A sustainability experiment: living with no plastics for two weeks

Zero waste

Strip yourself from all the plastic! You are probably aware of the fact that we are currently facing a very critical and concerning time when it comes to the state of our planet. We all do.

The news is spilling with reports on global warming, extreme weather changes, plastic and chemical pollution (pesticides, insecticides, antibodies and hormones), especially since the start of the “Fridays for future” movement. We all know that these things exist, and we are all concerned. We want politicians to make a change.

But be totally honest – have you ever asked yourself what role you play? What change you can already attain?

I must admit that until only a few weeks back I was not really aware of how much I impact the environment. I felt good because I took my bike to university and only bought vegetables that where not wrapped in plastic. I felt that I did my duty for our planet and a healthy environment and moaned about the waste of plastic and other waste materials, especially in the medical sector. I then however noticed with horror how much waste I as a single person really produce.

People always tell me “So what should we do? There are no other options. The government has to make changes not we! And if we would cut our plastic use it would not make an impact anyway!”.

In addition to that people will argue that the few options that exist are very costly and hard to find. For very long I thought just like that myself. But when I started to dig deeper into the topic of plastic pollution, I found that there are options and good ones too.

I decided to start an “no-plastic” experiment for two weeks.

For the bathroom I bought a bamboo toothbrush, toothpaste in a glass jar, cream for my face and body in a glass container, shampoo and body wash in a piece and made my own body scrub made from oil and sugar and deep hair conditioner from honey, yoghurt and olive oil.

I must admit that I was very skeptical of these products. But I was surprised to the positive.

Yes, it is true that the products are a bit more expensive than the plastic based or wrapped counterparts. But I have noticed two things: For one the things last much longer and secondly, I also use them with greater deliberation.

My hair had a healthy gleam and was voluminous, my skin felt clean and looked impeccable and my teeth got clean as well.

For the food it was a bit more difficult. I bought cheese in a piece instead of the packed one, bought yoghurt and milk in glass containers and went to the weekly market to get my vegetables and fruits that I put in special reusable and washable cotton sacks.

I bought my bread in the bakery instead of packed and cut bread from the supermarket and fish from a market vendor.

Instead of using plastic or aluminium foil for wrapping left-over foods or my sandwiches for lunch I used paper bags or reusable and washable wrapping paper made from bee wax (simply the best invention of all times).

But I must admit that I was not fully plastic free. There was no way of getting around buying plastic packed noodles, rice and bulgur. I also had difficulties to find non-plastic options for my cleaning agents.

Yes, it is true that the products are a bit more expensive than the plastic based or wrapped counterparts. But I have noticed two things: For one the things last much longer and secondly, I also use them with greater deliberation.

Just to name an example: A bottle of shampoo (about 2 Euros) would last at most 3 weeks, the block of shampoo-soap (6 Euros) lasted me about 2 months. Similarly, the bread that I would buy from the supermarket (1 Euro) lasted me 3-4 days while I could eat from a fresh bread from the bakery for one week. The difference in spend money in the long run was rather minimal and even seems to speak for the non-plastic products!

For sure it also always depends on the availability of the products.

Plastic has however also found its ways to conquer our soils, seas and water supplies where it has toxic and deadly effects. We all know that we have a plastic problem. We all know the pictures of the sea animals strangled in plastic nets or plastic bags. We all know the pictures of the planes and mountains of plastic waste. We all talk about it. We all scorn it. We all say that we must find a solution – we have to reduce and get rid of plastic. We talk about recycling. We talk about reusing. We talk about cleaning the oceans. But is that really the best option we have? Wouldn’t it be a better idea to get rid of plastic once and for all – simply not use it anymore?

Just think about it – when your sink starts to spill over you instinctively close the tap instead of trying to wipe away the overflowing water.

It’s the same with plastic; we must grab the problem by the roots.

I challenge you all to stop simply complaining about plastic pollution and to wait for big plastic revolutions from industry and politics. Make a change yourself by not only recycling and reusing plastic but by refusing its use once and for all. All together we will make a change!

Climate change is here and its impacts are only going to get worse - unless we act now. Whether it is organizing a climate strike or using reusable bags, young people from around the world are taking actions - small and big -  to protect their futures. What are you doing? Find some inspiration for Youth, by Youth, here