Why is reducing waste important?
Not only does it cost a lot of money, energy and natural resources to manufacture and transport new products, it also costs a great deal to process these products as waste once we’re done with them. The more rubbish we put in the ground, the more our landfills release toxic gases and substances that contribute to climate change, can kill plants and animals and contaminate our water supplies.
Making small changes in our everyday lifestyle choices can make a powerful difference to the health of all living things and our planet.
Below I share a few environmentally friendly swaps that help me to reduce my household waste. My family consists of two adults and three young children so even eliminating just the shampoo and shower gel bottles from our bathrooms made a considerable difference in the amount of waste we create.
My 10 less waste swaps
- A good selection of cloth shopping bags is always handy. I currently have three in my handbag one of which I use as a wash bag for all my bits and bobs (which doubles as an extra bag if I need it). It is so easy to swap between handbags as I only have to throw in my cloth bags and go!
- Swap plastic straws with reusable ones that you can also carry in your handbag for when you are out and about. Also, I carry with me a set of cutlery for every member of the family so that I won’t have to use the plastic ones.
- I try to shop for unpackaged fruit and veg (and adjust my cooking to whatever produce I can source each time). I have now subscribed to receive a 100% UK organic vegetable box which includes seasonal (unpackaged most of the times) & locally sourced produce.
Local markets and farm shops are also an alternative option.
Bulk produce shops where you can shop using your own containers.
Another great home box subscription company (if you live in London) is the oddbox.co.uk. They deliver all the wonky vegetables and fruits that producers throw away because they don’t look perfect for the grocery shops.
Bulk buy packaged items such as pasta, rice and flour (I make my own bread). Obviously, when I can’t avoid packaging I look for items in recyclable/reusable containers.
Use the supermarkets’ fresh produce counter instead of buying the packaged food in the fridge isles (try asking them to use your own containers).
- Say no to one use plastic coffee cups and use your own travel mug instead. I love my KeepCup cork edition and I use it all the time. Also, I don’t buy bottled water, fizzy drinks, squash or any other drinks in plastic bottles.
- Replace the liquid hand soap, shampoo & body wash for a soap bar. There are plenty of choices for soaps with natural ingredients that are good for our skin and the environment. This is a big one as the plastic containers in which these products come in are mostly non-recyclable! A couple of websites for soap bars, noplasticshop & etsy.
- Empty glass jars can be used to store your food instead of using plastic containers. Also, Tiffin stainless steel containers are ideal for pack lunches and snacks. I now use my plastic containers only to store non-food items.
- I have replaced my water bottle (and my children’s) with a stainless steel one. It keeps my water cool and healthy. I prefer to use this instead of any other type of plastic bottle even if it is BPA free. You may not be aware but BPA can also be found in canned goods, receipts and tickets printed on thermal paper, dental sealants, plastic wrap (cling film), one use paper cups, plastic food containers and some kitchen utensils.
- Also, I do not use cling film anymore but instead I use glass containers with lids or cloth dish covers (have a look on etsy for some great cotton options).
I avoid foil by cooking in ovenproof dishes.
Another great swap is making kitchen cloths out of old cotton shirts or towels and use them instead of kitchen paper.
- I no longer use kitchen scourer sponges but I replaced them with wooden or bamboo pot scrubbing brushes. For cleaning the surfaces I do not buy kitchen cleaning products but I make my own. This is an easy one to make: mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water for an all-purpose spray cleaner (with the addition of a few drops of essential oils to tackle the strong vinegar smell).
- Finally, I always try to find second-hand items before I buy new. A few website suggestions: ebay, FaceBook, freecycle,
nextdoor, secondhand.org.uk, vestiairecollective (designer fashion) , ThredUp (clothing/accessories), oxfam.org.uk/shop/, preloved.co.uk.
However difficult the less waste/plastic free lifestyle may be for our fast pacing lives, every little step really counts towards maintaining the integrity of our planet. It is all about resetting our mindset to think before we consume.
I still buy products that are in plastic containers (vegan yogurts and most of the vegan cheese) and I am still working on cutting down waste and buy less, in so many other aspects of my life.
Nevertheless, considering the whole point of zero waste living is to consume less, make more of your own, use what you already have and repair what is broken – I am happy to give it a try.
What are your thoughts about the less waste movement? What are you struggling with to cut down the most?
A few zero waste produce shops: