If you’re in Australia (or on planet Earth, for that matter), then you’ll know that this Summer’s bushfire season has been savage and terrifying. For many of us, it’s also been a wake-up call.
Like so many, I’ve felt paralysed with overwhelm at times. When a problem is so monumental, it’s hard to know where to start. But from little things, big things grow (thanks Paul Kelly). And as the uber-Instagrammed quote goes, “it’s only one straw…said 8 billion people”.
So, let’s round up some simple swaps we can all make to reduce single-use items, plastic, and waste in our world. Because every little bit counts, and if this Summer has taught us anything, it’s that Mother Nature has us on a clock.
1. Travel cup
The world uses 16 billion disposable coffee cups per year, and while they may look like they’re made of cardboard, the plastic film lining means they go straight to landfill. So let’s start with the obvious: get yourself a cute travel cup or three. One for your handbag, one for your car, and one for the office. Keep Cup are the original, Frank Green do a fabulous ceramic version which keeps beverages piping hot, and if you want your coffee to look as good as it tastes, Public Holiday’s handmade vessels (pictured) are a work of art.
2. Compostable coffee pods
While you’re at it, if you’re using a Nespresso or other pod coffee machine on the regular, switch to biodegradable pods. 3 million coffee pods go to landfill in Australia each day. Melbourne brand Pod & Parcel (pictured) have developed a completely compostable pod made from plant based material. And with specialty-grade Arabica roasted in Brunswick, the taste tops standard pods too. Want to go one better? Ditch the pod machine altogether and opt for a Bialetti stovetop or French Press coffee maker.
3. Stainless steel lunchbox
All that coffee worked up an appetite? Invest in a stainless steel lunchbox and portable cutlery. You’ll do away with plastic and with finding your salad dressing soaking the lining of your handbag. Seed and Sprout (pictured) do a great range and the Ever Eco XL Stackable Bento Box has been a life-changer in our house, with its accessory pots ideal for hard to transport items like yoghurt and hummous.
4. Metal straw
Now, about those 8 billion straws. If you haven’t seen a turtle having a plastic straw removed from its nose, do so. Then get yourself a reusable straw kit which comes complete with cleaning brush. Don’t forget to request no straw when ordering drinks – we’re not above putting a glass to our lips.
5. Bamboo toothbrush and hairbrush
Australians go through a million plastic toothbrushes a year, with each taking over 500 years to degrade. Switch to bamboo for a sustainable option – Bamkiki (pictured) offer a subscription service and free delivery, and use sustainable bamboo. The same goes for your hairbrush – Life Basics do a bamboo paddle brush (and even the bristles are bamboo).
5. Beeswax wraps
If you’re still using clingwrap, it’s time to stop. Beeswax wraps are a far more sustainable alternative, and being naturally antibacterial, plus easy to rinse and reuse, there’s no need for single-use plastic when it comes to food storage.
6. Reusable produce bags
Instead of ripping a plastic bag off the roll every time you hit the fruit and veg shop, invest in some reusable produce bags. Your farmer’s market haul will look far more Instagrammable in an organic mesh bag.
7. Storage containers
Unless you’re a unicorn, you probably have a drawer somewhere full of Tupperware and mismatched lids. While at least it’s not single use, we need to move away from plastic in general (don’t get me started on its hormone-disrupting properties). Whether you opt for the classic mason jar or go ceramic, wooden or stainless steel, switch to reusable containers that are gentler on the planet.
Got a baby or a toddler? Cloth nappies have come a long way since the days of terry towelling and nappy pins – no folding required! Gorgeous EcoNaps (pictured) are as stylish as they are functional. Or if, like me, you can’t quite get over the line with the bucket system, Tooshies By Tom do gorgeous plant-based disposable eco nappies and wipes that can ease your guilt.
9. Tea strainer
Don’t let the humble teabag fool you – it’s plastic! Yes, every teabag you throw away goes to landfill. If you’re only after a single cup, a reusable mesh tea infuser will do the job with zero waste. Otherwise, brew a pot.
Even if you forgo the ozone-depleting aerosol can in favour of roll-on, empty deodorant canisters still go to landfill. Try switching to a deodorant paste (I swear by No Pong– you can even upcycle their empty tins at certain stockists) or a deodorant bar.
11. Shampoo and conditioner
Unless you’re part of the ‘no-poo movement’ (not what it sounds like, I promise), then you’ve probably thrown away an empty shampoo or conditioner bottle in your time. Enter Shampoo With A Purpose: an Australian brand offering four naturally formulated, vegan, and sulphate-free solid cleansing bars as an effective and plastic-free alternative to traditional shampoos and conditioners. Yes, bars – like a bar of soap, only for your hair. Packaging-free, long lasting and with proven results, you’re about to get a whole lot more space on your shower shelf.
It’s only the tip of the iceberg (which is melting), but many tiny changes make big waves. Let’s do what we can to turn the tide.