Reducing our consumption of single use plastic is both easy and difficult at the same time. As a family of 4 with two young children I seem to have made all the changes I can.
My first act of zero waste-ism was switching my son from disposable nappies to a cloth alternative. The main reason was due to him getting a lot of chemical burns from the disposables. Using cloth was more of an attempt to help my son than reduce our waste. But little did I know that this small switch would snowball into me becoming a passionate zero waster and wannabe eco warrior!! Next I made cloth wipes for using on my children which were surprisingly so easy to make, this spurred me onto making cloth toilet roll for myself! It made me feel so good knowing that we were reducing the amount of waste we produced.
I decided to look at our weekly shopping and I saw the amount of single use plastic that I was buying and throwing away. I used to do online shopping and everything came in bags, even single peppers! One delivery, all I could see was plastic and I felt so overwhelmed and guilty that I was having all this delivered to my home, opening it all and putting it straight in the bin, in a matter of half an hour! I dread to think how many plastic produce bags I had sent to landfill last year. I knew that it had to stop, I had to stop online shopping and haul myself down there and buy everything I can loose. I shop in Morrisons and I find its the best supermarket for loose produce, even unwrapped cucumbers! Some shops I’ve been in don’t even have unpackaged alternatives….whaaaat?! I popped into my local greengrocers a few times too but found that their produce wasn’t as fresh as the supermarket, which was unfortunate as I love to shop independent.
The few bits of plastic I can’t seem to get rid of are associated with things like leafy greens, spinach, kale and peas. I did stop buying them all together but as a vegan family, I started to feel that we were lacking in the leafy green department so I had to put our health first. Another challenge for us is berries, why are they all in those horrible plastic containers?! My kids absolutely adore raspberries, blueberries and strawberries so I consider those another essential buy, for their health! (I tried frozen, they didn’t like them!) Having said that, as summer is coming to an end they are less interested so our consumption of tasty berries is coming to a halt. We are loving mangoes, watermelons, nectarines, bananas, apples and oranges, all of which can be bought loose, hurray!
For when we are out and about, we take our own lunches/snacks and take water in a reusable bottle. I have bamboo cutlery and a straw I always keep in my bag so we don’t need to use any single use versions. If we do buy lunch out I make sure we have time to sit in and avoid all those takeaway containers and if there is any chance I may need to have coffee when we are out, I take my Ecoffee cup!
The hardest thing for me to change was snacks, crisps, biscuits, rice cakes, vegan cakey treats! My husband and my daughter are crisps fiends, but I absolutely hated putting crisp packets in the bin, at one point it seemed that the only thing going in the bin was crisp packets!!!! I needed to do something!! Then I had a *lightbulb* moment…sharing bags! I keep glass jars for reusing, peanut butter, jam, tahini, mustard etc. I realised I could share out the large bag of crisps into the jars and have small portions but only 1 bag going to the bin, instead of 6 individual bags plus the outer bag!!! Ever since this epiphany we only buy large sharing bags and never multipack, such a huge win for me!
Biscuits was next, as a baking lover I usually baked something every week, banana breads, sponge cakes, muffins etc. so there is usually something sweet on offer but then I started upping my biscuit game. An unexpected benefit from making my own biscuits is knowing what goes in them, making them minimal sugar/sugar free and gluten free when needed too! Hurrah, another packet no longer going in the bin!
The major game changer for us was when Natural Weigh opened. Being able to buy our herbs, spices, rice, pasta, lentils, dried fruits and baking ingredients, baking powder, sugar, the list is endless!!! We visit every 2-3 weeks and stock up and it’s the best feeling ever, being able to reuse my same containers and glass jars time and time again and not a single bit of single use plastic going in my bin. I am forever grateful to Chloe and Robin for opening their shop! If you are nearish to a zero waste/plastic free store, go. It will make such a huge difference to the amount of waste you produce and inspire you to make other changes to your lifestyle and before you know it you will be emptying your rubbish bin every 3-4 months, if that!
The best thing to keep in mind, is that you can only do your best. I love reusing and avoiding plastic/packaging wherever I can but sometimes it’s unavoidable and that’s okay! Just starting to make small changes can make a huge difference, start with buying reusable straws and bags, a drinks bottle and lunchbox. These will eradicate so much single use plastic every day and then you can move on to more in-depth stuff, following some zero waste Facebook pages is a great idea to give us all inspiration and new ideas!
Thanks for reading!