Monday, 2 July 2018

#PlasticFreeJuly 2017-18: The Habits that Stuck

I posted my ten Plastic Free July lifestyle changes on the 1st of August 2017 after having taken part in my first #PlasticFreeJuly challenge. I meant to blog an update three months later about how well my new plastic free behaviours had stuck. The review post didn't happen then so I am writing now instead!

You can find out more about Plastic Free July and how to get involved by visiting

1. Store food in glass jars

I saw many beautiful Instagram and Pinterest pantry shelves on the #PlasticFreeJuly hashtags, all with rows of matching Kilner jars for pulses, pastas and spices. I don't have that kind of budget though so decided to keep the jars we empty - jam, honey, mayonnaise, etc - and gradually transfer everything in our cupboards from plastic tubs to glass jars. YES! This habit has not only stuck but I found a boxful of proper Kilner jars at a French Vide Grenier (boot fair) a month or so back so my cupboard shelves are slowly getting prettier

2. Ditch the clingfilm

As Dave will verify I am a tad paranoid about leaving food uncovered in the fridge. I hate when it starts drying out. I used to automatically reach for the clingfilm roll, use a big square for maybe a day, then screw that up and throw it away. Now I can either use tubs freed up from 1. or revert to old-fashioned solutions like upturning a bowl over a plate (or vice versa) for leftovers. I recently received a trio of BeeBeeWraps too and I absolutely love these for food storage. YES! I haven't bought any cling film in over a year and haven't even yet used up the roll we already had prior to July 2017. The BeeBeeWraps were great and lasted about 7-8 months. I didn't replace them though because I found I had enough jars and tubs without needing more wraps.

3. Make my own dairy-free milk

Cheaper, healthier and with far less packaging than cow's milk, making up my own Sunflower Seed Milk is much easier than I thought it would be (click here for the original post). I prefer its taste and texture in our daily porridge too. We used to get through 5-6 tetrapaks of milk each week, now there are usually three or fewer in the recycling and we pay pennies a litre for Sunflower Seed Milk rather than close to £1 a litre for the dairy equivalent. YES and No! I now exclusively use dairy-free for breakfasts and baking so the only dairy milk we now buy is for Dave's coffee. I stopped making my own Sunflower Seed Milk while caravanning over the winter because it seemed it would need more space than we had available. However, I can buy Sunflower Seeds loose by weight in France (ie totally packaging free!) so I plan to restart milk making as soon as we're back there. In the meantime Waitrose today had soya in Tetrapaks cheaper than dairy - first time I've seen that!

4. Don't buy if I can bake

Making two batches of milk each week left me with lots of sunflower seed pulp which it seemed far too wasteful to compost. I googled recipes and ended up baking Oat And Date Cookies. Making my own crackers wasn't as successful - more practice is needed. However I enjoyed baking my own wholemeal bread again - it's tastier than plastic-bagged commercial loaves and cheaper than artisan baked! YES! This habit has taken off so I now bake all my own bread, biscuits and savoury crackers or oatcakes. English style wholemeal bread isn't the best option in a hot place with limited freezer space, so I've taught myself to make delicious roti, phulka and pita breads instead.

5. Drink loose leaf tea

Did you know most tea bags contain plastic? I was shocked to find out (on Treading My Own Path here)! The plastic apparently strengthens the paper tea bags and even super-ethical brands like Clipper use it. I'm not comfortable with the idea of soaking plastic in hot water every time I make tea so looked for loose leaf. YES! I drink loose leaf Earl Grey tea and like the Twinings one in tins with a foil seal. I have fruit teas in teabags and buy Elephant brand which I believe (other than the outer cellophane) are completely plastic free.

6. Ditch individually wrapped sweets

This was a surprise Plastic Free benefit! I walk a lot in town rather than taking the car, but always found it hard to resist treating myself on the way. I've got to climb that steep hill, let's have a mini Thornton's bag to help! However, it turns my plastic-refusing willpower is 100 times stronger than my sugar-refusing willpower. YES! Except for boiled sweets for car journeys. When I find the unwrapped tins or car sweets I get those, but they're not always easy to get hold of.

7. Make my own laundry powder

We started this back in September last year (click here for the original post). The soap bars and soda were wrapped in plastic outers, but I am still using that first £2 batch of ingredients! It will easily last through September this year so that will be over a year's worth of clean laundry for £2. I don't need to add additional fabric softener and the powder is good for both machine and hand washing of clothes. YES! I made up another batch this winter just gone. The large bar of Spanish laundry soap was wrapped in cellophane, but that was all. We are using up a plastic bottle of laundry liquid that the previous owners left behind in our French static caravan. Once that's gone, it will be back to just the handmade powder.

8. Mix my own toothpaste

This was a completely new experiment for Plastic Free July 2017 and I am thrilled with its success (click here for the original post). The paste does slowly separate to leave a glycerine layer on the top so the jar needs a stir up a couple of times a week. Otherwise I am very happy with how it cleans my teeth, my gums are no longer red and there is no more bleeding when I brush. YES! Still exclusively using my own toothpaste, plus I now have SaveSomeGreen bamboo toothbrushes and I make my own mouthwash too (1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 3 drops peppermint oil, 1 drop clove oil. Place all into a clean jam jar and almost fill with water. Screw jar lid on tightly and shake until the bicarb dissolves)

9. Buy unpackaged whenever possible

I left this seemingly obvious point until near the end because it is actually the most difficult to consider. Where should I draw my line? I crocheted cotton produce bags and now try to avoid plastic-packed fruit and veg even to the point of substitutions or walking to a different shop if necessary. I now have a reusable cotton sanitary pad to back up my Mooncup so don't need plastic-packed disposables any more.
I made my own Lentil 'Pate' and Chickpea Tofu, both thereby avoiding their equivalents' plastic packets. However I could not find entirely plastic-free meat, fish or cheese in Torquay. My dilemma is whether to settle for the plastic reduction I can get or avoid these foods altogether - effectively becoming mostly vegan. Food for thought. YES and No! I have become pretty much vegetarian and am 'working towards' vegan, however this is more because, now I am heading into the menopause, I have found that my body hardly wants meat any more to the degree that I often feel nauseous in the supermarket meat aisle or too close to the fish counter. I am also very aware of the horrors of factory farming and how widespread this practice is across the UK and other European countries. So I can buy lots of lovely plastic-free veggies (especially in France and Spain) and even buy loose or card-boxed chickpeas, lentils etc. Homemade hummous is far nicer than the bought stuff and fortunately I love cooking all my meals from scratch. Cheese is my downfall though as even vegan cheese, which I like, is still plastic packaged. Maybe it's time to get creative with cashews!

10. Don't slide back

Several of the above habits are more long-winded than their plastic covered alternatives or they require preparation so I think the toughest part of Plastic Free July for me is actually going to be August! In the same way as I automatically carry a cotton shopping bag rolled up in my handbag because I don't want to pay 5p for a plastic carrier, I now need to keep reinforcing these plastic free habits until they are ingrained. Fortunately I enjoy making and baking so setting aside time to knead dough isn't a problem, but remembering that I need to do so at least three hours before I want to eat the bread will require organisation! YES! Overall I am very happy with how many of these habits I have kept going all year. I am also aware of subtle changes in that I now automatically look for the plastic-free choice first. I was delighted to see the bulk purchase rack of foods like oats, rice and lentils is standard in French Intermarche supermarkets. They also sell the majority of their fruit and veg loose with paper bags available for customers, not plastic. We reuse each paper bag until it disintegrates! Having been told last year, when I complained to British sugar companies, that brown sugar Has to be packaged in plastic to stop it clumping, Intermarche sells their in card boxes or by weight from the bulk purchase rack! 

So a good plastic-free year and I am looking forward to adding, say, another five plastic free habits this July. One of the wisest words of advice I got last year was to not try and totally cut out plastic overnight as it's very disheartening to realise how difficult that is. I've found it's getting easier as I become more accustomed to looking for alternatives.


  1. Full of admiration for your success because it certainly isn’t easy; I try to avoid plastic as much as I can but with nothing like your level of success. However, our Council now converts waste previously destined for landfill into energy so I reconcile myself with the thought that what I can’t reduce, re-use or recycle might be generating electricity.

    1. Thank you Caree! It's great that Councils are really making big decisions about waste usage. The amount of unnecessary packaging is what bugs me - single veg items do Not need to be individually shrinkwrapped!!

  2. Those are amazing habits, very impressed with all of this and very much admire you for doing it. I avoid plastic and waste as much as possible, recycle wherever I can and try and get my groceries from sustainable places.

    1. Thanks Olivia! PlasticFreeJuly last year really helped me see just how much plastic I bought. I'd not thought much about it before.

  3. Thanks for posting this. I’m curious about how people go plastic free. I don’t know if I can be as dedicated as you, but I can do some of these things. I can also be stricter about making sure that the people in my house put stuff in the recycle bin and not the trash bin.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. Seeing the lazy attitude to recycling some of the other flats in this building have does bug me!
      I'm not sure I could go totally plastic free - I'm not giving up my credit card! - but I actually surprised myself with how far I've already come without too much inconvenience.

  4. That's really interesting. I've thought about making my own clothes soap. I've even watched a few youtube videos about it.

    1. It's so easy and ridiculously cheap! I did notice when doing a lot of laundry by hand - camping for months - that bicarb of soda was kinder to my hands than washing soda. For machine washing, either seem to work well

  5. I started a rule that if I want something sweet I must make it. It really makes me conscious of what I'm eating + I avoid the tell-tale rustling of plastic that announces one is snacking.

    1. That's a great rule, and it means you know exactly what goes into the sweet snacks too. Reading the ingredients lists on some foods, I don't recognise half the words!

  6. Great to see all your hbits, I missed the beginning of this month but have started mid-month. Interested to read your alternatives to cling-film, and how long they lasted

    1. Not needing cling film anymore is such a bonus. I could never tear the stuff in a straight line anyway!


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