I like to research ways of doing things differently and to see what might work better for us. The zero waste idea caught my interest a couple of years ago. It looked intriguing, so we had a go…
I wanted to see if it was even possible within our rather unusual family situation. Two children with additional needs; very fussy dietary-wise and who cause a lot of breakages around the house. We have food allergies in the house and can’t always choose what packaging food products come in. We live in a semi-rural area in a county that doesn’t always have the sensory equipment that Pigeon and Parrot need; which means extra packaging from online orders. We also have animals that need soiled bedding cleaning out of their cages regularly. How to even start reducing our waste in the face of all of these obstacles?!
I found that ‘zero’ waste was a nice idea, but it has remained just that, an idea. What we have ended up with is reduced waste instead. Some things we did:
- Got a smaller bin. In keeping with the spirit of reducing waste, I gave the larger bin away on freecycle. Smaller bins automatically make you think about what you throw away.
- Took all the bins out of the house apart from the one in the kitchen. This stops the boys just throwing things away mindlessly. If they have to walk to find a bin, they have time to think about how to deal with the item in a better way.
- Switched to reusable cloths and cleaning items. No more kitchen roll or tissues. Just cut up old t-shirts to the size required and use. Wash when used. Easy and cheap. Once they are past their best, we put them in the fabric recycling bag with our other recycling for collection.
- Use bento bags, glass jars and metal storage containers for food instead of clingfilm. In fact we use fabric bento bags for lots of things, even as lunch bags for school. Bento bags are easy to sew from old (or new) fabric. There are lots of tutorials online.
- Take reusable bags when we go out shopping. Saves needing to use a plastic bag.
- Found our local packaging-free refill shop. This took some time and research, but was worth it. All we do is take old jars, tins or cloth bags to fill up with lovely things* and then transfer to glass jars when we get home (if needed). *Dried foods, hygiene products, laundry products etc.
- Stopped buying some of our regular items in non-recyclable packaging. We have missed some of them, but not all. Some we just buy as a treat occasionally.
- Subscribed to a local farm’s milk delivery scheme that delivers glass bottles and takes them back for refilling. The boys find it easier to use pint bottles independently and it creates no waste. The foil lids recycle and the bottles are reused.
- Joined a local veg bag scheme that deliver to us. The fruit and veg come in a jute bag that gets collected for reuse next week. No yucky plastic packaging to get rid of. We also grow some of our own veg.
- If something comes in packaging, we reuse it, especially posting bags and boxes. Buying second hand clothes online works well for reusing clothes but people often use plastic bags to post the items in. We save them and reuse them when posting items ourselves.
- Buy in bulk so that less packaging is needed.
- Compost food scaps in our compost bin or wormery. Our compost bin is a ‘Green Johanna’, you can throw allsorts in there! The worms get the rest, even odd bits of paper and card.
- Try to bring less things into the house. Especially cheap, plastic items that break quickly.
- Choose less but better quality items. Better made things will last longer and create less waste overall.
- Sell or give away items we no longer use. It keeps them out of bin for longer and means that less new items are needed.
- I switched to reusable sanitary products. A bit of trial and error to find what worked for me, but I love that I never run out of sanitary items. I just wash them and they are ready for next month.
- Use a refillable safety razor, bar soap/shampoo/conditioner and bamboo toothbrushes in the bathroom. We also use toothpaste tablets or toothpaste in a jar. I have the charcoal toothpaste in a jar, it still makes me laugh to see my teeth go black (big kid!).
- As a last resort, we try to make sure that things we buy can be recycled. Recycling isn’t the best solution but it is better than putting it in landfill.
It takes a while to make changes. However, it just needs tiny baby steps and before you know it, you only need to put your bin out twice a month for refuse collection, instead of every week like the neighbours. I am aiming for once a month, but the animal bedding would overwhelm the compost bin, so some needs to go in the rubbish bags still. Maybe we’ll get there when we have less of a ‘zoo’ on our property…
P.S. I am sure there are more things that we do, but they are so ingrained in our lives that Pigeon and I couldn’t recall them!