Fewer Things and Less Waste
We’ve been making changes slowly to be more conscious about our plastic use and our waste. It’s been a slow and deliberate process of changing habits and acquiring more sustainable alternatives to one-use plastics . I never wanted to share about it here because there are others who do so much more than us. There are many experts in low and zero waste but then I saw something the other day that’s been floating around the internet that said, “we don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly” (Anne-Marie Bonneau - Zero Waste Chef). So with that ethos echoing in my head I thought I would share our efforts to eliminate single-use plastics from our life and cut down on our waste.
While we aren’t perfect at zero waste, we do have some good habits and make some extra efforts to consume less plastics and carefully and correctly dispose of our garbage and recycling. I believe that living in our small space brought this to our attention as we only have two small garbage cans in our entire space and one recycling bin. This means we need to take out our garbage and recycling frequently and if they are piling up quickly it is hard to ignore. We have been looking at what we buy and how we use things to see if we can cut back further on our environmental footprint. I recently spoke with Elsbeth of Practical(ly) Zero Waste Podcast and left inspired to do even better. You can listen to the episode here, I really enjoyed our chat but I’m too nervous to listen to my voice!
I’m sure none of these ideas will be new to you but I'm listing them anyway because what if they are something you’ve haven’t adopted but easily could.
Bring Your Own Cup
It wasn’t until I found the perfect coffee cup for me that I finally created the habit of bringing my own coffee cup with me. My drink of choice is a cappuccino so this 8oz cup is perfect for me. I throw it in my bag anytime I think i might get a coffee. I even pack it for trips as it doesn’t take up much space and I know I will be ordering coffees while travelling. The unexpected benefit is that my coffee stays warm for a few hours so I can drink it slowly.
We also drink water from the tap and don’t buy liquids that come in plastic as much as possible. We are lucky to live somewhere with accessible fresh drinking water and I know this isn’t the case for everyone.
Bring your own bag
Just a quick habit shift of always making sure I have a folded up bag in my purse has made a big difference in the amount of plastic bags I use. A standard size Baggu is my preferred bag and I have been getting better at always having one on hand. We also store extra reusable bags in a shoe cubby in our entry closet and make sure to bring a bunch when grocery shopping.
We have just started using produce bags. Often when choosing produce we opt out of the plastic bag and just have lots of loose fruit and vegetables in our cart. But lately we have been wishing for more organization so we picked up some canvas sacks from a local art supply shop. I’m thinking now that mesh bags would be better for visibility in the fridge so I have my eyes on these.
Choose Foods with Less Packaging
Our current food budget doesn’t allow us to shop at no waste grocery stores but we have noticed bulk food having quicker turnover and more sanitary dispensers at our local grocer. We have been making efforts to choose groceries not only based on nutritional information but also packaging. Ugh, it sometimes feels like we can’t make any easy decisions nowadays doesn’t it?! But it’s worth it - I know it’s going to be worth it. Choosing the eggs by the cardboard flat rather than the styrofoam container, is worth it. Ordering takeout from the restaurant that uses paper and cardboard packaging rather than plastic, is worth it.
Alternative Food Wraps
We noticed the amount of plastic wrap we were using and switched to beeswax wraps which has been an easy adjustment. We go through food quickly so I haven’t found things like cheese dry out. We have two sets and that seems to be enough for us currently. We use them to wrap up cut vegetables, top bowls with leftovers and wrap cheese.
Some things we have found still need plastic like keeping our bread fresh. We often buy bread from our local bakery but Trevor has taken to reusing the same plastic bag and bringing the old bag with him when he buys the new loaf. It is definitely important to mention that much of the annoying labour of recycling and reducing waste in our family is initially led by Trevor and I eventually follow in his path. I often remark how easy the change is after I was resistant to the change at first.
Switch to Fabric Napkins and Towels
We have been using fabric napkins and towels in place of paper towels and napkins for a couple of years now. Yes, it means more laundry but it feels worth it. Our napkins are from Ikea from the sale bin and I can’t remember where our tea towels are from but they’ve held up really well and while there are still times I wish I had a roll of paper towel, it’s now become a habit and one we can feel good about.
Understand Your Local Recycling
Recycling can be complicated, so we try to educate ourselves on what is allowed in our bins and what requires a special drop off. We looked into local spots that accept electronics and batteries. Additionally we have been trying to separate our soft plastics for local drop off (something we can be more diligent with). Our local London Drugs has recycling drop offs that we take advantage of. I would encourage you to research which shops in your area provide this kind of free service.
Use What You Have
It’s important to remember that using things you already own is always the most sustainable choice. It can often feel like you need to throw out everything you own and start fresh to be perfectly zero waste but the best thing you can do is use what you already own, over and over again. Friends of ours are very resourceful with reusing jars and plastic containers with proper labelling. We use jars to store spices and dry goods as well but never as many or as beautifully as they do.
So nothing earth shattering here, but hopefully if we all share a bit how we are trying to do better, consume less and be responsible with our waste, we can start turning back some of the damage we’ve already done to our earth. And an added benefit of choosing less packaging, less plastic and more quality re-usable items is that our small space feels less overwhelmed with things and we are producing less garbage and recycling.
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