If you're reading this from somewhere within the English-speaking world you're probably already familiar with the term 'reusable' and the urgency with which it has crept into our vernacular in recent years. I can't quite pinpoint the tipping point but there's been a definite shift in the public consciousness from embracing the 'to-go' restaurant culture to demanding more sustainable solutions to the non-reusable / non-recyclable packaging we've been accustomed to.
I've become something of a sustainability evangelist in the past couple of years and have finally found a little collection of go-tos that I make sure I carry with me when I'm heading out for the day. They are by no means perfect but they work for me so perhaps they'll work for you too.
Here are my top picks:
According to the British Coffee Association the old adage of the UK being a nation of tea drinkers is being challenged by the 95 million cups of coffee we drink each day. Of that number 9.5 million people - myself included - will buy a coffee when they are out. Sometimes more than once a day. (Guilty as charged.) Unfortunately the majority of takeaway cups aren't recyclable so they end up heading to landfill. Swapping to a reusable cup was an easy decision to make and, actually, as I freelance in different offices it became quite normal for me to bring my own cup in that it's now just a daily habit. There are loads on the market to chose from: I started out with Keep Cup but found their cups are very dribbly - could just be me though - so I swapped to Bamboo and haven't looked back.
Top tip: Avoid the cups with floppy lids. They serve no purpose other than to frustrate. If you chose to get a reusable cup get one with a solid or screw top lid. If you're on a budget and still can't quite kick your caffeine habit go online to see which coffee shops offer discounts for bringing your own cup. Caffe Nero will give loyalty card holders two stamps each time you bring your own cup and Pret offers a competitive 50p off which means you could be walking away with your coffee costing as little as 49p. An added bonus of reusable cups is the majority aren't insulated so are perfect for hot and cold drinks as well as room-temperature ones like wine...I won't tell if you don't.
If you watched any of David Attenborough's Blue Planet 2 this year you'll have no doubt seen the devastating effect that plastic is having on our oceans and marine life. Once upon a time plastic bags were free of charge in supermarkets but nowadays you can pay anything from 10p to £1.50 for a bag to pack your groceries. If I'm heading out to the shops I bring a couple of cloth bags with me so I can avoid avoid getting hit with the bag charge. If you're keen to ditch as much plastic as you can you can look into reusable food wraps like these ones to replace cling film, tea towels to mop up spills instead of kitchen roll and, if you are able to, ditch plastic straws and opt for something more sustainable like bamboo or stainless steel. I say 'if you are able to' because some people simply aren't. They depend on plastic straws to be able to drink, sometimes eat and take medication as this article by Penny Pepper explains. So, while an outright ban isn't practical or fair until something that works for everyone has been invented, I suppose the general advice is if you can ditch them, do and if not, don't.
For me sustainability is something I try to practice as often as I can. It can take a while to become a habit but I've found it worth sticking to. When I began to delve deeper into the world of reusables I found it exciting if a little overwhelming; cultish even, with an expectation that I'd suddenly be going exclusively to the bulk food store laden with mason jars to do my weekly shop. It can be this way if you want it to but if you're just dipping your toe in I suggest starting small with something that's easy for you to remember to do each day and take it from there.