A Beginners Guide to Making Zero Waste Swaps

Here we go again with another bloody thing to worry about! Yep, here I am again wanging on about yet another thing I’m endeavoring to achieve. This time it’s zero waste. 

I know, I know…..it’s actually not so easy to achieve waste nil pointe these days and, to be honest, I don’t strive for it. I actually don’t think that’s the point. It’s super easy to get sweapt up in yet another movement, buying a whole new kit and declaring: ‘no more shampoo!’ But the reality for me is that it’s a long, slow process I’ve been working towards for years. And my family have now joined me! 

So, I wanted to share my swaps and successes and tell you a bit about how I’ve been trying to reduce my waste. 

Why ZERO WASTE? 

Since exploring veganism, minimalism and capsule wardrobing over three years ago I’ve just become more……awake. And let me tell you, that’s super annoying! When we lived in Thailand we saw first hand the damage waste does to our planet with SO many straws, plastic cups,condom wrappers (I lived on a Thai island…..what do you expect?) and plastic bags washed up in the ocean every day. 

When we came home I read a little about the zero waste movement and, of course, watched Bea Johnson on YouTube but it felt so….hard. So inconvenient. I lived in a small flat with no garden at the time. Was going all Good Life realistic? I didn’t think so, so I did nothing at all. I didn’t really do much about it until my lovely friend Nicki Batchelor started her Zero Waste Kent account. 

I then began delving into loads of other accounts too. Mamalina, Eco Boost, Sustainably Vegan, Madeleine Olivia…….all varying in lifestyle and content but all giving me a whole heap of tips on how to make little swaps to my life. 

And swaps I MADE! Over the past year, I’ve been squirreling away, swapping plastic and making small tweaks here and there. 

Before I go into what I swapped out and by way of background my family consists of me, my husband and our little 14-month-old baby Anaïs. Oli and I are vegan and, at home, so is Anaïs (she has a banging social life and eats veggie when she’s out and about.)

Kitchen

The kitchen has been the simplest place to swap out bits and pieces for me. I think that might be due to the fact being vegan cuts out a whole heap of stuff anyway. Yay! BUT there are still some things lingering (leftover cleaning stuff etc) which I’ll use up before making my own.

I take old totes (we’ve all got stakcs of these right?) and little cotton bags to the supermarket and pop fruit, veg, bread and loose pastries in. It feels a bit like your stealing at first but don’t worry, nobody really notices! Top tip: the cotton drawstring bags I use have tare weights, which is really handy when you’re doing a zero waste shop as you can easily deduct the weight of the bag.

We don’t shop at the supermarket too much, as we get a weekly veg box from Abel & Cole and have been doing so for YEARS. Probably about 10 to be honest. We get the All-British veg box, not because we are Brexiteers but to reduce our carbon footprint a little.

Grains, pasta, rice etc are a bugger as they all come in non-recyclable plastic. In London I had a few zero waste stores where I could top up supplies with my own containers. But in Brighton……..holy crap there’s not much! Surprisingly so. There’s a small (semi) zero-waste store in Brighton called Hisbe I use and the wonderful Charlotte’s Cupboard is now delivering to me sans plastic to Hove too! Hallelujah.

We get loose ground coffee & recyclable pods from Pact and I have a mini tea strainer which I use with loose leaf Earl Grey (I know, faaaaancy.)

I make my own oat or almond milk too, which is surprisingly simple (one cup oats, four cups water, blend, sieve twice) so we’ve been saving money and those pesky tetrapaks too.

Oli lost all our Tupperware at work, a blessing as I replaced them with these glass Pyrex dishes with silicone lids. These are brilliant because you can pop them in the microwave AND oven (without the lid!)

I have some Zoflora disinfectant, which comes in a glass bottle but I’ll replace that with homemade cleaner when it runs out. And a couple of shops near me do Ecover refills so I’m using those to top up the washing-up liquid. Although to be honest, I’m sure I could switch to soap flakes?

When the plastic wrapped sponges and cleaning cloth ran out, I switched to wood-fibre cloths (and a scourer) I can chuck in the washing machine. They’re actually much better than the cheaper reusable ones so I’m not missing anything!

I think the first switch I made was to get myself a KeepCup. Oli has a couple too, and his are even more eco as they’re glass and cork. Mine is plastic, but I like the fact I can chuck it in the dishwasher. It’s great for my coffee addiction and most coffee shops give me some money off when I use it too. I also have an old plastic bottle I take out and about with me.

Bathroom

As a skincare product junkie, this is the area I’ve struggled with the most. Although I don’t use much anymore (I broke the addiction while travelling) I still like my skincare to be, ahem, toxic. I am 100% not on board for all-natural skincare just yet. I’m okay with that, for now.

We switched our electric toothbrush for bamboo toothbrushes when it ran out. I miss my electric toothbrush but hey, ho………..I just really can’t skimp on that three minutes now!

I don’t wash my hair very often anyway but I’m trying to wash it even less. Oli washes his every day which is tough……especially as shampoo bars are so expensive, so I’m trying to go no/low-poo (aka no shampoo, I’m not planning a life of constipation.) But…..I’m not looking forward to the ‘transition’ stage as after three weeks, it’s not greasy but…..it’s flaky.
YUK. I’m going to try a bicarbonate of soda scrub and an apple cider vinegar rinse. Wish me luck.

I use soap instead of bottles of shower gel, which is no drama and super cheap and I’ve never been one to use things like body scrubs, fake tan or shaving gel anyway so that’s not been an issue.

Deodorant has been crazy simple for me – I just bought a natural alum one (it’s a stick of mineral salt you use straight after showering.) It’s GREAT for travel (not liquid) and lasts for ages. It’s worked well for me, but annoyingly it’s in plastic…..

Another simple switch has been to my new safety razor, which is all vintage steel gorgeousness and a lot easier to use than I expected. The razor blade refillscome wrapped in paper and cost SO much less than the average plastic razor and refills (£23 for the razor, £10 for 100 refill blades vs. approx £13 for 8 basic Gillette refills.)

I’ve been using a menstrual cup for years now, but I recently switched from the Mooncup to the Organicup (gifted) and I LOVE IT. It’s just so much easier than tampons and I’d never switch back. It’s cheaper, better for the environment and better for you too. (PS you get free Organicup shipping when you use the code ‘wanderluce’.)

We’ve also ditched plastic wrapped loo roll for the super eco-friendly Who Gives a Crap loo roll which is 100% recycled, no inks/dyes and really ethical too; the brand donate 50% of profits to charities building toilets for those who need them. At $48 for $48 jumbo rolls, it’s cheaper than our usual brand too. Bonus.

Laundry! This has been so much fun since I switched to an EcoEgg which, while plastic…..lasts for 720 washes (three years!!!) for £28.

Baby

This one has been tricky, I’m not gonna lie. And I’m not totally winning because a lot of the time I choose convenience over zero waste/plastic.

But I’m making small changes here and there and trying to change mine and my family’s mindset when it comes to ‘stuff’ which, more often than not, we don’t need.

The first change has been to drop disposable nappies that sit on a landfill for 500 years for reusable cloth nappies. Oli was SO incredibly dubious about this it took me months to convince him. But convince him I did and he’s now sold….ish.

After reading this post by Rosie I tried out The Nappy Lady advisory service where she gives you recommendations based on your answers to a questionnaire about your nappy needs and lifestyle. We bought a couple of bits (although you’re under no obligation to do so) and tried three brands; Bambino Mio birth to potty all-in-one nappies, Little Lamb and Tots Bots plus Blueberry wrap.

I’m going to write a big reusable nappy review soon, but for now, I have to say the Bambino Mio nappies are my absolute faves. They’re as easy to use as disposable nappies, wash really well, come in cute prints and Anaïs loves them too. I loved them so much I bought a whole load used via Facebook and the lovely Sarah Starrs who was selling some of hers on Instagram. FYI this is NOT spon…..I paid for them all myself!

Anaïs doesn’t have so many toys, but those she does are gifted, hand-me-downs and mostly wooden. But we tend to go to the library for books and toys anyway, and I might pick up some bits and bobs at the charity shop too.

Miscellaneous!

I don’t buy many clothes anyway but after doing Jessica Rose Williams capsule wardrobe guide I realised I had a couple of wardrobe gaps. So I picked up a vintage fur coat from my local thrift store Bobby & Dandy and a new bag from Mat & Nat, a vegan, ethical brand I love.

JUNK MAIL! This was the bane of my life when I moved to Brighton (Somehow I get so much more here) so I bought a ‘no junk mail’ sticker for the letterbox. I know you can recycle paper but saying no means you’re sending a message that one less person wants this marketing.

If you’re interested in making more ethical clothing choices I’d encourage you to check out my girl Elle Croft’s posts.

Because I’m vegan I save a whole heap of water and food waste by cutting out animal products. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of water waste, deforestation, and climate change so I’m happy to keep eating zero-meat! But if you don’t wanna go vegan full-time, even a couple of days a week will make a difference.

ps here’s why I’m vegan…..

I have a wee Kilner composter for our food waste, but Brighton & Hove is a particularly un-green council (I know, shocker!) and all communal composting schemes are full (which cuts out a LOT of the area as we all have notoriously teeny gardens) so I’ve been at a loss as to what to do. I’m thinking either a wormery or trying the Bokashi Japanese method where you pickle your food waste (cooked and uncooked, so great if you aren’t vegan.)

But for now, I’m just trying to use as much as I can (hello veggie stock, carrot cake made from peel and veggie peel crisps!) and composting the rest.

Phew, mammoth post! What do you think? Are you keen to reduce your waste? Any top tips for a total div like me?! You know the score, answers in the comments 😉

L x

Helpful resources

Mamalina & Plastic Free Me’s #plasticfreeparent campaign

Zero Waste Kent

Charlotte’s Cupboard (Brighton & Hove zero waste delivery)

Eco-Boost

The Mylk Man (plant-based milk bottle delivery service in London)

 

 

 

** Please note this post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click through and purchase something I get a teeny commission (and I mean TINY!) but you won’t pay a penny more.**

14 Comments

  1. 13th June 2018 / 9:49 am

    Wow, so impressed with your efforts Lucy. I looked at using the Bambino Mio nappies before Maya was born. I still haven’t been brave enough – it’s so easy to stick with convenience isn’t it? But I really should give them a go. Very inspiring post xx

    • 13th June 2018 / 1:26 pm

      Thanks love! I’d really recommend switching to Bambino Mio….they are so simple, genuinely 🙂 I’ll be writing a review of them fairly soon though! x

  2. Kate
    13th June 2018 / 10:22 pm

    Hi Lucy. I like the suggestion of the Pyrex dishes. I have some with glass lids but might try to find some smaller ones with silicone lids.
    Have you tried beeswax wraps? I haven’t but I am keen to try them.
    I use washable wipes for mucky children, or in the kitchen to wipe up spills etc.
    We can’t really afford to buy food from ethical sources which sucks but our council include plastic wrapping in their recycling.

    • 19th June 2018 / 7:00 pm

      I’m vegan so I don’t use the beeswax wraps but there are apparently some vegan alternatives………although they’re all so pricey I just use my Tupperware, an old tea towel or a plate!

      I totally get it with buying organic and ethical….I just try to avoid plastic, and I’m lucky in that my food shop is a heap cheaper than it used to be as a veggie/meat eating family! x

  3. 17th June 2018 / 9:08 am

    Hi Lucy, thanks a lot for this post! I signed up for a plastic-free challenge for July and want to make as many sustainable changes as possible. Your article really resonated with me, because I know it won’t be easy and not always possible to choose plastic-free options, but it’s good to try to even just reduce it! The products you linked to are very helpful. Thank you!

    • 19th June 2018 / 7:04 pm

      Woop, well done you Kathi! It’s not easy at all, but so doable and I totally agree the main thing is to just try really hard! x

  4. 18th June 2018 / 8:21 am

    Love this post! I’m also doing my best to get as waste-free as possible but in a third world country it’s rather hard. Recycling not so much an option here as a privilege, so the best solution is to try and not buy plastic! Which is tough! We’re a vegan (me) and pescetarian (husband) household and I love using my moon cup! Definitely need to get my baby onto cloth… it just seems so daunting now that she is one year old and still makes number 2’s three-four times a day! Was hoping she would have eased off all the shitting by now, but seems she is as full of it as her mother!

    Thanks for the inspiration, L x

    Keri, Cape Town
    http://wearethewildflowers.co.za/

    • 19th June 2018 / 7:06 pm

      Keri, your comment made me LOL so much!!!! Anaïs is 14 months and I’m happy to report the shitting is less than three a day. I guess because I’m not breastfeeding and stuff her full of carbs?! Probably not very healthy of me but hey ho 😉

      You make such a good point about recycling being a privilege in third world countries. It’s very easy to preach when you are a white, middle-class human with someone who collects your recycling but that’s kinda why I just wanna reduce my waste full-stop xx

  5. Zoe
    19th June 2018 / 6:36 am

    Hi Lucy, At the moment we are not very good and have a lot of plastic in the house. I don’t know if I could totally do zero plastic however I have been thinking of trying to reduce our waste as a family. There are loads of ideas on here which is giving me something to try and implement!

    • 19th June 2018 / 7:08 pm

      I’m so pleased Zoe! And don’t beat yourself up. Every little helps xx

  6. 20th June 2018 / 6:19 am

    I go through real phases with zero waste! Back in 2008 I became obsessed with a blog (the name of which escapes me) and made some switches, but slowly but surely plastic crept back in.

    I’m trying hard to make small swaps, and luckily we have a council which is great on recycling and green/food waste – which reminds me, I must get my food waste caddy back out and in action!

    My biggest area for improvement right now I think is washing/beauty. I’m a total product junkie and don’t know where to start! I wash my hair much less now but need to wash it (I’ve tried no poo and honestly it was a mess…maybe I need to persevere?). I have switch out to non sls shampoo but wondering if I should try solid bars instead – do you recommend any?

    I’m definitely going to look into plastic free staples for things like pasta etc. No where near me does anything!

    • 24th June 2018 / 12:15 pm

      I don’t wash my hair now but I was addicted to Lush solid shampoo bars when I was travelling. Although someone told me they have chemicals and stuff in them now?

      You have LOADS of options for bulk food in London. You can also get stuff from Amazon, Costco (in plastic but at least in bulk)?

      L x

      • 6th July 2018 / 7:39 pm

        Yup, they do have chemicals in them. In a bid to cut down on plastic I’ve been trying out the solid shampoo/ conditioner offerings.

        I initially bought some handmade ones from Etsy. They’re really lovely but I did find the shampoo a little too rich/ oily for my hair type so I decided to try out one of the Lush solid options as I’ve used and liked their liquid ones before.

        Off I trundle on my lunch break to buy one. No word of a lie, I came across this post later that day, read your comment, THEN looked at the ingredients list and found out it’s got SLS included (and another one that doesn’t have an acronym and I definitely can’t spell it). Absolute. Fail.

        It is definitely plastic-free though so I’m almost there.

        • Lucy
          Author
          17th September 2018 / 11:10 am

          That’s the thing isn’t it – small steps and compromise where we can. Pretty much anything that foams has SLS in, but plastic is far more harmful so…..what are you gonna do? I wash my hair twice a month at the mo, so like you – I’m sticking with my Lush bars for now! xx

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