Friday, 21 February 2014

W is for Waste (Zero)

I blogged a while ago about this book by Bea Johnson that I received as a gift this Christmas,

in which she writes about how to make your life as waste free as possible and although I really enjoyed the book and it made me want to reduce our waste and consumption, I must admit that so far this year I have done little in actuality to achieve this aim.

I have made some very small changes.

I have been packing up Little Bird's lunch in a plastic lunch box most days, thus virtually avoiding the use of  sandwich bags at all and if it weren't for the fact that I use these for separating out and freezing bulk meat purchases in individual meal portion sizes, I would try not to buy them at all.  I guess I could achieve the same result by using freezer proof cartons or boxes, so I might consider saving butter tubs, and other recycling waste for this purpose and fill these with meat instead, which will also help cut down on recycling.

I am also making small changes to the stationery I use for my business, to make it more recyclable, and I always try to use the reverse side of paper and use the scrap paper from the printer in OH's office for quilting or writing shopping lists, but again these are very things which have very limited impact. 

I realise that probably the majority of our waste comes from food packaging and it is in this area that I really need to pay some serious attention to my habits.  I just haven't made enough effort so far this year and I think it is time to change.  When I return to London from this half-term break I need to set about making more of an effort in this regard, and I think that the first way that I am going to try to do this is to use our local greengrocers a lot more.  Although I already try to refuse plastic bags in the supermarkets and put fruit and vegetables straight into the trolley, I can make improvements in  this department, as some things are more inexpensive or do come pre-packaged, such as nets of oranges and pre-packed cherry tomatoes.

We're very fortunate in that we do have a very good local greengrocer and if I take my basket and bags I can easily buy most of my fruit and vegetables there, without acquiring hardly any packaging at all and without the raised eyebrows you sometimes encounter elsewhere when you refuse to use the plastic bags.  Where I do need bags, i.e. baby tomatoes/grapes, I can use paper bags too, which are more much more easily recyclable and don't cause fruit to sweat.  I sometimes use local market stalls too, where you can buy by the bowl which can then be tipped into your bag and I will continue to do this, as I can avoid packaging this way too.   In addition, by making a concerted effort to do these things more often I am also putting more money into the local economy, which I think is another important reason for doing it.

Unfortunately, we don't have a weigh store nearby like the one I encountered in Richmond, not that I am aware of anyway, where I could buy dry goods by weight, taking my own packaging or storage containers, so I'm not going to be able to do much in this regard, but I could definitely try to bake more instead of buying convenient over packaged food items, and I could also buy larger packs of things we use regularly, cutting down on waste this way.  I'm not a great or very confident baker, but maybe with a bit of practice I might improve and actually start to enjoy it, as well as save on waste and money too.

I'm still saving my soap ends and they are collecting nicely.  I use my toiletries and cleaning products to the last drop even diluting the last bit of hand wash or washing up liquid to get it all out of the bottle.  I recycle my glass jars for Jolly Jam Jars for the school fete, storage or jam making, and all raw vegetable peelings, teabags, eggshells are composted in the garden.  I keep a bottle of cold tap water chilling in the fridge for squash to avoid running the tap more often than necessary or buying bottled water, I recycle t-shirts and other jersey clothes that are too scruffy to be donated to charity into dishcloths, I refill hand wash bottles and upcycle old items to reuse wherever I can.  I try to do as much as I can to utilise things economically, but I'm sure there's a lot more I could try to do.  It's good to keep thinking about ways you can improve and make small changes to your lifestyle, to prevent the creation of unnecessary waste. 

My expectations of myself in attaining Zero Waste are realistic, however.  If I could reduce our weekly waste by half,  to just half a black bin liner each week, plus half a bag of recycling, I would be incredibly happy indeed and I am working towards this goal by the end of the year.  One step at a time and take it from there.  Some weeks we probably are going to have more waste than others, especially at Christmas, birthdays or other holiday times, but ideally I would like to keep it down even at these times.

If anyone has any useful tips and would like to share them, I'd be very happy to hear them and will try to put them into practice if they are practical for us as a family, to help cut down on our waste creation.

Joining in with Mum at Mum's Simply Living to create weekly posts based on the alphabet read backwards.


  1. This is a great post. It's all too easy to buy ready packaged food and it's so daft throwing packaging away. We used to be able to get a refund on bottles one time and milk bottles were always recycled. I use plastic carriers again and again but eventually these, too are thrown away.
    Love from Mum

    1. I remember the lemonade bottles that you got money back on. I used to collect them up and take them back and then I got to keep the money as extra pocket money. Pity everything is plastic now and not so easily reusable.

      I did have a milkman until very recently and I loved sending the bottles back to be used again but unfortunately the full ones were getting taken from my doorstep so often it wasn't worth continuing. Shame really.

  2. Love the idea of a basket at the green grocers full of local produce x