No bag, please!

An update on avoiding plastic

Downsize?

Did you notice? I’ve been posting a lot of recipes, photos and DIY ideas lately. So although I’ve always been keeping the idea of reducing plastic (and packaging in general) in mind, I haven’t really given you an update on or a summary of my efforts. Half a year after I had completed my “plastic challenge” I thought it was about time to put my posts into perspective again. So what has changed?

Well, first of all: Things are still changing. I still try to keep my level of plastic consumption as low as possible, especially as more and more shocking news about the amount of damage plastic has already done to the environment and our health come up (For a short summary click here). But one thing is for sure: I’m still nowhere near the stage where I would say I’ve perfected the art of going plastic-free and turned my place into a zero waste household (like this family manages to), especially as there are some things I just can’t live without (toilet paper would be one of them…). However, I found more and more little tricks, I re-used a lot more things and I also started to reduce my amount of other packaging. On top of that I felt like I consumed less (and spent less money) in general and I discovered a lot of great secondhand markets and online share groups.

The keywords for me are “re-using”, “upcycling”, “sharing” and “making”. So here a few more tricks I learned. I wanted to share them with you because they really made my life so much easier. They will also give you a little summary of what has happened on ingloriousplastics since the end of my challenge.

Re-using

Whenever I buy something packaged I try to find some way to re-use the packaging (I found the Trash Backwards app extremely helpful for that.). This is also how I found a compromise for my toilet paper dilemma: I re-use the plastic packaging. If you cut off the top, you can use it like a normal plastic bag.

As I generally prefer glass, I ended up with a whole bunch of glass jars. Fortunately there are a million things you can do with them and I wouldn’t know how to survive without my little jar collection anymore. I keep on re-using them for all kinds of things: as an alternative to Tupperware containers, for homemade jams (for example my drunken plum jam), chutneys, smoothies, lemonade, dips, dried fruit, herbal oils, as pretty vases, cereal boxes, candy containers or even to serve salad in them. You can also put tea light candles in them. It’s funny cause this wasn’t my intention in the first place, but glass jars actually became some of the most important little helpers in my apartment. Just see for yourself:

red millet salad in a glass jar

red millet salad in a glass jar

apple dessert in a glass jar

apple dessert in a glass jar

Fruit in rum, dad style

Fruit in rum, dad style

tomato chutney in an old chickpea jar

tomato chutney in an old chickpea jar

homemade drunken plum jam

homemade drunken plum jam

Plum chutney

Plum chutney

I found just as many ideas for re-using glass bottles. Pretty bottles can be re-used as vases, for holding candles and of course as a vessel for all sorts of liquids or homemade cosmetics.

homemade herbal oil

homemade herbal oil

homemade green smoothie using a recycled passata bottle

homemade green smoothie using a recycled passata bottle

Old cans make pretty good vases, pen holders, toothbrush holders and plant pots.

I generally try to avoid packaged fruit, but sometimes I found it hard to find things like loose strawberries. So I turned the fruit containers into little greenhouses. That way I don’t have to buy any plastic plant pots. The great thing about that: The fruit containers already have holes at the bottom, which makes it a lot easier to water your plants.

before...

before…

... and after

… and after

Last but not least I tried to find a way to re-use envelopes, magazine pages and lotion containers: I cut old envelopes into little pieces and use them as little notes (for shopping lists etc.). I use pretty pages from old magazines as gift wrapping paper. And I also started using old lotion containers for my soaps.

Upcycling

Whenever I can’t find a way to re-use packaging, I try to make something with it and use at least a little part of it. That’s how I came up with making my own business cards from drink cartons, napkin rings from toilet paper rolls and old newspapers, envelopes from old magazine pages, bookmarks from old candy wrappers and cereal boxes, picture frames from scrap wood and old postcards and fridge magnets from old crown caps. I also found out that you can fuse plastic bags together and use them as a wax paper-like fabric. Then you can turn the old bags into little purses, book wrappers or even clothes. Here’s a little photo gallery of my different projects:

magazine page envelopes

magazine page envelopes

toilet paper roll napkin rings

toilet paper roll napkin rings

The perfect business card for ingloriousplastics - made from an old drink carton

The perfect business card for ingloriousplastics – made from an old drink carton

Reese's pieces bookmark

Reese’s pieces bookmark

melting plastic bags together

melting plastic bags together

... and turning them into unique bookcovers

… and turning them into unique bookcovers

... or postcards

… or postcards

another idea: a scrap wood postcard

another idea: a scrap wood postcard

There are also a lot of things I wanted to do with old clothes. Whenever a piece of clothing was in such a bad state that I couldn’t mend it or give it to someone else, I tried to use the fabric for something different – I turned an old t-shirt into cotton pads and re-usable tissues for example.

DIY cotton pads

DIY cotton pads

I’m also planning on making jeans napkins and pillowcases. And I like to use fabric scraps for decorating my homemade jams:

fabric decoration for my mixed berry jam

fabric decoration for my mixed berry jam

Telling you about all my little upcycling projects I almost forgot the biggest and most fun thing I did: turning an old beer crate into a unique seat for my friends.

beer crate seat

beer crate seat

Sharing & making

Avoiding plastic made me think about what I consumed. So for me it was only logical that I wouldn’t only pay attention to the packaging, but to my behaviour as a consumer in general. I want to downsize and simplify my life. A lot of interesting projects and initiatives like “Umsonstladen” or “Givebox” helped me with this.

Givebox in Düsseldorf

Givebox in Düsseldorf

A public book case is another great idea for sharing things.

A public book case is another great idea for sharing things.

I didn’t only find great secondhand markets in my area (the “Weiberkram” market in Neuss is great for girls’ clothes), but also initiatives that focus on swapping, sharing and giving things to others for free (get more information on this here).

clothes swaps

Even though I was just talking about flea markets, I do actually have to admit I hardly bought any clothes this year as I participated in so many clothes swaps. I got rid of clothes that didn’t fit me anymore and in return I got a completely new wardrobe. I know that this only works as long as people buy new clothes (If we all wore our clothes until they fell apart it wouldn’t work obviously), but I think it’s still a good idea for all those who end up with a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit anymore or which they got as a gift and didn’t like.

I generally try to make more stuff myself – that means cooking from scratch (therefore you can find so many recipes on ingloriousplastics), mixing my own cosmetics and cleaning products, sewing, mending and repairing things. I found a good shoemaker that fixes my shoes for as little as 7€ and I also plan on checking out a Repair Café soon. That way you automatically end up with a lot less packaging – and you save quite a bit of money, too.

So I hope this gives you an idea of what happened behind the scenes of ingloriousplastics and helps you understand the mix of topics in my blog a bit better. And I want to thank all of you for your support and the ideas you sent me. Next week I’m gonna give you a little update on plastic-free shopping, cooking (I love the plastic-free chef) and cosmetics. If you have any questions or suggestions, let me know. Would love to read your thoughts on that!

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5 comments

  1. I found this post really inspiring, thanks for sharing all you’ve been up to. You’re clearly very crafty! I wish I was as crafty as I thought I was before I started this Buy Nothing New year. Hehe.

    1. Thank you, I’m happy to hear you found the post helpful. And don’t worry about being crafty – I think your Buy Nothing New project (which I find really inspiring, by the way 🙂 ) already requires quite a lot of creativity 🙂

  2. Oh I love your creativeness! Some of the ideas like the beer crate seat are so inspiring especially because I have a problem with throwing stuff away… Looking forward to seeing more creative recycling ideas you have to offer on your blog!
    Anja

    1. Thank you so much! I’m planning on posting a few more ideas soon (I will probably be quite busy upycling things for Christmas), I hope you will like them just as much 🙂

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