See my ‘Getting Environmentally Aligned‘ page on the menu at the top of this page for more information on my thoughts on this topic.
Glass Over Plastic
Since watching a TedX Talk by Lauren Singer, the founder of Trash is for Tossers, I really started noticing how much plastic we use. It is everywhere! And I was horrified when I realised that with every little bit of plastic we use we are creating hundreds of years worth of rubbish – that’s how long it takes to break down. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade: it just breaks down into microscopic, synthetic pieces infiltrating our ecosystems. Nasty! (Read this article).
So, I am trying to gradually replace my plastic items with glass, metal and wood. Single use plastic (like water bottles purchased in a shop) are awful; plastic that can be reused (like lunch boxes) is better, but is still ultimately plastic that will sit in landfill for half a century when we inevitably have to throw it away.
It is more expensive to buy things that aren’t plastic, so I am replacing things as and when I can or need to.
This clear Kilner jar is actually for preserves like jam, but I find it just as handy for storing anything – in this case, almonds. The glass bottle (500ml) is from Lakelands (£2.59 each through Amazon); I ordered a couple of these for storing juices or smoothies in the fridge and to take with me. The steel straw is one of a pack of four from MIU COLOUR (£6.99 through Amazon).
Did you know…? Americans use 500 MILLION drinking straws per DAY. That’s enough to fill over 125 school buses daily.
This next purchase was actually to save on paper wastage – wrapping paper to be exact. My family and I have often talked about making ‘present bags’ out of old bits of material but we haven’t actually got around to it yet. When I saw this ‘Rethinking Rubbish Sustainable Gift Wrapping’ set from Fabrications (who focus on ethical, eco and upcycled designs), I was intrigued to see how they’d worked it. They seem to have taken inspiration from the Japanese tradition of using headscarves and ribbons. Simple enough for anyone to do! This set cost £12.50 via Friends of the Earth Shop , but you could make them yourself for a pittance if you have the material.
When I watched the documentary The True Cost a few months ago, I was horrified by the terrible impact the fashion industry is having on its workers and our environment (read my earlier discussion about it here). After doing a bit of reading and getting inspiration from other people around the world who are on zero waste missions, I decided that buying second-hand was something that I could definitely do. You aren’t putting your money into the coffers of big companies who are abusing their position in the name of profit, you’re saving clothes from landfills and – if you buy from charity shops – you are also giving your money to a worthy cause. Another bonus is that clothes are often in great condition yet a fraction of the cost, leaving you to spend your money in other ways.
Above are the clothes that I have purchased from charity shops near to where I live (except for the checked shirt, which was from a vintage store in Amsterdam). As you can see, they are all lovely designs, but none of them cost me more than £3 (again, except for the checked shirt which was about 20 euros. Vintage is always more expensive). I haven’t compromised on style or quality – the burgandy/gold shrug is Red Herring, and the blue striped top is John Lewis!
There has been a bit of a stigma attached to buying clothes from the charity shop, but it is about time people got over that. There is no place for wasting clothes these days, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a bargain that you also know is helping to contribute to reducing waste. It looks good and makes you feel good!
Did you know…? Approximately 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes into UK landfill every year.
I bought an organic, herbal shampoo bar by J.R. Liggett for my last trip abroad. I love the idea of being able to use one bar to wash my hair and body – plus, there is no plastic! I tried the original formula, but I found it a bit astringent after a few uses, so I think I will try a gentler formula in the future. I think it would suit those of you with less sensitive skin. Prices for the bars varied between £3-£7, but you will get lots of uses out of it and it really does save space when you’re travelling light.
I also saw these soap nuts which are a natural form of laundry detergent. Actually, it is the shells of the indian soapnut tree (sapindus mukorossi) fruit that are harvested and sun dried – so no artificial ingredients or chemical processes. The natural saponin in the shells acts as a surfactant when mixed with water, reducing surface tension of the fabric and releasing dirt, oil and grime. Best of all, a handful of nuts can apparently be used for up to 4-6 washes (depending on the water temperature you’re using), and when they are done you can compost them in your garden. No waste! I’ve only just started using these so I’ll let you know how I get on, but I love the idea of them.
I bought these through the Friends of the Earth Shop on offer for £3.25, but it is usually £6.50 for 300g. Considering that they are reusable and you should be able to get a decent amount of washes from them, I think this is a fair price. Plus, no harm to the environment as it is a totally natural way to do laundry!
I am trying to eat as seasonably, locally and organically as possible. This is so much more balanced and healthy for us and the environment. I still use the big supermarkets for things, but I am also using our local farm shop and – happily for us – we have harvested some lovely food from my grandparents’ allotment (see the pumpkins, squashes and onions below). No packaging, less miles, less chemicals.
A few blogs that have really helped me so far are:
- Moral Fibres – Scotland-based Wendy is a sustainability expert and I have found her posts on clothing, saving money, reducing energy wasting, food and much more to be really helpful!
- Curiously Conscious – Besma is so passionate about living a sustainable, ethical, chic and healthy lifestyle. I’m learning lots from her.
- Minimalist Beauty – Dawn Michelle has a fantastic blog and I find her posts on her minimalism and zero waste lifestyle really thought provoking and informative.
There are loads of blogs and websites out there to read, and I think it is wonderful how many people want to do something proactive and positive to make a difference, and the online community is really helpful in offering wisdom and inspiration. I really enjoy learning from it.
So, there you go! I hope you’ve found a little bit of insight here, whether you are already on a zero waste journey or thinking about making some changes. As always, please share with me any tips or knowledge you have. I’d love to hear from you!