A month or two ago as I unpacked the weekly shop I found myself unwrapping things and leaving a huge bundle of plastic wrapping on top of the worktops.
I packed away the shopping and as I put the plastic wrap into the bin I thought there must be a better way – it simply cannot be right that so much food is wrapped in so much packaging that literally goes straight into the bin.
I decided I’d challenge myself to try and reduce our fortnightly waste by a third – one bin bag.
It was actually much easier than I thought and it’s had a knock-on effect of significantly reducing the waste going into our plastic recycling bin as well as at least halving the non-recyclable waste we have each fortnight.
We are a family of five and I reckon that with a bit of initial effort, anyone can make significant reductions to the amount of waste they generate.
How I did it
I’ve always used refillable bottles with the children, be it tommee tippee style cups with fold-down lids or plastic sports bottles, However, the bottles need replacing every few months as after daily use they do start to taste funny. I invested in a couple of stainless steel bottles which have lasted really well but I’ll admit we were struggling a bit in the hot weather with luke warm water. We have been trying out these fab insulated bottles that we were sent by the team at Sho. They do a brilliant job of keeping the water chilled and it’s certainly refreshing on a hot day to have a cool drink! They’ve been a big hit with the three children and the colours are pretty appealing too.
I just need to add one for me into our collection now. The ones we have are perfect for fitting into my handbag, and I take one with me on the odd occasions I’m on my own! They have the added benefit of being ‘bottle’ shaped rather than a wide cap which makes them really easy to drink from.
Another huge change I made was to invest in some reusable grocery bags. This might seem like something and nothing but so much of our plastic waste was coming from fruit and veg packaging that I actually found it quite staggering. I now make a point of using these when I’m out. As well as reducing packaging use it means that I’m also not using the plastic bags at the store, and I’m able to buy exact quantities of what we need, plus the food is much fresher as I’m tending to buy less in bulk. It’s also made me think more about our meals and use up foods that we have in the fridge etc as I’ve had to put a bit more effort into selecting it.
Finally, the biggest reduction in our plastic recycling waste has been having (glass bottles of) milk delivered. Yes, it does cost a little more but the whole economics of milk is a real bug bear of mine, and I have no issue paying more for a (glass) bottled milk delivery service. We have been trying it this last month and the amount of waste going into our recycling has drastically reduced, which has to be a good thing.
Other ways to reduce waste
A long time ago I stopped buying bubble baths; I’m not really happy with the various chemicals in them and I instead prefer to treat myself to bath bombs and the such from local markets. I’ve now stopped buying shower gels and instead prefer soaps. I really like the ones produced by Suds U Like and I also use their shampoo bars. Cutting out the plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles, shower gels bottles and hand wash bottles has been another way we have reduced a lot of plastic in the last six months.
My next steps are to replace our plastic lunchboxes with stainless steel. After a while, plastic lunchboxes start to transfer food tastes and smells and after eating a sandwich that tasted of banana last week I really need to source some good stainless steel lunchboxes. I did buy one at the weekend that was reduced at A Slice of Green. I want to source a couple more and also plan to invest in some food flasks at some point for autumn walks out. The prospect of warm food whilst we are out really does appeal to me and will certainly help in keeping us out longer when the weather starts to cool.
One final way we have reduced our plastic consumption has been to use reusable kitchen roll. Kitchen roll wasn’t a thing in my house as a child, and it’s only since marrying Damian that it became a staple in our shopping basket. Aside from it being quite expensive it’s actually not needed. I have some cloth sheets instead that are backed with towelling fabric and these do the jobs perfectly. I’m going to sew up some more when I get a spare five minutes.
I’m really pleased that a few simple changes have really reduced our waste and our impact on the planet. None of these things is hard to do and they’ve all contributed to significant waste reductions, which can only be a good thing. I am sure there is much more we can do and my next steps are to invest in better quality reusable food containers and flasks for autumn picnics, taking away the reliance on plastic boxes and tin foil wrap.