This post is part of a new blog series called “ Real plastic-free homes”, in which we show you how normal people, like you and me, reduce their use of plastic. We do this, by showing you their achievements, their failures, their effort and their learnings, without judgement but with a will to learn.
Meet Igone, Ray, their little two year-old Belatz and their dog Adi. They are an international family (Ray is Mexican) that have been reducing the plastic at their home in Bilbao for the last 6 years.
As you can imagine, they know what they are talking about, so we spoke to Igone to hear what they have learned since they started in 2013. Would you like to know more?
Hello, Igone. Thank you for agreeing to take part in an interview with us. Let’s start at the beginning: Do you remember why you started to reduce your plastic use at home?
I think it all began when we met Marion, before she and Javier even created Sinplástico. She told me about the idea she had and she explained to me the problems associated with plastic back in 2013, and that was when I too started to think about what I could do.
It was back in 2013, how did people react when you told them you were trying to reduce your plastic use?
My parents understand now, because my mother watches the documentaries and the educational programs, but she has not managed to changed her habits. Sometimes she sees me use things and she looks at me as if to say “What are you doing, Igone?”. My mother doesn’t understand some of the choices I make , for example we use a wooden toilet brush, and we just replace it more frequently. My mother doesn’t get this.
The good thing is, that we have seen a change in awareness since we started on this journey. Before, when we went shopping with our own containers or Tupperware people didn’t know how to react. Now, we see people becoming more aware. The other day I went to the fishmonger and I saw an older lady who had bought her own container and I got really excited.
It is also true, that you still come across the odd shop assistant who insists “no, no, let me wrap it in plastic for you or it will go bad”.
When you started reducing your plastic consumption, what changes did you find the easiest to make?
To start with, we began with bottled water.
I used to buy a plastic bottle of water and reuse it until the water started to taste bad. Therefore, one of the first changes was to buy a stainless steel one. Although it cost more at the outset, it ends up saving you money because in 6 years we have only bought … around 5 plastic bottles of water at specific moments in time when we needed to.
It is also easy to take your fabric produce bags to the market and buy in bulk.
Oh, and our toothbrushes, although I must admit that the first one I tried, about 5 or 6 years ago, I didn’t like. But these days, they are much better.
Then, of course there are the stainless steel saucepans, it’s true they are a significant investment but they don’t break. I didn’t feel comfortable having a Teflon saucepan and then finding a scratch and knowing that it was plastic that would come off whilst I cooked. For this reason, we changed them, although we still have the odd one with a Teflon surface for cooking certain dishes, like Spanish omelette with potatoes.
What do you enjoy most about the process of reducing your plastic use?
I love how everything is a lot more attractive, when you open the cupboards to see all the glass jars and containers lined up. I also like Belatz’s wooden toys for example. They are much more beautiful than their plastic counterparts that light up all over… and they are more educational too.
You are a family with a young child and a dog, how do you avoid plastic with your pet?
It’s true that poor Adi is the one most affected with the plastic use at our place.
PTo pick up her dog poo we use the plastic bags provided by the council. Sometimes we reuse the paper bags from bulk stores, but here in Bilbao it rains a lot and they are not really practical.
In regard to her dry dog food, we tend to buy brands that sell their product in paper bags without glued labels, like Lily’s Kitchen, however it is an English brand and now we have trouble finding it. Another brand we used some time ago is Lukullus. Now we are using dry dog food that comes in a plastic bag, but we try to buy the biggest bag available instead of lots of little ones.
Not long ago, we started bathing Adi with solid bar soap for dogs, and we keep her coat looking it’s best with her brush, made from wood, metal and rubber.
And what about the littlest member of the family? Have you found it difficult to avoid plastic with young kids?
The truth is we have been lucky. At the nursery we used to go to, they didn’t mind using reusable fabric nappies/diapers, our own cup from home, our metal cutlery or our stainless steel food container…
The school, where he goes now, doesn’t mind either, because they understand that we try to not use plastic at home and so he takes his own metal cup to school with him.
Then there are the gifts he brings in from outside the home. My parents now know that we are trying to reduce our plastic consumption as much as possible, so they don’t give him these types of presents, but sometimes the odd lollipop sneaks in…
Balloons do cross the line for me, because it is children that end up letting the balloons go, and then they blow away in the wind and finish up in the ocean.
Is there anything that is still challenging or that you find difficult to change?
If I am honest, in order to live plastic-free there are certain things you just can’t keep eating, e.g. potato chips from the supermarket. At home, we have reduced our consumption of potato chips, but every now and then we fall off the wagon.
This also happens to me with cosmetics, e.g. I am yet to find a facial cleanser that doesn’t come in plastic and that is compatible with my skin type. Single-use plastic is what we try to reduce most. But a cream… that lasts me six months.
I also don’t use solid toothpaste, but in order to make up for it I use dental floss that comes in a glass container and a bamboo toothbrush.
You can’t aim for perfection right from the beginning, because if you do you will end up disposing of things that you would otherwise use. I have for example a plastic comb that I was given for my holy communion, it is 30 years old. It has had a long lifespan… and I will keep using it. I am not going to throw it away just to buy myself a wooden one, and I am not going to beat myself up for having a plastic comb.
I believe it is important to take away the pressure to do everything perfectly. It is also not healthy to be evaluating and checking whether we measure up all the time. We are to blame, but only to a certain point. In the end, it is also the responsibility of businesses, governments… The consumer alone can only do so much.
What is your next plastic reducing challenge?
The plastic fibres present in our clothes is a pending issue for us. It is very difficult, but it is the next step in our journey.
In addition to reducing your plastic consumption, do you try to do anything else to live more sustainably?
We don’t have a car. We are waiting until electric vehicles are more affordable and at the moment it is working quite well for us. In the meantime, we are saving money to be able to buy an electric car if we find we need one.
Another thing we have found, is that since we have been living a plastic-free lifestyle, we consume less. I used to be a considerable “shopaholic”, it’s the truth (laughs), there was a period when I was crazy about make-up and as soon as something ran out, I would run straight to the shop to buy another, like a slave to the system. But now I buy very little.
When it comes to clothing, at the moment I go “shopping” in my own wardrobe, because having been pregnant and breastfeeding, I have lots of clothes I haven’t worn for ages that I have been storing.
We also try to save water at home (I am a little obsessed about saving water) and we have signed up to a very low electricity usage contract. At our place we cannot put on the washing machine and the oven at the same time, because the fuses will blow. But really, we don’t need more power.
Do you have any advice for those who want to reduce their plastic use?
For people and family members who don’t understand why we need to avoid plastic…???
Don’t go crazy! Like I mentioned with my plastic comb, if and when your plastic item wears out, you can then buy a wooden replacement. There is no need to throw out everything you own just because it is made of plastic.
Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself nor try to be perfect. No one is perfect.
Each and everyone makes decisions based on their situation. For example, at my house we don’t buy soft drinks, but maybe other people do and they come in plastic bottles. Well, maybe try to reduce your intake, but at the same time don’t deny yourself everything.
Patience, have patience.
Thank you very much to you and your family, we have loved learning about your experience reducing the plastic in your lives.
If you too have enjoyed reading about this topic, we would love to hear your opinion in the comments (in a non-judgemental and respectful way of course). Are you feeling inspired by this post? Have you come up with some ideas? Do you want to share your thoughts? Go for it!
P.S: Remember that this month we are not offering discounts and sales, but instead will be donating 5% of your purchase to the Association EQUINAC. So, if you have been wanting to buy some of our products, now is the time
P.S.S.: Would you like to take part by telling us how you go about reducing the plastic at your place? We are looking for all type of households: people who live alone, single parent homes, large family homes, in towns and villages, in the city, flatmates, older people… even nomads!
QWe want to tell your story, so if you are interested in participating, please email us at [email protected] with the subject “Plastic-free homes” and we will get in contact soon.