September 3rd-7th is zero waste week, and July was plastic free month!
Firstly, like most blogs and videos that discuss “plastic free” and “zero waste” living, I feel that it’s necessary to start with a disclaimer that we absolutely do not live zero waste and plastic free. These are idealistic goals that everybody is capable of journeying towards (but never reaching), and that’s okay! The point is to look around you and see where you can reduce your consumption and make conscious switches in your lifestyle in an effort to create less garbage (and less recycling!), and avoid single-use plastics.
It isn’t for everyone, and that’s cool, but I encourage you to stop and have a think if there are even a couple of switches you could make in your home and lifestyle! If you already do the things I am going to suggest in later posts, fantastic! And, if you do things to reduce your waste that I don’t end up mentioning I’d love more suggestions, so please leave a comment. Also check out my Zero Waste Pinterest board for inspiration! For more ideas, see the zero waste queen, Bea Johnson, and mamalinauk for low waste parenting tips. 🙂
I’ve always considered myself an environmentalist and it was drilled into me young to recycle, conserve water, not litter, and don’t waste food. But it seems that most of us have got caught up in the consumer vortex of convenience and “treat yo self” mentality. Now, you might be thinking, but your blog is full of plastic and waste and consumption! I KNOW, oh boy do I know. It was earlier this year after I’d bought a few highlighters that I started to have this creeping guilt that I was being wasteful. Then, very randomly, I stumbled across a YouTuber’s channel (I think she was reviewing a Patagonia backpack as I’ve been looking for a replacement), and Kay is a champion of going zero waste and plastic free. I think it was as close to an epiphany moment as I’ve ever had. I was suddenly disgusted with myself for how much waste I create and I’ve had crushing guilt about how I don’t do enough for the planet. Thus began my journey to make eco-friendly switches and thankfully Lucy is enthusiastically joining me! It’s only the beginning, but already I feel less guilty and generally happier about my choices, in combination with the efforts we were already making.
This post is simply an introduction to the concepts of zero waste, low waste, and plastic free living, and these lifestyles centre fundamentally around the “R”s. Over the coming months you can anticipate more details about how we shop, what product switches I’ve made, and what we do and make around the house to live more sustainably.
I was always taught the three R’s of reduce, reuse, recycle. Turns out there are more!
Refuse: Politely say no to plastic straws and carry your own reusable one. I currently reuse acrylic straws that came in a gift a couple of years ago. I clean them out with wire cleaners that I got on Amazon. Other great options are bamboo, stainless steel, and glass.
I refused a straw on our way down to Bournemouth and, bless him, the barista at the rest stop was thoroughly confused. Luckily his co-worker was on it and told me afterwards that they are soon coming out with new lids that use less plastic – good job Costa, that’s a start! I always say no to free plastic bags and bring my own canvas/reusable ones. Finally, I’ve sent in a form to Royal Mail to request that we don’t receive unsolicited junk mail – hopefully it works!
Reduce: I was always weirdly proud about filling up my recycling bin because it meant less was going into the landfill. While recycling is great… perhaps I don’t need to buy packaged things in the first place? This is a really tricky one in a consumer society. Most of our food is packaged and online shopping has become the norm (and everything comes in plastic). I’ll talk more on this in later posts, but for now I’ll just say that I’m trying to think twice before making purchases. Do I need it? Will I value it? Can I get it with less packaging? We’ve also started to shop at the local market and visit a zero waste farm shop for laundry soap (and soon it will have bulk bins!).
Reuse: This can also sometimes be grouped with repair. As I mention below, we repurpose old glass jars for storage and we have reusable canvas and freezer bags. This is more about a conserver mindset than a consumer mindset and I’ll share my tips in later posts as I figure out ways to reuse items!
Recycle: Like most of the public, I’ve been extremely annoyed by society’s lack of care and effort in reducing single-use plastic and our fairly pathetic recycling programme in the UK. Why the hell do we not yet have recyclable coffee cups?! People are starting to take action, which is wonderful news. Lucy and I have always tried to do our best to recycle, but it makes it difficult when most food comes in packaging and apparently our recycling facilities don’t recycle most of the plastic anyways (rage 😡!). Our block of flats only has one large mixed recycling bin, so we now save our glass jars to store dried bulk food, and the rest we take to the recycling bank where there is a separate bin for glass.
Rehome: This is essentially selling or donating anything you no longer need. It’s better that someone else can value and make use of the item than it going in landfill! I donate all my old clothes to charity, as an example. Freecycle.org is a good website for rehoming items.
Replant: This is replanting seeds and ends of used vegetables. It could also apply to a potted Christmas tree. We don’t currently have anywhere to plant things but when we move into a house, we will give this a go! We did recently buy a mint plant instead of mint in a plastic package and this little guy drinks water like there’s no tomorrow – I now make lots of delicious minty things.Rot: Again, a flat is not a great place for a compost, though I know some people do it (hooray!). When we move, step one is to start a compost. For now, we are using our food waste bin that I recently ordered from the council so that we can separate out organics and put them in the red bin that goes to the anerobic digestion plant nearby. I thin us and only one other flat actually use the communal food waste bin. 😕
That’s all for this week! I’m bursting with tips and tricks to tell you but didn’t want this post to be super long. I’ll be back soon with more posts on this topic (hoping it with be an ongoing series).
Don’t despair if you come for the beauty or the recipes, I’ll still be doing my normal content, it will just be done in a more environmental-conscious way. 🙂