In the past, I have taken home a certain amount of plastic packaging mainly because of the consumer culture and convenience lifestyle that I’d become accustomed to. As I mentioned right at the beginning of this blog, in November 2017, Blue Planet II opened my eyes to the impact that our plastic waste is having on our oceans, our health and our planet. When I decided to start trying to eliminate plastic packaging from my life in January 2018, I really had to consider how best to tackle the issue while trying to keep to a budget.
I found that the best way to tackle the issue was to break it down into small, easy to manage steps.
In previous posts, I talked about the very first changes I made in My journey began with 5 simple steps; some of the next steps I took through 7 Simple Ways to be Eco Friendly on a Budget, and further changes in How to do a Supermarket Shop and Take Home Less Plastic. Rather than trying to do everything at once, which could end up being quite overwhelming, I decided to break it down into smaller tasks, and to focus on one specific area at a time. The obvious place to start for me was the kitchen.
After the first 3 months I’d managed to reduce the amount of waste that I sent to landfill quite significantly. I found that a large amount of my plastic waste came from food and beauty / bathroom products that I used on a daily basis.
During April and May (months 4 and 5), I decided to start storing my landfill waste in a jar. You may know that this is a common thing for people who live a zero waste lifestyle to do. Like them, I thought it would be a good way to quantify the changes which I’d been making.
By making the changes listed below, I managed to significantly reduce my landfill waste at home to no more than 1x 400g glass jar per month.
To do this, some of my next steps were:
1. Using up food products already purchased, whilst looking for more eco alternatives
This gave me time to look in different shops, and to do some research online into where I could source either food products with either no or substantially less plastic packaging, as locally as possible.
As I’m based in the U.K., access to zero waste shops are currently few and far between, however, they are starting to increase in numbers. Further information on the zero waste shops that are currently open in the U.K. can be found here
2. Using jars and containers to store loose foods, or foods with alternative packaging
This doesn’t necessarily mean going out and purchasing jars to store your food in. When I switched from buying food in plastic packaging to glass jars, I started to save the jars for storing my food in.
The great thing about glass jars is they can be used an infinite number of times, and there is no risk of chemicals leaching into the food.
I have jars of all different sizes, which is great for storing different kinds and quantities of food in. They’re also great to use for freezing portions of a meal when cooking in bulk.
3. Begin shopping in farm shops and at farmers markets
I’ve recently found that there are a number of local farm shops, as well as a local farmers market on most weekends. Where possible, I try to include them when I do my weekly shop, as I’ve found that I can buy fresh fruit and vegetables loose. What’s also great about this, is that they’re usually locally grown, and so are likely to have done considerably less air miles than produce that might be bought elsewhere.
One of the farm shops I now shop at has a meat counter. I always take my own containers, and fill up from there. I’ve recently found 2 local supermarkets that will allow their customers to do this too, which is great news.
4. Swapping single use products for reusable alternatives
This can be anything from reusable cotton wool pads and cloths, to food wrapping, and make up.
I’ve previously talked a little bit about this in a previous post My journey began with 5 simple steps, where the initial changes I made included swapping from single-use plastic shopping bags to eco-friendly cotton ones. Since then, I’ve swapped further single use to reusable alternatives. These are:
- Cotton wool pads (e.g available at Earthwise Girls UK, PureNuffStuff and Boobalou)
- Reusable sanitary pads and mooncup (e.g. available at EcoDreams, Earthwise Girls UK
- Cotton cleaning / washing up cloths and scrubbers (e.g. Japanese Tawashis are good for scrubbing)
- Glass water bottle with a silicone case
- Bamboo and metal refillable make up items (e.g. face powder and concealer) **
You might think that swapping to reusables for a number of items all at once could initially cost more money. And it does. I decided to make these changes one at a time over a number of weeks to spread out the costs. Although there are extra costs initially with switching to reusables, it does work out to be more cost-effective in the long term. Having made the changes I’ve listed above, I have found that I have saved money because I don’t need to regularly buy packs of the single use versions of the above.
** The 2 makeup items are more expensive than the single-use versions I was previously using. However, I’m saving money overall, so this still works well with my budget.
Related post: How to do a Supermarket Shop and Take Home Less Plastic
5. Using natural fibres instead of man made ones
This ties in with No 4 above.
I recently found out that fibres (including microfibres) from man-made fabrics can end up in our water when clothes are washed, and can be harmful to us. So I decided to make sure the clothing and soft furnishings for the home that I purchased were made from natural fibres only.
For me, this currently means that I’m buying clothing which is made from 100% cotton. Although it takes alot of energy to make cotton, I think it’s important to use something that is natural, and when it becomes unusable, will naturally biodegrade.
6. Buying seeds, and growing lettuce leaves / rocket and herbs on a windowsill
I was struggling to find some salad produce without the plastic wrapping. So one of the things I decided to do was to start growing some herbs and lettuce leaves on my windowsill at home. I’m currently growing basil and chives; lettuce and rocket leaves and chilis. As my home is fairly small I have limited space, but as I have said in previous posts, I think it’s really important to make the changes that are within our control to do so to look after our planet.
It’s by no means perfect, but by making these changes, I’ve reduced my landfill waste from 1 full black bag per month, to one single 400g bolognese sauce jar’s worth of waste.
If we were all to made some small changes, I think we’d be surprised at how quickly things would change.