Finally! A book about saving our planet that is fast, funny and inspiring too. The Joyful Environmentalist (published on 14th July) is written in short chapters for busy people, Isabel doesn’t bother with an examination of the problem but gets right on with the solutions. Her aim: to look for every single way we can take care of the planet; how we live and work, travel, shop, eat, drink, dress, vote, play, volunteer, bank – everything. And to do this wholeheartedly, energetically and joyfully.
The Basics: How to Remove Plastic from Your Home
Make a game of it: start with the plastic that you only use once…Begin with the obvious stuff. You know all this already. But apparently some people don’t. So just in case…
1. Plastic pens. No thanks. If you are a stationery lover, this is an instant joy: find an independent stationers that sells real pens. They still exist. Go there. Choose a beautiful pen made of metal. You don’t have to spend thousands of pounds buying a top-of-the-range pen. But – if you have a birthday coming up then why not treat yourself to a metal pen that you love? It can certainly be an object of beauty. Mine is metal and fills from an inkpot – not with one of those old levers but with a screw-in section – so I don’t even have to buy plastic cartridges. The nib of my beloved fountain pen is italic so it gives people the impression that I have good handwriting. I don’t – but it works miracles compared to plastic biros. You won’t lose it because you’ll take care of it. Really.
2. Shampoo and conditioner. Commercial shampoos and conditioners ruin your scalp and your hair. They really do. I wouldn’t have believed this until I swapped my shampoo in a plastic bottle for a more natural shampoo in a bar form. I didn’t expect the shampoo to be very good to be honest with you – but to my amazement it felt mild and lovely on my hair. I found that my hair didn’t get greasy and I now only have to wash it about once every ten days. Recently a guest of mine left some commercial shampoo and to avoid the waste I thought I’d use it up. Heaven knows what chemicals it had in it but it sure did strip my hair of all its natural oils. For about a week afterwards my scalp felt dry and uncomfortable. I’m not doing that again. Stick to the bars – and use cold water. The conditioner bars are less satisfactory for me (so far), but there are now more and more alternatives on the market. My present favourite is homemade by a friend. A quick hunt around on Instagram for #shampoobar or #conditionerbar will give you lots of options. You won’t be putting chemicals on your head any more either.
3. Razors. Be gone disposable razors forever. Buy yourself one of the beautiful metal ones that lasts a lifetime. They look great and, with their metal blades, they work better too.
4.Soap. In a plastic dispenser? You have to be kidding me. But a bar of soap with your favourite perfume in it will please you every time you use it. Use an old-fashioned soap dish (to drain the water off the soap) made from china, wood or enamel.
5. Fruit and vegetables. Plastic wrappers around fresh food like bananas, oranges and avocados? Just refuse to buy them. Sometimes you have to be prepared to inconvenience yourself. If you go to a supermarket and the food that you want to eat is wrapped in plastic, take ten minutes out of your day and ask to speak to the manager and explain why you won’t be buying the wrapped bananas because you don’t eat banana peel. I did this last week and the manager said, ‘You are the second person this week who has raised concerns about packaging and whose custom we have lost because of it.’ Do they care? Yes, they do. This is capitalism and they care about every purchase. Meanwhile, go on adventures and find all the places locally where you can buy what you need without the plastic. Once you start this it brings the fun back into shopping. You are now an activist. We have a grocer’s near where I live where I can buy 90 per cent of my fruit and veg package and waste-free. I tell them this is the reason I shop with them and they tell me, ‘People keep saying they come here for the waste-free shopping.’ You may feel that just your shopping habits won’t make a difference. But there are millions of us.
6. Dried products. We have our first waste-free shop locally. You take all your containers with you. They weigh the containers then weigh them again when you’ve filled them with nuts, lentils, muesli or whatever takes your fancy. To walk to this shop from my house takes 30 minutes but I find it so satisfying and enjoyable to shop there that I’m happy to do the walk. I’m aiming at zero waste which is an ideal that I don’t expect to achieve but it’s weirdly satisfying unpacking your weekly shop and having nothing to throw away.
7. Plastic bottles for water. Are you kidding? Tap water is perfectly safe and has to be rigorously tested. Do your own research. Come to your own conclusions, but buy one portable water carrier (not made of plastic) – and use it for the rest of your life. I have a local friend on benefits. She really struggles with money. But she buys two bottles of water in plastic bottles a day. She spends over £820 a year on buying water. I tease her that she must be very rich and point out that I drink tap water every day and don’t seem to have died. But there is nothing I can do to persuade her to stop wasting her money and polluting the planet. As you may imagine, I’ve tried. But please – don’t buy water or any carbonated drinks in plastic bottles.
8. Shopping bags. Plastic bags? ‘Bags for life’? Insulated extra-thick ‘anti-bacterial’ plastic bags from supermarkets? Enough already. Don’t you agree? If we want to pick up some food from a corner shop and don’t have a bag with us, we can’t shop. Period. Surely we can learn to carry a thin cotton tote bag that we love? It can’t be beyond the wit of humankind to accomplish this. We have a planet to save. And bin liners? Nope. You’re not going to have much rubbish by the time we are done anyway.
Isabel Losada is the bestselling author of six previous books including The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment. Find out more at isabellosada.com; find Isabel Instagram at @isabeljmlosada and Twitter at @IsabelLosada.