With so many alternatives on the market and more awareness of the impact of single use plastics on our planet, we are all trying to find ways we can incorporate more eco friendly practices into our homes. But it doesn’t have to mean major lifestyle changes and taking Tupperware to the shops to fill up on loose products (of course these would be awesome steps though for those able and willing).
Family life is hectic and chaotic enough so steps towards a more sustainable way of living need to be practical and easy. It also needs to be economic and financially viable for families already feeling the pinch.
I thought I would share some of the simple and easy steps my family and I have taken towards a more green life, as well as some of the more comprehensive and committed steps.
The Bare Basics
I think most people are already doing most of these but its worth noting them for those that aren’t, to remind us post lockdown where perhaps we may have let some of these slip.
- Canvas bags
I always carry one in my bag in case as you never know when a random purchase may occur. You can get some that fold up into neat little pouches for easy carrying in your handbag.
- Drinking flasks
Like the bags, the importance here is carrying one. Ideally a non plastic one is best as will last longer and may be able to be recycled once no longer usable, reducing plastic waste, but any flask is better than buying a plastic bottle of water or alternative when out. I always carry a drink but if you aren’t used to this and you like having a cute little bag, this isn’t always ideal. You can get some great flat pack ones that can be rolled up or lay flat in your bag, but of course the negative of these is that they are indeed plastic!
I love metal ones and many are usable for both hot and cold beverages.
- Refillable coffee cups
If you are partial to a daily flat white or coffee of choice from your local coffee shop then its absolutely worth investing in a refillable coffee cup. Some coffee shops even reward you with money off if you do. We love the keep cup, and you can mix and match what colours you want or size depending on your coffee of choice. They even do limited edition ones like star wars!
For those wanting something that’s light and easy to pop in your bag there are some great flat ones available which come in a range of colours, like the Stojo cup below.
• Reusable straws
Since the removal of single use plastic straws from restaurants places are increasingly using paper ones, which I think are weird and feel yuck. At home my kids love a straw and there are some great reusable ones out there. We have these awesome metal ones that come in a pack of 10 (5 bent and 5 straight) in both plain silver metal and rainbow design. They also come with 2 straw brushes and silicone tips to put on if you don’t want the sensation of cold metal or your kids are partial to biting straws. They also come in a very handy drawstring bag for easy storage.
The eco conscious consumer
- Washable napkins
Growing up kitchen roll was our friend. We used it at meals as a serviette and many people use paper napkins. Last year we moved to Washable cotton napkins we have in a napkin holder at the table. So much more absorbent, much better than throwing away paper napkins and there are some lovely designs out there.
• Reusable kitchen roll
Yes its a thing. A recently discovered item that come in squares that popper together and can be kept and stored on a traditional kitchen roll holder. Amazingly absorbant and when done just pop them in the wash! There are many little indies selling these on Etsy and folksy if you search for them.
• Buying loose fruit and veg (and other items if you can)
We were buying all of our fruit and veg in plastic packs for no real reason other than convenience when buying multiples, but this equates to a serious amount of plastic bag waste being thrown away and heading for landfill. It also means you cannot check the firmness, ripeness or choose the size of the fruit and veg you want. We now buy ours loose and this not only saves on single use plastic waste but also cuts down on food waste as for some, a multipack is too much and it ends up being overripe before its all used.
This one does require some degree of financial commitment though, albeit small, as unfortunately supermarkets often charge more per kg for loose items. This is being challenged and hopefully in the not too distant future we will start to see supermarket’s encouraging and rewarding steps to reduce waste and reflecting this in prices. It makes no sense it should surely be more cost effective for them to not have to produce the bags and package the items in the first place.
If you stick with the multipacks then do take a look to see whether your local supermarket recycles them. You can’t put them in your home recycling but many big tesco stores and others recycle them.
If you like having the bags to store the items at home their are some great bags you can buy for this purpose. We use these which come in a pack of 10 of varying sizes that are breathable and washable. I use them for my veg, fruit and even to store my kids small toys
• Alternative to cling film and foil
Instead of reaching out for the old cling film or foil to store fresh food or leftovers, ditch this planet polluting stuff completely and replace with Tupperware and reusable covers for plates, bowls, pots etc.
You can get thin malleable ones like the first item below which come in a handy reseal bag with 8 covers in 3 different sizes. Alternatively there are the silicone ones which hold their shape, and can be stretched to cover different size items. Both types are washable and are easier to use than foil or cling film in my opinion, and no waste! Another fabulous alternative is bees wax wraps. These are so fab for covering plates and wrapping up a sarnie and they can be replenished with wax when needed. At the end they are also often compostable.
If you like to use film or foil for sarnies then replace with Tupperware or reusable sandwich wraps. There are so many types to choose from. We use lovely ones by Keep Leaf that are waterproof inside and wrap over with Velcro fastening. When it comes to eating you open it out and it acts as a mini plate or picnic blanket for your sandwich, preventing you getting crumbs everywhere. You can buy them from Babipur. Below are some other awesome alternatives.
If like me you use it for cooking things like fish, replace with a ceramic dish with lid, it works just as well.
• Reusable Baking supplies
We do a lot of baking in this house and often make cupcakes. Rather than throwing all those paper cases away invest in silicone ones you can use time and time again. No waste and the cakes pop out easier than with a paper one. You can also replace your baking parchment with reusable silicone mats saving waste and your pennies.
• Plastic free your Rosie Lee
Did you know that almost all tea bags are actually plastic? If you think you are doing your bit by composting them there is a very high chance you are actually contaminating it with plastic waste. Unless it states its plastic free its almost certain to contain it. You could try changing to loose leaf but it doesn’t mean switching unless you want to. Many big brands are now going plastic free just check the packaging. Options include clipper tea, We are tea, the Hampstead tea co, Pukka Tea, Good and Proper Tea and tea pigs. Great news too, Twinings, Yorkshire tea and PG tips have now released a plastic free bag so keep a look out.
• Card and gift wrap waste
This was hard. I adore wrapping presents at Christmas and making it all pretty and writing out all my cards. But let’s face it this is a colossal amount of waste! Trillions of people all throwing away tons of the stuff on one day alone. Even most wrapping paper and greetings cards cannot actually be recycled due to laminated and shiny surfaces or metals in the design. Last year I decided to ditch the usual paper and find a more eco alternative. I used some lovely drawstring bags for the kids which once used I can use again year after year. They also work great for playing pass the parcel as I learnt from a friend. This last Christmas I made a bunch more so now I have enough that all our presents can be wrapped in bags.
You could buy a nice canvas shopping bag which they can then use and counts as an extra bonus gift. Also can use head or neck scarves for people who like those or upcycle other things such as old gift wrap or bags. Old magazines can be good especially if relevant. I used some old Cbeebies magazine pages for the kids which they loved and newspaper can also look really pretty. Another great idea is buying recycled parcel paper and either keep it plain or decorate. We made potato stampers last year and it looked lovely.
Christmas just gone in the lead up I kept all the paper stuffing out inside the boxes of items I had delivered and got the kids to decorate them for gift wrap. Most retailers now bulk their box oackaging out with brown paper (especially if you order from Amazon) and rather than throw it, hoard it and use it. With some jute tied round and some seasonal leaves attached to the string it can look very classy.
If you still want to send cards you can make your own with recycled stuff or use the covers of ones you received the year before and it can be a Christmas postcard instead 😄 (maybe try not to send to the same person though, haha).
And the simplest thing of all is keeping and reusing all the gift bags and useable wrapping paper you receive from others. I mean are you even really a grown up if you don’t have a bag full of gift bags?
The Friend of the earth
So you have already done most of these and you are getting to be a fully fledged friend of the Earth! There are still some steps you can take to really make a difference and reduce your plastic and other waste.
Obvs no surprise that all your toiletries come in single use plastic packaging which although can be recycled, is very expensive and energy consuming to do so. One way to reduce this is by either purchasing from companies that use recycled plastic or switching to bars. We use Faith in Nature who make shampoo and conditioner, body wash, hand soap and deodorant. The different scents are gorgeous (my faves are dragon fruit and lavender and geranium which smell lush 😍) and all their packaging is recycled.
They also only use natural fragrance and are SLS and paraben free. There are a wealth of companies making shampoo bars. We have started using bars of soap again for body washes and faith in Nature or friendly soap are affordable and smell lush.
Soap lasts longer if you use soap savers on your soap dish, as it stops them sitting in water and getting all mushy underneath. I love them, and all those little dregs of soap when the bar is running out? Pop them in these awesome reusable and washable sisal bags you can use directly on the skin. They help it lather and they exfoliate at the same time. You can then leave them hanging in the shower for next time.
• Washable make up remover pads
If all the make up wearers stopped using cotton wool pads or make up wipes could you imagine the amount of waste that would be saved from landfill? Reusable make up pads are a no brainer, they are easy to use and come in some gorgeous designs. I use some from Cheeky Wipes which are super soft minky on one side and bamboo the other to give a good exfoliating. You can use with water, your usual cream or a bit of coconut oil and the make up just wipes away. The wipes then just go in with your normal wash. Take a look at their website https://www.cheekywipes.com/reusable-make-up-removal-kits-pads.html Use my refer a friend code Samantha Gardiner at checkout or click here http://cheekywipes.refr.cc/L3W6XKN for 15% off!
• No more Wipes (they are plastic!!!!)
We use so many wipes in this world. Prior to making changes I had wipes for bloody everything! Wipes for the kitchen, the floors, wooden furniture, make up, hands and of course baby wipes. It shocked me so much when I found out they were all made of plastic and clogging our sewage systems and waterways. First I ditched household wipes. After all, only a decade ago I was using the good old duster and polish, mop and kitchen surface cloth with spray. The wipes cost more and other than being marginally more convenient they really weren’t worth the impact on the planet. They also suck! They dry up, the plastic tab to seal them always fell off and you needed to use loads to clean anything off. Once I made the switch back I wondered why I ever got sucked into wipes in the first place. You can even buy pretty wipes for in your kitchen like these ones which are washable and biodegradable
Baby wipes were the last wipes I swapped. I was reluctant at first with a baby. Wasn’t sure about cleaning off all that poo and how I would use them out and about for bums and mucky paws but I must say, they are one of my most favourite swaps. They are so easy to use. They work better as you only ever need one to complete the job and you can get travel bags to carry your clean and mucky wipes. We use ones from Cheeky wipes and they are amazing. You store them in the clean tub in a mix of water with a few drops of your essential oil of choice. Once used rinse them out and pop in your ‘mucky’ tub and wash with your normal laundry or with your cloth nappies if you use them (just fold over any Velcro tabs on nappy to avoid damage to the wipes). We use rainbow terry wipes for bums and muckier jobs and soft microfiber clothes for hands and faces. https://www.cheekywipes.com/washable-baby-wipes-bundles.html use my refer a friend code Samantha Gardiner at checkout for 15% off
Travel bags are great for when on the go too https://www.cheekywipes.com/wetbags-mesh-washbags.html
The Eco Warrior
• Reusable Menstrual products
This is one that many people struggle with and was one of the last swap I’ve made to date. As a user of tampons all my life the idea of it being against my skin and the sensation of bleeding really worried me and then the fear of leaking and the mess.
There are so many products out there to choose from. Reusable pads, period pants or collection products like the moon cup. I went for a combination of pads and pants as I was put off by the idea of emptying the cup when out and about and I must say I am converted. Since having my second child my periods are so much heavier and I was often leaking with tampons and needing to double up. I’ve had no such issues with the reusable. I find the pads better for my heavier days at the beginning and the pants on the days where my flow is more normal. You can also double up.
Again cheeky wipes were my company of choice (I’m not a brand rep I promise, I just love them!) as they have such gorgeous print choices with either bamboo and charcoal bamboo so you don’t even see the blood if you don’t want to. Their pants are also gorgeous and given I basically live in my post partum pants now, they are probably my nicest undies! All you do is rinse them and pop them in the normal wash with everything else at 40 degrees. People sometimes get weirded out by that but if you had a nose bleed you wouldn’t hesitate to wash it as normal. Its just blood, nothing gross and it doesn’t affect the rest of the washing.
Check out the cheeky wipes page https://www.cheekywipes.com/cloth-sanitary-pads-kits.html
https://www.cheekywipes.com/period-pants-uk.html (Use the same referral code as given above for 15% off)
• Reusable Nappies
With lockdown these have become increasingly popular. Again this is one that often puts people off due to the idea of contact with poop but it doesn’t have to involve that at all. It also isn’t an all or nothing thing. Even if you only use them at home, for wees or occasionally, every cloth bum is one less nappy in landfill. There are so many brands out there and often people don’t know where to start so find out if your local area has a nappy library or lending scheme so you can try before you buy and get advice.
The Nappy lady website is amazing and they will guide you along the way. We use mainly Tots Bots easy fit nappies during the day which are an all in one nappy from birth to potty, but sometimes also pocket nappies with bamboo inserts. At night we use Tots Bots Bamboozle with Disana wool soakers, peanut wrap or petit lulu covers. Here is a little selection of some of the gorgeous prints you can buy. Beware these come in different sizes so make sure you know what size you need before you buy and I cannot stress this more….Nappy buying is ADDICTIVE! Please don’t blame me if this soon becomes an obsession and be mindful thatin order for this to be a realistic eco swap you need to not buy hundreds!
If you use disposable liners, you don’t even have to touch any poop, just drop the poop in the toilet and either compost or throw the liner away. Some are even flushable so none of that even.
I decided to go further after reading some articles that suggest even liners that state to be flushable or biodegradable have been shown in studies to not be (read it here https://nappysciencegang.wordpress.com/flushable/), so I made some out of old fleece sleep suits my baby grew out of, but these can be bought. With these you pop the poop in the loo , rinse them and wash with the nappies. I store my dirty ones with my mucky wipes in their tub prior to washing.
• Making your own toiletries: eco deodorant and creams
There are some fab eco deodorants on the market that not only save on the waste from packaging but also use natural ingredients. In the last year I’ve started making my own once I realised how darn easy it is and how cheap it is. You can customise the scent and even buy roll on containers if you don’t want to store it in a jar.
I also make my own multi purpose ‘magic cream’ which I use for EVERYTHING. Make up remover, nappy balm, body butter, hand cream….. its perfect for all. Making these has meant I no longer buy any, I save on waste and save so so much money.
• Household cleaning products
Spray cleaners for bathroom, kitchen etc are all throw away plastic and also contain chemicals that are harmful to our water supply and marine life. We have used Ocean Saver. You get a reusable spray bottle you refill with pods you dissolve in water. They last ages and its great to know you can keep things nice and clean without throwing away the bottle or washing away chemicals into the sewage system and eventually our oceans. They also smell lovely. you can buy the kit with spray nozzle bottle from the ethical superstore online, or use an old one.
If you want to go one up from that why not make your own? All you need is white vinegar, water and essential oils. I’ve been making my own since summer 2020 and its so easy and cheap. Check out www.emmareed.net for great recipies or check out her instagram Emma Reed Writes.
• Refil shops
This will be our next step to expand. We buy fruit and veg loose and have recently started getting our shampoo, conditioner and shower gel topped up from our local refill shop, but we are coming to a time where we can now stock up on our dry goods loose too, by using refillable pots and Tupperware. Money is a factor here though so don’t feel bad you can’t do it all.
Always try to buy paper, glass or tins so they can be recycled and are cheaper to recycle.
We want to start buying plastic free dishwasher and laundry pods like SMOL and I’m commited to swap to hard dish soap and a reusable bamboo washing brush to ditch the sponges.
Ive also seen some charcoal electric brush heads and want to try the kids with bamboo toothbrushes.
So that’s the steps we’ve made as a family, probably more but its hard to recall them all as it has all become a normal part of life you forget it was ever any different.
Are there any great tips you can share? Feel free to get in touch with any questions or to ask advice.
Also come and see me over at Instagram!
Happy Plastic free Living!!!