7 top tips to reduce your household waste

Is your bin full of packaging waste? Are you tired of putting the bin out for collection every week?  Then you might like these tips for reducing your household waste:

  1. Buy food and other items unpackaged: take your own bags and containers when you shop and avoid prepacked items. Write a list to buy only what you need. You can read more here about my favourite places to by unpackaged in Leighton Buzzard. The market and independent shops are great for this.16807726_10210907726622487_2055995162207271710_n
  2. If you can’t find it unpackaged, choose glass, paper or card over plastics, or investigate refills:  as well as being made from non-recyclable fossil fuels, plastic is harder to recycle and can often only be “downcycled”.  It therefore likely to end up in landfill sooner, and takes centuries to biodegrade.  Glass and paper however can be endlessly recycled and paper can be home composted.  Easy swaps from plastic include switching from plastic tubs to butter in paper (Waitrose), from tea bags (which often actually contain plastic as well as coming in plastic wrap)  to loose tea in card (PG Tips is widely available), oils in plastic to oils in glass bottles (you can also get refills of flavoured oils at Dobbies in Bletchley),  bar soap (bought loose or in card), refills of laundry and washing up liquid (in Leighton Buzzard these are available at Nature’s Harvest), laundry powder in card (Aldi), dishwasher powder and salt in card (Waitrose or Sainsbury), milk in glass bottles (Pecks Farm deliver in the Leighton Buzzard area). You can find out more about plastic in tea bags in this article from Treading My Own Path and a list of easy swaps in this article from Happier, Sustainable, Less Skint.
  3. If you can only find products in plastic buy the largest size available for less packaging pro rata as long as the product stores well and you will actually use it all.  For example we buy 5kg bags of basmati and long grain rice from the world food section of the supermarket – if you live close to an Asian supermarket you may have more options and be able to find rice in paper.
  4. Use reusables: take your own coffee cup or water bottle out, use cloth handkerchiefs, cleaning cloths, washable feminine hygiene products such as cloth pads or a menstrual cup, instead of disposables.  Take your lunch to work in a reusable lunch box ( I have a lovely stainless steel one from Save Some Green but we also continue to use a lot of plastic ones we had already as well as using containers such as ice cream tubs). Extend the reuse of products by buying second-hand and donating things you no longer need – as well as the charity shops there are numerous local sharing groups for giving away or requesting items, often for free – you may be surprised what things people can make use of when you no longer need them, and how often someone else no longer needs something you do.   You can find links to some of them at the end of this post -a search for local similar groups on Facebook is always worthwhile as I have only mentioned a couple I use in the list.  Repair things rather than replacing if you can.   Many areas (although sadly I’ve not found one near me yet) have repair cafes where you can get help to fix your broken items.  If you don’t have one near you can often find information about repairing things online (local people offered me plenty of advice on recent problems with my washing machine via local discussion group Nextdoor – in the list of links at the end).
  5. Have a go at making your own: If you have time bread, cakes and pasta can easily be made from ingredients largely sold in paper bags. White vinegar is great for cleaning and can be bought in glass bottles. You can make your own deodorant and apparently toothpaste from coconut oil (glass from Aldi) and bicarbonate of soda (in card from Selections or Wilco) with a few drops of essential oils. I have saved links to lots of useful recipes on my boards on Pinterest.
  6. Reduce your food waste: meal plan to avoid overbuying and use your freezer to save leftovers. Love Food Hate Waste has lots of tips. Washed peelings can be saved up to make stock, and fruit scraps can be used to make scrap vinegar or tepache.

    16939526_10210963822744855_1098200176491799791_n
    Home made apple scrap vinegar
  7. Compost as much as you can – pretty much anything organic can go in. Like many councils Central Bedfordshire offers discounted compost bins and information.

 

If you want to know more and are on Facebook, the friendly groups Zero Waste Heroes and Journey to Zero Waste UK are great places for sharing ideas or asking questions about reducing your waste.

Local sharing groups and other useful links:

going-green-linky-badge  skip-the-bag

This post is being shared on A Green and Rosie Life’s Going Green Linky for March 2017 and Skip The Bag’s Waste Less Wednesday Blog Hop

 

 

My favourite places for shopping without packaging in Leighton Buzzard

Are you tired of putting the bin out for collection every week? Is your bin full of packaging waste?

We are fortunate that Central Bedfordshire accepts a large variety of food packaging for recycling but plastics tend to be hard to recycle, can mainly only be downcycled, and can only be recycled a few times before ending up in landfill ( or in the oceans).  Plastics then hang around pretty much forever ( How long does it take a plastic bottle to biodegrade?).  They are also made of non renewable oil and potentially leach toxins into your food.  We have therefore been trying to reduce not only our landfill waste, but our recyclables too, particularly trying to avoid single use plastics.  This has been a journey, changing our buying habits a little at a time, but over the last 18 months we have managed to reduce our landfill waste by over 80% and our recycling by about 50%.  This post is about just one of the ways of avoiding packaging waste, by trying to avoid acquiring it in the first place, and focusses on the places that, after a change in my shopping habits, I now find this easy to do for grocery and household items in my home town of Leighton Buzzard.  If you know of other local shops that should be included please do let me know.

I now try to buy food, and other items, unpackaged whenever possible.  This tends to be easier done when shopping at the local market and independent shops than in the supermarket, although the supermarkets do tend to have some loose fruit and veg – remember to bring your own bags or containers – meal planning and a shopping list will help you have a good idea of how many bags/containers to bring along.  Some of my personal favourites for buying unpackaged items are:

Leighton Buzzard Market : Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg – on the South side of the High Street on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Happy to sell you fruit and veg directly into your own bags.

16807707_10210907727102499_6276998507138463623_n
Harris and Sons Fruit and Veg Stall – Leighton Buzzard Market

Other market traders are also often happy to sell into your own containers – just ask nicely at the start of your purchase.  It feels strange at first but you soon get used to it, and so do the traders.  I have done this several times at the olive stall at the top of the High Street and at the Delisha samosa stall, a cake stall and at the other fruit and veg stall.  The fish van indicated he would be happy to do this too.  The farmers market and craft markets are also a good place to ask – Bucks Star Brewery visits the farmers each month and take their glass eco -growlers back and give you a full one at a discount, whilst the Leighton Buzzard Brewing Company sells refillable growlers which you can refill at the brewery on Grovebury Road. The honey seller at the craft market asks you to return your empty jar for a discount off the next one.

16864435_10210908767568510_7007334062055417694_n
Refillable eco growler from the farmers’ market

House of Coffee – Peacock Mews.  They roast coffee in the small shop and are happy to grind it as required into your own container.  I began by taking in a plastic lunch box but having since acquired lots of empty large Douwe Egberts coffee jars from a local sharing site I use one of those, carefully wrapped in a tea towel to protect it in transit.  We then store the jar in the freezer to keep the coffee fresh. Fair trade options are usually available.

16865081_10210907728302529_7980541323627234896_n
House of Coffee – Peacock Mews

Selections – High Street A variety of hardware items from replacement broom heads to individual screws. They also sell replacement gas canisters for SodaStream (as does Argos) which has replaced the plastic bottles of fizzy water we used to buy every week, and saved us money.

Natures Harvest – North Street  Sells unpackaged soap and refills for Ecover laundry and washing up liquid. Also stocks bamboo toothbrushes, Ecoleaf toilet roll in compostable packaging and lots of other eco friendly products  (although many are still in plastic).

16864669_10210907727942520_3292370890055820345_n

Oliver Adams Bakers- Market Square  Bread, cakes etc either in paper bags or into your own bag/container. The Co-Op – Waterdell off Brooklands Drive has a daily delivery of Italian bread which can be bought loose.

Strattons Butchers – Market Square .  If you eat meat ask Strattons to sell it you without any single use plastic.  I ask them to weigh it on the waxed paper sheets they use and then transfer in to my own container, which they are happy to do.

Model Farm – Hockliffe Road If you are passing ( just out of town past the garden centre) this is a great place to buy free range eggs.  We return the boxes for reuse when we next visit.

Pecks Farm – Towards Hockliffe – we have our milk delivered in returnable glass bottles by Pecks Farm.  It does cost more so is one of our more recent changes, but we have offset the additional cost by savings made elsewhere in our waste reduction journey.  The farm also sells local produce and loose fruit and veg.

You can still find some unpackaged options in the supermarket – it does vary but locally I find Tesco tends to have the most unpackaged fruit and veg.  Morrisons and Waitrose also sells loose rolls, croissants and cakes – I use my own bag or container where these are self service but have not been able to do this at the counter.

16681720_10210907726862493_1359553675519900306_n
Mmm, which potatoes will I choose?

 

Have you shopped packaging free anywhere else locally – please let me know? This will be useful to update my chapter of  The Zero Waste Travel Companion  which is updated from time to time.

More posts to follow on other local places to shop with reduced or plastic free packaging, and on the local circular economy, where you can often get things you need cheaply or for free, as well as passing on things you no longer need rather than throwing them away.

Now, do you still need to put that bin out?

If you would like to read more about some of the other ways we have gradually reduced our waste, these blog posts are a good start:

You can now follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where I share some of our daily waste saving in more regular short posts.

16807726_10210907726622487_2055995162207271710_n

 

 

 

 

Plastic Free July – so how’s it going?

So, since starting out with plastic free July I really haven’t had time to sit and write – instead I have been sharing some pictures of some of my plastic free efforts over on Instagram which is easier to do as I go along. Do pop over and have a look.

My 2 initial pledges were to replace plastic wrapped snacks such as crisps, and to find a local milk delivery in glass bottles.

Well, so far so good.  We had our first glass bottle milk delivery last Monday.  There is no denying that it is considerably more expensive than plastic bottled supermarket milk, but the additional cost is more than offset by the saving we have made since we swapped from individual plastic bottles of fizzy water to a Soda Stream back in September.  And it somehow seems really nice to open the fridge and see a couple of glass bottles with nice green foil lids.  Plus, we are supporting a local dairy.

Finding a feasible regular alternative to crisps and other plastic wrapped snacks has been a little harder, although I have managed not to buy any more once I finished off the couple of bags in the cupboard already.  In the first week I was really enthusiastic and made flatbreads, cut into triangles and baked with cajun spices and  popcorn – seasoned with a little melted butter, salt and plenty of black pepper.  In the second week I managed to buy cashew nuts loose (into a reused plastic bag – most suitable thing I could manage to find) to last me the couple of days in the office.  But I can only buy them near my work, not near my home which means my half hour lunch break was pretty much taken up with getting these.  In the 3rd week, things were getting really busy at work so I didn’t have a chance to buy nuts.  I baked some cake at home but then had no time or energy to make savoury snacks too so ended up taking along the spare crusts cut off son’s sandwiches as an extra filler – it did stop me being hungry but was a bit dull as snacks go.  I had one go at making my own crisps but managed to burn them and even the burnt ones were soft rather than crispy by the time I wanted them at work the next day – so I clearly need to practice this!

I haven’t asked the rest of the family to join in with giving up crisps etc but my son did enjoy popcorn in his packed lunch a few times instead of usual crisps.  Another week I gave him tortilla chips from a larger bag for less pro-rata plastic but he got bored with that after a couple of days and didn’t eat them.

At the start my husband forgot and bought home plastic wrapped chocolate a few times – but now he is remembering to look for the card or paper packaged ones which are fairly easy to find.

Looking back at the instagram pictures has helped me see how many plastic free things I have managed including:

  • Switching to glass bottled milk
  • Washing my hair with gram flour and vinegar
  • Using lemon balm from the garden to substitute some cups of tea, and drying some to use later on
  • Making yoghurt in my Wonderbag
  • Accidentally making granola – started out trying to make some raw energy bites ( oats, honey dried fruit and seeds) but I just couldn’t get them to stick together so baked the crumbly mess instead and it tasted great.
  • Making sweet and savoury popcorn ( the kernels were in a plastic bag but makes lots of portions) – my favourite is to coat in a little melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Making flatbreads, and baking some into “tortilla chips” seasoned with Low Salt Cajun Spice Mix
  • Buying a lovely bar soap in a card box
  • Buying fruit and veg from the market in my own cloth bags, as usual
  • Buying coca cola – which we buy quite rarely – in glass bottles
  • Only buying paper wrapped chocolate
  • Buying loose nuts
  • Finding that a local shop sells recycled toilet roll in compostable packaging – with no plastic!

I’m quite pleased with that and although I am not going to promise never to eat shop bought crisps, I will be making some of these changes on a more regular/permanent basis.  Next I am going to try loose tea to avoid the plastic in the bags.  I already buy our coffee this way and the same shop sells loose tea so will be trying that this afternoon.

When I wrote this last week we were about to go off to a festival which I suspected would rather ruin my plastic free efforts – more about that in another post as this one’s getting rather lengthy.

Plastic Free July – starting out

So , you may or may not have already heard about plastic free July.   Although I had heard it mentioned over the last few months, I was reluctant to sign up – we have already reduced our waste, including plastic, a lot over the last year, but we are still very far from plastic free.  Totally plastic free just sounded a little too scary.  So I was relieved to see a post on Facebook referring to it being about the plastic you manage to avoid, not what you still use.  That was just the bit of wriggle room I needed to get on board!

There is lots of information about plastic free July, and plastic free living in general over at plastic is rubbish. 

We have already made changes to significantly reduce our plastic waste, some in the last year, others for longer.   I have described some of these in previous posts including:

Waste and money saving since Zero Waste Week

Giving up Shampoo

Reducing waste in the bathroom

Now I need to think about what new swaps I can make for plastic free July, in the hope of getting the level of waste in our recycling bin down to the small level we now have in our landfill bin (thanks to our local authority taking almost all food packaging for recycling).

My initial tasks to reduce my own use of plastic here are to:

  • Find plastic free alternatives to crisps/savoury snacks to help me avoid these for the month..
  • Investigate local options for milk delivery ( we have used local milkman in the past but it was in plastic and they foten struggled to provide organic so more research needed here to see if there are alternatives).

If you are joining this challenge, I’d love to hear about any great plastic free finds.

I’ll be getting to grips with Instagram to share some of my plastic free swaps as I go along (@busygreenmum) as well as via the Twitter and Facebook links you can find at the top of the page.

 

 

 

Giving up Shampoo

It has now been 7 months since I last used a commercial shampoo to wash my hair.

My experimental journey towards “no poo” as they call it, started off fairly easily.  I decided to try living without commercial shampoo shortly after I had applied a colour to my hair, which handily means I know that where the colour ends is also pretty much where the shampooed hair ends.  I had read a few blogs about it, including washing with baking soda and apple cider vinegar either long term or as a transition to using water only,  and washing with honey (at blog High Heels and Training Wheels ), and as the honey method seemed to be popular with curly hair and suitable for use with hard water (ours is really, really hard) I decided to start with this method, with the ultimate aim of getting to water only washing. I also liked the fact that I know exactly what the honey is and where it comes from (within my small town), unlike many of the shampoo ingredients.

It started off really well.  I began by spacing out my conventional washes from approx 3 times a week to once a week, washing with just water once or twice in between.  I did this for a few weeks until I had used up a bottle of Bodyshop Rainforest shampoo that had been hanging around for a while (this shampoo contains no sulfates, silicones or parabens).  Then  I switched to a dilute mix of honey and boiled water to wash my hair (approx 1tbsp local honey dissolved in about 3 times the amount of warm water and left to cool) once a week.  And it seemed to work pretty well.  Initially I continued with a water only wash once in between.

I joined an international Facebook group of people living without shampoo and learnt so much more. They have a whole host of files with more information and shampoo recipes here , where you can find out more about most of the methods I mention.  I learnt to expect that my hair might feel waxy to start with as the silicones are gradually removed (although I was using a natural shampoo my curl serum did contain silicones), and that apple sauce could be used as a treatment.  I learnt that hard water can be a challenge, and can also cause waxiness.  I also learnt that tea or coffee can be used as a rinse between washes so gave both of these a try, along with rosehip tea, and lemon and ginger tea as I had these already.

I began my no poo journey towards the end of October.  By Christmas I was still washing with honey and water once a week but was finding the waxiness beginning to build up (which unexpectedly gave my hair loads of volume so didn’t look at all bad but felt pretty yucky).  So I tried an apple sauce hair mask.  Basically I chopped up a cooking apple and microwaved it until soft enough to mash up really well with a fork (generally advised to use a blender although I didn’t bother) .  Once it had cooled enough to not burn me but was still warm I spread it all over my hair and covered with a shower cap.  I rinsed it out thoroughly after about half an hour and hey presto, clean hair (if much flatter than with the wax).  Around this time (can’t recall if before or after) I also tried an egg wash which was also pretty effective – an egg mixed with an equal amount of cold water (hot water will cook the egg!), and applied to the hair (in the shower or over a sink as it will drip everywhere) then rinsed off after about 10 mins, again with cool water to avoid cooking the egg.   Due to the protein content this is generally not recommended more than once a month but it depends on your particular hair needs.  After new year I also tried a beer rinse as we had an open can left over – my hair loved this!

After another month I used the apple sauce and egg again.  A few months into the new year I was starting to find the honey was not as effective – I think this may be  because the new hair growth was not as dry as the coloured hair – and that my hair was becoming much greasier.  At this point I tried  using  a wash of chick pea flour – 1tbsp of chick pea flour dissolved in warm water.  I added some lemon juice which my hair seems to like ( in moderation).  This was the cleanest my hair had felt yet.  Sadly the next week it didn’t work so well  – this is because it has similar protein issues to the egg.  So I went back to the honey wash, but adding lemon juice, and at one point also tried using the olive oil bar soap I use for washing (not best in hard water and needs to be followed by an acidic rinse such as diluted vinegar) when I didn’t have anything else to hand.

Anyway, 7 months and a fair bit of trial and error later, I have found a different routine which is working really well  for me.  I am now using a wash of soapnuts with added honey and lemon juice alternating with a wash of tea (currently teapigs liquorice and peppermint bags I rescued from being thrown out at work) with a capful of distilled white vinegar.   At the moment I use one of these every 6 days and in between avoid wetting my hair by wearing a shower cap when I shower (to minimise the chance of hard water build up).  Towards the end of the 6 days I might wear my hair up, and brush with a bamboo brush or boar bristle brush at bedtime.  I mainly use soapnuts I have already used for laundry to make up the soapnut shampoo but find adding a couple of new soapnuts does help to make it lather sufficiently.  I make enough around once a month to fill an old small shampoo bottle – then  I use half and then pop the bottle in the freezer to keep the rest fresh for the next wash.  Since the soapnuts contain saponins which produce a lather and also work well in hard water this method seems to work much more like a regular shampoo than some of the other methods did for me and I am quite happy my hair is getting a good clean.  I have been using soapnuts for my laundry since last September and find they clean well so perhaps it should be no surprise that they also work well on my hair.  The effectiveness of the liquorice root and peppermint tea and a little vinegar is perhaps more surprising but smells great too (mint sauce!).

I am hoping this method will continue to work for the moment, at least until I finish the large bag of soapnuts I am using for the laundry.  At that point I intend to experiment with the more local alternative of soapwort, or ideally attempt to go water only.

Along the way my son also gave up shampoo – at the same time as going from long to short hair – he just uses water and had no transition issues (he’s 9 so was ecstatic at me allowing him to not use shampoo); and I found out that my dad had already switched to water only washing a few years ago.  My husband has just decided he’s going to give it a try too so we might well soon be a shampoo free household.

Have you ever tried giving up shampoo?  How did you get on and what method did you try?

If you enjoyed this post please let me know by commenting or liking.  You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

I have also started putting together a Pinterest Board on Natural Haircare .

 

Reducing waste in the bathroom

I have been working on reducing our waste over the last few months.  The bathroom has been one place where we have made some notable changes, in addition to some things we were already doing, and the bathroom is looking a lot less cluttered as a result.

These are some of the changes. They may not all suit everyone but even changing just one thing can make a difference.

Face washing:

A year ago I was using either disposable cleansing wipes or cotton wool with a plastic bottled cleanser. I followed this with Olay moisturiser.   Now I have replaced all of these with a flannel – water seems to work fine for daily cleansing. I do tend to only wear make up on the couple of days I go into the office and I still find water to be OK – I just rub a bit harder although I occasionally just add a little hand soap.

Deodorant:

I was using various commonly available deodorants , generally choosing paraben free varieties – I would use a deodorant most days and an antiperspirant on the days I commute to the office as I get hot on the walk and train journey. These all came in plastic containers.  Now I use a deodorant bar from Lush which comes packaging free and seems to work much better as well. I bought one for my husband too and he was really impressed that he still smells fresh after a day at work.

Shampoo and conditioner:

With 3 of us in the house, we had 3 different shampoos in the shower, plus my conditioner. Now two of us have given up commercial shampoo completely. My son just washes his hair with water, and I now wash once a week with diluted honey, and primarily just wash with water once in between.  Occasionally I add a tea, coffee or even beer rinse – my hair actually loved the beer, which was an opened can left after new year, but I am not about to start buying beer especially for my hair.

My young son switched straight to water with no transition issues, but for most adults there will be a transition period with giving up shampoo, and a bit of trial and error to find what works for you.  This seems to have taken me about 3 months and as is apparently common with hard water I did have a period of “waxy” hair which was helped by applying apple sauce (which I kept putting off as it sounded fiddly but really was fairly straightforward and did the job).  I have also done one egg wash after I made the mistake of adding olive oil to moisturise the ends, as the honey was not enough to remove it.

I had read about people giving up shampoo years ago and although tempted couldn’t get my head around the idea of not washing at all – what happens if you go swimming, or if it rains (quite likely in the UK)?  It was only more recently, actually incidentally whilst researching the use of a sauna in an outbuilding we were bringing back into use, that I discovered a lot of people just use water to wash their hair (and their bodies).  Then I stumbled across an article about using honey as a shampoo and thought I would give it a try.  There are lots of other natural alternatives to shampoo depending on your hair type and whether you have hard or soft water – baking soda in water followed by diluted apple cider vinegar seems to be a fairly popular one.  The honey is a very gentle wash which may not be cleansing for everybody,  but it seems to work for me at the moment.  Ultimately I would like to use water only. My hair is still clean and my husband assures me it doesn’t smell – at least not unpleasant – of course it no longer smells of artificial fragrance – to me the ends , which are the only bits I can smell myself, smell a bit like caramel toffee.

Alongside this I have also stopped using any styling product  so eliminating the need for hair mousse and curl serums, and even tried cutting my own hair.

Sanitary products and toilet paper:

I have already been using cloth sanitary products since I discovered them when using washable nappies (it is a shame they are not marketed much more widely – as an older mum I had spent a lot of years using disposables without really being aware there was an alternative).  They are quite easy, and so much more comfortable than crinkly plastic pads that can end up in the ocean ( who hasn’t seen a few floating in the sea on holiday?).  And if like me you are never sure about timing, you can just wear one anyway without the waste of unecessarily using a disposable.  A mooncup is an even better alternative as you only need one and there isn’t the same amount of washing involved but I haven’t personally tried one.

Since stepping up on waste reduction I began to hear about “family cloth” – by which I mean a washable toilet roll replacement. Not something that had crossed my mind before, but we used washable wipes on our son when he was in nappies so the idea made sense, although I did initially think it was perhaps a step too far. I already had some fleecy baby wipes  – I actually bought them to replace cotton wool to wash my face or remove nail varnish but a regular flannel is so much better for face washing (still working on the nail varnish one) so they had just sat in the cupboard for a few years.   I already have a lidded bin by the en suite loo for washable pads so why not use it for these too – at least on a part-time basis (i.e. wee only).  I haven’t particularly mentioned this to the rest of the family or suggested they do likewise but this still makes a noticeable reduction in how often I need to buy loo roll.

Shaving:

Since deciding to reduce our waste I have been more diligent about cleaning the disposable razor I was using, and am still using it  2-3 times a week nearly 6 months on, although I will need to replace it soon.  I have a few more in the cupboard so will continue this way for a while before investigating alternatives further – I have tried electric shavers and epilators previously but without much success. When I ran out of shaving gel I replaced it with coconut oil (in a glass jar so for safety I always store this out of the shower) – this works really well, and it may be my imagination (and yes it is winter) but I am sure it also seems to have slowed my hair growth.  You only need a tiny amount so the small jar I bought will likely last me a few years.

Toothbrushes:

At the moment we are still using plastic toothbrushes but I have bought bamboo ones ready to use next.  The handles at least are compostable ( not totally sure about the bristles) and they came in a cardboard box rather than plastic.

Cleaning:

Commerical bathroom cleaner has now been replaced with a home made version made from borax substitute, vinegar and water, fragranced with a little geranium essential oil. With washable cleaning cloths of course.

Still to do:

At the moment we are still using regular bottles of shower gel and liquid hand soap ( although I did manage to buy a large container to refill the smaller ones).   I am sure the simplest thing would be to replace both with a bar soap, such as the pure olive oil one I have bought to try, but they do tend to dissolve into a sludgy mess.

UPDATE:  Yay, we have now switched to bar soap so no need for either shower gel or liquid soap dispensers.

 

If anyone has any other ideas, it would be great to hear them.

Please like my page on Facebook to see new posts in your newsfeed.

 

Waste and money saving since Zero Waste Week

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).

This Soda Stream replaces over 500 plastic bottles a year
This Soda Stream replaces over 500 plastic bottles a year

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.

20151027_113155[1]
Individually packaged coffee bags – convenient but lots of packaging waste
Freshly ground coffee
Freshly ground coffee with no packaging

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 Nappies
Cloth Baby wipes
Cloth sanitary pads
Cleaning cloths
Composting food waste, garden waste and rabbit litter
Making homemade pizza

There are links to loads of ideas on my Pinterest Boards:

Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle

Eco Ideas

The unnecessariness ( is that even a word?) of plastic packaging

Newspaper wrapped in plastic
Newspaper wrapped in plastic

It has been a few weeks now since I have intensified my efforts to shop without packaging, particularly plastic, but there seem to be so many instances of it just being so unnecessary.  Just a few examples from this weekend’s food shopping trips:

  1.  Bananas – Morrisons, to be fair, had a huge display of totally unpackaged bananas, but right next to it were just as many wrapped up in plastic –  why?  Bananas already come in a fairly substantial skin, making them ideal for transporting to and from the shop, and wherever else you then want to take them, just as they are.  I just can’t see why buying them in plastic is even an option and I really wanted to ask the other customers choosing them why.  I suspect they hadn’t even considered the impact.
  2. Cucumbers – this is one of the very few green things that my son will eat, and now the small crop we managed to produce in our garden is over I am back to shopping for them.  I absolutely could not find a cucumber that wasn’t wrapped in plastic either in the shops or on the market.

    Cucumber wrapped in plastic
    Cucumber wrapped in plastic
  3. Newspaper – surely these don’t normally come in plastic?  And since a quick web search about living without plastic came up with articles from the very same newspaper, shame on them. At least this one prompted a conversation with the person buying it who also felt it to be quite unnecessary.
  4. Sweetcorn – when in season these are actually a great one for getting unpackaged, but the rest of the time, hugely overpackaged.

    Naked sweetcorn
    Naked sweetcorn

In my efforts to reduce packaging I have switched to getting much of my fruit and veg on the market where most of it is loose, but still trying to avoid plastic appears not to be the norm.  Today  I visited a different stall which I had noticed was more popular. I asked the stallholder to pop the veg straight into my cloth bag and offered it across the stall.  “Don’t you want it in here first?” she said, holding up a plastic bag.  “Er, no, actually that is why I have come to the market with a cloth bag and a shopping trolley – I don’t want any plastic.”  She looked a bit puzzled.  Anyway, I did manage to get my potatoes and some broccoli in the cloth bag (having declined the cucumber and green beans I really wanted but which were all sealed up in plastic and, in the case of the beans, a polystyrene tray too), but she insisted that she couldn’t weigh purple sprouting broccoli without putting that in at least a paper bag.  Why?  The potatoes were all muddy yet she weighed those fine so why was purple broccoli so tricky?

Meat is the thing I have not really tried to get without plastic, but rather to just get less packaging by buying it from the meat counter rather than in a tray.  The butcher put his hand into a plastic bag to pick up the meat then turned it inside out.  I’ve no problem with that – this is just one bag and they do need to pick up the meat hygienically, and it suits me to have it in said small bag to put in freezer when I get home.  But then he went to put it into another bag as well.  “It will be fine in just that one bag” I said, “I don’t want a second one, I am trying to reduce plastic packaging”. “Of course,” the man said, “trying to get in good habits before the plastic bag charge comes in”.  Well, actually no, and I don’t think that charge would apply in this case anyway.  Then he goes ahead and still puts it in the extra bag.   I obviously still need to work on that one.

I had tried the butcher’s the previous week trying to buy some chicken pieces.  I explained that I only wanted them in a single bag not multiple layers.  Problem was, I wanted to buy free range chicken pieces.  The butcher offered to cut up a whole one for me – I’ve no problem with that – and then proceeded to pick up a whole chicken sitting in a polystyrene tray in order to unwrap it, cut it up and then rewrap the pieces for me.  Not quite what I had hoped for.  I had a similar issue when using the milkman so the glass bottles could be reused, and as I wanted it fresh each day – fine unless you happen to want organic  milk which for some reason only comes in plastic bottles and it turned out our milkman only delivers twice a week so no advantage to me over getting it from the supermarket myself.