This month we’re celebrating the Return of Plastic Free July, the Global Movement empowering us all to be a part of the solution to plastic pollution. It’s the time of year when people around the world take part in the Plastic Free July challenge, choosing to refuse single-use plastic.
To celebrate this inspiring movement, we caught up with Karen Maurice, founder of @n4mummy, a sustainable Fashion, Lifestyle and Parenting blog for anyone seeking to live a more sustainable life. She talks about how we can make small changes to reduce our plastic use, the challenges and surprises of living sustainably, how we can encourage our children to embrace a life without plastic and shares her top tips for making Plastic Free July a success.
You are a brilliant advocate for Plastic Free Living – what inspired you to start your sustainability journey?
I spent over a decade working for fast fashion companies as a buyer for the UK high-street and during this time I was fortunate enough to travel to factories across the world including China and Bangladesh. There I saw first-hand the effects of fast fashion on people and our planet, things like polluted waterways and smog filled air was very common. I then gave birth to my eldest and it was during my maternity leave that I felt that there must be a better way of doing things and so I started to research sustainable brands and ways of living.
How did your friends and family react?
Interestingly my parents and parents-in-law are very onboard. I think reducing waste, reusing, and fixing things that are broken is just how they always did things. My friends are somewhat more suspicious of my attempts, though a few of them are really engaged.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in reducing your plastic use?
Definitely food and it’s the area that makes me feel most frustrated on a regular basis. We get a fruit and veg box each week, which really helps to reduce plastic waste. But as soon as I need to top up at a supermarket my plastic waste soars. Also, I think the pace we all live life at makes this area hard, because so often we rely on convenience food, i.e. a quick snack for the kids, or a sandwich from Pret etc. I go through periods when I try to weekly bake cakes/flapjack for after school snacks, but the reality is with three small children, a job and a husband who’s a doctor so isn’t around much, it’s difficult and very time consuming to create all food from scratch.
What swaps have you found surprisingly easy?
Baby wipes, the reusable ones are just so much more effective, and I just bundle them into the washing machine at the end of every day. Refills for washing up liquid, rinse aid, deodorant etc, they are affordable, and you can just buy them online so very easily. Bars of soap in the bathroom, period pants and toilet paper that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic. We get ours from Who Gives a Crap, but there are lots of brands now that do plastic free toilet paper. Buying second-hand or sustainable clothing for myself and the kids, it’s becoming easier and easier and there are some great brands there now.
How has your journey towards sustainable living influenced your parenting?
It’s made me better at saying no as it provides a framework for some of the choices we make. Things like, saying no to magazines with those cheap plastic toys on the front that always break and cause numerous tears. Or no to buying lots of plastic toys, or shopping in certain fast fashion shops. It also helps them to understand why we want to pass on clothes and toys to friends and family.
How can we all encourage our children to live sustainably?
I think we just need to take the time to talk to them, explain why they can’t just leave the tap running, or why they need to finish the food on their plate before they go and get something else to eat. Also, teach them to enjoy nature, jump in muddy puddles, swim in the sea and climb a tree. That way they will understand and want to protect our planet.
What are your favourite sustainable brands?
For childrenswear obviously Muddy Puddles, I also love shopping second hand for the kids particularly Kidswear Collective, Slof, Totswap & Littlest Luxuries. For new clothes I look at Frugi, Little Green Radicals, Hunter & Boo & Rosie Dalia.
Can you share your top 5 tips to make a success out of going plastic free?
- Take one item that needs changing and find a solution that works for your life and family, then work that into your daily routine. Once you’ve conquered that try something else. It’s much better to create sustainable habits that are doable, than it is to try and do everything and then give up.
- Switch to solid soap in the bathroom, it’s simple & affordable.
- Subscribe to a veg box, you’ll seriously reduce your plastic waste and support local farms/businesses. Plus, you may discover some new veg you like too.
- Shop refills online, places like the Bower Collective make this easy.
- Look at the fabric compositions of clothes you buy them, nylon and polyester are common materials used but they are plastic.
Do you have any plans for Plastic Free July?
July is always a difficult month as it’s my daughter’s birthday. So, my biggest challenge is to create for her a plastic free party, which when you think about what a child expects, party bags, sweets & balloons it can be a challenge. My daughter will be 8 this year and I think for the first time is beginning to understand the need to protect our planet, she’s often asking me what things are made of and whether they’ll biodegrade. So, for the first time I will plan it with her and hopefully we’ll create a special day with gorgeous decorations that are planet friendly.
We hope we’ve inspired you to get involved with Plastic Free July. Keep an eye on our Blog as we’ll be sharing more plastic-free ideas throughout the month.