A Year of No Plastic: The Final Result
At the start of 2016, I vehemently declared that I was going to go plastic free.
It was something I’d been working towards for quite awhile. I was sick of travelling and seeing rubbish, everywhere I went. It was time to stand up and do something about it. This seemed like a good start.
I could see endless benefits from going plastic free – not only for the planet, but personal ones as well – like improving one’s health and having an opportunity to get a little creative.
Related: How to Travel Responsibly, Without Blowing Your Money
So, now that the year is almost up, let’s have a look back and see how it all went.
The first six months
I think it’s fair to say, that the first six months of my experiment were a roaring success. I blogged about the results, with monthly roundups, where I highlighted what had worked and what I wanted to improve on.
We set up a compost in our backyard, for all of our vegetable and fruit food scraps. I reorganised my toiletries bag, by brushing with bamboo toothbrushes, trying my hand at creating my own toothpaste and making my own rose-scented face toner and perfume.
I started buying our veggies and fish from a nearby market in London, managing to shop while using no plastic whatsoever.
Clothes were washed with homemade laundry powder and bought secondhand (something I’d actually been doing for awhile) and I even managed to sew up some holes in old pairs of leggings and trousers. This is a HUGE achievement, believe me.
Travelling seemed an issue at first, but I did manage to cut down my use of plastic by an awful lot.
I took advantage of my backyard in London (a rare thing indeed) and along with the compost, started growing herbs and plants. Some of them got a weird fungus and others were eaten by caterpillars. What can I say, I tried.
Everything was going really, really well. Yet, then life threw a curveball, as it so commonly does.
Starting to lag in the latter half of the year
Around the middle of the year, I was told that by October, I’d no longer have a home in London. That blew everything out of the water.
I started working and travelling a lot more than I had been in the first half of the year. In fact, July to November is pretty much a blur. I was barely home at all and one thing I’d discovered during my experiment, was that it only really works if you’re organised and actually make the time for it.
Some of my new, good habits had already been set in the earlier months of the year, but I wasn’t able to implement much new in the latter. Drats. And don’t get me started on how much I missed my compost. I never got to use the fruits of our efforts! Waaaah!
What I’d like to work on in 2017
The year might be over, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to go back to my old, plastic guzzling ways.
I’d still like to do all in my power to reduce my overall waste output. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go zero waste (in all honesty, I feel a bit sceptical when people claim they are), but I think it’s an excellent idea to gun towards.
When I’m settled somewhere next year, I hope to pick up where I left off. Australia could be doing a lot better, but it’s a little easier to buy stuff loose at supermarkets here than in the UK. I want a compost again. It would also be nice to reimplement a vegetable patch.
Now I’m at home, I don’t have to worry so much about adding to my wardrobe, which means I can go secondhand clothes shopping again! I’m thinking about seeing if I can do a basic sewing class. Apparently doing sewing twice as an elective in high school has had no effect whatsoever on my skill set. I think that’s because it was forced, rather than by choice.
Overall, I think I need to work on buying experiences, rather than things. I’m a bit of a hoarder (I can hear my family roaring with laughter and screaming: “A bit?!” as they read this) and I don’t necessarily see a problem with that so there, but it would probably be in anyone’s best interest to own less stuff.
Overall, I feel like I owe the experiment quite a lot. It’s made me think about the way I travel and live my day to day life. I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff (through trial and error as I was getting greatly frustrated at the beginning).
Best of all, I’ve realised that I can make an impact, even as one person in a sea of billions. Over the course of the year I had both friends and strangers contact me, with tips and advice. Or even say “Hey, that’s a good idea, I’m going to do the same.” To which I’d respond “You think my ideas are good?!” and my eyes would fill up with tears like some overly-emotional Japanese anime character.
I still have a few plastic-free posts to publish, mostly aimed at helping you out on your travels. It’s not a topic I’m going to let die and wither away into nothingness. It’s something that I feel passionate about (along with responsible travel in general) and this blog is a passion project, so it makes sense to tie the two together, no?
Overall, I feel proud with the progress made this year and it’s something I hope to continue contributing to for the rest of my life.
How did you go with your new year’s resolutions? Would you consider giving up plastic for a year?
I never thought of doing it. You have inspired me. Going plastic free will be my new year resolution for 2017 🙂
Thank you Neha! Every bit makes a difference.
great thing for you to have done – what did you find the single most frustrating thing about the experience?
Straws! What’s the go with straws? I tell people “I don’t want a straw” and around 50% of the time they ignore me. They’re so pointless and I dislike them immensely.
This is an awesome resolution! I might add it to my list for 2017! The city I live in actually banned the use of plastic bags this year which is so good. Littering and trash in general is a big problem where I live, hopefully it will change in the coming year 😀
Thank you Johna, please do! Let’s have a no-plastic party. 🙂
This is indeed something to be proud of. I have avoided plastics but never made my own soap or paste. You are a pioneer in this.
Thanks Indrani. You should give it a try!
Well done, this is inspirational & you should totally give yourself a huge pat of the back – not many people would even attempt to try to go plastic free yet go through with it for the whole year. Have you heard of Lifestraw water bottles? They filter all water & you can drink it instantaneously – it’s so good. I’ve saved so much plastic & money using it this past year in Central America!
I haven’t used Lifestraw. I did have another branded bottle, but I wasn’t too keen on it in the end. It leaked a lot. It is nuts how much money you save with those sort of devices. I never understand why more people don’t do it!
First, let me just say that you are amazing. I mean many people like myself are aware of the bad effects of plastics in the environment, but we don’t really do anything about it. But you, you made the effort to do it, I’ve no doubt that it’s hard (hell I’m just imagining it and already I feel like it’d be very challenging) but you tried and still trying, I think that’s what important.
Not sure if I can replicate what you did, but you’ve inspired me to try.
Haha, thanks Marge, I dunno about amazing, but your words are very kind. I just got really pissed off with the world one day and wanted to do something about it. There’s a lot I wish I’d done better, but at the end of the day (as you said), you can only try. I think every bit counts – whether you carry around your own water bottle, say no to straws, or stop using plastic bags. It’s less plastic in the end, and that’s what matters!
i wish i could do the same thing.. first off i dont know how to make toothpaste at home. im interested how you could make it and is it effective? i have my braces so i need dental floss picks 🙁 feel bad about the plastic i need to throw each day … hopefully i could figure something out before this year ends.. anyway.. for plastic cups i just use my tumbler instead… thank you for trying to cut down on the plastic consumption – ust want to mention last yesterday i went to a shopping area in manila (it’s in quiapo) it was awfully filled with trash 🙁 we really have to stand up and make a decision – and wish more people would do the same ! happy new year in advance!!!
Argh, why am I just seeing this comment now?! The toothpaste was coconut oil and bicarbonate but I’m going to experiment with something else this year. Tooth floss is still a work in progress… although some people use hairs off their own heads instead! Rubbish in the street is super upsetting, I know what you mean!
You might not have totally cut out plastic for the whole year, but I’d say the reduction was an enormous success. Nice work!
Thanks Katie! All you can do is try. 🙂
Great work! OK so you didn’t eliminate plastic entirely, but you have definitely made a difference, and as you say, one person making a seemingly small gesture can have a big effect in the great scheme of things 🙂
Thanks Joe. The sound of one hand clapping, right?!
I managed to reduce the amount of food that go to waste to about zero lately. I shop much more consciously. But I still keep feeling bad about all the packing material of the food we are buying. Your experiment is really inspiring. I will give it some thought how I could reduce the plastic in our lives as well.
It’s hard to reduce plastic whilst shopping! When we were growing our own food, that helped a lot. Well done on limiting your food waste – that’s a big issues worldwide.
How did going plastic-free affect your travelling? Did it prevent you from taking part in anything you would have liked to do?
Yeah sometimes I had to say no to things like drinking on planes if I’d forgotten my keep cup and one time had to say no to buying chocolate in Switzerland. They wouldn’t accept my cloth bag because it was “unhygienic”… whatever!
Wow! Look at you go. That is an amazing effort even with the curve ball. I haven’t actually thought of giving it up completely but do try to limit the amount we use.
Thank you! Ever little bit less counts, I reckon.
Reducing the plastic use is a good idea, although I believe that will only work if you try as a society.
I say reducing because it is impossible to completely eradicate plastic. And it really doesn’t make sense. Plastic is very useful, it’s just overused and not recycled enough (as it should).
Yeah, I agree it is impossible at the moment, due to the way society is geared. The less used the better – reduce, reuse and recycle is a great mantra to live by!
What an awesome idea!Loving our planet means being conscious of how we use things that can help or at least not harm the planet. Some say recycle but reducing or even stopping the use of plastic is a very effective way to show our love to our planet.
I like the idea of reducing, reusing and recycling as a last resort, as I’m wary of how much “recycle” actually ends up, well, being recycled.