Zero Waste-ish Archives - Sustainable(ish)

Category Archives for Zero Waste-ish

THE (FESTIVE) WASTE HIERARCHY

The Waste Hierarchy sounds like the dullest thing imaginable, but I have to confess that I kind of love it.

I've recorded a podcast episode on the subject, but I figured that with Christmas bearing down on us it was worth a reminder and a look at how it can be applied to all things festive!

REFUSE

I guess technically you could refuse to participate in Christmas all together but there's nothing very "ish" about that is there?!
However there are still some things that we can 'refuse' without coming across as the Grinch who wants to steal Christmas:

  • Christmas cards - a billion Christmas cards end up in the bin each year, and lots of people are now choosing to make charity donations instead, or to send e-cards.
  • Presents for grown-ups - 81 million unwanted gifts are received each year, an average of 3 per household. Have 'that conversation' with friends and family and think about whether you could only buy for the kids, and make all go out for a nice meal together instead.
  • Anything new! 
    It's totally possible - we did it when we spent our year buying nothing new (check out this post here for all the nitty gritty). Buy secondhand, make, or gift experiences instead of 'stuff'.
REDUCE

If you can't REFUSE some or any aspects of Christmas entirely, then at the very least try to reduce them:

  • All of points in the REFUSE section can be REDUCED if total refusal would cause family upset!
  • Food waste - around 250,000 tonnes of food is wasted in the UK alone over Christmas. Meal plan, and make sure you include what you're going to with any leftovers.
  • The amount of plastic entering your home - buy loose fruit and veg and use re-usable bags; look for drinks in glass bottles rather than plastic. For other tips for shopping plastic-free at the supermarket, check out this post here.
RE-USE

Christmas has not only become a retail festival, it also seems to have become a celebration of both excess and single use. See how many things you can re-use this year, here are some suggestions:

  • Christmas jumpers - according to research done by the guys at Hubbub we spend around £220 million on Christmas jumpers each year in the UK and a quarter of those will end up in landfill or are only used once. Wear the same jumper year on year - make it a part of your Christmas traditions.
  • Your office party Christmas outfit - I guarantee you no-one will notice if you wear the same outfit again. And if they do, that they will even care. Make a 'thing' of it and use the opportunity to start a conversation about all that is wrong with fast fashion 😉
  • Christmas cards - cut off the fronts from your favourite cards, and use them as gift tags next year. Alternatively turn them into festive postcards to send instead of needing envelopes.
REHOME

If there's anything you no longer want or need, don't ditch it, re-home it!
Try out these different options for decorations, artificial trees, unwanted gifts and anything else to:

  • eBay - if you've got unwanted gifts you might get lucky selling them on eBay and go a little way towards replenishing your bank account at the same time as saving things from landfill.
  • Freecycle/Freegle
    Pass on anything you don't want anymore to people in your community via your local Freecycle or Freegle group.
  • Charity Shops
    This is a great option, but just be aware that most charity shops will be inundated with donations after Christmas  and resist the temptation of using them to salve your conscience about sending stuff to landfill. Only donate stuff that is clean and in good condition. 
REPAIR

This isn't an obvious one for Christmas time - the most obvious thing I can think of is the fairy lights! Have a go at fixing them before ditching them - you might be pleasantly surprised.

RECYCLE

Note that this is the last resort before 'rot' - if you've paid attention to all the other ideas in this post and the others on this blog, hopefully you won't have too much to recycle.

  • Christmas cards can be recycled in the bins that appear outside the supermarkets in the New Year.
  • Glittery or metallic wrapping paper CAN'T be recycled. Do the 'scrunch test' - scrunch your paper into a ball and it it stays in a ball it can go in the recycling.
  • Batteries - if you've not got round to replacing your regular batteries with rechargeable ones, make sure you recycle them - many supermarkets have recycling points, if not there should be one at your local recycling centre.
ROT

​Hopefully your waste to landfill should now be pretty minimal, but do remember that 'rot' also includes composting. 

  • If you have a food waste collection, make sure you use it!
    If you don't, consider asking Santa for a hot composter to go in your garden - these can take cooked and uncooked food, as well as meat.
  • If you had a real tree, most councils will run a special kerbside collection of them in the New Year, and will take them away to mulch. If not, then you should be able to take it to your local recycling centre to add to the garden waste.
How many of the '7 R's' will you be doing this Yuletide?
And what have I missed? Comment below with more suggestions to add to each of the categories!

GET YOUR 
ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO A

 CRAP-FREE CHRISTMAS!

Crap Free Christmas

Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:

  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

Let's take out the plastic and waste from Christmas

  • Grab your copy now!
  • Instant download
  • check
    Stacks of ideas, suggestions and clickable resources

12 EASY IDEAS FOR A SUSTAINABLE(ISH) CHRISTMAS

Christmas - "It's the most wonderful wasteful time of the year" (feel free to sing that bit. In your head. Unless you're alone.)
I've already freaked the bejaysus out of you with my 12 Not so Fun Festive Facts, so to re-dress the balance I'm countering each of those slightly scary stats with a sustainable(ish) solution.

1. 27,000 MILES OF WRAPPING PAPER IS USED EACH YEAR IN THE UK ALONE

'Upcycle' old newspapers, magazines or maps to wrap presents in. Use some re-usable ribbon to pretty them up (ask for it back to use again 😉 ) and then make sure the paper is recycled afterwards.

2. ONLY 1% OF CONSUMER GOODS ARE STILL IN USE 6 MONTHS LATER

Don't by crap people don't need or want.
So that means NO novelty gifts for the office Secret Santa or to irritate your brother with.

3. ONE BILLION CHRISTMAS CARDS END UP IN THE BIN EACH YEAR 

Recycle them!
Avoid cards with glitter on them, and if you can buy a pack in a cardboard box rather than wrapped in plastic you get double brownie points from Santa.

4. THE AMOUNT OF WRAPPING PAPER USED TO WRAP CHRISTMAS PRESENTS IS ENOUGH TO GO AROUND THE GLOBE NINE TIMES!

Try out 'furoshiki' - it's a Japanese technique of wrapping things in fabric and tying it up cleverly. It looks great, and if you use secondhand fabric from the charity shop you're definitely on the nice list (just make sure it doesn't get thrown away - ask recipients to return it to you if you don't think they'll re-use it!)
There's a great video here from Lisa at Less Stuff.

5. THE EQUIVALENT OF 2 MILLION TURKEYS END UP IN THE BIN EACH YEAR
  • Don't buy it if you don't really like it
  • Buy the right sized bird - ask your butcher or look on the pack for the recommended number of servings if you're not sure
  • Use up leftovers: turkey sandwiches, curry, soup etc etc
  • If all else fails, freeze it to eat later in the year when people aren't quite so fed up with turkey
6. 500 TONNES OF FAIRY LIGHTS ARE THROWN AWAY EACH YEAR

Repair or recycle! 
Often it's just one bulb that needs replacing. Or the fuse in the plug.
If you can't fix them yourself, you might be lucky enough to have a Repair Cafe near you where you can take them to see if one of their volunteers can have a  go for you.
If you have no luck with the fix, they can be recycled at your local recycling centre.

7. FIVE MILLION CHRISTMAS PUDDINGS HIT THE BIN EACH YEAR
  • Don't buy it if no-one likes it
  • Just buy a small one (unless you really, really like it!) - it's quite rich so usually people only eat a small bit
  • Use up leftovers - eat it cold, or there's some great suggestions here from BBC Good Food.
8. ONE IN TEN UNWANTED CHRISTMAS PRESENTS ENDS UP IN LANDFILL

Don't buy people crap they don't need or want. (It bears repeating!)
Gift experiences (days out, cinema tickets,) or even things like babysitting vouchers. 
Anything rather than more 'stuff' for the sake of it.
(If you're struggling there's a whole list of ideas for experiences in the Crap-free Christmas course)

9. WHEN CHILDREN HAVE SO MANY PRESENTS THEY ACTUALLY STOP ENJOYING PLAYING WITH THEM

If you have a lot of kids in your family, how about a Secret Santa, so that each kids ends up with one decent present, and everyone has to spend less time and money.

10. WE WASTE AROUND 250,000 TONNES OF FOOD EACH CHRISTMAS 

Meal plan.
Yes, I know it sounds dull and grown-up. It IS dull and grown-up, but just because it's Christmas doesn't mean we get out of doing dull and grown-up things.
When you know who is going to be where and for what meals, do a quick back of the envelope meal plan and then shop accordingly.
And remember - the freezer is your friend!

11. 81 MILLION UNWANTED PRESENTS ARE RECEIVED EACH YEAR

Don't buy crap people don't need or want (are you sensing a theme here...?)
Make this the year you grab the bull by the horns and have 'that conversation' with family - the one where you suggest you all just buy for the kids (there are 'swipe files' of wording suggestions in the Crap-free Christmas course if the thought of this makes you want to curl up in a ball in the corner!)
If you feel obliged/want to buy a gift for your kids hard-working teacher, why not club together with some of the other parents to get them a voucher for afternoon tea, or even a book token.

12. THE UK GENERATES THE WEIGHT OF 3.3 MILLION EMPEROR PENGUINS IN PLASTIC WASTE EACH CHRISTMAS

Plastic-free(ish) principles still apply at Christmas.
Buy loose fruit and veg. 
Look out for cards and paper that aren't encased in plastic.
Avoid overly packaged gift sets.
Buy kids toys secondhand - my kids are quite accepting of the fact that Lego doesn't always come in a box!

Which steps will you choose to embrace this year?
If you'd love some additional resources, idea and suggestions with clickable links for Sustainable(ish) alternatives, check out the Essential Guide to a Crap-free Christmas! 

GET YOUR 
ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO A

 CRAP-FREE CHRISTMAS!

Crap Free Christmas

Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:

  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

Let's take out the plastic and waste from Christmas

  • Grab your copy now!
  • Instant download
  • check
    Stacks of ideas, suggestions and clickable resources

THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO A CRAP FREE CHRISTMAS

This post could essentially be just three words long:

BUY. LESS. CRAP.

Because it's not rocket science is it?
If we want less crap in our Christmas, and in our lives, we simply need to buy less crap right?
Well...yes and no.

If it really was as simple as that we wouldn't need posts like this, and I've have no-one signed up to my Crap-free Christmas course.
Because buying stuff isn't as simple as the financial transaction - it's an emotional thing. And at Christmas, those emotions that we associate with 'stuff' and gifts and giving get ramped another good few notches.

I will hold my hands up and say that we don't have a perfectly crap-free Christmas.
My kids still want stuff. Even they have enough Lego to build a life sized Millennium Falcon there is apparently still the desire (and they insist the room..!) for more. Despite my fervent wishes, our kids are not immune to the lure of stuff, and bright shiny plastic crap.
And to be honest, I still have a tug of war between my heart and my head when it comes to buying them presents - In my heart I want them to be happy, to have a magical Christmas, to be so excited they might burst. In my head, yes I want them to be happy, but I logically know that that happiness shouldn't come from 'stuff' (and that if it does it will be fleeting)
So it becomes about compromise. 

And I'm guessing I'm not alone.

If you're fed up with feeling guilty about the sheer volume of stuff that somehow finds it way into your house each Christmas.
If each year you swear you're going to do it differently, but then leave it too late and it all gets too busy and stressful to do anything other than 'Christmas as usual'.
If you love the idea of less crap at Christmas, but you have no idea how to get the in-laws on board, I've got some suggestions here for how to go about it without ramping up your stress levels.

1. DON'T TRY AND DO IT ALL AT ONCE

This applies to all things Sustainable(ish) (the 'ish' is there for a reason!).
Think of any changes you make as a diet - if you crash diet and got at it hell for leather, you'll end up miserable, cranky and resenting the choices you've made.
Plus the family will think you've lost the plot and you're unlikely to be able to bring them along with you if you suddenly go all evangelical and start berating them for their choice of cracker.
Slow and steady (as dull as it sounds) wins the race.

Pick one or two things to work on first.
Go for the 'low hanging fruit' (i.e. the easiest changes!) first, and pick your battles. 


2. BE BRAVE

Be the one who makes that phone call suggesting that maybe only the kids get pressies this year.
Or that the grown-ups do a Secret Santa.
Or that you do a Secret Santa for the kids if you have lots to buy for - they get one decent present they really want, everyone saves time, stress and money.
#winning

I've got swipe files with suggestions of e-mail/conversation wording to use in the Crap-free Christmas course if you're filled with dread at even the thought of suggesting this!


3. MAKE IT EASY FOR PEOPLE

If your house is already full to bursting and you hold your head in your hands and weep when you peek into the kids bedrooms, your inside voice may well be screaming "NOTHING!!!" when you get asked by anxious relatives what the kids want this year.
Have some suggestions ready for them. 
EITHER for stuff the kids genuinely do want and you know they'll love and play with for a long time
OR for days out/experiences you can all do together - I always think National Trust membership is 'the gift that keeps on giving' for families.


4. SHOW DON'T TELL

Families are complicated beasts at the best of times, and even more so at Christmas.
As much as you might be visibly wincing as you see that Aunt Mildred has wrapped up the gifts in glittery metallic paper (a total no-no, it can't be recycled) don't berate her. 
But make sure that your gifts are wrapped up in re-usable or recyclable options - e.g. brown kraft paper, 'upcycled' newspapers, magazines or old maps, fabric wraps. And if anyone comments or asks, just have a sentence or two at the ready like "Yes, I'm really pleased with them - we've been looking at how to make our Christmas a little bit greener this year".


5. ENJOY IT!

Christmas is stressful enough for lots of people.
Do what you can.
Focus on the positive changes and the different choices you HAVE been able to make, and don't feel guilty about the things you might not have got around to. The last thing Christmas needs is more guilt attached!

Where these helpful?
How do you tackle 'crap' at Christmas?
If you can feel your blood pressure rising already, check out The
Essential Guide to a Crap-free Christmas below for all the resources you need at your fingertips!

GET YOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO A

 CRAP-FREE CHRISTMAS!

Crap Free Christmas

Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:

  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

Let's take out the plastic and waste from Christmas

  • Grab your copy now!
  • Instant download
  • check
    Stacks of ideas, suggestions and clickable resources

12 NOT SO FUN FESTIVE FACTS

Christmas is coming - there's no escape!
We're on the downhill slope to the biggest consumer festival of the year, and I think it's about time for a sanity check.

We all want to create magical memories for our kids, but in the process of doing that we're building an appalling legacy for them - plastic clogged oceans, over-flowing landfill sites, and potentially a climate and landscape that may well be pretty much uninhabitable. 

Check out these 'not so fun festive facts' that reveal just how wasteful and damaging our festive consumption can be:

1. 27,000 MILES OF WRAPPING PAPER IS USED EACH YEAR IN THE UK ALONE

And much of it ends up in landfill.
Metallic paper and paper with glitter on can't be recycled and mess up the waste streams. Do the 'scrunch test' - scrunch a piece of wrapping paper into a ball - if it stays in a ball it can be recycled.

2. ONLY 1% OF CONSUMER GOODS ARE STILL IN USE 6 MONTHS LATER

This is a crazy reflection of the sheer speed with which we buy, upgrade or discard and then move onto the next shiny new 'must have'.

3. ONE BILLION CHRISTMAS CARDS END UP IN THE BIN EACH YEAR 

When they could be recycled. Most supermarkets have a Christmas card recycling bin available in the New Year, so no excuses!

4. THE AMOUNT OF WRAPPING PAPER USED TO WRAP CHRISTMAS PRESENTS IS ENOUGH TO GO AROUND THE GLOBE NINE TIMES!

'Upcycle' old newspapers or magazines which can then be recycled 🙂

5. THE EQUIVALENT OF 2 MILLION TURKEYS END UP IN THE BIN EACH YEAR

That's the leftovers that don't get eaten when everyone is fed up of turkey.
If you're going to eat meat (and we do) at least ensure that you honour the animal by making sure none it goes to waste.

6. 500 TONNES OF FAIRY LIGHTS ARE THROWN AWAY EACH YEAR

Repair or recycle! 
Fairy lights can be recycled at your local recycling centre.

7. FIVE MILLION CHRISTMAS PUDDINGS HIT THE BIN EACH YEAR

And that's before we even add in the plastic waste that comes with shop bought Christmas puddings.

8. ONE IN TEN UNWANTED CHRISTMAS PRESENTS ENDS UP IN LANDFILL

This makes me hold my head in my hands and weep - a complete waste of money, resources, and the efforts of the people sweating away in god-forsaken factories somewhere far away to make these things.

9. WHEN CHILDREN HAVE SO MANY PRESENTS THEY ACTUALLY STOP ENJOYING PLAYING WITH THEM

When did it become ok to teach our kids that more is better, than excessive consumption is not only good, but to be encouraged at Christmas?

10. WE WASTE AROUND 250,000 TONNES OF FOOD EACH CHRISTMAS 

That's the weight of the Empire State Building or 100,000 elephants!

11. 81 MILLION UNWANTED PRESENTS ARE RECEIVED EACH YEAR

Working out at an average of 3 per UK household

12. THE UK GENERATES THE WEIGHT OF 3.3 MILLION EMPEROR PENGUINS IN PLASTIC WASTE EACH CHRISTMAS

I love the 'penguin-ification' of this stat, but all that plastic will be sitting in landfill for the next 500+years - this isn't the legacy of a magical Christmas that I want for my kids.

Do you despair at the waste at Christmas?

GET YOUR
ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO A

 CRAP-FREE CHRISTMAS!

Crap Free Christmas

Grab a copy of my digital e-guide tackling the big issues around Christmas waste in the home:

  • Advent Calendars & Christmas Cards  
  • Food & Nibbles
  • Gifts, Alternatives & Tricky Conversations
  • Festive Family Guilt

Let's take out the plastic and waste from Christmas

  • Grab your copy now!
  • Instant download
  • check
    Stacks of ideas, suggestions and clickable resources

PLASTIC-FREE(ISH) PARTY BAGS

Party bags.
OMG. Is there a parent alive who actually likes them?
They are an additional source of stress and expense for kids parties, and whenever I speak to any fellow parents about them, I get them same rolled eyes and pained expressions.
But the kids LOVE them.
I have no idea why a piece of cake, a balloon and a handful of plastic tat that breaks within 3 minutes is so exciting, but apparently it is - I'm embarrassed to say that my youngest seems to think that they are the most important part of any party.

One option is obviously to take a stand and simply not do them. 
And if I was braver I would love to do this. But my youngest simply cannot compute having a party, and not having party bags. So I've had to get inventive, dare I say even creative, with our party bags to avoid buying and giving out 'instant landfill'.
Here are some ideas for plastic-free(ish) party bags:

The bags themselves

- Good old paper bags are a great option
You can buy recycled paper ones here online from Eco-craft - the plain ones are a great idea as you can get the kids to decorate them, which depending on whether you have boys or girls at the party will take anything from 30 seconds to 45 minutes. All of which time they are seated and not marauding around destroying things.

- Make your own paper bags
If you're feeling crafty and have time on your hands (if you do, please can you come and organise my kids parties for me) you can make bags from newspapers or magazines - there's a tutorial here.

- Make your own fabric bags from old t-shirts or pillowcases
If you're a whiz with the sewing machine, this might be an option for you!
T-shirts are super easy to make bags out of - turn it inside out and sew up the bottom of the t-shirt, enlarge the neck hole and chop off the sleeves, turn it the right way round again and you're done!

Image from Life with Crazy Rachel

Edibles

Some ideas:

- Cup cakes, or a piece of cake wrapped in a good old paper napkin, greaseproof paper or foil (avoid clingfilm!)

- Number shaped biscuits - I use this shortbread recipe here and number cutters for the appropriate number for the age of the birthday boy/girl and pop a couple in the bag

- Chocolate buttons - these go down a storm.
Melt a couple of bars of fair-trade chocolate and then use a teaspoon to smoosh giant buttons onto a lined baking tray. Decorate with sprinkles and leave to set.
You could either do little jam jars of these in lieu of a party bag, or pop some into a small paper bag inside the main party bag.

- Chocolate coins or chocolate eggs - if you remember at Christmas/Easter time stock up on foil wrapped Christmas coins and eggs!

- Pick 'n' mix - who wouldn't love a bag of pick 'n' mix - my kids would have to wrestle me for it. Just don't put it in those plastic cones!

Gifts

- Books
This one will earn you brownie points with the party go-ers parents, but maybe some less enthusiastic from the kids..!
The Book People often do packs of books where the individual books work out at less than £1 each, so this can be quite an inexpensive option. 
Either gift on their own, or as part of a party bag if you're feeling very generous.

- Seeds
A pack of something like sunflower seeds can work well if you have a spring/summer party. Have a competition afterwards to see you can grow the tallest sunflower.
Or cress seeds to make a cress head can also be quite fun.

- Colouring pencils
Kids can seemingly never have enough colouring pencils. Or at least mine can't.
Check out these ones here made from actual twigs - they're fab!

- Recycled crayons
If you have a stash of crayons that have seen better days, break them all up and melt the in silicone ice cube trays in a very low oven. We did this once with a lego brick mould and they were fab!

- Colouring books

- If you really want to get little eco-warriors excited about all things plastic-free, then their very own metal straw might go down well!

If you just want someone else to do it for you

If you don't have the time/energy to spend devoting your life to plastic-free(ish) party bags, then here are some 'done for you' links:

- Plastic Free Party Bags - does what it says on the tin! There's the option of buying pre-filled bags, or just buying the gifts to fill your own.

- Not on the High Street has an option to select 'eco-friendly' when you search for party bag fillers.

- Ethical Kidz has some nice plastic-free things to put in party bags 

plasticfreepartybags.com

Avoid...

- Balloons
Sorry to be a party pooper but balloons are a no-no, whether they're 'biodegradable' or not.
If they break free and fly off when they come down they are a risk to wildlife. And even if they don't, they will spend years sitting in landfill before they even start to degrade.

- Plastic cones 
I mentioned this one earlier, but these things make me wince - plastic cones filled with sweets and then tied off with plastic ribbon.
Get a good old fashioned paper bag!

- Instant landfill
Think twice before doing a minesweep of your local Pound Shop or the 'tat' section of the toy shop. These toys break within minutes and there is nothing that can be done with them other than put them in the bin. Plus you will be making kids cry when they break. 

- Slime
This is such a 'thing' right now and I know kids love nothing more than a pot of slime, but most commercially available pots are just stretchy slimy blobs of plastic 🙁

- Glitter
God I am the totally the fun police in this post.
Glitter is essentially a micro-plastic and when you can finally get it off your hands/face/every conceivable surface of your home and even some inconceivable places, it gets washed down the sink and passes straight though the filtration systems and on out into our waterways.
If you just can't face the tantrums, then there are eco-friendly glitters available.

Do you do party bags?
Was this helpful?
Do let me know in the comments!

FEELING INSPIRED TO
TAKE ACTION ON PLASTIC?

Get the Esse​​​​ntial Guide to a Plastic-​Free (ish) Home.
Easy swaps, ideas and tips to help you get started on your plastic-free (ish) journey in achievable bite sized steps.

SHOPPING PLASTIC-FREE(ISH) AT THE SUPERMARKET

I love the idea of plastic-free shopping.
It looks blissful from what I see on social media - beautiful young hipsters wafting through their local zero waste store with their mason jars and cotton bags at the ready.
There's not a child, or a queue, or a single piece of plastic in sight. 
I want me a piece of that.

But sadly, I am not a beautiful young hipster. My default setting is 'rush' rather than 'waft'. And even if I did waft I don't have a local zero waste store to waft around.
So what are the rest of us to do if we want to reduce plastic when we're doing our weekly trawl round the supermarket, with or without whining children in tow?

Here's 9 ways to shop plastic-free(ish) at your local supermarket:

1. Buy loose fruit and veg

Go for the loose fruit and veg wherever you can and take your own re-usable bags.
Onya do a great set of really thin mesh bags, or if you're a whiz with the sewing machine you can knock some up from something like an old net curtain.
If all else fails, use the plastic bags they have at the supermarket, but re-use them again and again until they fall apart.

2. Take your tupperware

Take your tupperware to the deli counter for things like meat and cheese. 
Morrisons have now made it policy to accept these, and I think Tesco are also introducing it, so I promise you it won't be as scary as you might think!

If you're into beautiful zero waste stuff you can get some gorgeous metal tiffin boxes, or if you're like the rest of us you can wrestle with your mess of a tupperware drawer to find the lid that fits the box.

3. Use the bakery

If your local supermarket has an in-store bakery, use it!
Take re-usable bags (old pillowcases work well) and use them for bread, rolls, pastries etc.

If you've got the time and you enjoy baking, how about making your own? Either by hand or using a bread machine - flour is almost inevitably in a paper bag, so that's a winner.

Last resort - re-use the plastic bags that your bread comes in for packed lunches and sandwiches etc.

4. Go for butter

Ditch the plastic tubs of margarine and go back to butter.
If you can find butter in foil packs, you should be able to peel the foil and the greaseproof paper apart and recycle both separately. Simply chuck your empty butter wrapper into the washing up bowl after doing it and leave it to soak until the two layers magically float apart.

5. Look for paper

Look for the things that you can find easily in paper - you might be surprised just how many there are!
Flour, sugar (caster sugar, granulated sugar, and icing sugar) and porridge oats can all be found relatively painlessly in paper bags.


Biscuits are always going to be a struggle - but if you can buy the ingredients (flour, sugar, butter) plastic-free then this recipe here is super quick and super reliable!

6. Look for cardboard

Sometimes there are alternatives in cardboard rather than plastic that you just don't notice as you're so 'in the zone' and just grabbing your usual brand.
Lots of washing powders are now available in cardboard boxes - how about trying one of them instead of your usual liquid?
Several of the major supermarkets also do dishwashing powder in a box, so it's worth looking.

Pasta is a BIG staple in our house - Barilla pasta is available in a cardboard box with just a small plastic window and you should be able to find it in some of the larger supermarkets.
Waitrose do a gluten-free pasta that is available in a box made from food waste - more of this please supermarkets!
Rice is another one that can sometimes be found in cardboard boxes - just be sure to do the squidge test (see below).

7. Do the 'squidge test'

Sometimes you can buy a product in paper or cardboard, full of excitement and the very best of intentions, only to get home and find there is a sneaky plastic bag inside.
To try and avoid this, do the 'squidge test' - simply hold said product up to your ear and give it a gentle squidge, listening out for the tell-tale crackle of plastic inside (ignore any strange looks you might get from fellow shoppers - superman didn't care about wearing his pants outside his trousers, we can't let looking a few strange looks stop us on our mission...)

8. Go large

If you can't find a plastic-free solution that suits you and the family, buy the largest size that you can. 
We get the big share packs of crisps and then scoff the lot portion them out into plastic bags that we re-use for lunch boxes. And do the same for yoghurts too - get the 500ml pots and scoop it into little tupperware pots for the kids to have at school.
Totally not a perfectly plastic-free solution, but plastic-free(ish) and it keeps the kids vaguely happy, so it's a win in my book.

9. The sweet stuff

If you have a sweet tooth like me my kids you'll be pleased to know you can still get your sugar fix plastic-free.
Most of the supermarket own brand bars of chocolate come in paper and foil, and work out way cheaper per 100g than the plastic bags of chocolates. Brands like Divine are also a pretty good bet (and very yummy and ethical too).

When it comes to the pure sugar rush of sweets, think pick 'n' mix if you still have a good old fashioned sweet shop or newsagents near you. An alternative that I was perhaps a little over-excited to discover over the summer was 1kg tubs (oh yes!) of Haribo in Morrisons - I won't tell you how long 2 tubs lasted us...

What have I missed?
What are your top tips for shopping plastic-free(ish) at the supermarket?Do let me know in the comments!

FEELING INSPIRED TO
TAKE ACTION ON PLASTIC?

Get the Esse​​​​ntial Guide to a Plastic-​Free (ish) Home.
Easy swaps, ideas and tips to help you get started on your plastic-free (ish) journey in achievable bite sized steps.

[014] – PUTTING THE (ISH) INTO SUSTAINABLE

I don't know about you but when I think about a 'green family' or a family living 'sustainably', I would expect to see lots of muted colours, wooden toys, maybe one of those bikes with a trailer, and the odd dreadlock or two. I know, I like to buy into stereotypes...

But do you know what? My family is so NOT like that. The kids wear the same jeans and hoodies as their mates (although most of my kids is second-hand!), we have ALL the plastic toys in our house (the people at Lego appear to have asked if they can use us a depot unbeknown to me...), and we are a two car family.

So on many levels I feel like a failed eco-warrior.
But that's the point. You don't need to be an eco-warrior hippy family to make a difference.
This is stuff we can ALL do. And we can do it without needing to radically overhaul our lives and make them any busier or crazier than they already are. 

The secret is...the 'ish'.
Listen in!

PLASTIC-FREE (ISH) PETS

OK, let's start by addressing the elephant/cat/dog/hamster in the room...
Owning a pet is not in itself a sustainable thing to do. A book written by some sustainable living peeps in New Zealand in 2009 suggested that a medium sized dog has the ecological 'pawprint' equivalent to twice that of an average SUV (think people-carrier). Now I'm not sure how robust the science is on that one, but I think it's still worth bearing in mind that our pets create their own emissions (not just the smelly ones!) and that by making different choices we can limit their 'paw print'.
Having said that, owning a pet by and large brings happiness, laughter, and adds to the quality of our lives - sustainable(ish) isn't about depriving ourselves that bring us joy, it's about making the best choices we can and living the best lives we can whilst looking after the future of the planet.

Here are some tips for plastic-free(ish) pets to help you to do just that! 

1. FOOD

We've all got to eat, and pets are no different.
While at first glance it might appear impossible to find food that isn't encased in plastic, it's easier than it might seem:

  • Buy tins not pouches
    The pouches of food are great in terms of "food waste" but the pouches are nigh on impossible to recycle and destined for landfill.
    Tins are a great plastic-free alternative - some brands do half sized tins if you need smaller portions, and get yourself one of those re-usable tin cap things to keep it fresh in the fridge. The little individual aluminium trays are another good option if you have a very pampered pet!
  • Avoid the plastic sacks of dry food
    Once upon a time dry pet food came in paper sacks, or in cardboard boxes, but now they all seem to come in overly robust thick plastic bags (I'm sure this has something to do with customers perception of value rather than an actual need).
    Some brands do still sell their food in paper bags, so keep your eyes peeled, and the good news is that pet food companies are cottoning onto the demand for plastic-free alternatives - Lily's Kitchen and Beco both now have entirely home-compostable packaging on their dry food which will happily degrade on your compost heap.
  • Buy loose
    Some pet shops (especially the good old-fashioned independent ones) will still have loose food that you can buy in your own bags - everything from dog biscuits to bird food, to rabbit pellets.
  • Make your own
    The very dedicated may choose to make their own.
    Bear in mind though that pet food companies spend millions on nutritionists and on formulating pet food so that it has the right balance of all the things (technical term) your pet needs. Matching up to this with a home-made diet requires a lot of research, and whilst I think it's kind of do-able to make your own dog food, I would never recommend trying for cats (with my ex-vets hat on) as they have a requirement for taurine, and it can be tricky to get the balance right. 
    Check out places like Pinterest for a wealth of home-made recipes, but as I say, do your research first, and maybe run it past your vet.

2.  POO

It's unavoidable. Pet's make poo. And we have to deal with it.
Here are some plastic-free(ish) options:

  • If you've got rabbits/hamsters/guinea pigs etc, the straw/sawdust and poo can go in your compost heap quite safely. 
    However if you've got dogs and cats you shouldn't compost their poo!
  • Wood based cat litters work well, and keep your eye out for cat litter in paper bags. 
    As far as I'm aware the only thing you can safely do with cat poo and contaminated litter is bag it up and put it in your landfill bin - a good excuse to encourage your cat to go outside (although don't tell your neighbour with the prize flower beds that I said that!)
  • Poo bags
    Sadly, despite being labelled 'bio-degradable' most poo bags simply won't break down in landfill as they don't have the right conditions. So they sit there and act like any other plastic.
    Lily's Kitchen recently launched a new '100% compostable' poo bag, which looks promising. Although you can't compost dog poo, it does mean that it the bag should break down pretty quickly in landfill, which is good news.
    Other options for disposing of dog poo, which I have heard varying reports of include
    - dog poo wormery - try this one here or this one here. These ones are quite pricey though - Lindsey at Treading my Own Path has made her own.
    - specific dog poo mini compost thing
    - doggy bog - flushing dog poo seems to be a controversial subject. Some things I've read have said it's fine, other people are horrified. Check with your local water board if you want to be sure! 

Random picture of cross cat with wooden litter..!

3.  TREATS

As with food, pet treats now seem to all come encased in plastic. Here are some alternatives:

  • Buy loose
    We've got a great old-fashioned independent pet shop near us that has big boxes of treats that you can buy loose in your own bags. Some of the chains are also starting to sell 'pick and mix' style dog treats too.
  • Make your own
    If you've got a dehydrator you can dehydrate liver into little treats, or some dogs (and rabbits etc!) love nothing better than a carrot stick! If you've got a very foody dog, just 'treat' them with their regular biscuits taken out of their daily allowance so you don't end up with a fat pooch on your hands.
    Pinterest is over-flowing with all kinds of recipes for homemade pet treats - you can even get bone shaped cookie cutters to make biscuits...

4. ACCESSORIES

See what you can find second-hand. Bowls, beds, crates, even leads can be picked up secondhand - check out your local charity shops (the pet charity shops seem to do quite a good line in secondhand pet stuff, perhaps unsurprisingly!) or post a WANTED in your local Freecycle/Feegle group.

If you're buying new, buy to last.
Metal and ceramic bowls will last longer and age better than plastic (as long as you don't drop them...). You can also get 'eco bowls' made from bamboo and rice husks from Beco which might be worth looking at.
And buy ethical - there are some amazing ethically made collars and leads out there - I love these ones from Koko Collective, ethically made in India from old bike inner tubes and discarded saris!

When it comes to beds, think about how often you might need to wash it.
There are lots of beds and blankets now made from recycled plastic bottles, which sounds great, but unfortunately each time you wash them, they will release microfibres of plastic into the waterways.

For toys, again you can buy 'eco' toys' which are often stuffed with recycled plastic bottles, but these tend to pose less of a microfibre risk although that depends on how fanatical you are about washing your pet toys (I am not.)
Remember with pets that less is often more. Cats love a good old ball of scrunched up foil, or better yet, a scrunched up ball of foil in a cardboard box..! And for dogs you can make great pull toys by plaiting old bits of fabric together. 

5. PAMPURRING YOUR PETS

I'm not a big fan of the excessively groomed look and have a suitably scruffy mutt as testament to this. However she does love a good old roll in whatever poo she can find on walks - the smellier the better.
Instead of reaching for the plastic bottles of designer looking pet shampoos, see if you can find a bar soap. Yes, you can buy special pet shampoo bars, or just find a mild baby soap and use that.

Parasite wise, I know that some people swear by the use of garlic or garlic powder as a flea treatment or deterrent, and if that works for you, then that's fab and an easy plastic-free solution, but bear in mind that in high doses garlic is toxic for dogs, and GARLIC SHOULD NEVER BE FED TO CATS!!
It can be hard to find a licensed flea and worm treatment plastic free - the best plastic-free(ish) option I've found so far is Bravecto - available as a tablet for dogs and a spot-on for cats. Still in plastic BUT it gives you 12 weeks worth of treatment in one go vs only 4 weeks for other licensed alternatives. 

Do you have a pet?
What do you do to make it more sustainable(ish)?
What have I missed out?
Do share any ideas and tips in the comments below - cute pet pics obligatory...!

FEELING INSPIRED TO
TAKE ACTION ON PLASTIC?

Get the Esse​​​​ntial Guide to a Plastic-​Free (ish) Home.
Easy swaps, ideas and tips to help you get started on your plastic-free (ish) journey in achievable bite sized steps.

9 EASY WAYS TO GET READY FOR ZERO WASTE WEEK

The annual 'rubbish-fest' that is Zero Waste Week is nearly upon us once more!
Now in it's 11th year, Zero Waste Week is an amazing event that utilises the online space to promote awareness of all things rubbish, and more importantly the things we can do to reduce ours!

But "Zero Waste Week" can sound a bit daunting to the uninitiated can't it? 
I was put off joining in for years under the mis-guided assumption I would be apprehended by the bin police if put so much as a morsel in the bin. But fear not, it's really not daunting, or scary. At All. It's a wonderful celebration of all the amazing people, initiatives, and organisations that are taking action to reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in landfill.

Here are some easy ways to get ready to join in!

1. REMEMBER IT'S NOT ABOUT ZERO WASTE!

This is all about the -ish.
It's Zero-Waste(ish) Week really. 
The whole idea is to raise awareness, and to encourage people to just get started, to make one small change.
And realise it's not that bad, or that hard. So they make another, and another.
No-one is expecting you to end the week with an empty bin. If it's got one or two less things in it, that's AWESOME. Even if it hasn't, you'll hopefully have inspiration and ideas, and a plan for it to be emptier very soon!

2.  THINK ABOUT YOUR "WHY"

I bang on about this a lot. It's got a whole chapter in my Essential Guide to a Plastic-free(ish) Home, and I anticipate it being in many more of my e-guides (coming soon!).

It's so important to know why you want to create change - it's a great motivator and will keep you going during those times when you just can't be bothered and would rather take the easier, possibly more convenient route (we've all been there. And believe me, my conscience doesn't win out all the time!)

For Rachelle, founder of Zero Waste Week (see below) it was being in Boscastle in Cornwall when it flooded, and realising the effects of climate change where here. Now.
For her husband it was seeing that iconic picture of a turtle with a carrier bag in his mouth and realising that could have been his carrier bag. 

Ahead of last year's Zero Waste Week I interviewed Rachelle Strauss who founded this annual zero waste celebration. 
Find out more about Rachelle's Zero Waste journey, how and why she got started, and the impact that Zero Waste Week is having around the globe!

If you are ever in any doubt that ONE person can have an impact and make a difference, you NEED to listen to this one.

4. CHECK OUT THE #ZEROWASTEWEEK HASHTAG ON TWITTER

Last year the #zerowasteweek hashtag had over 56 MILLION 'impressions' on Twitter (that's Twitter speak for how many accounts/people the hashtag reached.)

It's used by businesses, local councils, organisations, and ordinary people like you and me. Even Jamie Oliver has joined in before!

Take a look and get inspired by all the different, amazing things that people are doing for their very own Zero Waste Week.

5. SIGN UP ON THE ZERO WASTE WEEK WEBSITE

You don't need to 'officially' sign up to Zero Waste Week to be part of the action, but if you do you'll get daily e-mails during Zero Waste Week with inspiration and ideas for actions you can take. 
I'm a Zero Waste Week Ambassador and I've seen the itinerary for this year - it's going to be a good one! You can sign up right here.

Cake is an important part of the plastic-free(ish) strategy that works for me 😉

6. SPREAD THE WORD

Tell all your friends!

Share on your FB page, or on Twitter or IG if you're on there. Let people know about Zero Waste Week and why you're taking part. And then invite them to join in too!

Cake is an important part of the plastic-free(ish) strategy that works for me 😉

7. GET SOCIAL

Zero Waste Week isn't really just for one week a year. 
It's like a puppy - it's for life, not just for Christmas!

There is absolutely no point in joining in and being evangelical about rubbish for one week of the year and then going back to your regular routine the moment it's finished. 
And I think in reality it would be hard to do this - once your eyes have been opened to the impact of your waste on the planet, and the huge potential there is for positive change, there's no going back!

But once the excitement and social media buzz of Zero Waste Week is over, it can be easy to feel a bit lonely and like you're the only person you know trying to make a difference.
But fear not! Help is at hand. 
The Zero Waste Week Facebook group - Zero Waste Heroes   - is like Zero Waste Week all year round.
And my own FB community is another great place to connect with like-minded people and to realise you're not alone.

8. DO A BIN AUDIT

This is such a powerful thing to do, and one of the things I really urge readers to do in The Essential Guide to a Plastic-free(ish) Home.

It's not glamorous, but it WILL help!
Don your (re-usable!) rubber gloves and dive deep into the contents of your bin - Rachelle has put together a handy pdf here for you to use to record your findings.

I guarantee this will be a real eye-opener. We throw stuff 'away' and then it's out of sight, out of mind. Once it's in our bins we don't really think about it anymore. Having to get up close and personal with what we've discarded lets us 'see the rabbit', so we know what we're tackling.

9. PICK ONE THING

Once you are faced with the reality of what's in your bin, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and not even know where to start.

For Zero Waste Week, pick ONE thing. 
One thing you want to tackle and that you WILL take action on.
It could be clingfilm, or packaging from fruit and veg, or bottles of water.

If you're all fired up to tackle your bin but struggling to know where to start, I've put together a FREE 7 day e-mail course, which will help you to easily reduce the amount of single use plastic you're throwing away. It's called Plastic-free(ish) in a Week and is packed with ideas, suggestions and tips to help you to get started and really make a difference! You can sign up here, or by clicking on the picture below.

Are you all fired up now and ready to join in with Zero Waste Week?
Do comment below to let me know if you're taking part, and what action you want to take this year!

FEELING INSPIRED TO
TAKE ACTION ON PLASTIC?

Get the Esse​​​​ntial Guide to a Plastic-​Free (ish) Home.
Easy swaps, ideas and tips to help you get started on your plastic-free (ish) journey in achievable bite sized steps.

[012] ZERO WASTE WEEK WITH RACHELLE STRAUSS

This is an interview I recorded with Rachelle, the founder of Zero Waste Week in 2017, just before the 10th annual Zero Waste Week.
In it Rachelle shares how she got started on her own zero waste journey, as well as 'fessing up to the fact that her own bin is possibly not be as "zero waste" as we might expect! There's so much great stuff in here, that it seemed ridiculous to keep it gathering dust on my computer rather than being out there in the world inspiring people. So I'm re-publishing it here on the new site and the new podcast just in time for the 2018 Zero Waste Week campaign (3rd-7th September 2018).
Enjoy!

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