Alexis McGivern began her plastic-free lifestyle in 2013 after setting herself a 2-month challenge. She completed her MSc at University of St Andrews (Scotland) and currently lives in Switzerland, working for the Global Marine and Polar Programme at IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Here’s your chance to get to know her story.
• What inspired you to begin a plastic-free lifestyle and when did it all begin?
I’ve always considered myself to be an environmentalist, but I was so preoccupied with melting ice caps and issues in far-away places that I never really looked at my own choices and how they affected the planet (I know, right?!). Honestly, the plastic-free thing came in a total epiphany: I was eating a granola bar one day and it suddenly just struck me – where is this wrapper going to go when I’m done with it? Where will it end up? Will it stay in the country? Will it be shipped somewhere else? Will it be landfilled or incinerated? I wondered if anyone else had had these questions and ended up spending the afternoon down the rabbit hole of blogs and pages of people talking about how they managed to live plastic-free, making their own cosmetics, shopping without packaging and learning to be more self-sufficient. I was so enchanted! I made a pledge to myself to quit plastic right there. That was almost 5 years ago now!
• What was the hardest part of cutting out plastic?
Definitely losing the absolute convenience of plastic – you can easily get a snack or even a full meal pre-packaged and ready to move with you on the go.
When I first started plastic-free living, I was really frustrated at having to plan ahead all the time. Turns out there are other ways to be convenient and plastic-free: for example, I always carry a small cloth bag on me so I can grab a sandwich or a croissant on the go, I can get loose fruit from the grocery store if in a pinch and I’ve learned how to whip up quick and delicious snacks at home.
• What are your top three tips for living plastic-free for someone who may feel restrained in doing so?
I definitely understand this! My friends, roommates and family are not necessarily living the same lifestyle, so there are times I’ve had to compromise. I would definitely say it’s important to do what works for you: going cold turkey overnight might mean you’re less likely to stick to it. Start with the easy stuff – the reusable bag, the water bottle and the reusable coffee cup. Once you’ve integrated those three items into your daily habit, I encourage you to branch out and try more changes. Also, don’t beat yourself up if you find it difficult – plastic is made to be extremely convenient and it’s tough to give it up. Instead of focusing on the things you can’t give up, why not pat yourself on the back for all the plastic you can give up through small and easy switches?
I would also say a lot of the plastic-free living “kits” can be expensive and an investment upfront. You can totally make do with what you have; you can reuse plastic bags you already have or use old pasta sauce jars as containers for the bulk store- there’s no need to drop tons of cash for this new habit!
Finally, I’d recommend when you first start out to dig around your trash can and see what type of plastic you are throwing away. For example, mine was full with convenience foods like chip bags, small containers of cherry tomatoes and pre-wrapped cookies. So those were the first things I started with: I learned how to make my own chips, I got my tomatoes loose from the farmers market and I got really good & fast at making cookies!
• How can we learn more about living plastic-free?
My blog, my instagram, and my youtube channel with Josephine from Rogue gone Vogue.*
I also really recommend reading these two blogs: Lindsay Miles’ Treading My Own Path and Anne Marie Bonneau’s Zero Waste Chef – both are packed full with tons of really useful tips and great recipes as well! When I first started plastic-free living, I lived by Beth Terry’s 100 Steps to a Plastic Free Life.
Enjoy and good luck – please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post your questions on the blog or instagram!
*Additional note from author: check out a TedTalk Alexis did here as well!
Leona grew up in eight countries on three continents, making the world her home. This has given her the chance to see so many amazing places, which she is passionate to protect. Having recently completed her BSc at Durham University, she is currently working as a field assistant at the Swiss Ornithological Institute.