I have recently come across the zero waste concept created by Bea Johnson. I know it’s been around for a while, but I’ve only just come across it. If, like me, you are new to the concept suffice to say that Bea’s family annual amount of rubbish fits into a small jar. Now that’s inspiring stuff! And indeed I got inspired. I have decided that June will be my Zero Waste Challenge month. I will make changes in my family’s lifestyle and routines to reduce our rubbish output as much as possible. I hope you’ll join me on my journey to life with less rubbish – who likes to take the rubbish bin out anyway!?
I have invited to join me in my Zero Waste Challenge another UK based green blogger Kelly from Our Little Organic Life. Throughout June we will be documenting our journey into life with less rubbish. The aim is to produce as little rubbish as possible, including recycling. Every Wednesday we will update you on our progress and share with you problems we have faced, and hopefully some solutions as well. This is promising to be an exciting challenge and a life changing experiences, do subscribe to make sure you don’t miss any of it!
Zero Waste Challenge
Before I can start reducing the rubbish in my life I need a plan, so in the last few days before the challenge I have been thinking about our problem areas, that’s to say where the majority of our rubbish comes from. I have also tried to think of solutions. And here’s what I came up with:
A lot of products I buy comes in packaging and not all of it is recyclable. Sadly even some of the organic fruit and veg is sometimes packaged in non-recyclable plastic
I could start buying more fruit and veg from the stall, as they don’t have any packaging. The problem is they don’t do organic and they don’t always know where things come from. I don’t want to buy Spanish strawberries if UK ones are in season!
The better option is going back to fruit and veg box delivery. Most things come without packaging and the box they are delivered in gets reused many times and eventually recycled.
What about other food items? It’s easy enough to buy unpackaged bread, but cheese, flour or nuts are a whole different story. I do a lot of my shopping in Lidl, just because it’s the closest and most convenient for me (I have a toddler and a baby and I don’t drive, so I do need some convenience when shopping). Lidl has a surprisingly large range of organic and UK grown produce, but they don’t have a cheese counter where I could buy unpackaged dairy products. My branch does sell loose nuts, but not only they are all processed (salty or flavoured) they are presented in open containers, so people pick at them with their fingers. You know what is said to lurk in a bowl of bar peanuts (if you don’t read this)…
I could go every other week to my nearest Waitrose, where they have a cheese and fish counter (we don’t eat meat, but we still enjoy fish from time to time).
I’ve done a search of bulk buying or package free buying in London and sadly it’s virtually non-existent. I’ve found a couple of shops, which sell unpackaged goods, but both out of my range. One I believe has actually closed down and the other is over an hour and 4 transport changes away – bus to train to tube to bus again – not something I can commit to even on monthly basis.
There is a possibility of buying in bulk online, but I simply don’t have the space to store huge sacks of flour, nuts or lentils.
I’ll have to see about a local milkman as well, as they reuse the glass bottles. It’s better than recycling, because there is no energy wasted on re-purposing the recycled material.
We have an in-sink food waste disposal unit and it is so convenient to use, but it’s actually not an eco-friendly option. Flushing down the food uses a lot of water and the food waste does not get composted, but instead gets filtered out at water purification plants and goes to landfill.
My borough does provide caddies for food waste, which gets collected weekly. This is the greener option, as the content of caddies is composted. It is less convenient for me, as I have to keep the scraps in a separate container and take them out. I also will need to wash the caddy on weekly basis.
Daddy works in construction so he needs a lot of food to get him through the day. His packed ‘lunch’ is more of a daily food ration with 4-5 sandwiches, fruit and snacks. All the sandwiches are wrapped in cling film, which is not recyclable. The fruit and snacks is packed in resealable plastic bags (which I reuse many times) or tupperware.
I have recently come across an idea of reusable sandwich wraps. I have tested and reviewed one last week and they are a great alternative to cling film. I will have to get some more!
We already are using reusable water bottles, so drinks are not an issue.
We are still using some disposable nappies for Big F, especially at night. It’s a long story, but we used to use cloth nappies with him until he was one. Then we run into some problems and we stopped, as his skin condition seemed to get worse. Since then he had about 50:50 biodegradable nappies and standard disposable nappies.
We are using cloth nappies with Little S and since we have been sent some TotsBots nappies to test I now have enough to use them on both kids. Big F does not seem to have the same problem he previously had, I think mainly due to fleece liners, which keep his skin lovely and dry. The only disposable nappy he has is at night, so I’ll just have to swap that for a cloth nappy.
Wishful thinking! I am guilty of putting non-recyclables into the recycling bin, as if just because it goes there it will be recycled. Not only it won’t it’s causing extra sorting work in the recycling facility.
I will have to make more effort in checking if the packaging is actually recyclable. Some packaging clearly states that, but sometimes it’s not clear. I need to learn more about this.
Daddy’s question about my zero waste challenge was: how much will it cost us? Well, hopefully not only will it not cost us extra, but it will save us some money. We are on a tight budget, as in a couple of months we are starting our big Bali adventure and we have to have enough money to live there for some time (our visa won’t allow us to work).
My question is: will it make my life more difficult? Bea claims that her life is easier thanks to zero waste approach. I already see that not using waste disposal will be an extra chore for me. But let’s see how I will feel about my zero waste challenge in a month’s time.
My first Zero Waste Challenge shop
After writing all the above I’ve done my first shop. It came at £50, though I will still need to get some more milk, bread and eggs during the week. Nevertheless it fits into our average £60 a week grocery bill.
To avoid packaging on bread I went to our local-ish bakery. I was also able to buy some loose bagels there. I do love their bread and freshly baked bagels, but they only have white bread. I usually buy some form of wholemeal or sourdough, so I’ll have to check out the other bakery for more variety.
Instead of going to the supermarket I bought all the fruit and veg at the stall – £1-a-bowl type of place. Most of the fruit and veg I bought was from UK and the reminder was from Europe (with exception of bananas). None of it was organic, but this was the only way to avoid packaging. Only the strawberries came in a plastic box, but it’s at least recyclable.
I also went to my local ‘magic’ shop. They have everything from half the countries on this planet, but they also have a large organic/fairtrade/health food section. Most of the stuff I bought there came in packaging, all recyclable though. I can’t really buy seitan or tofu loose. It’s a miracle I can buy them at all in my area! I also succumbed and bought taralli and some Italian pretzel for me and Big F. They are our family staple – Daddy is addicted to taralli since our trip to Italy and they keep him going at work, while Big F and I eat our dry pretzels in our long days in the park. I was happy to buy packaging free soap in there. The shower gel is organic and made in UK, but came in a bottle.
I tried to buy some dried fruit and nuts in pic’n’mix shop, but they only had candied fruit and flavoured nuts, which are no good for cooking with. And it would’ve been quite an expensive place to do shopping.
All the shopkeepers really wanted to give me a bag! As soon as they saw me approaching with shopping their hands reached out for the bags. I don’t really understand why the 5 p bag charge applies only to larger shops. It’s not really solving a problem this way.
This is it for this week. It’s quite a long post, so thank you for bearing with me. I hope you’ll be back next week to see how we get on. Do subscribe to make sure you don’t miss the update!
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