Following in the wake of the BBC1, the Queen’s Royal estates2, parliament3 and even Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka4, I chose to focus on a more realistic target for my lent. Single-use plastics. I was thrilled to find that, not only was this feasible, but also entirely possible to continue past lent! So, here are my six-simple-steps for you to cut out single-use plastics for good:
- I always carry a fabric fold up bag in the bottom of my backpack. You can often pick these up for free at careers/activities fairs, otherwise on the 15th of March the University of Sheffield Market Society will be getting crafty with decorate-it-yourself tote bags between 12-6 pm in the union so you can design one yourself (https://www.facebook.com/events/182550655842521/). Be one of the 9/10 people in the UK using their own reusable bags; not only will you be saving yourself that crucial 5p (which has seen an 85% reduction in plastic bag usage!)5 but plastic bags are often mistaken for jellyfish by turtles6.
- Instead of a take-away coffee, buy a reusable bamboo mug from the Student Union Shop or Coffee Revs. Take-away coffee cups are typically, contrary to popular belief, not-recyclable. The black plastic that makes up the lids can’t be detected by sorting machines, whilst the cups are usually lined with plastic to stop your coffee going cold and soggy7. The reusable bamboo mugs cost £5, but you get your first cup of coffee free (you could even splash out on a flat white!) and 20p off for every cup of coffee afterwards. When you’re buying the £1.25 delicious (take my word for it) filter-coffee at coffee revs, this can make a large difference! Even Starbucks, Costa and Pret are in on this (25p, 25p and 50p respectively)8, so you can save money there too. You won’t ever have to face the guilt of a takeaway cup of coffee again!
- On your next-night out, go straw-free. Even Weatherspoon’s have stopped putting plastic straws in their drinks9. You simply don’t need them! When asking for a drink at a bar, just ask for it without a straw. It won’t affect the taste of your drink, but it could stop that same straw from ending up in the windpipe of a marine animal10. You could even go super-alternative and buy yourself one of these snazzy reusable straws (http://www.lakeland.co.uk/45843/Reusable-Stainless-Steel-Drinking-Straws).
- Carry a reusable water bottle. 16 million plastic bottles are binned (not recycled!) daily in Britain. When you think that it takes 450 years for each of those bottles to break down, that’s a huge issue11. Don’t be a part of the problem! There are water fountains all over the union to cater specifically for this.
- You can save money and our sea by bringing a packed lunch into Uni, even better, in a reusable Tupperware. Sandwiches are typically sold in cardboard with a soft-plastic window and, you guessed it, are not-recyclable. If you do buy a sandwich, pull out this window, the rest might just be ok.
- Shop at your local greengrocers. While supermarkets are prone to wrap individual vegetable and fruit items in soft plastic, its less common in smaller, independent greengrocers. ‘Fruit-a-Peel’ in Broomhill is a brilliant example, and the food you can buy there is an absolute steal.
These simple measures will only improve your bank-balance, whilst saving our vulnerable oceans. The UK cannot reduce its plastic without the help of its people, starting with you.