As a family we have been interested in cutting down our waste for years, but one of my new years resolutions this year was to take our efforts up a notch. I thought it would be fun to document some of our journey, because so many zero waste bloggers are so well established and at a point in their journey where they produce very little waste, I wanted to show some of our successes and struggles, from the perspective of someone who isn’t anywhere near zero waste yet. I am actually not all that fond of the term zero waste, because for most of us it can feel so unachievable, but I do love the movement behind it and the way it is starting to shift how we think about waste.
In the part of the UK where we live, we are allocated a green and a black bin which are emptied alternate weeks. Currently as a family of four, we use one black bin bag per week of rubbish, so the large black bin isn’t quite full when we put it out to be emptied. My aim over the next couple of months is to cut that back to one black bin bag per fortnight. Not quite the same as fitting all your waste in a jar, but it is a significant step forward.
As we have two children, one who is still in nappies, using reusable nappies and wipes really helps cut down our waste. I know that if we were using disposables, the black bin would not only be really smelly, but it would also be overflowing each week with us possibly having to do extra trips to the tip. We are so used to using reusables for these items now, it has inspired me to look in to other reusable items that we could use for the house. I get a lot of questions from people on cloth nappies, so I am planning to share as much as possible of my journey with them to hopefully help others thinking of going down the same road. I love cloth and don’t find it difficult at all, but it does require a bit of research to get right.
My cloth wipes review – Read it here.
Some recent successes:
After seeing other people raving about it online we tried some plastic free toilet paper and kitchen roll from Who gives a crap. Ordering in bulk is actually very cost effective. Mr Green crunched the numbers and we found it no more expensive than what we would usually pick up at the supermarket. There are several options in terms of materials and the brand also put a percentage of their profits to building sanitation in countries that need it.
I purchased some really simple bags made from recycled plastic bottles from the brand Onya, perfect for fruit, veg and even bread rolls and have used them successfully in all my local supermarkets. One of the cashiers at Aldi even commented that they were having a big push to get rid of a lot of plastic packaging in store which is great. I keep these clipped inside my handbag so I always have them to hand and they are really sturdy.
We have had some success with switching to more eco friendly laundry products. We have tried an eco-egg*, Soapnuts and non-bio in cardboard packaging. All the different methods have their pro’s and con’s so we actually use different things for different types of laundry. For example cloth nappies get washed in non-bio, because they are heavily soiled, but other things come out nice and clean with the eco-egg. I also purchased a stain removal bar package free; with a toddler in the house staining is an issue, so I will update on how we get on with that.
We have dramatically cut back on the amount of cleaning products we use. As we don’t have refill stations near us, I have been ordering essentials such as washing up liquid*, multi-purpose cleaner* or castile soap online in bulk. The bigger bottles last ages and create less waste overall. They also tend to be easier to recycle as they don’t come with pumps or fiddly parts. One of my favourite things to use is Dr Bronner’s peppermint castile soap* for the bathroom and kitchen. I may dabble with making some of my own cleaning products in the coming months too.
What I would like to improve:
With two children it can feel like they are constantly hungry and asking for food. A lot of snack foods come in packaging that I would prefer to avoid, but there is also nothing worse than a hangry child who needs something right now. If I am taking baby Green out for the day I will pack a little container with fruit and other bits, but I know that I could probably be more inventive with the kinds of snacks we take out with us, or pop in lunch boxes. Making a batch of snack bars or things like muffins is on my list to start doing more regularly.
I hate to admit it, but it has been ages since I looked at our council recycling list to see what can and can’t currently be recycled. It is one of those jobs I keep putting off, because lets be honest it is dull. But I can’t shake the feeling that perhaps some of what we are tossing could in fact be recycled curbside or at a recycling facility.
I currently have bags of clothing and baby things that we need to find a new home for. Nothing gets thrown away, as it will all get passed on or sold, but it really stressed me out how long these things tend to hang about the house before I finally manage to get rid of them. A really big clear out is definitely in order! Although we are not at all minimalist as a family, I do find it easier to cut back on waste when the house is less cluttered and more organised, there is a definite connection between the two.
We have been composting for some time and have a little caddy in the kitchen that we empty in to two big bins we have in the garden. I am sure that we could be composting more. Especially things like cardboard packaging, that I tend to pop straight in the recycling without thinking. You do need a certain amount of paper, cardboard and other things to make sure your compost isn’t too wet, but I do think perhaps I need to read up a bit more on the topic as I sure I am not making the most of the compost facilities we have.
As I have started to write more zero waste posts, I have added it as a category to my menu, so feel free to explore more reviews there. Are you trying to cut back on your waste? Let me know some of your successes below.