Updated: Jul 25, 2020
Written by Chelsey @eco.mindset
There was a time when I believed that by simply putting plastics in the recycling bin, I was doing my part to help the environment. Yep, I believed that. In to the recycling bin things went and then out of sight and out of mind. To be honest, I’m not sure that I really cared enough to worry much about plastics and recycling because like most people, I was busy. Busy raising four kids, busy going to university, just flat out busy! My hectic schedule hasn’t changed, but finding out that only 9% of plastics are actually being recycled and reading about whales that were washing up on shore with bellies full of plastic really shook me!!
It suddenly struck me that I was contributing to the global plastic problem and that it was time to implement some household changes to reduce the plastic waste we were creating. Here are some of the household and shopping changes that have worked for me, maybe you’ll find them useful too! I think it’s worth mentioning that it was possible to implement these changes because I have the means and ability to do so and that lower waste living isn’t always accessible to everyone for a variety of reasons, in no way are these tips meant to shame or belittle the efforts of anyone else.
Groceries and Food
Since most of the disposable plastic in our household seemed to accumulate as a result of our grocery shopping habits, this is the first area that I examined in an attempt to identify and minimize wasteful packaging.
· Reusable Grocery Bags- when grocery shopping I make sure to bring along my reusable grocery bags. Being that I am on the forgetful side I’ll write myself reminder notes and leave my bags at the back door or in my car when not in use.
· Reusable Produce Bags-I’ve switched from plastic produce bags to reusable fabric bags which can be bought or made if you have some sewing skills. Even an old pillowcase will do the trick. By my estimates we have gone through approximately 5200 produce bags over a ten year period. Thinking about that number makes me cringe!
· Bulk Shopping- purchasing from bulk food stores with containers from home was new to me but I quickly figured the system out. Bring your clean containers to the store, have them weighed, and then shop! Simple and cuts out a lot of package waste.
· Homemade- home baking and cooking has really helped to reduce plastic packaging. Since I’ve purchased about 2000 loaves of bread in the past ten years (we have a big family!), baking my own bread from bulk ingredients has become a waste free solution to some of the plastic trash associated with store bought bakery items.
· Grub on the Go- We now pack lunches and store food in waxed cloth wraps, silicone bags, and containers. I won’t be buying plastic wrap or plastic sandwich bags again, they really aren’t necessary. Also, before going out for dinner I throw a container in my tote for leftovers and being the coffee addict that I am, I always have my reusable coffee cup on hand wherever I go!
In the Home
Once I realized just how much wasteful packaging came from the cleaning product aisle at the grocery store, like liquid soap and detergent bottles, I set out to find household products that didn’t involve plastic waste. Eventually my search for low waste cleaning products led to natural DIY products, which are easy to make and cost very little.
Housekeeping- cleaning products not only come in plastic but are typically full of nasty chemicals. This year I made the switch to homemade cleaning products which are stored in glass rather than old plastic bottles as I don’t want any chemical residue leaching in to the natural products I’ve made. There are so many fantastic cleaning product recipes online , I suggest trying a few different ones to see what works for you. Natural cleaning products sometimes require a bit of extra elbow grease but the trade-off is worth it!
· Washing Up-in the shower we’ve switched to soap bars but at the sink we still use liquid soap. Once a month I visit my local refill shop for liquid hand soap. I’ve even come across liquid hand soap recipes though I have yet to try any myself.
· Laundry- I’m able to buy our liquid laundry detergent at a refill store too. Screw cap wine bottles are great for refilling and look pretty! Eventually I’d like to try making laundry detergent but just haven’t found the time. Another laundry swap I love are wool dryer balls scented with essential oils, they are a natural waste free alternative to dryer sheets. For someone with allergies, like myself, this has been a particularly useful switch since dryer sheets are typically heavily scented and can irritate the skin.
· In the Loo- plastic free toilet paper was the answer to my endless frustration with plastic wrapped TP. Many plastic free toilet paper brands use bamboo or recycled paper material. Bamboo is a great sustainable material because it grows very quickly (a few feet per day for some varieties) and requires far less water for growth than trees do.
· Home Fragrance – Prior to ditching harmful chemicals in my home I was using those plug in deodorizers from the grocery store, so much waste and so many chemicals (cringe). Not deodorizing my home wasn’t an option (I have four teenage sons) so I’ve moved to natural alternatives. Recently I’ve started using bamboo charcoal deodorizing bags around the house and they really help to remove odors. For home fragrance I’ve switched to naturally scented candles made from sustainable ingredients, like
coconut wax. Also, it’s fun finding new ways to repurpose my empty candle vessels, Pinterest is full of great suggestions! Diffused essential oils are another favorite way to add scent to my home. Since switching to natural home fragrances my allergies have really improved and I’ve cut down on a lot of waste.
Shifting to lower waste living in the past year has been an adventure! I feel like I am learning so much from many others who are also trying to live more sustainably. For all the wins I’ve had, there have also been many failures as well but I suppose that’s to be expected when trying something new. If you are thinking about moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle the important thing to remember is to go slow and be kind to yourself. Don’t worry about trying to be perfect, just start with one small thing and keep trying! Are there any tips you can add to the list for reducing waste in the home? Please share below in the comments section! Thanks so much for reading, keep an eye out for my next post covering sustainable personal care products.
Chelsey is an eco friendly blogger who inspires to live slower and more sustainably. She shares her low waste living on social media through @eco.mindset .
Make sure to check back on our sustainable blog to read her next article on sustainable personal care products!