Life Less Plastic

2 Jun 2017

Hammerson employees from 10 retail destinations across the UK, including the Bullring in Birmingham, have been working together to become more sustainable through everyday acts. The teams are part of a challenge on The Butterfly Bank, a platform where companies can invite employees to find, take and record actions to do a little good. Since the end of 2015 the nearly 400 strong team of employees from Hammerson have banked an impressive 52,000 actions. Every action recorded on the site banks ‘virtual butterflies’ a currency designed to reflect the fact that the number of butterflies indicate the health of our environment.

Banking Butterflies at Bullring 

The team at Bullring has been busy taking action and have invited the extended team, including employees from ABM and Integral to join them. They’ve taken over 7000 actions since January this year, with 2000 of those focused on Loving Our Oceans.

As part of their efforts to show our oceans a little love, they’ve been tackling plastics, looking at how to both reduce the plastic they use, and to ensure it gets recycled.  The biggest challenge to date has been to ‘Live a life less plastic’ so we asked the Bullring team to share their experience of it, and give you some top tips for how you too can live a life less plastic.

What is the Life Less Plastic Challenge?

The creators of The Butterfly Bank upload different actions for people to take, and in February 2017 they added an action called Live a Life Less Plastic. They identified 8 types of plastic and the challenge was to go without them entirely for 30 days. No slip ups, no ‘just this one’, complete abstinence.

"The idea of the challenge is to really push you to make significant changes. After 30 days, you may not stick to them all, but you are much more likely to have adopted more significant changes than you would if you had attempted only to change one thing. It also presents an opportunity to see how truly unsustainable your lifestyle is, and whilst that sounds negative, it’s incredibly powerful and needed to emotionally connect you to the need for change."

Donna McKitterick, Head of the Herd at Coriander Cows, and founder of The Butterfly Bank

What types of plastic are included?

The idea is to give us these eight most common sources of plastic in our lives and learn to live without them...

1. Water Bottles: Treat yourself to a reusable water bottle. We recommend a stainless steel one, or a PBA free bottle to avoid any nasty chemicals.

2. Plastic water cups/plastic coated coffee cups: Whether it’s in the office or at the gym, no more disposable cups for that drink of water or cuppa.

3. No cling film: This source of plastic is often ignored but it’s unrecyclable and easily avoided once you get into the habit of not using it. Try a Wrap-a-mat, Tupperware boxes, whatever you need to avoid the clingfilm.

4. No disposable cutlery: This one is hardest on the go, so why not purchase a Spork or camping cutlery set to keep in your bag. Part of the challenge is to work out what helps you avoid cutlery, so be sure to share your tips.

5. No Straws: Whether you just go without the straw or have a reusable one (we recommend stainless steel for ease of going through the dishwasher) straws are off the table.

6. No cotton buds: The centre part of a cotton bud is often plastic. Unrecyclable, and often ending up in our water courses and oceans, these nasty little bits of plastic need to be avoided.

7. No Microbeads: Stop using scrubs with plastic microbeads. Try a natural alternative like apricot kernels or oats instead. 

8. No fruit and veg boxes: This one is tough. If you want to eat healthily and you frequent a supermarket, most of the fruit and veg is found in plastic cartons or bags. This is where it’s up to you to try out different ways to avoid this. Could you shop at a fruit and veg shop, a farm shop or market? Could you grow or pick your own? We expect this one to be the hardest to achieve so we look forward to hearing your creative solutions.

So how did the team do?

We asked Liza from the Bullring team who took the challenge a few questions….

Q. Did the challenge make you realise how much plastic is used?

A. It was a real eye opener, I never realised how many sandwich bags, carrier bags and water bottles I can get through. I also rediscovered how I used to like browsing round the food market, having a greater choice of what you buy.

Q. What is your top tip(s) to completing the challenge?

A. Go old school, reuse & recycle items you already have, ditch the sandwiches, I have taken to bringing in salads and fresh fruit (also much healthier).  I have been recycling containers, empty ice-cream containers and the plastic ones you have your take away curry in are an ideal size.  Invest in a sturdy bottle for drinks, nothing worse than a leaking bottle in the bottom of your bag! I use one that you can put some fruit in the middle to add flavour and vitamins to your drink.  Get into the habit of carrying your own carrier bags with you so not tempted to buy yet another one when shopping.  I have also found a web site called Pinterest which has lots of ingenious tips on ways to re-use and recycle things.

Q. How many plastic items have you reduced each month due to the challenge?

A. Difficult one, not really thought about it, but about 2 to 3 water bottles a day whilst at work, a fresh sandwich bag for lunch each day. At least 3 or 4 new carrier bags when out shopping, not to mention the wrapping on produce I brought.

Q. What new habit(s) will you now keep?

A. I have gone back to shopping in the market and buying fresh fruit and veg (taking my own bag for life to carry it all in) rather than going for convenience of plastic wrapped stuff from the supermarket, it tastes better too.  I also try to have carrier bags with me always, have found a way to wrap them up nice and neat so don’t take up so much space rather than just getting a new one each time I shop and put them back in the car (I hang them by the front door as a reminder to put them back in the car next time I go out to the car).  I am now put off by overly wrapped produce in the shops.

Liza is just one of the many taking the Life Less Plastic Challenge at Hammerson, meaning the positive impact is going to be significant. A big well done to the team for their commitment. 

Getting Involved

The Butterfly Bank platform was designed by Coriander Cows to present companies with the chance to create their own Butterfly Banking challenges that bring together employees, suppliers and customers to make change happen. 

It’s been an effective way for us to work across multiple sites and teams with one cohesive goal. We hope others will take on their own challenges so why not get your company to sign up and get started on these challenges yourself.

To find out more visit