Zero Waste Swaps

In the first two columns, we covered the 7Rs of reducing waste, and based on questions I receive on a regular basis, I’m sharing some ‘easy swaps’ that people can make to refuse and reduce plastic use, and save money.

– Cotton bag—We all have a bag stashed in our pocket, car or handbag now, as it is not pleasant to pay extra to carry your purchases out of the shop.

– Reusable cups, bottles, utensils and containers— We’ve all heard this loads, but in addition to the environmental impact of single-use items, it has also become terrifyingly clear that by using plastics for foods and drink we are much more likely to ingest microplastics, or tiny bits of the material. Studies are ongoing to determine the effect on our bodies, but in the meantime, I carry a stainless steel water bottle and container, coffee cup and bamboo cutlery for meals on the go. Many cafes now give discounts for takeaway coffee in a reusable cup (check out Conscious Cup Campaign for a map), and some cafes have lower prices for takeaway food.

– Cloth Towels/ Wipes— My grandmother never understood buying paper towels to use once and throw away, so she always had a stack of clean towels and a pile of soiled ones. Try ditching the roll of paper towels and the baby wipes for a set of upcycled strips of fabric (old t-shirts work well) or buy some lovely ones you will be happy to use and reuse.

– Soap—This sounds old-fashioned too, but loose soap is totally underrated, and Ireland has a plethora of small makers crafting them for all purposes (hand and body, face, kitchen, pet) and with incredible scents. They last longer if you cut a strip off at a time and keep the rest dry, with the benefit of being easier to handle for kids. And, I find my hands are no longer dry and scaly since I made the switch from liquid handwash.

– Dental Care—Plastic toothbrushes (and their packaging!) cannot be recycled, so there are two options: an electric toothbrush with replaceable heads (still plastic but less waste over time), or a bamboo or wooden handle brush (nylon bristles have to be thrown out, but handle can be composted). There is now natural silk floss that can be composted as well, and mineral-rich toothpaste that comes in a glass jar instead of a plastic tube and with far less chemicals.

– Razors— Another blast from the past: our grandfathers used safety razors, and they are definitely back in fashion. They cost a bit more up front, but they should last a lifetime, and the blades are cheaper to buy than the branded plastic ones that are not recycled.

– Feminine Hygiene—There are loads of options: washable cloth pads, menstrual cups, and other even more creative ones. I’m happy to chat privately about these!

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