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November 6, 2017

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse – How you can help change the way we rely on plastic packaging

by Elsa Jarrige

I strongly believe in two things...

The first one is that "little drops of water make the mighty ocean"...

And by that I mean that (contrary to what you may think) the actions of ONE person can have a BIG impact. 

The second one is that we are constantly voting with our money and through our purchases. What we buy, defines our values and essentially what we care about. The worst part? We often tend to forget about this and in turn, think our decisions will never amount to any tangible change.

By being aware of my actions and thoughts, I managed to reduce the amount of waste I produce by simply looking at my grocery and shopping habits.

Give it a second life

I recently moved into a new and empty apartment (with a pretty empty bank account as well).  I found that choosing to buy second-hand furniture was a great decision, not only because I ended up with a very personal collection and some one of a kind eclectic items, but because I didn’t even have to fight with assembling instructions.

I found a mixture of unique beautiful pieces of furniture and more simple ones from Ikea. I not only ended up giving a second life to all this furniture, but I saved more than half the amount of money the average person spends while moving into a new flat.

Depending on where you live, you can use mobile apps or websites to source all kinds of items, such as www.leboncoin.fr (France), Wallapop (Spain) or www.gumtree.com (UK).

Challenge the packaging

Here’s an interesting little experiment, the next time you are buying groceries (be it in an actual supermarket or online), take a minute to see how the item you are about to buy is packaged. Is it packaged in plastic? Is it packaged as a small or large portion? Is there an alternative to it?

Once you begin to be aware of everything you normally buy and how it’s packaged, you’ll be surprised to realise how much waste you can reduce by, for example, buying yoghurt in a big container instead of several small ones. In turn, ask yourself, could I be making this from scratch at home?

I recently started buying a good chunk of my dry ingredients in a bulk store, where I can find all sorts of ingredients, such as pasta, rice, a multitude of cereals and flours, muesli, nuts, beans, dried fruits, chocolate, coffee, and all sorts of spices.


The only packaging I get from purchasing all this? Several paper bags made out of recycled paper!

If you think there’s no way there’s one of these near you, think again! Out of popular demand, these type of shops are popping up all over the place.  

In some stores, such as Bulk Market & Unpackaged in London, you are even encouraged to bring your own packaging.

Once I get home, I enjoy emptying the paper bags into glass containers.Storing ingredients in glass containers lets me see the different textures and incredible colours, without brands or flashy packaging.

Make a solid choice

A relatively easy to challenge area in your home is the bathroom. Go ahead and see how many plastic bottles and packaging you can count in your bathroom cabinet right now? One way of avoiding plastic in your bathroom is for example, by choosing solid soaps instead of liquid ones. There are even solid shampoo bars out there, who knew? Lush has some great package-free products like soaps and deodorants, their shampoo bars can be purchased in metal tins, which you can then take back to the store to refill.

Did you know that manufacturing  solid soaps uses less energy and water during production than liquid ones?* If you really enjoy the texture of liquid soaps, you can dilute soap chips in warm water and store it in a container for later use. My favourite is Savon de Marseille chips, which you can find online and it smells like childhood!

*Soap is a suspension of oil in water plus an added surfactant. To obtain a soft texture when liquid soap is produced, more solvent is added and more heating is applied to the process. The industrial manufacturing of liquid soap requires the manufacturing of plastic bottles as well as a filling station (a machine that fills the bottles), both of which use materials and energy.

B.Y.O.B (Bring Your Own Bag)

If you are looking for the one tip that will dramatically reduce the use of plastics in all senses… NEVER leave home without a tote bag. Keeping one or two reusable fabric tote bags in your handbag or backpack will remove the need to ask for plastic carrier bags in unpredictable situations. Once you get used to always carrying them with you, they will make impromptu shopping sprees a lot more ecological.

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