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10 Simple Ways to Reduce Waste and Use Less Plastic

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

These aren’t the kind of swaps that will have you carrying glass jars and reusable cutlery around with you everywhere you go and feeling annoyed every time you forget them. These are the kind of swaps that will save bags full of unnecessary waste each year, will save you a fortune over time and are essentially effortless. You’ll wonder why you hadn’t done these things sooner!

Not only are they beneficial for the environment and your bank balance, but many are hugely beneficial for your health. Swapping some of your plastic, conventional products for more natural options, will eliminate dozens of hormone disrupting chemicals from your environment and can have a major impact on your health.

Better for the Environment, better for your health and better for your bank balance.

1. Stainless Steel Pegs

If you haven’t swapped to stainless steel pegs yet, you really need to!

I bought my stainless steel pegs about 10 years ago when I was living in Townsville (if you don’t know Townville, it’s in Far North Queensland and very, very hot and sunny!) and I was replacing my crumbly, sunburnt plastic pegs and mouldy wooden pegs every few months.

I bought 2 packs of stainless-steel pegs which are the ones that I still have now and they still look like brand new. I leave mine out in the weather and never bring them inside, I’m assuming they’ll just last me forever based on what I’ve seen so far and I’ll never have to buy pegs ever again!

2. Reusable Cleaning and Washing Up Cloths

For a few years I was reusing the little cloths that I had for wiping my babies faces and bottoms and once they started to fall apart, I replaced them with some that I got from Here and After. They've been kind enough to offer 5% off your total order using the code RITUAL, not to mention the ongoing savings from not need to purchase disposable cloths. I love these ones because you can get a pack of different colours, so I have one colour for the dishes and kitchen, one colour for the bathrooms and another colour for the rest of the house.

I haven’t purchased a chux or any other disposable cloth for about 8 years or so. I just rewash these over and over and they last for years.

3. Period Underwear or Menstrual Cups

You can read more about why this is so important for your health here, but as far as the environmental impact goes, one woman can generate up to 125kgs of waste per year from menstrual products like pads and tampons. Nonorganic menstrual products also have high levels of chemicals, bleaches, pesticides etc. that have a significant impact on women’s health.

When my menstrual cycle returned after having my children and breastfeeding, I initially swapped to a menstrual cup which I used for several years and highly recommend for some women depending on their cycle/age and so on. I’ve more recently swapped to period underwear which I initially didn’t like when I first tried them a few years ago, but I think there are a lot more options now and I found these ones from Here and After that are really comfortable and find are really effective. You can get 5% off your total order at Here and After using the code RITUAL at checkout.

Cooking eggs in a cast iron pan. One of the healthiest options for cooking and they last a lifetime.
Cast iron is my preference for low-tox cooking.

4. Cast Iron Frying Pan

I would never buy another pan again, nor will I ever need to!

Not only are non-stick pans full of chemicals proven to be detrimental to human health, but they wear out, the non-stick comes off (into your food btw), the handles get lose and you have to replace them every now and then.

Cast iron pans are not only the best option as far and your health goes, but a cast iron pan will literally last you your entire life, you could pass them down to your children!

On top of that, the research shows that the iron content of food cooked in a cast iron pan is on average, significantly higher, so it can be a useful way to help maintain adequate iron levels in the body.

5. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can replace so many products around the house and reduce so much plastic waste as well as chemical exposure. When you’re done with a big 1L glass jar of coconut oil, they’re perfect to use for storing food in the fridge and pantry.

I use coconut oil to replace dozens of products around the house, I couldn’t live without it!

It’s my body moisturiser, I mix it with leftover coffee grounds or sugar as a body scrub, my husband uses it as his shaving cream, I use it in place of WD40 on anything squeaky, it’s my eye makeup remover. That’s so many products and so much plastic packaging that you’re saving over time and you read this article for 15 other ways I regularly use coconut oil around the house in place of buying other products.

Herbal tea pot. Using loose leaf tea will reduce waste and the amount of plastics you consume.

6. Choose Loose Leaf over Tea Bags

Tea bags contain microplastics and glues that are not only an environmental burden but you also ingest them. One study found that a single teabag released about 11.6 billion microplastic particles and 3.1billion smaller nano plastic particles into the hot water.

If you’re a tea drinker and have a couple of cups of tea per day, that’s a hell of a lot of plastic that you’re consuming over time!

Some companies use more environmentally friendly teabags that are plastic free, but loose leaf is still usually your best option! The Ritual Herb Bar Award Winning Herbal Tea range are all small batch, organic loose-leaf teas that are packaged in plastic free, 100% compostable packaging.

There are plenty of easy to use, portable, stainless steel tea infusing bottles, strainers and cups on the market these days to make it easy to have your loose-leaf teas anywhere.

7. Fruit and Veg Bags

This is a personal pet peeve of mine 😬

You know when you buy some apples or cucumbers or any other loose fruit and veg at the supermarket and they have the little plastic bags on the rolls to pack them in? Do they really need to be in a plastic bag? I know it might take a couple of extra seconds to put 4 loose apples up on the supermarket conveyor belt than if they were in plastic bags, but I think that tiny bit of extra effort might be worth saving potentially dozens of plastic bags every year?!

The little things like beans might be the exception of course, you obviously don’t want 50 green beans just floating around in your shopping basket, but using the brown paper mushrooms bags are usually an option for this type of thing and there’s always the reusable mesh bags that you could keep in your handbag if you really prefer to have all of your fruit and veg bagged up.

8. ‘No Junk Mail’ sticker on the Letterbox

Ok so the sticker itself probably isn’t environmentally friendly, but I’m sure I’ve reduced my recycling a lot just by putting a 'No Junnk Mail' sticker on the letterbox.

You may be able to recycle most of your junk mail but remember that there are still plenty of resources that go into recycling, from trucks, storage, recycling equipment and everything else that’s involved, you’re better off avoiding acquiring things that you need to recycle at all where possible.

Man putting receipts on a spike. Receipts are printeed on thermal paper which contains high levels of chemicals like BPA.

9. Say No to Receipts

The receipts that you get when you purchase something are generally printed on thermal paper, which contains a fine powdery coating that contains tiny plastic particles and endocrine disrupting chemicals like BPA.

It's been said that BPA won’t be absorbed into the body unless it’s consumed, but studies have proven this to be wrong.

Checkout staff that were handling receipts had significantly higher levels of BPA in their urine in the hours following contact with thermal receipts. Checkout staff that wore gloves while handling the receipts had no increase in urinary amounts of BPA when tested.

Of course, this makes sense, our skin is highly absorbent and constantly absorbs all kinds of substances from our environment.

Avoid collecting receipts where you can to avoid the waste and contact with the BPA altogether, try not to keep them floating around in your handbag where you continually come into contact with them if you do need to get one, and certainly don’t let little kids handle them, who are one groups most at risk of being affecting by these types of chemicals.

10. Support businesses that genuinely care about their environmental impact and that actively try to reduce waste and use of plastics and other toxic chemicals in their products.

I intentionally support businesses that are having a genuine positive impact on the environment and on the health of their customers. I don’t mean ‘vegan’ or ‘natural’ products that claim to be environmentally friendly but are full of GMO ingredients, pesticides, packed in excessive amounts of plastic, mass produced in a factory and ‘greenwashed’ with some nature image and a big ‘NATURAL’ plastered across the label.

I’m talking about businesses that actually choose sustainable sourced, non-toxic ingredients, that are willing to spend more on compostable or reusable packaging and choose environmentally friendly business practices and actually model these things in the real world, not just in their advertising.

There are lots of businesses that spend a lot of time and money on becoming recognised for caring about their environmental impact through and become BCorp companies.

You also have many smaller businesses like my own, that live and breathe what they believe in and genuinely make every effort to reduce their environmental impact and positively impact the health and wellbeing of their customers.

When you support these types of businesses, not only to you reduce you own waste through the types of products you choose, but you’re also part of the bigger picture and voting with your dollar for what you want to see more of in this world.

These are just a few ideas, there are so many ways you can start to reduce your waste and make positive changes for your health and the environment; we don’t have to do it perfectly to have an impact.

Belinda x

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