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. great post and so refreshing to see of late with a lot of people I follow on instagram going for the ‘red cup’ trend. All the little things we can all do will contribute and help 🙂

  2. This is an amazing post, loads to take in and think about – thanks! One thing I have recently bought is a Face Halo from Boots: a reusable make-up remover instead of cotton pads, I’ve used it a couple of times so far and it’s great!

    1. So I got loads of messages last time I used a microfibre cloth as apparently it releases things into water when it’s washed and kills fish and it’s made from non biodegradable materials….I know – it’s a minefield…! xx

  3. I loved this post, did not know about bamboo kitchen towels, will definitely be ordering, and also want to try out the ecoegg.

    Method are no longer considered to be an ethical environmentally friendly company unfortunately – they sold out to an American corporate who have a very bad history with cutting down forests for palm oil. Found this out yesterday from Enbrogue. However – you can put white vinegar, water and essential oils in an old method bottle and use that as a multipurpose cleaner – cheap and chemical free! x

    1. I thought this was Ecover, and not Method? And do we know that this will 100% happen to Method, considering its origins and ethos? Just asking as know it’s very easy to assume….and I like to know all the facts before boycotting! x

  4. Great article and useful tips! I’m buying the reusable cotton pads for all my girlfriends for Christmas! I think that’s what people are missing – education and easy ways to cut waste. Most people probably have no idea how to change their habits.

  5. Hi! What a great post, thanks for the suggestions and encouragement!
    I just want to make a note that real Christmas trees are better for the environment than fake trees! (Unless you use your fake tree for 35+ years). Real trees are farmed for Christmas and quickly decompose afterwards, but a plastic tree will be used for a handful of years and spend eternity in a landfill! Real trees are pricier and seem wasteful at first glance but in the long run are much better! Plus they smell lovely 🙂
    Keep up the good work, it’s great seeing people promote small-medium changes in habits and lifestyle overtime, it makes a difference in the long run!
    Xo

  6. I love this post! I’m trying to be more aware myself, and I understand how daunting it is when you first start thinking about it but this post has lots of good ideas and if everybody began by just changing ONE thing the difference would be huge! I’m starting with our shower and aim to be plastic free by Feb (just using up what we already have) I’ve got shampoo/cond bars on my christmas wish list x

  7. Thanks Alex, loved this post. Totally agree that although there are things we’ve been doing well for ages, there’s always a little more we can do. I’ve bought some Christmas presents from your suggestions as well as updated my own personal collection and contributions to better living!

  8. Food for thought the real vs fake tree argument. Supposedly real trees are better for the environment as they do break down. Whereas fake trees are plastic and while you do use them for years and years (well we do at least) when you finally do throw them away it is like any other garbage. I struggle with this one myself as we have had a fake tree for years and I am not just going to get rid of it but it is a tough one.

  9. Great post with so many good tips 🙂
    The New York Times wrote an article about real vs artificial trees yesterday which was interesting, with good debates for both sides. The Christmas tree farms provide a lot of good for the environment with clean air and good environments for animals. But I agree the tree skeletons that hang around on the streets in January are a depressing sight. An artificial tree used for +5 years will have a lower impact on the environment but most are made in China so shipping them over by plane or boat maybe doesn’t have a good impact and poor quality in the past meant a lot ended in a landfill (but I think you can get much better quality now to last decades).
    For those who love a real Christmas tree (especially the smell of them), my mum has a potted one that lives in her garden. All you need to do is give the pot a wipe down, fling off any slugs and you are good to go every year. If you plant it in a terracotta pot it doesn’t look too much like Christmas year round in your garden and then you can just put a giant bow or tinsel on the pot when it comes in the house. You can support local farmers and provide a perch for birds, win win 🙂
    Sorry for all the tree chat, I’m off to purchase some Thinx (already a mooncup convert) and the reusable cotton pads. The food tips were great too, as the excess plastic packaging makes me feel guilty everytime I open the bin.

    1. No, this is great – I have added that our fake tree is one leftover from my parents house from years ago so we have hopefully helped in someway and will pass it on rather than throwing away! And yes, my parents have all our old trees in their garden x

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