Following from my first post introducing the concepts of zero waste and plastic free living, this post offers 10 simple ways to reduce waste and single-use plastic consumption in your personal and household waste. These are all things I’ve been doing for years and they helped to kick-start my “zero waste” journey.
Note: This post was published in 2018. For more Zero Waste content see my resource page: Zero Waste and Plastic Free
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- A reusable water bottle:
I have two water bottles — one is a metal Kleen Kanteen and the other is a 1lr plastic bottle from Rubbermaid. The metal one comes with me everywhere, while the plastic one I use around the house. I bring both when we go on long car journeys/flying. Same goes for warm beverages. As much as I can, I use a travel mug if I’m out, but normally I just have coffee at home/work in a china mug.
Cleaning water bottles can be a pain if you don’t have a dish washer. I found mine would get this black scum on the inside and I couldn’t reach in with a brush or sponge to get it totally clean. Now I have a silicone bottle cleaner that rotates and cleans the bottle amazingly well (it is actually for baby bottles)!
2. A menstrual cup:
I switched to a Moon Cup in 2012 and I’ll never go back to tampons. It’s easier, it’s better for the environment, and it saves money.
3. Reusable Bags:
As I mentioned in my first post, there is no need to pay 5p. for plastic bags. Just be a little organised and bring your reusable ones when you do your weekly shop. For last-minute shopping, always keep a folded canvas bag in your backpack or handbag; we also keep bags in the car.
4. Buy your produce loose:
This is frustratingly difficult to do in UK supermarkets, but do your best to pick your fruit and veg without packaging. It may work out a bit more expensive, but it sends a clear message to the stores that we don’t need the plastic!
A useful tip I came across is to select the loose bananas. People are more likely to buy bunches and the loose bananas get left behind. We’ve found that they actually stay greener longer if they are singles. And please don’t put your veg in those plastic bags in the produce aisle – just load ’em into your cart loose and wash at home!
5. Microfibre Cloths:
I used to use disposable sponges to clean the bathroom and paper towel for wiping surfaces. Early this year I bought a four pack of microfibre cloths and they’re great! We don’t buy disposable sponges anymore and I’ve cut my consumption of paper towels way down. Whatever you do, please don’t use wet wipes. A damp cloth works just as well!
This seems really obvious for reducing waste, but so many people don’t bother to recycle. Make the effort (if facilities are available in your area), it’s really not that hard.
7. Buy Recycled Toilet Paper:
Earlier this year I found that the Sainsbury’s own brand of regular toilet paper kept… shredding during use and leaving bits behind… I got so fed up that I switched to the recycled variety at the same price. It doesn’t leave bits and its better for the planet so win win! I’ve heard good things about the brand Who Gives a Crap because they don’t use any plastic, but I think it works out to about £1.30 per roll whereas the supermarket variety is 37p. per roll.
8. Meal Planning and Cooking:
I completely understand that people are busy and sometimes you need to get a ready meal or a takeaway, but this should be for special occasions and not every day. With a bit of planning, you eat better, save money, and throw away less food and packaging. I always make a weekly meal plan and we always have a grocery list. As you can probably guess from this blog, I bake a lot! Homemade treats definitely have less packaging and taste better! 🙂
Following from this, the freezer is your friend! I batch cook and freeze extra meals. We freeze our bread and our chicken. When berries, bananas, herbs, ginger, or spinach start to go off, I freeze them. Check out my recipe for delicious banana bread.
9. If it’s not broken, don’t toss it:
This has come back to haunt me recently as my external hard drive that I’ve had since 2000 decided to corrupt loads of my photos, and my computer (from 2011) is dying, but I hang on to my gadgets for as long as possible. Our microwave turntable squeaks like hell, my old iPod only plays out of one headphone, and my iPad is on its last legs, but I refuse to throw them out while they still work (sort of). It took me until 2017 to get a smart phone, and that’s only because my last phone completely stopped working, haha! I’m currently in the process of buying a new computer (and I had to get a new hard drive) and when I do, I will recycle my old electronics responsibly.
10. Avoid impulse shopping:
I’m not saying I’m great at this and that I never unintentionally buy things, but I do try my best to make considered purchases. I have my grocery list, and I have loads of “wish lists” on my phone and Amazon that I add items to, instead of adding them to my virtual cart. I’ve also found that if you add them to your cart, the marketing spies are more likely to harass you with advertising.
If I’m thinking about buying something, I normally leave it for a few hours or days and then go back to it before purchasing, just to make sure I actually want/need it. I also do not online shop at night – a recipe for disaster!
I’m bad for bargains, Lucy will tell you that I love to get things on sale! But, just because it’s on offer, doesn’t mean you need to buy it. Equally though, holding off on buying something full price and returning a few weeks or months later and getting it on sale is very rewarding since you save money, and you’ve thought about your purchase.
Hope you found these tips for living more eco-friendly useful. Please do share any tips that you have and I’ll be back soon with more posts on zero waste and plastic free living!