My plastic free journey, and how you can join the #2023plasticfree pledge too

Everywhere you look, you’ll find plastic. Scientists have even found microplastics far away from humans, in the Arctic. It’s in the water we drink; the food we eat; the air we breathe.

Worried? I am. That’s why I’m doing something about it.

The clincher for the start of my plastic free journey was when I learnt that the great pacific garbage patch i.e. the world’s largest accumulation of ocean plastic, was twice the size of France. That absolutely blew my mind.

Studying a sustainability masters at Leeds opened my eyes even wider, and with all this plastic awareness, I knew I had to change my lifestyle.

How did I go plastic free?

First up, I ditched my shampoo. I can’t lie it was strange at first, rubbing what felt like a bar of soap (a shampoo bar) on my hair! Now, 2 years later, I can’t ever imagine going back. The natural ingredients have done wonders for my hair as well as dramatically cutting my plastic consumption. I now only wash my hair every 5-7 days!

After removing plastic from my hair routine, I switched my toothbrush to bamboo and bought a reusable razor. All of which are now second nature.

I get my food at refill shops and fresh fruit and veg from the local market. If I’m feeling lazy I go to the supermarket and let the packaging (or lack of it) decide what I’m having for dinner. By keeping plastic on my mind I keep it out of my bin!

Knowledge of the extent of plastic pollution drove me to set up Life Before Plastik, a UK plastic free shop, to help others with their journeys offering top tips and plastic free products.

Plastic free razor and shaving foam bar

Are you thinking about going plastic free?

My biggest piece of advice for anyone who is starting out on a plastic free journey is to never beat yourself up. Nobody is perfect and sometimes you can’t know that the diet coke you ordered comes with a straw or that a packet of sweets that looks like its only packaged in cardboard actually has plastic inside (both real stories that have happened to me). Being plastic free isn’t about being perfect but instead making a real impact over time.

How do you go plastic free?

My top tip for going plastic free is to do it step by step. I’d advise starting in one room, lets say, the bathroom. Get a bamboo toothbrush, toothpaste in a glass jar or tin, soap, shampoo bar and go the extra mile and get a reusable razor. Then look to changing things in your kitchen, beeswax wraps instead of clingfilm, a metal lunchbox and a dishwash block etc.

Making changes room by room will seem much more manageable and you can reward yourself each time you complete a room!

Plus why not try the weekly market at Leeds University Union. You can get fresh plastic free fruit, vegetables, and even bread. Delicious and free from plastic guilt.

With Christmas around the corner, you could even go one step further and have a plastic free Christmas. With so many options for stocking fillers and simple ways to wrap plastic free presents it’s not as difficult as you think! It could be the first step in your plastic free journey.

Written by Charlie Gill, University of Leeds 2019 Alumni and co-founder of Life Before Plastik. Follow Charlie on Facebook and Instagram @lifebeforeplastik.

For more information regarding the University of Leeds #2023PlasticFree pledge click here. 

Charlie Gill demonstrating a bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste

Let Nature Sing Event

On the 17th of October, together with the Sustainability Team our student ambassadors from the Living Lab have put on a Leeds Campus Bird Survey, in celebration of the RSPB Let Nature Sing takeover.

The Let Nature Sing takeover is part of the RSPB nature recovery campaign, aiming raise awareness on the challenges faced by bird populations today. Over 5,000 locations across the UK have taken place in Let Nature Sing takeover, playing bird song in offices, parks and even public transport. Here at Leeds, our team decided to take it further and we encouraged people to join us for a walk around St. George’s Field, identify birds and listen to bird song.


Photo by Karolina Zarzyczny

We had a fantastic turn out with multiple students offering to volunteer on the day to help guide the bird walks. The best thing about our event was that it was open to everyone! Our participants ranged from skilled birders to nature lovers which haven’t had the chance to hold a pair of binoculars before. It was a great opportunity to get out of the office, enjoy the fresh air and gain some bird identification skills. Over the two walks, we have identified 18 different bird species both from visual surveys and by bird song (credit to one of our skilled participants!). The data collected will contribute to the ongoing biodiversity surveys around the campus and will help inform future Biodiversity Action Plans.

If you would like to find out more about how you can get involved in monitoring our campus biodiversity, email: sustainability@leeds.ac.uk