Two years ago I gave up single-use plastic for Lent. I had seen an online post about a lady who gathered a whole year’s worth of rubbish and managed to fit it in a jam jar. A big jam jar, granted, but still a jam jar.
That same week I had put our wheelie bin out for collection (every week at the time), stuffed so full it refused to shut. Jam jar lady had highlighted to me my problem with waste. But I had visions of her eating raw kale straight from the plot, and later cleaning it from her teeth with twigs and baking soda. Not that there is anything wrong with kale or twigs of course, but two years ago it wasn’t for me. However, when I actually read the article, a lot of her consumer choices and methods for achieving this low-waste living, seemed pretty possible for “regular” folk, like me.
So I made the decision, did the obligatory post to social media (there’s nothing like being accountable to everyone you’ve ever met to make you stick to a pledge), and embarked on my 40 days and 40 nights of reducing, reusing, recycling, and plastic-free living.
Here are a few of the ways I was able to reduce my waste and in particular, single-use plastic:
- I arranged doorstep milk delivery in glass bottles (at the moment this is not available in Sedbergh, but please do let me know if I am mistaken, or if it changes!). **EDIT Please see later post re. milk delivery trial**
- I switched our two small girls from disposable to washable nappies.
- I sourced shampoo bars to replace bottled shampoo.
- We switched to bamboo toothbrushes.
- I bought my “Meat for a Week” from a local butchers and asked them to wrap it in greaseproof paper.
- I bought our fruit and veg from the weekly market.
- I made a lot more food from scratch.
- I switched to a brand of bread that used paper wrapping instead of plastic.
- I took a cloth bag with me everywhere.
- If it was wrapped in plastic and I couldn’t find an alternative, we did without.
I will be touching on a lot of this list in future posts, and letting you know where to source things as locally as possible.
My biggest tip for making these relatively easy and small changes, is to be organised. You can’t run out of bananas at 9:30pm on a Tuesday night when you are trying to make the kids’ packed lunches. You need to plan meals in advance, and plan an organised shopping trip. This can be tricky if, like me, it doesn’t come naturally. It takes practice to turn effort into habit. But turn it will!
We cannot change from wheelie bin to jam jar overnight. So my second tip is to lose the guilt and make one change at a time. I am still a long, long way from where I want to be on my Zero Waste adventure. I did a lot of “backsliding” once my 40 days and nights of lent were over (easter eggs, woo hoo!). But recently the issue of our overuse and poor disposal of plastics hit the headlines in a major way when a plastic island twice the size of France was discovered floating in the Pacific.
It is tempting to look at that plastic island and think what on earth good is me changing to a bamboo toothbrush going to do?!
But just think… you perhaps go through 4 toothbrushes a year, multiply that by an average lifespan of 80 years… that is 320 toothbrushes in a lifetime. A family of four will use 1,280 toothbrushes. A street of 30 houses, each with four occupants, would use 38,400 toothbrushes in their lifetime. And that’s just one street! And that’s before we’ve even started to consider the plastic packaging… Thinking in those terms, you begin to get the message that small changes really do make a difference.
If you have found any local sources, or have any top tips for Zero-Waste living, please leave a comment below and I will try to include that in a future post.