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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 ;)
Mamalina & Plastic Free Me's #plasticfreeparent campaign
Charlotte's Cupboard (Brighton & Hove zero waste delivery)
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