If everything else you’ve read so far this month feels like a step too far right now, that’s fine … the little changes listed today are easy to build into a daily routine and will save you money at the same time.
If you don’t already have one, the first thing to consider getting is a reusable water bottle. They come in so many different shapes, sizes, colours, patterns, and materials that you are bound to find one that works for you. I love my Refill Chippenham bottle by Jerry; it’s double walled so keeps drinks hot or cold, and the company invests in water projects in developing world. I find it a good size for a handbag and, because it has a handle, it can be carabiner-clipped on to a rucksack if desired. BILLIONS of single-use plastic bottles are manufactured each year, and this is such a simple way to avoid adding to waste stream. The Refill scheme and its app is absolutely ideal for finding free water while on the go.
- If you usually buy three bottles of water a week at £1.00 a bottle, you’d save £156.00 a year by switching.
Next up: a reusable cup. Disposable coffee cups are difficult to recycle due to their plastic lining, and 2.5 billion are used in the UK alone (approximately 500 billion globally). Like with water bottles, there are so many different styles available now that it should be fairly straightforward to find one that reflects your personality and lifestyle.
- If you usually buy three coffees a week and get a £0.25 discount on each one, that’s £39.00 a year saved. We’re up to a total savings of £195.00 a year. Even with the initial investment for the bottles and the cups, that’s not too shabby!
Many people have already made the switch to reusable bags to avoid the 5p fee, and this is a great area to cut back in if you aren’t already BYOB (bringing your own bag). We tend to use these utility totes from Thirty-one, which unfortunately aren’t available in the UK as far as I’m aware, but any decent-size reusable bag (or rucksack) will do the job. Onya bags are also one of our favourites because they fold down well to fit in jacket pockets and are also practically indestructible. Mesh bags for loose fruit, vegetables, and bread rolls may not save additional money, but it’s another easy way to cut back on single-use products.
- If you were to use eight single-use carrier bags in the course of a week, that’s 40p each week or £20.80 over a year. Rounding up just a smidge, that would be a total of £216.00 a year saved by making these substitutions.
Finally, packing a lunch instead of relying on a supermarket meal deal on a regular basis will cut back on a lot of waste (sandwich carton, crisp packet, plastic bottle) … and probably be better for your waist as well!
- If you spent £3.00 per meal deal three times a week, that would be £468.00 a year. All of these add up to £684.00 a year that could potentially be saved by making simple substitutions.
When it comes to using all of these products, there are few things to keep in mind: convenience and habit. The reason that single-use plastics have been able to take over the world is because they’re quick and convenient—just them grab and go. Incorporating reusable products into your daily life requires just a little bit of forethought and developing positive habits around how you use them.
For example, bottles and reusable cups can be left near your keys in the evening. You automatically grab these before you leave the house, right? Find a place for large shopping bags to live near your front door or get into the habit of immediately putting them back into your car after you unload your shopping. The mesh bags can live within the shopping bags so that they’re always on hand.
This is what works for us but think about your normal routines. Keys, wallets, handbags, phones … all of these (usually) leave the house with you—where does it make the most sense to put your reusables so don’t have to think about bringing them with you?
Finally, if you want to go one step further, consider having an emergency kit in your car so you are never without a reusable container. For us, that means a large Tupperware container housing a smaller container, Onya bag, a few mesh fruit and veg bags, and cutlery. It lives on the floor of the backseat and means we are sorted if we unexpectedly decide to go shopping.
Extra Credit: I don’t eat food on the go but carrying reusable cutlery (maybe purchased at a charity shop?) and a reusable straw is something else that can be done to reduce your wasteline even further.