It has been a couple of months now since we stepped up our efforts to reduce our household waste (more about our reasons for this in a forthcoming post) so I thought it was time to do a bit of an audit of what these changes would save from going to landfill or needing to be recycled over the course of a year, and also to see if we are saving any money along the way. We had already been doing quite a few things to reduce our waste, but today I’ll just cover the new ones.
Since the UK’s zero waste week in September we have:
1. Replaced individual bottles of sparkling water with a Soda Stream. This comes with just 2 plastic bottles that can be reused for around 2 years (not sure what happens to them after that if you continue to reuse but they are labelled with a date).
Based on an average of 10 x 50cl bottles per week this has already saved quite a few bottles. Over a year we will be sending 520 fewer plastic bottles to our recycling centre.
With the Soda Stream costing us £40 and the gas refills costing £7.99 (enough to make 60l each), we will also save around £150 in the first year, more thereafter.
2. Swapped boxes of Lyons individual coffee bags for loose coffee roasted locally and ground straight into my own container.
We were buying around 1 box of 18 bags most weeks as well as less frequent packs of ground coffee so will be saving around 50 cardboard boxes, plus 900 foil wrappers and paper bags, and around 6 foil ground coffee packs over the year. In terms of cost, the freshly ground coffee is more expensive than buying ready packed ground coffee but compared to the coffee bags we were buying there is probably around £1 per week saving – so approx £50.
3. Been making all of our own bread in a bread maker. We had been making it about once a week before and making it all saves approx 2 plastic bread bags per week – 100 over the year. More tricky to work out the cost here since we are eating more bread (as also being more determined to pack lunch each day) and the loaves aren’t the same size as the purchased ones so I have not assumed any saving. As far as possible this is put on during the day to use solar power.
4. Purchased re-useable coffee cups to use when we get takeaway coffee. Between us we use them for around 3 coffees per week – a saving of around 150 paper cups and plastic lids. No cost saving here.
5. Been reusing a bag to put fresh croissants in each week instead of putting them in a fresh one each week. This will save approx 50 paper bags with plastic windows. Cost neutral.
6. Avoided packaged fruit and veg more conscientiously than previously. Although I did already buy loose fruit and veg most of the time, just choosing not to buy some packaged items probably results in around 3 items less of plastic fruit and veg packaging per week – 150 over the year. Since the prices vary I haven’t worked out if any saving – generally loose veg is cheaper but bizarrely it is sometimes more expensive.
7. Cut down the frequency with which I use shampoo from every 2 days to once a week (washing with water in between), with the intention of transitioning to a “no poo” (no shampoo) routine as described here.No poo information This has the added benefit of saving water and electricity as showering is quicker without the shampoo, and less styling product as I only use it after the shampoo. Since son had his hair cut very short he has gone straight to a water only routine for haircare. Shampoo always lasted me ages anyway so perhaps I used less than most but at a guess this will save around 4 plastic shampoo bottles each year plus the same again of conditioner. In the longer term I expect to cut out other hair care products too. Approx financial saving of £15-£20, and potentially a saving on our water and electricity bill too.
8. Used my own containers a few times so far for buying cakes, and once for sausages and chosen unpackaged alternatives where possible. This is difficult to quantify but even if I only manage this once a week it would save 50 items of packaging.
9. Made my own cleaning liquid – from the recipe here: How to make eco cleaning spray. I reused an existing spray bottle. If I make it up once a month this will save 12 bottles. Also made a pet-safe cleaning solution which will save a further 6 bottle. Cost saving of approx £20
10. Reduced our use of kitchen towel and cling film/foil – replacing with washable cloths and abeego beeswax wraps/ existing plastic boxes/reusing other packaging. Estimated reduction, not giving these up totally, of 12 kitchen rolls and 2 rolls of clingfilm/foil.
11. Committed to not buying any new clothes (even second hand or swapped) until at least Christmas. This hasn’t saved anything from landfill since I would give my unwanted clothes to charity or sell or give away, but it has definitely saved money. My personal credit card bill has only had 4 items on it apart from my train fare to work since Sept, and those 4 items have all been to do with reducing waste (abeego wraps, reusable coffee cups, a Lush deodorant bar and a book for the Sustainable Book Club). My average bill has dropped by £250 per month over the last 3 months, due to a combination of not buying any clothes/shoes and just by being in the mindset of not getting other stuff I don’t need. Whilst I don’t expect to sustain that level of savings, an average saving of £100 per month is reasonable, even if I reintroduce more occasional clothes buying after a few months. £1200 if sustained over a year.
12. Switched to soap nuts for clothes washing. The size bag I bought should last over 300 washes compared to around 20 for the laundry detergent I was buying before. At an average of 5 washes per week this should last me all year. The soap nuts did come in a plastic bag, but just one compared to 13 boxes or bottles (varied which one I used) of my previous detergent. The soapnuts are compostable when they have been used, and can be poured on the garden to deter slugs. In terms of cost the detergent I bought before varied from £2-£5. Over the year the soap nuts should save around £25.
13. Only used a flannel and water for facewashing. I was doing this a lot of the time anyway but switching to this full time will save around 15 packs of cleansing wipes per year, and around £30.
14. Tried using a cloth handkerchief – since I only own one at the moment ( thanks to a friend who gave me it as a gift probably around 20 years ago and I had kept it in a drawer unused till now) I haven’t yet saved many tissues, but have hankies on the Christmas list!
15. Purchased a machine washable washing up sponge.
16. Buy our eggs direct from the farm and return the boxes for them to use again. Approx 50 boxes per year, and as they are also cheaper around £20 saving.
17. Eked out a stick deodorant that had gone past the point where it fell out of the plastic dispenser for at least a month after I would have normally thrown it away. I’m now about to move on to the Lush deodorant bar but after that I will try making my own – I already have the ingredients anyway for this recipe.How to make your own deodorant
18. Replaced frozen chips with fresh ones made form a sweet potato (as quicker to cook than regular potatoes). We don’t eat chips all the time so maybe 6 packs per year.
19. Replaced shaving gel with coconut oil in a glass jar.
I’m sure I have forgotten some things but over a year just these changes will save around:
550 plastic bottles and sprays
100 cardboard boxes
900 foil sachets and paper coffee bags
12 rolls of kitchen towel
2 rolls of clingfilm/foil
15 packs of face wipes
150 coffee cups
Plus a variety of other assorted plastic and paper packaging.
These changes should also save us around £1500 which is an added bonus.
We also made around £200 selling items we no longer needed on ebay.
And we still have way too much in our bin!
The changes described above are in addition to the waste reduction measures we already had in place. I’ll save those for the next blog entry as this one is getting really long, but these included:
Cloth Baby wipes
Cloth sanitary pads
Composting food waste, garden waste and rabbit litter
Making homemade pizza
There are links to loads of ideas on my Pinterest Boards: