Around Easter we ran out of clingfilm. Soon afterwards we ran out of tinfoil. I don’t think anyone has noticed except me. Both seemed to be in constant use but my conscience was getting to me about all the waste we create, so when they ran out I didn’t buy any more. So far we haven’t missed them.
It is strange how a barely-there decision can lead end up leading to a change in lifestyle. Since cutting out clingfilm and tinfoil as mean of covering leftovers, I’ve begin looking more and more at the use of plastics and non-recyclable materials in our day-to-day life.
Over the past six weeks or so I have noticed a reduction in the frequency with which I need to empty our plastics bin in the kitchen. There’s a long way to go before we reach the low waste levels I’d like to get to, but it is heartening to see that with just a few little tweaks to our everyday life, we as a family have been able to cut back on our use of plastic and have created less waste.
Read on to see how we’ve done it.
Investing in Sigg Lunchboxes & Bottles
The plastic lunchboxes we have had never seem to last more than one school year. When another one of them cracked recently, I nearly did too. Buying new lunchboxes is not high on my list of favouite things to do and since the need for one arose just as I had decided to distance our family from plastics, I was not over the moon about the idea of going out and buying yet another plastic lunchbox. Then I remembered the Sigg aluminium lunchbox the Bavarian has for his fishing days out. It must be ten years old at least and is still going strong. Yes, it has a few scrapes and dents, but it is never going to crack. I invested in two new Sigg lunchboxes for my school boys. At around €20 each, they are not a bargain, but when I weight that up against spending €5 to €10 on a plastic lunchbox that will maybe last a school year,it does’t seem that bad a deal.
The Sigg lunchboxes come in lovely bright colours and in several sizes. They are 100% recyclable and, you’ll be pleased to hear, wash really well, don’t seem to get smelly and come with a microwaveable silicone insert, making transporting food for reheating at work really easy.
Since the boys started school we have been using Sigg aluminium bottles for drinks for school and sports. They are not dishwasher friendly but can be washed quickly and easily by hand. And like the lunchboxes, don’t crack or burst when dropped. They don’t seem to leak either, which is great.
Whenever I can, I like to shop at markets. I love the buzz and the fresh air plus there are usually good coffee and pastries to be had. But also, markets sell loose fruit, veg, bread, flowers, cheeses, – whatever – and pack it in paper, or in the container you’ve brought with you. I bring a picnic cool bag with me for things that need to be kept cool, like cheese in wax paper. The rest of my purchases go into my shopping basket, so I have no reason to use a plastic bag.
Of course shopping at markets isn’t always possible, nor do they sell everything we need. I keep a stash of cloth bags in the car and one in my handbag so that when I have to stop off at the supermarket I have my bags with me. As for the food I buy, I have started to pay more attention to how the products I buy are wrapped. If the supermarket weighs fruit and veg at the till, I don’t bother to put them into a bag first. Instead I leave them loose and place them into my cloth bags gently after they have been weighed.
For foods we use a lot of, I generally buy larger containers. I have been doing this for years and it does save on waste. Yogurt, for example, I buy in a 500g tub rather than in individual pots and we have started to buy juice in a 5L box, like a wine box. The boys, having learned about recycling at school, remind me to buy milk and cream in bottles rather than cartons.
Back to the Bar
When it comes to cosmetics and toiletries it all gets a bit more difficult. I have yet to see glass bottles of shampoo or shower gel. However, we have made the change over to bars of soap. With three messy, mucky boys in the house, plenty of hand-washing goes on here on a daily basis. I’ve stocked up on the gorgeously scented soaps from The Handmade Soap company and don’t know if I will ever use another type of soap. They lather so well and the scents are divine. Plus the soaps are handmade in Slane in Ireland and packaged in beautiful, recyclable cardboard packaging. The company seems to be very environmentally conscious, so check them out and sign up for their entertaining and thought-provoking newsletter. It is a joy to read.
Tiny, Meaningful Changes
– I’ve changed over to bringing my bamboo coffee mug with me on business trips so I don’t end up using disposable coffee cups
– We avoid cosmetics with plastic microparticles such as in exfoliators and some toothpastes
– We out leftovers into the fridge in a bowl with a plate on top
– Leftover homemade soup gets stored in a glass bottle in the fridge
– We use paper straws instead of plastic straws and usually only use straws for birthday parties
So those are the small and simple, but effective, changes we have been making to our lifestyle. Moving away from plastic – and waste creation in general – isn’t easy. Reducing your usage and sensibilising yourself and your family to the environmental benefits is. With a few tweaks to your thinking, you can change your purchasing habits and give yourself the kick start you might need.
I’d love to hear how you deal with recycling, waste and packaging and whether you have any tips for cosmetics and toiletry brands to check out.