Starting our low waste journey
Over the last few of months we've been trying to reduce our waste as a family and as we've started to have some success Nathan has been bugging me to write about it. He normally writes at nathanpfedwards.com about the Gospel and the Internet but low waste doesn't exactly fit the theme over there. Here then is a guest post, written by him, about a few of them steps we've taken and why. I'll admit I was more inspired by 'zero waste' youtubers than his statistics and graphs, but I'm thankful we now have something to look back at and see exactly how much we've cut down. Enjoy!
I take out the bins in our house, mainly because it’s icky and I take the icky jobs. Being the nerd I am, I started tracking how often I needed to take each of the bins out. Once I started doing that I realised how much we were putting in landfill. Lots of food packaging, some of which could have been recycled but it takes time to clean, and then lots of tetra-packs that were technically going to the recycling but take a lot of energy to recycle.
I’ve tried to get some data on how much resources recycling different materials takes. I really couldn’t find anything concrete, but it goes without saying that plastic is the hardest to recycle. That’s then followed by paper, metal and glass. Glass in fact, by recycling (as long as it’s clean), reduces the amount of energy required to make new glass - they have to heat the furnaces lower. As a culture, I think we often forget this in with our preoccupation on recycling, but it’s far better to reuse, or even better not create in the first place, than recycle in the end.
Anyway, we’d taken note of how much waste we were making we decided to do something about it. Here’s a few things we’ve done to reduce from filling our general waste bin once a week to once a month.
- Meal Plan
This is the biggie. I know it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but planning what we eat each week means we don’t waste any food because we’ve eaten it all by the end of the week.
- Make oat milk
We’ve just got out of being dairy free (hooray for Teddy growing out of his allergies!). While off dairy we were going through 5 or 6 tetrapak cartons of Oatly a week. Making your own means soaking oats in water overnight, and then blending and straining it in the morning. That not only saved waste, it saves a significant amount of money and I had soaked oats to use in porridge!
- Buy local eggs (and reuse the boxes)
Food miles are waste too. It’s pretty hard to avoid them, but we’ve managed it with our eggs by buying them from the farm down the road. We also have used the same egg box for 4 or 5 months.
- Loose veg, not packaged
This is a hard one, because sometimes you pay a premium for loose veg in the supermarket (and we haven’t found a reasonable greengrocers near us yet). I suggest giving yourself a limit on how much extra you’re willing to spend on items to reduce waste. It helped for us that points 1,2 and 3 were saving us money.
- Eat less meat and go to the butcher
We don’t eat much meat – Anna’s pretty much veggie at home – so I buy my bacon at the local butcher, and I’ve actually managed to get them to use a tub I brought rather than wrapping it in plastic. Even if you can’t, the lightweight plastic bags they use are far better than the supermarket vacuum sealed stuff.
- More whole foods, less processed foods
It’s not a hard and fast rule, but whole foods tend to have less packaging, or none at all… apples!
- Find a bulk store
Unfortunately our nearest bulk store is in Edinburgh (over an hour away), so it’s not worth the drive just for that, but we make sure we stock up when we're already that way. Bulk stores are great, I can go and refill my oats, my lentils, my oil, washing up liquid, laundry gel, spices and peanut butter, all without adding to my waste. The only waste is the bit I spill on the floor (I spilt lots of laundry gel last time I went!) and the bulk packaging that it’s delivered from the suppliers in. Often these stores only stock organic options so can be a bit more expensive, we’re selective with what we buy, but it’s worth it for a number of things.
- Use cloth nappies
We already used cloth nappies, but have also started using cloth wipes. Did you know, if Napoleon had worn disposable nappies they would still be around today? Not only do reusable nappies save a lot of money but they also reduce a huge amount of landfill.
- Try a moon cup
Ok, so I've added this one (Anna). I wouldn't recommend Nathan doing anything with a moon cup! Sanitary products are usually full of plastic, not recyclable, expensive and you go through a lot. Moon cups are a great investment and last years.
So this is where we've started, we still have a way to go. Let us know if you have any other tips in the comments.