Have you ever wondered if you could live without plastic? No matter what kind of lifestyle you lead, there are lots of simple ways to cut down on single-use plastic. To help you on your journey, we thought we’d share a few of the lessons we learned during Plastic Free July!

This year all of us Mother Ducks experimented with ways to reduce single-use plastic waste for Plastic Free July. And we must say that doing the challenge as a team is a great way to stay on track and pick up new ideas! 

For the most part we tried a lot of changes that you’ve likely heard about, such as using reusable coffee cups and beeswax wraps, but we also learned these interesting tricks along the way too!

1. Layer in new habits

When you do a challenge like this, you start to see all the small pieces of plastic around you, like the pen in your handbag or the plastic bag around the dog biscuits. These little things can be maddening if you let them get to you, so just remember to be kind to yourself. 

This is important because if you get overwhelmed, you are more likely to give up altogether, which is far less effective than making small changes here and there! In our New Year self-care post, we spoke about this idea of layering, which is the practice of introducing new habits in small succession. 

So if you just want to start by remembering to grab your reusable shopping bags in the morning, keep it at that for now. Then add in new habits once this has stuck. Getting your family or housemates on board will make the journey a lot easier!

2. Think about food waste too

When you start to eliminate plastic from your life, it means you’ll probably be eating healthier, which is a good thing! But when you swap plastic-wrapped biscuits for bananas, there is the problem of what happens to that leftover peel.

Food waste sent to landfills generates greenhouse gases, making compost a much better option. If you can’t compost at home, there are lots of community gardens and drop-off points that will accept your food waste (Brisbane City Council has more details). Or perhaps there are people in your street who compost and will be grateful for your fruit and veggie scraps!

Reusable grocery bags

3. Give yourself a few extra minutes at the pharmacy

Cold and flu bugs were everywhere while we were taking this challenge, and medicine is one area where we noticed there aren’t a lot of zero-waste alternatives. Vitamins, medications and throat lozenges all come wrapped in plastic for health and safety reasons, but we did find some options in the pharmacy that are better than others.

Instead of getting packets of tablets, for example, opt for jars wherever possible. This is most feasible for things like vitamins and supplements, which you can buy in bulk.

This also got us thinking about other little things like Band-Aids that families always need on hand and it turns out there is a biodegradable alternative made here in Australia!

4. Be picky with your teabags and coffee pods

Did you know that some tea bags are made with plastic fibres? Not only is that a concern for the environment, but also for your health too!

One way to make sure your daily cuppa isn’t contributing to landfill problems is to make sure your tea bags and coffee pods are compostable. 1 Million Women has a great list of teabag brands that don’t contain plastic (Lipton, Twinings and T2 are all on the safe list), or you can switch to loose-leaf tea. And when it comes to coffee, companies like Pod and Parcel make compostable coffee pods, so you can continue to enjoy your morning caffeine fix.

5. Think of quick wins

Everyone has a slightly different lifestyle, and how you go about reducing your plastic waste will depend upon how you live.

Here are some ideas of quick wins that we discovered during the challenge: If you travel regularly, take your own snacks on the plane. Qantas estimates that a single domestic flight contributes around 34 kg of waste to landfills. 

For work and school lunches, try swapping cling wrap for reusable zip lock bags so everything stays fresh.

At the ice cream shop, ask for a cone instead of a cup and spoon. 

For gatherings like parties and barbecues, go easy on the decorations and plastic plates (ABC News has more tips on hosting a plastic-free kids’ party).

Try making your own cleaning products to save constantly buying new bottles of cleaners.  

If you live near a store like Naked Foods or The Source Bulk Foods, you can take your own bottles for refills of everyday essentials like oil and liquid soaps.

Plastic Free July was a big milestone for us this year because it marked the rollout of our own cleaning products! All cleaners now visit HQ once a week to get refills of their products, which has significantly reduced the number of plastic bottles we go through!

So what are these products? Take a look here to see the eco cleaning products we’re now cleaning your home with.

– The Mother Ducks.