A Simpler Life – Livvy Drake on Plastic-free living

Ever tried to live a greener lifestyle? Buy fewer clothes? Use less plastic? Fly less often? Now, how about giving those things up completely? Impossible! I hear you cry.

But we’ve got news for you: it’s achievable, exciting and you might even enjoy it. In our ‘A Simpler Life’ mini series, we are speaking to people who pledged to make a major change to reduce their environmental footprint, and their experiences of adapting to a new way of life. Step forward Livvy Drake, Sustainability Consultant.

What did you pledge to do and why?

I gave up as many single-use plastics as possible – mostly the packaging for food, cosmetics and shampoos. I did it because I was worried about the effect of plastic on our health and on the planet. I wanted to find out how easy is it to live without the plastic packaging we take for granted.

How did you do it?

So many things come in plastic so I had to do a lot of research. I started making a lot of things myself and going to the local shops instead of supermarkets, with containers to fill up.

The great thing was that I discovered easy recipes for loads of things that I would never have made – biscuits, pancakes, drop scones, pizza and bread, even face wash made from coffee grinds and coconut oil.

What was the biggest challenge?

Buying new electronic goods or batteries that aren’t in plastic packaging isn’t really possible.  Also, going out for the day you really have to plan ahead.  It just involves changing your mindset. But if you see it as an experiment, you can’t really fail – it’s just how far you want to take it.

What did you learn?

What I became more and more aware of is that plastic is synonymous with consumerism and convenience. We’re sold these convenient products wrapped in plastic and told that we’re all too busy to cook. And it’s self-perpetuating because we get used to the convenience of these products. But the inconvenient truth is that plastic lasts forever.

Do you feel more satisfied now you’ve done away with plastic?

Avoiding supermarkets, I miss out on lots of things. I miss out on mint-flavoured pringles and the latest flavour of Dairylea slices, but I don’t know about them so it doesn’t matter.

What did you miss the most?

The hair products! I miss having a bouffant.

How has it changed how you live?

It’s led me to working on City to Sea, a campaign in Bristol to limit the amount of plastic going from the city into the sea. And I’ve become a bit of an ambassador for low plastic living. It makes me think twice when I’m buying things.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of trying it?

I’d recommend picking 2 or 3 items each week to give up. Get them nailed and then try a couple more. If you’re starting out from a life full of plastic then it’s just overwhelming so it’s best to target a few things at first.

What 3 things should we change first?

Get a reusable bottle, re-use a bag you already have for shopping, and re-use straws – they can’t be recycled and they end up everywhere.