Going Plastic Free! Conscious consumption: from the cradle to the grave…

So one of the guiding principles of this whole “living well” thing I am attempting is to do, is to really become conscious about what I buy and what I use – all the “stuff” that I bring into the house, carry with me or otherwise make mine. It’s a really tangled knot once you start to unpick it, but I could feel instinctively that this is an important element to my sense of wellbeing, and the wellbeing of the world at large.

For a long time I have given a fair amount of thought to where things come from that I consume. I try to buy bathroom and beauty products that are not tested on animals, that contain natural ingredients, and don’t included SLS’s, parabens etc. I have been a vegetarian most of my adult life because I cannot disassociate the meat from the animal and where it comes from. I try to buy organic food where I can afford it, or at least to shop from local farm gates for fruits and vegetables. I try to use natural cleaning products that don’t create pollution in the house or in the waterways. I try to buy most of my furniture from ebay or gumtree so I know more trees are not being cut down for new tables and sideboards… More recently avoiding palm oil has become a priority too. In general I aim for natural, local, cruelty free, handmade or recycled where I can. But I also live a busy western lifestyle with two young children and a small income. I don’t have the luxury of spending a lot of money for artisan items, but I do have the privilege of an education and the choice afforded most westerners to exercise our rights as consumers and choose what we want to spend our money on.

So while I have thought a lot about where things come from, I have not considered so much where they end up… Sure, like most people I try to recycle as much as possible, but the “reducing” part of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” equation has not really been a priority until more recently… especially the plastic. It seems to be a pretty major thing to focus on right now at a personal level, so I am going to share with you all I learn and what I struggle with as I attempt to go as plastic free as possible.

Of course, I have done the easy things. I have long ago swapped my plastic bags for cloth ones and a lovely basket, and I have a gorgeous reusable ceramic coffee cup a friend bought me. I have never really been one for using plastic straws in drinks anyway, or eating with plastic utensils, so no real change required there. My little boys are expected to have “nude food” at school and kinder, so though the lunch boxes we use are plastic, there is no cling wrap in the house, and we use beeswax wraps if needed. I did think about glass containers for the boys, but they would likely break them, plus glass containers are heavy so not really suitable at this age. And we switched from plastic hand wash and shower gels to bar soap years ago too.

Now this is my kind of shopping…. my basket filled with veggies from the farm gate and local wine

So the next thing I decided to do was to look at the other quick swaps I could do. These are what I have done so far:

  • bamboo toothbrush
  • buy milk in a carton, mineral water in a glass bottle
  • buy sugar in paper wrap, oats in a cardboard box
  • buy bulk olive oil in a tin and decant it into smaller bottles on the shelf

I still felt surrounded by plastic packaging. I think this is the first thing to tackle. I decided to look at the bathroom, the kitchen and the laundry first.

The bathroom is a debacle, to be honest. I had a big clear out to get rid of all the samples and “gifts with purchase” that I didn’t really want or need. I tried to use up what I could, and gift what I couldn’t. Then I looked at what I wish to keep. Now here things get tricky, because I am confronted by my choices regarding beauty and hygiene. Technically, all I actually need is a bit of soap, toothbrush and paste, and maybe sunscreen and a deodorant…. but that is not all I want. I want my skin to feel soft and to look well. I want to be able to enhance my complexion, my eyes. I want to smell better than just “not bad.” And I want my hair to look and feel great – not just clean…

My friendly mermaid reminding me where rubbish usually ends up…here is part of the stock pile of stuff I really don’t need!

It was my hair that really did it. I have a whole other article to write about that, but suffice to say that I realised that the life changing art of getting rid of plastic really is a journey. And there is a lot more to this than just a few product switches. Becoming conscious about what I buy and why opens up a whole world of concepts around convenience, time and cost, but also identity, values and self perception. What is really important to me and why?

I am already really enjoying the process, though some issues it raises are quite confronting. But consciously choosing what I buy, what I interact with, makes each time I use something a little bit more special. I appreciate not only the item and how it benefits me, but also the sense that it is not harming the world, and that greatly enhances my own happiness.

Tomorrow I will write my first product review – the make-up item I really can’t don’t want to give up – just yet. Mascara!


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