Looking for a step by step guide to going plastic free? Read on...

Plastic free - person with plastic cup and straw

Inside: In a bid to save you time, money and stress on your journey to a plastic free life Ecojam's Eleanor Williamson offers her advice on how to avoid plastic.

My search for the elusive plastic free instruction manual
(plus my ever-growing list of guides to help you avoid plastic)

When I first decided to give up plastic my plan was to find a blog or a book written by someone who was already plastic free and to follow their advice, step by step, until I too could proudly declare myself plastic free. Sadly, as is often the case, it was not going to be that straightforward!

Although a quick google search does bring up a number of really great resources, I found the step by step roadmap on how to avoid plastic to be much more elusive. 

Nevermind, I thought, I will write one myself...

Ha ha ha! Over a year later and I am still working things out, grappling with an array of different options and wondering how those carrots wrapped in plastic made it into my fridge (a moment of weakness is my local Coop when I realised that without carrots my 3-year-old was going to eat an entire plate of beige food for tea AGAIN!)

Why can't I find an instruction manual for going plastic free?

What I have learnt is that the reason that no roadmap exists is not because nobody has managed to completely avoid plastic but because the options are varied, the solutions are never straightforward and there is no 'one size fits all' approach. 

Here are some examples of the dilemmas you are likely to face:

  • Should I buy plastic free, non-organic produce or organic produce that is wrapped in plastic?

  • I can get plastic free stuff from a lovely little independent shop but can I justify driving to it?

  • Have I got the time to make something from scratch with plastic free ingredients?

  • Should I go for the locally produced items which have plastic packaging or the plastic free items that have been flown/shipped over to this country? 

Your answers to these questions will depend on your lifestyle, your moral priorities and maybe even on how you are feeling at a particular moment in time. This, it seems, is why the step by step guide that I so badly want does not exist.

So where should you start on your plastic free mission?

I have decided to create something which would have saved me a lot of time when I started my quest for a plastic free life. Whilst I have realised that I cannot produce a step by step guide to going plastic free, I can outline many of the plastic free solutions that I have discovered along the way. As you read through the guides you can choose the options that will fit best with your lifestyle. Hopefully, it will show you that there are options available and that if the first approach you try is not working for you, there are alternatives. 

What these guides will do:

  • Outline different options with pros and cons for each

  • Cut out valuable research time

  • Help you find a solution to fit your life

What the guides won't do:

  • Tell you what to do

  • Make the decisions for you

  • Enable you to go plastic free overnight

I am starting with plastic free fruit and vegetables as I had thought that this would be one of the easiest switches to make but, as you will see, there are questions to be answered and choices to be made. So I will lay out the options for you and then discuss my chosen solutions. 

Read our guide to plastic free fruit and veg here.

Over the following weeks I will continue to add to this list of guides and when I am finished you will have:

Plastic free: Fruit and veg 
Plastic free: Meat and seafood
Plastic free: Chilled food
Plastic free: Store cupboard
Plastic free: Snacks
Plastic free: Bread
Plastic free: Drinks
Plastic free: Bathroom
Plastic free: Cleaning
Plastic free: Recipes

Plastic free mealtimes

I have also started making lists of meals that can be prepared without plastic. Check out my all time favourite plastic free breakfast ideas for inspiration on starting your day plastic free. Or my plastic free lunchtime blog for eating in or eating out at lunchtime. Plastic free dinner ideas will follow shortly.

What else can I do right now to avoid plastic?

If you are in a hurry to get on with your journey to plastic free living why not check out some of the other blogs we have on Ecojam. For some quick wins check out our top 10 ways to dramatically reduce plastic. We also have a handy 5 step plan on how to minimise plastic when food shopping and our 'plastic plastic everywhere' blog covers things such as reusable mugs, straws and toiletries. 

Our Ecojam UK Plastic Free and Zero Waste Pinterest Board is where we gather together useful plastic free and zero waste articles, ideas and websites.

Or if you are a wet wipe addict, why not check out our blog on plastic free alternatives to wet wipes.

Is there anyone else who can help?

Have a look at what other people are doing by reading our blog on who else is with me on this journey.

Plus, although we now understand why no step by step, one size fits all approach exists, there are a couple of books that we have found extremely useful. The first is by Beth Terry and it is called 'Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too'. The second is by Bea Johnson and is called 'Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life'. Both Beth and Bea go above and beyond in the name of living plastic free and zero waste lives. Their books contain some fantastic tips and provide some much-needed inspiration. 

Is individual action enough?

Quite early on in my journey towards becoming plastic free I realised that individual action is HARD! It can be time-consuming, less convenient and sometimes it feels like the plastic free options are not as good. This got me thinking about how we were ever going to get the whole world to say no to plastic! I think the answer to this question lies in the fact that going plastic free cannot be completely down to individuals.

As consumers there is no question that we play a big role in the process but there are other things that need to happen for the move away from plastic to really happen. You can read more on my thoughts on this in a blog I wrote called 'A plastic free future – what needs to happen'. 

Why should I even care about plastic pollution?

There is loads of information online about plastic pollution. Both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have sections on their websites which are dedicated to spelling out the problem and giving advice on what to do about it. There is also a great guide, written by SLO Active, called 'Plastic Pollution: Single Use Plastic Impact on our Oceans' which outlines the problem and reveals the truly terrifying extent of the problem.

Local examples of plastic free living

We have active Ecojam hubs in Bristol and Bath - two great cities that boast an impressive range of green initiatives. Our team of writers is always on the lookout for great examples of plastic free living. Please get in touch if you know of any organisations or projects you think we should write about. The following are examples of recent articles we have written about going plastic free:

Bedminster welcomes Bristol’s first plastic-free shop

Plastic free in Bath: Local mums help businesses to avoid plastic

Bath Spa University joins the plastic free movement

Join in the plastic free conversation

Here at Ecojam, we would never claim to have all the answers so I am sure there are paths that we haven't considered and options that didn't make it onto our lists. We would love to hear from you if you have any thoughts and suggestions. Please get in touch via our Facebook page or on Twitter.

Thanks for reading and good luck in your quest to live plastic free!

Written by Eleanor Williamson.