A Year of Plastic Free Living

Thursday 14 December 2023
A Year of Plastic Free Living

It's no secret that the plastic we use in our everyday lives causes huge damage to our environment and sea life. Levels of beach litter have doubled in the past two decades and almost nowhere in the UK seas is marine wildlife safe from the harm that this litter and waste can cause. The shocking images of dead albatross stomachs filled with plastic on the midway atoll in the Pacific really sparked international concern. Too many species are accidentally eating or becoming caught up and entangled in discarded litter.

Of course, there is always more that can be done and Saltie Ambassador and friend of the brand, Alice Guy, decided to really tackle the mountain of plastic that grew daily in her recycling bin. She started to think about how and where she could cut plastic 100% out of her family life. Ultimately leading to a year of plastic free living.

You're our inspiration Alice, so let's get started....

It was during Christmas 2016, that I started to really notice the amount of plastic that was going into the recycling bin, or the landfill one, and the sheer volume of shopping bags we were getting with the online shop. I remember unwrapping 2 avocados – they had a cardboard bottom, a hard plastic top and were then wrapped in plastic. I remember thinking, man, this is crazy! Why does everything have to come in so much blooming plastic?

A few days later I saw a video on Facebook of a lady in New York who went totally waste free for a month, and I thought, well if she can do that, I can definitely go plastic free. I vowed never to do online shopping again.

That weekend I set up my milk to be delivered to the doorstep by the milkman. I visited my local town and discovered a butcher, a brilliant greengrocer, and a health food shop where I could buy various dried goods loose. It felt awesome! And I’ve not looked back.We moved to the countryside a couple of years ago, and we were keen to start being more self-sufficient. We’ve gone so much further. And it’s now just the way we live. It’s not a fad, or a gimmick, it’s just life.

That said, there’s more even we can do as a family. This year we’re focusing on growing more of our produce, tackling homemade yoghurt, and also making more of our own cleaning products.

Now for the rules...

General Life Rules

ZERO TOLERANCE policy to plastic bags (including bags for life). Keep loads of reusable canvas-type bags / material tote bags in your car and always have one rolled up in your handbag.

ZERO TOLERANCE to plastic water / drinks bottles – invest in drinks bottles for all of you, and never leave the house without one. There are brilliant ones available these days in all sorts of colours so they look great too! Get caught short – sit in a café and get a glass of water.

ZERO TOLERANCE to take away coffee cups and plastic lids. Neither can be easily recycled –– and they’re a massive indictment of our throwaway consumer lifestyles. Keep Cups are a must. If don’t have one on you, get a coffee to drink in at a café.

ZERO TOLERANCE to straws! Why places still offer them in such abundance when it’s known they get stuck up turtles’ noses is beyond me. Just use paper/metal straws or go without!

Meal Planning

I know, it feels ridiculously organised and grown up, and you might think you just don’t have time for it. But it’s really a brilliant way to ensure you have the food you need. I do ours on a Friday night ready for the Saturday shop, and write the shopping list at the same time.

It means we don’t waste food. When I was online shopping I’d get swayed by offers and would often end up throwing out food by the time the next shop came around.

Shopping generally

No Online Food Shopping. Ever. You can’t control what they put in your basket, or the packaging. And it’s rare to find anywhere that doesn’t sell meat and fish or fruit and veg in plastic. Instead I shop religiously, mostly in a small town nearby, every Saturday morning. There’s a butcher, a greengrocer and a health food shop that sells dry goods that you can weigh out.

Here are the nitty gritty details..

Food & Drink

Hands up, I love food, and cooking, and we never ate processed foods before. Which perhaps meant it was an easier transition. That said….

  • Milk and OJ - We get this delivered, in glass bottles – from www.milkandmore.co.uk. Enter your postcode to see if they deliver in your area.
  • Cream - I buy in jars. It’s long life, so not as sexy and perhaps a little more pricey but we don’t eat it much so it’s ok.
  • Yoghurt - I buy the River Cottage range in jars, there is also an online supplier here - http://www.browncoworganics.co.uk/browncow/Organic-Yoghurt-River-Cottage-500g.html
  • Cheese - we don’t eat loads but if we need it I tend to buy at a deli counter and ask them to put it into my own containers. Or into a paper bag. Alternatively, I buy the ones wrapped in wax.
  • Meat - We have some great butchers locally so I buy everything from them. If you only have a supermarket nearby then try to shop at the deli counter and use your own containers.
  • Fish - We don’t have a local fishmonger so I buy from the deli counter in our local Waitrose as they wrap it in paper. I’ve also tracked down a brilliant mobile fish monger at Hassocks market and he’ll gladly use my containers. It’s these kind of discoveries / wins that still excite me over a year on!
  • Dried Goods - I buy most of these from Hisbe (Brighton), a weigh shop in Henfield, my local shopping town, or from Charlotte’s Cupboard. You fill a paper bag with what you need, and I have a load of jars at home that I keep stocked up.
  • Herbs – We grow ours at home. I’m not that green fingered but a small patch of garden is dedicated to it and starter plants from the garden centre have flourished with little attention.
  • Celery / Cucumber - One of those nightmarish things that only certain grocers have with zero plastic.
  • Grapes / Berries / Soft fruit - I only buy these from the greengrocer if they’re loose or in the open plastic punnets, because I empty them into a paper bag and leave the punnet behind on the shelf, knowing they will reuse them. Another tip is I freeze most soft fruit these days – including cut up banana – it’s brilliant for snacks and smoothies and means the fruit doesn’t spoil during the week.
  • Bread - I buy 2 or 3 whole loaves from a bakery on the Saturday shop, then cut them up into quarters, then wrap what I don’t need in foil and pop it in the freezer.
  • Butter - Real butter only, no spread, in foil or paper. It’s not perfect because it’s actually not hard to make your own. But I’ve not quite reached that zenith yet!
  • Pizza bases, Croissants, Crumpets etc - I’ve been trying to make as much as possible from scratch. Sometimes results are better than others – this year I’ve made bagels, pretzels, croissants and crumpets.
  • Mayo / Ketchup / Oils / Date & Maple Syrup - These are all available in glass bottles. I’m trying to reuse the bottles as much as possible, keeping them stored away for another occasion.
  • Flour / Sugar - All generally available in paper bags if you shop around. Although recently I had to buy golden caster sugar because NOONE sold it in paper! I confess it leaves me feeling soiled the few times I’ve had to do that haha!
  • Cereals - We mostly eat porridge and muesli which I buy loose.
  • Booze - Beer wise I tend to just buy bottles. Watch out for the plastic connectors you get with multipacks of cans - a box of cans is your best route.
  • Tonic / Soda Water - Cans generally, and occasionally (if available / in the mood) splash out on the posher glass bottle brands, e.g. Fever Tree.
  • Squash - Never buy it which helps – but if I did I’d just go for the glass bottle varieties. Might cost a few pence more – but I would just make the kids have it less frequently!
  • Tea - My tea consumption changed recently when I found out that nearly all tea bags on the market have a thin layer of polypropylene plastic to enable the bags to be sealed. So, out went the unbleached Clipper bags we were buying, and in came the loose tea! It’s brilliant.
  • Coffee - I had to give up instant coffee because of plastic lids. So now I buy Illy ground coffee as it’s in foil.

General House Stuff

  • Laundry Liquid / Fabric Softener – I’ve had the same bottles on the go all year and refill at either Hisbe or Cornerweighs in Henfield. Most Ecover stockists (particularly small independents) will do refills for you.
  • Dishwasher tablets and salt - these are available to buy loose in cardboard boxes. The Ecoleaf tablets have soluble packaging. Often the cheaper / supermarket’s own ranges are good go tos.
  • Cleaning Spray and Toilet Cleaner - I refill my bottles at Hisbe. The Ecover General Cleaner is brilliant diluted and can be used for everything. We have a spray bottle we refill and reuse. BioD do a refillable toilet cleaner which is brilliant! And there are loads of homemade recipes for this stuff online.
  • Loo Roll / Kitchen Roll - I buy the Ecoleaf range as this comes in compostable plastic bags. It goes straight into our compost bin. It takes a little longer to decompose but does eventually.
  • Bin bags - you can buy compostable ones online. Both compost bin sized and 50l swing bin sized – here’s the brand I’ve bought recently: D2W bin liners
  • Foil, Baking stuff, Sandwich bags - this is a great company for ethical / recycled products bought from my local health food place but they also sell online - https://www.ifyoucare.com/our-products/
  • Pet Food - shop around, there are a few ranges that are sold in paper bags. We get our cat food (Purely and Harrington ranges), our Guinea pig food, and our Chickens food in paper bags. You can buy hay bales directly from a local farm – which is great for the guinea pig.
  • Washing up brush - I recently found that run of the mill Loofahs are brilliant for washing the dishes. Amazing. Grim washing up brushes begone.
  • Loo brushes - wooden / bristle versions are just as good as plastic, like these - https://utilitygreatbritain.co.uk/product/lav-brush-natural-fibre/
  • Cling film - I’ve bought some biodegradable stuff along the way for when it’s been absolutely necessary – but I generally use Beeswax Wraps, which although quite expensive up-front, are great for storing food in the fridge, and you can make your own too. Here is a great choice: https://greenbee.buzz/pages/beeswax-wraps?gclid=Cj0KCQjw5JSLBhCxARIsAHgO2ScNchvSSv3whVGKs1t6CtfhNC0HD_DzxY6mm2ppAV6W5Jc-4RCXM8QaApghEALw_wcB


This is the harder end of the spectrum and I’ve had some trial and errors with different brands, and have sometimes had to give into a plastic lid or two because the options are few and far between.

  • Toothbrushes - Bamboo all the way! Every plastic toothbrush you’ve ever owned STILL EXISTS in landfill! It’s madness!
  • Toothpaste - it’s really hard to find non-plastic tubes. I use Euthymol which is in a metal tube, but it’s an acquired taste and my husband and the kids really didn’t get on with it. So, I’ve relented and buy them normal tubes. This year I’m on a mission to change that too though!
  • Deodorant - T are no big brands out there. And things like deodorant are different for different people, but here is a solid options: www.naturaldeoco.com. Great range of scents and strengths.
  • Make up - I’ve skirted around this by using what I had in cupboards etc. Benefit’s powders are great as they’re generally cardboard / metal. But am investigating my options in more depth as it’s reaching critical stage again! Lush look like the best starting point as so many of their products come without packaging: https://uk.lush.com/products/make
  • Eye make-up remover - standard coconut oil in a jar is incredible. Won’t ever look back! And the jar I bought last January is still going strong.
  • Nail polish remover - over the last year I’ve basically been biting off old nail polish, or covering it with new layers. The glamour ;) Thank goodness, I was recommended this recently - https://www.bwcshop.com/kind-clean-nails-nail-polish-remover/
  • Skincare - I started by splashing out on Aesop as it’s packaged in glass. But it is super pricey. Anyway, I’ve been using an amazing cleanser – bought from Holland & Barrett. It is expensive but a jar lasts me 6 months and it’s so rich there’s no need to moisturise. http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/beauty-kitchen-abyssinian-facial-cleansing-balm-60028956
  • Shampoo / Conditioner - initially I was refilling old bottles but had a few leakages along the way, so I bought a couple of 1l empty bottles from Hisbe and now take them there to refill. For travelling, and when going to the gym etc I used shampoo and conditioner bars from Lush. They’re great!
  • Body Wash / Soap - I use soap these days. There’s loads of great Soap out there these days – you needn’t smell of Imperial Leather!
  • Razors - I’m in love with my new plastic-free razor. Makes me feel badass ;) https://www.labourandwait.co.uk/products/safety-razor
  • Handwash - I use all my old pump bottles and get them refilled at Cornerweighs (Henfield) or Hisbe. This is the range - https://www.faithinnature.co.uk/departments/award-winning-range-of-natural-soaps-and-hand-washes.aspx?deptid=HW - and again you can buy in 5l bottles and refill your containers at home if you don’t have a local stockist. Looking at their site they also do a load of Shower / Bath Wash, Shampoo etc.
  • Sanitary Products - if you really want to stick with Tampons buy the original cardboard applicator variety. Cheaper and way better for the environment. But really – I can’t recommend a Mooncup enough.
  • Cotton Buds - another MASSIVE issue for our sea life – make sure you buy the ones made completely of paper, e.g. https://www.ethicalsuperstore.com/products/simply-gentle/simply-gentle-organic-cotton-buds/


For my youngest’s birthday, I actually plucked up the courage to write on the invite that we live plastic free and would people please bear that in mind. It was early on and I was still pretty coy about it all. But it was amazing!

Everyone was so lovely and made the effort – and I think we only got two presents that had plastic packaging (out of 25 or so!). There’s plenty of stuff out there – books / crafty pressies / puzzles / traditional board games / skipping ropes etc.

If the kids want something made of plastic, but I know it will be used over and over for year then I’ll allow it (in moderation) But I go simpler and more eco wherever possible. Avoid the packaging wherever possible. I don’t feel like they go without. They’re both really conscious of stuff now; I hear them freely say they can’t have something because it’s wrapped in plastic. Kids adapt easily all in all.

That wraps all my learnings from my plastic-free year – I hope it can help you on your plastic-free journey and inspire some more conscious consuming.