Zero Waste could be for you too…

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I’m sure most of us have read with horror the UN’s latest climate change report. Its not a good forecast and has given me a lot of anxiety of late. With half a degree Celsius cited as the difference between poverty, water shortage and much more, now is the time to be ever more aware of our impact on this planet. It would seem that by the time Eilish turns thirteen, the fate of the planet could well be decided.

Having a baby is not only about raising her up as a good human, it has also given me a greater awareness of my own values and the influence I actually have around me. In part and parcel of that, I feel it is my responsibility to give her a respect for nature and the earth, and modelling that myself is integral. I haven’t really spoken much about our mission to be as low impact as a family as we can manage before. Its a vast subject and the lack of characters available to me on Instagram never really gave me what felt like enough scope to really get into it before now. We truly started around June, then taking part in ‘Plastic Free July’, but what really set me off was the amount of money I was throwing in the bin. Toby works and I have made the choice to stay at home with Eilish, which although ideal for us means that we have little disposable income. What started as an interest in being zero waste and the planet, actually became a great money-saving tool for us.

Being zero waste can often be seen as an elitist issue, which had put me off making any significant changes in our home. The change to cloth nappies, for example, seemed much too large an investment for us in one hit, and we never quite had the time to get to markets. But these little changes we have made, incrementally and one by one, have made a huge difference to our waste and to our bank accounts too.

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Most of our significant changes have happened in the kitchen, where most of our plastic is found. Supermarkets know me because I come through with handfuls of loose fruit and veg dumped onto the belt, and then less is wasted at home because I buy what we need and spend less. Our meat-free weeks reduce packaging and mean an up to £20 decrease in our food bill, and since the release of the report me and my husband have pledged to go at least fully vegetarian. We have made lots of swaps which include:

  • The most obvious one, of course, buying reusable water bottles and coffee cups. I have a beautiful chillys bottle which comes everywhere, and Eilish uses a child’s klean kanteen with sippee cup lid. Free and ice cold water all day. For hot drinks on the go we have both keepcups and ecoffee bamboo cups.

  • We are very lucky to have a shop in our town which does refills of Bio D products. I refill an old method pump bottle with washing up liquid about once a month, £1.50 each time.

  • When our last lot of sponges ran out I made a switch to two euroscrubbies. They are amazing, they feel like a pan scrubber but are made of cotton, and last and last and last, and are great in the bathroom too (not the same one!). That combined with all the microfibre cloths we already own is all we ever need, and when the cloths are old and tattered I will find a less harmful solution to those too.

  • I am a prolific candle burner. I used to go through about three tea lights a day. I now go for these large stubby candles from The Future Kept. They are pure beeswax and therefore natural, smell amazing and last me forever. More expensive yes, but still cost-effective.

  • My favourite little zero waste trick is to use jars for everything. We use them to store leftovers in the fridge, large ones as vases, free water glasses, my new chutney hobby, storage for hairbands and clips, sensory jars for Eilish… it goes on.

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The bathroom was another place where a lot of change has taken place. We replaced bathroom cleaners with vinegar and essential oils, got rid of shower gel in favour of plastic-free, hard soap from Lush, and switched to the far more eco-friendly and cruelty-free Tropic for haircare. I now use old reusable breast pads and flannels instead of cotton pads, and spend a lot less energy taking my make-up off too! The far biggest bathroom money savers have been:

  • My safety razor. I got this beautiful and reasonable bamboo razor and a box of 100 razor blades, and since the swap have used two blades. For the cost of around £20 it would seem I’m set for life!

  • And, can you believe, we made the switch to cloth nappies. I was adamant it was something we would never be able to afford, an initial outlay that just wasn’t achievable and then one day I had just had enough of the chucking away money each fortnight into the nappy bin. We were using degradable nappies, but every time I put one in the bin the knowledge that it would be still sat in landfill got to me. So we did it. Slowly. The flip nappies seemed like the best solution for us, so we currently have two wraps and a few inserts and one bambino mio solo for out and about. We buy more when we can afford, and use Kit + Kin nappies for bedtime. And, predictably, it is so easy I’m kicking myself for not starting sooner. Reusable wipes next.

My other money saver and earth-friendlier alternative is using vinegar instead of fabric softener. With a few drops of essential oil there is no difference, I think it smells better, and 20 litres of white vinegar cost me £5. It was a huge no brainer. Plastic, but bought in bulk. I’ve ordered an ecoegg to try out now, so with that I’m predicting I won’t have to buy anything now until at least early next year.

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Its amazed me how easy and so much more simplified my life has become, by something that seemed so insurmountable before. The ideas of secondhand and “buy once, buy better” have curbed my consumerist habits a little and I am happier as a result. I spend less time stressing over what’s for dinner because my choices are much less, and we are not scrabbling around for a tenner for nappies at the end of the week because its already taken care of. There are so many swaps and changes I’d like to implement, but breaking the bank or overstretching ourselves is not worth it. Think little by little.

There are so many variables to think of when it comes to leading a low impact life, and ultimately its up to you to choose what are really the most authentic and important issues to you as a family. If you live in a tiny house and can’t dry your clothes without the help of a tumble drier then that is ok. There are seasons for these things, and if you’ve bought more plastic wrapped veg instead of driving an extra ten miles to the market then that could be a good choice too. And, that is to say, that we cannot do these things alone. Use your voice, stand up for more legislation, write to your MP and turn up to vote. Now is the time for action.