St Bride's: News

#PlasticLessLent Review

#PlasticLessLent Review

Well done to everyone who joined St Bride's choir in attempting #PlasticLessLent! And what a formidable challenge it has been. In looking back on the progress we made, it's interesting to note what aspects we found most straightforward, and what we found trickier to tackle.

Week One

Week one was a relatively easy challenge - reduce our plastic use in hot beverages. Reusable cups made from bamboo or rice husk are widely available these days, and our Director of Music, Robert was one of the first in the congregation to seek one out and vow to use it from then on. We were shocked to find out that most teabags contain plastic to seal the bags. But we also found the brands Pukka and Waitrose Duchy don't use plastic at all. Neil enjoyed going the full Downton, using exclusively loose tea for the duration of Lent; something he intends to keep up in future!

Week Two

In week two, we tackled the bathroom, a room usually chock full of plastic bottles. Nina became an unofficial ambassador for Lush, buying their blocks of shampoo, conditioner and body butter, all totally plastic free. Claire sourced some similar products online, as Lush makes her sneeze! Pete tried a block of deodorant from Lush and put it through some extremely rigorous testing by playing football! He was pleased to report it kept him smelling of roses right to the end of the match. We discovered that returning to block hand soap won't mean a side order of bacteria, as it has been found to be just as hygienic as liquid soap. Some of us tried bamboo toothbrushes and old-school metal razors, and were pleasantly pleased with the results. Neil signed up to a toilet roll delivery scheme from the company Who Gives A Crap, who sent him out a month's supply wrapped entirely in paper.

Week Three

In week three, we focussed on soft drinks and all made an extra effort to carry our own water bottles with us. We discovered that the café chains Leon and Costa, and the Tate galleries will fill your bottles up without you having to buy anything in their shops, and we turned to www.refill.org.uk to find our nearest independent café or shop willing to do the same in the capital.

Week Four

In week four, we looked at household cleaning products - another very plastic-heavy part of our lifestyles. Rachel tried the Splosh range of cleaning products who send their first batch out in plastic bottles, but then send small concentrated refills out packaged in cardboard, which can be used to make your finished empty bottle up with water. Although not as strong in cutting through the muck as their non-eco counterparts, the products were not expensive and cleaned well with a bit of extra elbow-grease. Nina tried cleaning simply with lemon and bicarbonate of soda, and was surprised at how effective they were.

Week Five

In week five, we turned to food storage, both at home and when buying takeaway meals. Nina tried to persuade Eat and Wasabi to let her use her own pot for their takeaway food. Wasabi were having none of it, but Eat were reluctantly persuaded to give it a go. Lucy tried some beeswax wraps to carry her sandwiches on the move. She was extremely please with the results, and has been recommending them to everyone she meets ever since.

Week Six

In week six, we attempted to cut our use of plastic when food shopping. This was definitely the most difficult challenge of all. Supermarkets in the UK produce a million tons of plastic waste every year, packaging food that will last for days in plastic that will last for centuries. Some of us made an effort to visit our local markets more often in order to buy loose fruit and veg, and Nina persuaded her local butcher to fill large plastic pots she brought from home, including a whole chicken on one occasion! Rachel signed up to a delivery box scheme, to make sure at least her fruit and veg were arriving in her house plastic free. Whilst we found there are some food items it is practically impossible to buy without plastic packaging, we found out that you can recycle more plastic than we first thought: in your local supermarket plastic bag bin. So if you're stuck with the supermarket as your main food source, it's reassuring to know it's possible to keep most it out of landfill with a bit of extra effort.

Looking to the Future

In the UK, there are signs that things are moving in the right direction: plans for a plastic bottle deposit scheme were unveiled by the government last week; councils are working harder to recycle more types of plastic; and supermarkets are coming round to the idea that they perhaps don't need to use quite as much plastic packaging as they do.

Plastic has become essential in some areas of our lives, so it is impractical to try to do away with it altogether. But charities such as The Ellen MacArthur Foundation are connecting with big industry to help them move towards a circular (no-waste) economy, and scientists are working hard to try to find biodegradable alternatives. Here, The Week summarises the five main hopes for a more eco-plastic future:

http://theweek.com/articles/705421/5-weird-materials-that-could-replace-plastic

Whilst our attempts at reducing our use of plastic will have left most of us feeling despondent at some point or other during Lent, what matters is we all had a go. A group of individuals making small changes will have more impact on the environment in the long run, than one person making lots of big changes. Think of all the plastic cups, bags, bottles, packets and wrappers we have kept out of landfill together this Lent, in a challenge that served our fellow human beings more than merely giving up our own personal poisons such as booze and chocolate.

The choir hope you have enjoyed the challenge of Plastic-less Lent and can see yourselves carrying it on into the future. We will continue to post relevant news stories and photos on Twitter @StBrides_Choir  from time to time. The Facebook group set up by the inspirational theologian Ruth Valerio at the start of Lent will be carrying on under the new name 'Plastic-less Living'. With 2500 members, it is a great source of inspiration and advice for building a greener future on a grassroots level.

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