Plastic Free July: Handbag essentials

by Hanna Pumfrey

If you’re anything like me gals (and guys!) your handbag is likely large and filled with an inordinate number of inane objects that rarely see the light of day and when questioned on why they are in there you would struggle to give a rational explanation. So, as I move through Plastic Free July I have decided to give my handbag a bit of a makeover and remove all those unnecessary items and replace them with useful ones that will help me (and hopefully you) avoid little plastic nasties sneaking into my day.

The thing about plastic is that for every piece that has been created it still exists in some form or other. Plastic was designed to be used for products that last a life time, not for single use. Plastic Free July is all about removing plastic from our individual lives but it is also about the power of a united voice. Retailers do not make reducing your plastic consumption easy but together, if we all adopt these little changes in our day to day lives and unite as one voice we can start to change this.

So here is a list of my handbag essentials (and where to find them) for going plastic free this July and beyond:

Re-usable water bottle/drinks cup

An obvious one I know but one it’s all too easy to forget about in my experience. Millions of single use plastic bottles are made every year and just 7% of these are made from recycled materials. This means we’re adding millions of tonnes of plastics to the ocean every year, harming marine wildlife and spreading toxic chemicals.

Our coffee habit is also having a negative effect on the environment; disposable coffee cups have a thin layer of plastic on them to keep them waterproof. This makes them extremely difficult, if not impossible to recycle.

For me this was all about making dropping my re-usable water bottle and coffee cup into my bag each morning a habit. They say it takes between 18-254 days for a new behaviour to become a habit… I think it took me about 2 months but I genuinely now feel lost without my water bottle!!

My preferred brands are Yuhme for water and Keep Cup glass cups for my morning coffee.

Grab a tote!

 These do what they say on the tin but prevent you getting caught short on those last minute dashes to the supermarket on the way home! I use cloth bags from All Cotton and Linen and would recommend Be For Change tote bags to support a budding London based social enterprise. Be for change totes are made from surplus cotton fabric and have no plastic lining.

Biodegradable wipes

If you’re anything like me, living and travelling in London can start to cause a certain level of anxiety if one starts to dwell too much on tube germs, escalator germs, general city germs! So, it’s always super handy to have wet wipes to hand. When I first started to take steps to a more sustainable lifestyle I initially stopped using wet wipes as they are so wasteful- then I came across Natracare 100% organic cotton cloth wipes that are both biodegradable and compostable. Buy them in Waitrose!

Eco-friendly makeup with refillable packaging

I recently made the switch to Kjaer Weis products; certified organic, no artificial ingredients, tested on humans and coming in a refillable stainless steel pot - what’s not to love! This is makeup that is actually good for your skin; their foundation contains sweet almond seed oil which is a natural emollient used to moisturise and promote skin elasticity. And not a hint of plastic packaging in sight!

Biodegradable gum

Switch out your made from plastic gum for a biodegradable version. Try Chewsy, a natural gum that is the only 100% natural and sugar free chewing gum in the UK made with only 5 natural ingredients sourced from trees. That means no aspartame, no artificial flavours or sweeteners, no preservatives, and no plastic gum base. Its natural chicle gum base is soft to chew and sweetened with natural xylitol for healthy teeth. And because it is made using only natural ingredients, Chewsy gum is completely biodegradable and better for the planet. Why wouldn’t you want to make this switch?! Find it in Planet Organic!

Bamboo hairbrush

This is a super simple, minimal effort plastic free switch. Not only are biodegradable bamboo brushes eco-friendly and entirely plastic free, they also reduce static and help the even distribution of your hairs natural oils.

Bamboo, is an environmentally sustainable timber and needs no pesticides or fertiliser to grow. It re-generates itself naturally, with minimal rain.

Bamboo does however need a lot of manipulation to make it into useful products and some suppliers are hugely environmentally friendly in the way they carry out this process. So, as always, it’s important to research the origin of your product before buying. The oval bamboo pin hairbrush from Body Shop is a winner in my books.

Re-usable beeswax food wraps

Beeswax food wraps are mother nature’s replacement for plastic nasties like cling film. I recommend Buzzcloth wraps, made by hand in Devon, from sustainably and locally sourced Beeswax and Cotton. Their washable food wraps lock in moisture and keep air out keeping food fresh.  Made from totally natural materials meaning at the end of each wraps life, between 3 months and a year, you can discard them on the compost!  No more plastic to throw away!

Zero waste Deodorant

Move on from toxic, plastic wrapped deodorant’s and get yourself a zero waste deodorant bar. Natural deodorant bars work by tightening pores but don’t clog them like traditional anti-perspirants. You can also get them completely unscented, which I see as a massive plus, no artificial scents hanging around. They last up to two year’s so they’re a great money saver as well!

From the research I’ve done these are not easy to source in the UK- Try Lush for unpackaged deodorant bars in either citrus or unscented. If anyone knows of any other options, please let me know in the comments section!

Use a handkerchief

That’s right people, I’m bringing back the handkerchief. Ok, so I know pocket tissues themselves aren’t made from plastic but the packet they come in sure is and in the spirit of going totally plastic free I am channelling my inner Grandad and making handkerchiefs cool again.

Check out Rawganique to select your handkerchief of choice. They have a plethora of eco-friendly organic cotton, linen and hemp handkerchiefs to choose from.

Happy Plastic Free July everyone!