A few ways I’m cutting down on waste…

Coat: New Look (old). Bag: Sandro (old). Jumper: H&M (old). Jeans: Gap (crop kick style – instore only). Boots: Tabitha Simmons (old). Cup: Ecoffee cup. Photograph: Christopher O’Donnell.

Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going to be full of scary facts and figures or ‘you have to change now’ tactics. But I do hope it might instill some sort of change in some of us (although, to be honest, mainly myself as most of you are even hotter on this topic than I am!).

The amount of waste our society goes through is beginning to scare me, and I’m including myself in this as I am by no means perfect – the amount of disposable nappies we have gone through these past 8 months doesn’t bare thinking about – but this isn’t about pointing fingers or doing a complete 360 in 5 days. I hope that, by sharing a few things I am consciously doing to help the environment can open a discussion and others can provide tips and maybe we can change a few habits together.

I suppose some of the issue with a lot of ‘sustainable’ options are that they are pricey to set up, so I can see the issues with lower earning families and it’s hard to explain/believe that it will be cheaper/worth it in the long-run, especially if you are living day by day. A few of these options we’ve started to introduce gradually and will keep topping up every month to fully integrate it into our lives. For us, it can’t be an overnight process but it’s a start.

BATHROOM WASTE

I briefly mentioned Terracycle in my post on recycling and have since been looking into it further. You’d be surprised at how much waste can actually be recycled – huge brands such as Garnier and L’Occitane have partnered up with Terracycle so you can post or pop into store with your used shampoo/bodywash bottles (Garnier are accepting bottles from ANY brand, too).

Obviously, the next step is NO waste at all – I swear by hand soap in our house and have heard good things from Lush’s hair soap, but small steps here….

Toothbrush-wise, I use a bamboo one for my brace at night, and have a silicone reusesable one (I spent a small fortune on the Foreo one but am liking it so far) – it’s not 100% eco friendly but you only need to change the head once a year as opposed to every 3 months and its charge lasts 6 months).

I have just this week ditched cotton wool pads for these via Etsy (as recommended by a reader via Instagram!).

And now I’ve made the switch to Thinx pants- and this was probably something unthinkable to me a year ago (period pants – gross!) but especially after having Peggy I was aware of how much waste I was going through during my period and post-birth (again, the pants are pricey and you still need to wear something extra during heavier flow days – I will gradually buy one a month to build up a stock of them). I have also switched to Ohne – 100% organic tampons (did you know that regular tampons even use harmful bleach to make tampons look prettier?!) with no plastic packaging or applicators and is the only reasonable item I can actually think of that I would ‘need’ on subscription!

A few friends have recommended the Mooncup, too, which is zero waste so this is my next step.

BABY WASTE

This has probably been the biggest turning point for me, as I am so aware of our household waste . We are starting to make more food for Peggy ourselves but it has been a slow and unnerving process, mainly because we’ve been scared as first time parents to give too much salt, not enough protein etc etc so have relied on a few pouches when out. For Ella’s Kitchen pouches you can download a prepaid label from Terracycle (Ellacycle), use a box from home and package up your pouches (they do take Lidl ones, too, we checked!).

But recently and going forward, we’ve invested in reuseable pouches from Doddle which have been tricky to wash but worth it!

I’ve got to be honest I am not ‘there’ yet with reuseable nappies, and selfishly it’s more the time it takes for me with working full-time, renovating and drying things in a building site kitchen etc….but for the time being we are looking into biodegradable nappies like Kit & Kin. And since even writing this post someone on Instagram has recommended Bumgenius and to start using at night so it feels like an easier transition – so off we go! For London dwellers, check out Real Nappies for London which offers impartial advice on making the switch to reuseable nappies and most London boroughs offer vouchers and incentives to help you to switch!

We have finally made the switch to Cheeky Wipes instead of throwaway wet wipes – we bought the kit of white cloths for nappies and then use coloured ones in the kitchen for face and hands (we also use small muslins dipped in water at home). Again, it’s not cheap at first and we’ve had to buy a few gradually over time but in the long run, obviously, it does work out cheaper, too.

FOOD WASTE

For once, I can say proudly, we don’t waste food (but we obviously recycle shavings ends within our local council food recycling scheme). However, perhaps a little more right now as Peggy is starting to form opinions on food she doesn’t like! But in terms of packaging, again, it’s hard but we always take our own eco bags out everyday, and I’ve done this for over 10 years. We rinse and recycle as much packaging as we can and recently, have been buying more from market stalls using our own bags, too. I’ve also been thinking about these reuseable sandwich bags once we need to start doing lunches for Peggy. Luckily for us, Wood Green has an abundance of great fruit and veg and meat stalls and you can buy a whole bowl of fruit for £1 and just tip it into your own bag.

A few people recently told me that Morrisons encourage shoppers to bring their own tupperware to the meat and fish counters, which is excellent, and there are a few zero waste stores opening up, and one even locally to me – Harmless – where you can take your own cannisters and fill up with grains and pasta etc – and we will try it this month.

We have switched to Eco Egg for laundry and absolutely love it, and use their bamboo cloths around the kitchen for spillages and quick cleaning instead of kitchen roll, and we have completely stopped using cling film and plastic straws.

On a side note: in terms of meat consumption, we actually don’t eat that much in our household. Mainly through budget, we started researching more tasty vegetarian meals and now they are often our go-tos. We probably eat meat about twice a week and it will be a big meal where we make a chilli con carne or a stew and save and freeze over the next few weeks.

I have completely stopped using plastic bottles of water, and now carry my own wherever I go – I love Chillys as they keep it cool or hot for up to 24 hours. And I have my own ecoffee cup, and when I forget to take it with me, I am not allowed coffee – so it pays to carry it! The only downside is that my bag is a lot bigger and heavier these days but luckily for the time being I have a pram I can hang it from!

Also a note to say that we have only ever once had a real christmas tree in 10 years (and that was part of a blogpost shoot – I am ashamed). I remember when we bought our first flat in January, the street was filled with old, used trees that hadn’t been collected and it made me so sad (and not to mention, an expensive habit). We are not having a tree at this year but if/when we do, it won’t be real (to be clear here: we have one already from my parents’ so not buying a new plastic tree and stopping it from going to landfill!). But upon comments here plastic trees: NO!

OFFICE WASTE

Unfortunately, my job is probably one of the top producers of waste and excess packaging. I get sent a lot of products, and while I do have to try some as part of my job as ‘Tester’ and ‘Editor’, I am trying my hardest to cut down on what is sent to my office. I try and ask PRs to think about what is necessary to send, turn down a lot of ‘gifts’ which aren’t relevant or necessary for me to create content and then where possible, separate to give items to charities and have started saving for Beauty Banks.

Even small things such as consciously stopping myself from using vocabulary such as ‘need’ and ‘must-have’ is a step I’ve taken towards consumption, and avoiding the topic of Black Friday sales.

I reuse and recycle all packaging and boxes which go to my office and I am always asking questions when I meet PRs: what is this brand doing towards sustainability and packaging? We’ve got a long way to go but if we approach our jobs with these questions in mind, we can try and force change from the inside.

1. Reuseable grocery bag: £19, Arket.

2. ‘Daily kitchen’ cleaner: £3, Method.

3. Reuseable bamboo paper towels: £9.95, AndKeep.

4. Water bottle: £20, Chilly’s.

5. Reuseable bamboo coffee cup: £8.50, AndKeep.

6. Bamboo toothbrush: £3.90, Georganics.

7. Hair and body shampoo: £18, Free People.

I think that’s about it! Wow, this actually made me feel a slight bit better about what we are doing to help. I know we have a way to go but research is definitely the answer here – and community – if we all encourage each other in a non-judgemental way then we can make a difference.

Useful websites

City To Sea – an initiative working to prevent plastic pollution at the source, they’re currently working with Bear and Bear on a campaign for a Plastic Free Christmas.

ZeroWaster – lets you know about zero waste shops etc in your area.

And Keep – good site for a plastic-free lifestyle.

Mothers of Invention – a podcast recommended by a reader about kick-ass women changing opinions about climate change and plastic pollution.

Cool people to follow on social (that happen to care about the environment):

@Smallshopuk – Manchester-based zero waste and plastic free shop – minimalist chic at its finest.

@silobrighton – one of the first zero waste cafes I had been to, a few years back in Brighton -super cool and its ethos about upcycling before recycling is a great attitude to its decor, too.

@haeckels – we met the owner of Haeckels when we visited Margate a few years ago – sustainability is clearly so important to him and his passion really shone through. They even have a ‘rubbish for product’ scheme whereby if you bring in a bag of rubbish with proof it came from their local beach, they will offer a free Body Cleanser.

@reformation – I love the slogan of this brand: being naked is the most sustainable option, then there’s Reformation. For years, eco-clothing has had a bad rep, but with brands like this ushering in the change, we can move forward.

@montamonta – I have tried one of these body scrubs which are made from used coffee grounds, and can confirm they are fantastic! And it’s all recyclable packaging, too.

@the_wisehouse – small business selling eco friendly products, just following brands like this (even if you’re not buying) helps to educate us and make us think more sustainably.

129 Comments

  1. I loved this post Alex! I like to think I’m pretty eco but have learnt a few tricks here! I’ve been searching for a soap which doesn’t give that ‘tight’ feeling to replace shower gel so if anyone has any suggestions let me know!
    And with Christmas coming up it’s good to remember not to buy foil wrapping paper… as it isn’t recyclable! 😉

    1. Oh yes – I’m trying not to wrap ‘too’ much and purposely didn’t buy the foil paper yesterday in Tiger! I have linked the free people shampoo and bodywash as think maybe I’d trust their stuff? x

  2. thanks for this! I have just purchased an eco egg because of you!
    I had a huge collection of small cotton draw string bags which shoes, purses, jewellery seem to come in (or that I’ve been given to pack my underwear in when you travel!) – so we have started taking these to our fruit and veg shop and to markets, to put loose fruit/veg in these instead of using the plastic and paper bags on offer. Cuts down on lots of waste and makes us feel a little bit smug.

  3. Thanks for this. Really interesting, definitely paper towels. We go through a lot. Where we are are hood on recycling, but doing more in our life wn space is good too. You’ve inspired me to do more.

    1. Yes we recycle loads but it’s still going somewhere (and have heard stories that we don’t really know what happens to it once it leaves our house) – keeping it inside and closing the loop is the answer xx

  4. Wow, brilliant article! So many great ideas and much food for thought !
    Can you provide link for the replacement cotton wool pads .. I would certainly start using those!
    Many thanks!

  5. Thank you Alex! With the recent report released here in the US about climate change, we all need to do what we can. I’m sure I can do better and will find US products to follow your lead. 🙂

  6. This is brilliant. Like everything you write, you manage to make it relatable to everyone and you are also realistic. I love that you are using your platform to spread this message.

  7. The Lush shampoo soap blocks are great. I’ve been using them for years. They last a long time and so easy to pack!

    There was an interesting article in the FT weekend magazine a couple of weeks ago on the recycling industry and how it’s struggling since China decided to heavily cut down on importing our “recycled waste”. It’s an industry in flux.

    Great blog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!