Plastic Free July is a global movement to reduce plastic waste. It is an initiative that I began to learn about and share ideas from while working in India where the waste crisis is of monumental proportions. One of the fortunate things that the month long event highlights is that there are a range of solutions from saying “no” to single-use plastics to creating new circular (use-collect-repurpose-renew for reuse) methods that address systemic problems in the traditional linear economy (take-make-dispose in landfills).
I wanted to delve into some of these solutions by using my newly released book, Bare Necessities: How to Live a Zero Waste Life, co-authored with Sahar Mansoor founder of her own zero-waste enterprise.
It is an easy-to-use guide that equips you with the tools to make positive changes to your life and the environment by providing activities, insights, recipes, tips and how-to guides. This article is the first of three to be published this July. Today we will be looking at two of the more intimate areas of your waste journey before delving into more communal topics in the coming weeks.
‘Though one wrapper of soap or one bottle of shampoo might not seem to matter, it can definitely make a difference when multiplied by over a billion people who live in India and who comprise one-seventh of the world’s population.’
If the bathroom is an area where you generate the most plastic waste in your life what can you do about it?
Throughout the chapter Sahar provides personal insights about how she came to realise that for her it was indeed the largest waste generating area in her life. Undertaking assessments of the waste generated, like those included in each chapter of the book, allowed her to discover new techniques and methods to reduce waste. This included making soaps from natural ingredients and creating other commonly used bathroom products that can be made (or bought at many zero-waste/environmentally conscious businesses these days) without using plastic or ingredients that may be harmful to your body and/or the environment.
Here is a unique recipe from our book to try out during Plastic Free July that can reduce the amount of waste from toothpaste tubes.
Peppermint Party Toothpaste
You will need:
- 1 part baking soda
- 1 part coconut oil
- A few drops of peppermint essential oil.
All you need to do to get naturally clean teeth is to mix it all together in a bowl until it becomes a paste and then place it in a reusable container for the next time you brush your teeth.
While this may taste and appear to be different from the toothpaste you’re used to, it is worth trying out. There are other zero-waste options available if this taste is not for you. You can always research online to learn more.
To use the Peppermint Party Toothpaste:
- Scoop a tiny dollop with a teaspoon on to your toothbrush (you could start using this and a bamboo toothbrush at the same time) before every use.
There are many other ideas inside the book too (like the linear and circular system illustrations below), make sure to get your hands on a copy to learn more.
‘Every day, India generates plastic waste that weighs as much as 150 large blue whales—the biggest animal known to exist.’
A pretty daunting statistic right? Fortunately there are a number of straight-forward zero-waste tips and tricks that you can use to reduce waste in your life, and thereby help to address the overall problem. To conclude our knowledge sharing expedition of the first chapter of Bare Necessities: How to Live a Zero-Waste Life I have detailed a select few of those tips and tricks for you to trial during this month long movement to reduce plastic waste.
Zero-Waste Tips and Tricks
- Use a compostable toothbrush, e.g., a bamboo brush
- Make products from scratch, e.g., make-up remover
- Stop using personal-care products that come in plastic. Instead, find alternatives that use glass, paper, etc.
‘In a linear fashion model, it’s estimated that 73 per cent of all our clothes end up in landfills for various reasons, like the lack of collection systems and ineffective redistribution.’
What can you do if you do not know where your clothes are made from or where your used items go?
Many individuals in India (and other locations in the world) have come across this same problem. Several of them have started fantastic movements focused on fashion, similar to how Plastic Free July focuses on plastic reduction more broadly, Fashion Revolution is a prime example. While others have implemented knowledge and resource sharing methods in their own unique ways, such as clothes swaps.
Zero-Waste Clothes Swaps
Here are a select few examples of different clothes swaps that we provide information on within our book. There are less-well known businesses in some of the smaller cities, too. Added to this many initiatives such as these are now run online due to the pandemic, which enables access to this resource in an even wider range of locations.
- Switcheroo is an event hosted in Hyderabad by the Global Shapers Community, a global ‘network of young people driving dialogue, action and change’. They swap menswear, womenswear and accessories, too. They accept anything in great condition, with a view to promote sustainable use of products.
- Exchange Room is a terrific eco-friendly clothes swap. The community that started with ten participants in July 2014 now has thousands of Instagram followers. This event is regularly hosted in Bengaluru
- Apparent Club is a peer-to-peer app that focuses on lending and renting clothes. They are based in Mumbai and building an online presence. They provide consumers with clothes and information on the inherent dangers of fast fashion. Their aim is to increase the life of products by creating a circular economy for the apparel they rent.
There are many environmental champions across the world like these organisations that promote waste reduction in many methods. One great way that the activities in the book enables each reader to become involved is to assess your waste and to find out what resources are available. An example of the ‘Assess Your Waste’ activity from the book is below. Try it out yourself! This process provides an opportunity to learn where your clothes are made and find out where they go after you no longer wear them.
There are so many resources and ideas to share these days. Keep making incremental steps to reducing your waste this Plastic Free July! The next article in this series will provide solutions for your kitchen and home more broadly, as well as providing zero-waste gems about gifting and festivals.
You can gain your own copy of India’s first zero-waste guidebook here:
- Bare Necessities
- Penguin India
- Amazon for an e-book (Kindle) version
- Rakuten for an e-book (Kobo) version
- Bookstores across India.
All references are available in Bare Necessities: How to Live a Zero-Waste Life.
Written by: Tim de Ridder