned throughout my ongoing journey towards living more lightly, especially on a student budget. I'm particularly passionate about minimalism, toxin free self care and boycotting fast fashion. When I'm not writing I love long hill walks with my dog Alfie, browsing second hand clothes stores/apps and general university life.

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