There’s been a huge upswing in the amount of press that the ‘Zero Waste’ movement and issues around single use plastics receive in the past year, and it’s a conversation that we definitely should be having. With collective consciousness growing about the negative impact our throwaway culture has upon the environment, it seems as though more and more people, myself included, are committing to making changes to their lifestyle in order to reduce the amount of waste we produce. As I mentioned in my last post, my New Year’s resolution back at the start of 2018 was to reduce as much as possible the amount of waste we produce as a family, and that started on the 31st December 2017 when I placed a big order for some cloth nappies! And it’s been a good start!
There’s currently a challenge doing the rounds on social media called #PlasticFreeJuly, encouraging us all to take a look at the amount of non-recyclable, non-biodegradable waste we produce and challenging us to cut back in any way we can. And I’m here for it! So I thought today, in honour of the Plastic Free July challenge, I’d share a small round up of the successful ways in which I’ve made changes this year that have reduced the amount of landfill waste coming from our house! We’re by no means perfect- I cringe every day at the large plastic tubs our dogs’ Natural Instinct food comes in (we go through two every 2-3 days!!) and in the toddler/nappy bag juggle I often forget my reusable shopping bags when nipping into the supermarket, but I’m trying. We’re all trying. And that’s all anyone can ask for!
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1. Switch to biodegradable or cloth nappies, and biodegradable nappy sacks.
I’ve already done a full blog post all about our cloth nappy use, and a few more months down the line they’re still working really well for us! It makes me feel so proud that it’s had such a major, positive impact in cutting down our waste, and it feels good knowing we’re all set with nappies ready for baby number two as well! The only change we’ve made is that we quite often now use biodegradable nappies too, mainly so that I don’t have to rush to get all our cloth ones washed and dried in such a hurry all the time but sometimes also for convience when out and about. We had also gone back to using Pampers overnight as I found that cloth just couldn’t go right through the night without leaking as Ottie got older, but now I’ve discovered how brilliant and reliable biodegradable are, I’m phasing them back out. I’ve tried two brands, Naty and Kit & Kin, and the latter are by far my favourite! But both have great absorbency, take Ottie right through the night with no leaking, and are a really great choice if cloth isn’t convenient.
2. Buy in bulk, and opt for loose produce over pre-wrapped.
You can’t even imagine my joy when I discovered the bulk section at my local farm shop earlier this year! With a really decent range of bulk dry goods like oats, rice, grains, dried herbs, and spices, it makes it so much easier to avoid constantly buying plastic, non-recyclable packets of every day staples. They even have little paper bags for measuring your produce out into, which I just chuck into the compost bin when I’m done with them. Perfect!
Since most pre-packaged fruits and vegetables are in non-recyclable film packaging I’ve also been trying to buy loose as much as possible, but I find the choice of what’s actually available unwrapped in the supermarket so limited. Again, our local farm shop is the best option (Secrett’s in Milford, if anyone’s in the Surrey Hills area!), but though the quality of most things is fantastic and I love the huge range of upwrapped produce they have, I do find it significantly more expensive than the supermarket and I can’t get an entire food shop there like I can in say Waitrose or Sainsbury’s. It’s tricky, so I just do what I can, when I can.
3. Try homemade bread!
And see my previous post for a how-to! ;) Instead of buying a loaf that’s often pumped full of preservatives and whatever else and then wrapped in plastic, I’ve been DIYing and loving it. The only ‘wasteful’ part are the sachets of yeast, but I just found that the supermarket sell dried yeast in little fully recyclable tins instead of individual sachets. Win win!
4. Read packaging labels well- children’s snack food is the worst!
It drives me bonkers that heading down the children’s snack food aisle, most things come wrapped in several layers of film plastic that’ll be headed straight for landfill once used! I never even noticed until this year that so many of the packets I would buy without thinking in the shops are made from non-recyclable packaging. I do still buy some of the bits that Ottie likes, but try to keep it to a bare minimum and make swaps wherever possible. The farm shop does bulk raisins that cost way less than picking up plastic-wrapped multipacks in the supermarket, and I’m trying to find a better alternative to the little packets of popcorn she likes as snacks. Sometimes it’s overwhelming how unavoidable plastic is in the supermarket, but hey. Baby steps!
5. Switch over to bamboo or biodegradable toothbrushes
I recently just found a brand of biodegradable children’s toothbrushes from a brand called Jack and Jill, which are lovely and chunky and easy for small hands to manipulate. They’re slightly more expensive than the standard plastic ones in the supermarket, but I’m happy to pay a little extra knowing they’re not going to end up littering a beach somewhere! For myself, I use a bamboo Humble Brush! Again, fully biodegradable and bamboo has natural antibacterial properties which is a bonus too. I love it, but Jason can’t stand the texture of the wood whilst brushing his teeth (it does feel a bit odd at first) so prefers to stick to a regular plastic one.
6. Carry a water bottle.
This seems such an obvious one, but I’ve finally got into the habit of carrying my water bottle with me everywhere I go, and it makes me realise quite how often I would get thirsty when out and about and end up buying bottled water. And never more so than in the middle of a heatwave like this, and with a whole extra person hanging off my front!! I bought this Black + Blum charcoal bottle in TK Maxx a couple of weeks ago, and it’s so light and easy to carry around. And with another couple of months of summer left to go and then the inevitable insatiable breastfeeding thirst on its way later this year, I can see it becoming my most used purchase of 2018!
7. Reuse, reuse, reuse.
It’s become a bit of a running joke in our household now that before Jason throws anything away now, he always turns to me and says ‘do you want this for anything?!’ I’ve become a tad obsessed with washing out and squirrelling away empty jam jars, if we ever have a takeaway I save all the plastic tubs that our food comes in to use as Tupperware (they’re the perfect size for small toddler portions or keeping veggies from the garden fresh!), and even things like the zip lock bags that frozen berries come packaged in at the supermarket I wash up and reuse for storing homemade bits in the freezer!
I think my most successful ‘upcycle’ though this year has been empty plastic berry tubs as seed trays! The plastic tubs that blueberries and raspberries come in are just the perfect depth and size for filling with compost and sowing seeds into, and 9 times out of 10 have drainage holes already built into them. I’ve got dozens of them kicking around now, and they’ve been helping keep my garden filled and flourishing all season long!
8. Grow your own!
And last but not least, of course I have to champion growing your own as a way of reducing waste! I think it can be especially valuable to grow things like lettuces, which so often come wrapped in wasteful plastic packaging AND can be quite expensive in the supermarket too! Jason and I eat lettuce from the garden every single day now, and with just £3 worth of seed we’ll have a season-long supply.
Even in a very small space it’s possible to grow plenty of food, and you can pick up cheap ‘up-cycled’ containers by giving your local wine shop a call and seeing if they’ve got any old wooden wine crates for sale! Last year I picked up three decent sized ones for £5 per crate in our local Majestic, and the money is donated to charity.
My only major, MAJOR bugbear with gardening is the tide of waste plastic that comes in the form of empty compost bags. I dread to think about the amount we’ve gone through this year, and though I’m saving them to use as bed covers over the winter and weed suppressants for the pathways in the veg patch next year, it’s still a horrendous quantity of plastic that I’m not certain is recyclable.
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All in all, I’m by no means perfect, but trying makes me feel good! It can feel overwhelming, and let’s be honest, quite costly at times trying to avoid plastic and make more sustainable choices in our day to day lives, but I truly believe that it’s an investment in the future of our beautiful planet.
Have you made any changes this year in an effort to reduce waste that have been positive for you? I’m always keen to try new things (and right now am on the hunt for a decent block of solid dish soap!) so if anyone has any top tips, do shout in the comments! <3