My plastic free journey: Charlie Gill

Charlie Gill writes about her journey to be plastic free and how you can support the #2023PlasticFree pledge

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 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 even 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 is 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.

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 it’s 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, let’s 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 dishwashing 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 out more about the University of Leeds #2023PlasticFree pledge.

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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our work towards achieving our plastic free pledge is linked to the following SDGs:

  • Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
  • Goal 14: Life below water
  • Goal 15: Life on land

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.