It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with all the non-plastic replacements being advertised that you may wonder if giving up plastics and going zero-waste will be expensive to take on.
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The truth is, the process can cost as much as you want, but the process itself is not meant to be a buying process. It’s meant to be a not-buying process.
Zero-waste is meant to get us to look at items we have that can be used or reused instead of buying a disposable counterpart.
A good example is disposable cleaning wipes. They are so easy and are 99% effective at removing bacteria and those germs can be tossed in the bin when you’re done, and they leave a lovely, lemony scent in your home.
So, my question is, how did we clean our homes before? I mean, how did we not all die from the bacteria we must have missed cleaning before these wipes?!
I remember my mom cleaning our bathroom, she had an old rag and her cleaning liquid of choice. The house still smelled, in our case, of a (strong) lovely pine-scented clean and guess what? The house was just as clean then as homes today that incorporate wipes.
Is throwing away a wipe that much more convenient than throwing a rag into its respective pile of laundry?
But again, I don’t want you to go and buy cleaning cloths. I first want you to look at items around your house, like this horrible towel. The hubby was super irritated when my acne cream bleached his “high-quality, Egyptian cotton” towel. I still use it, but when we have company it’s not very presentable.
I can’t donate that to a charity shop, but I don’t want to throw it away, so it needs a new purpose, like a cleaning rag for my toilet.
See what I did?
Something that could’ve ended up in a landfill or a harsh recycling process has been turned into reusable cleaning rags that 1. didn’t cost me money and 2. are what going zero-waste is all about.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see it this way at first and I bought some lovely microfibre (aka microplastic-leeching) cleaning cloths to clean house. I fell for buying something to reduce my throw-aways when I had the solution sitting in a drawer all along. Facepalm.
So, before you buy, look at what you have.
When I (Really) Started Thinking Green
So, the example above was a recent revelation on my journey, but when I first started (consciously) thinking about reducing my plastic and waste consumption I started with replacing a couple of easy items-my family’s toothbrushes and floss.
Toothbrushes are used for a few months and thrown away, so using 2-4 a year to keep your mouth healthy doesn’t seem like a lot but when you think of the billions of potential teeth brushers out there. It’s a lot of toothbrushes in landfills.
Luckily, these are easy to replace. I bought a 4 pack of bamboo toothbrushes and even my husband (who thinks I’m going a little nutty with the “zero-waste thing”) approves of his new toothbrush. My toddlers have not worn out their free-from-the-dentist plastic toothbrushes, but since I found a 5 pack of kids size toothbrushes, so their replacements are also ready.
I’m also an avid flosser (teeth, not dance) and my floss came in plastic containers and was a wax coated nylon-aka plastic. So, I also made a switch to charcoal floss. It comes in a glass container and it is a cotton-based floss with a hint of minty freshness.
It doesn’t slide through my teeth the way my old floss did, which annoyed me at first. BUT because my new floss is courser it actually does a better job removing the plaque from my teeth. Win, win!
Another plastic polluter I tackled in my bathroom was my bodywash and hand soap. My transition to a greener lifestyle started with my awareness of the abundance of (risky to my health) chemicals in my every day products.
I already have been making my own deodorant and body butter for a few years, so it made sense to figure out better, plastic-free, alternatives to soaps.
While wandering around a National Trust shop, I found some lovely soaps and was able to buy them completely free of packaging aside from the paper bag I was given for them. (Knowing this now, I will bring my travel soap dishes with me when I go for replacements).
These 6 items I replaced means upwards of 60 plastic containers will not be bought each year anymore, by just me. If I live into my 90s like my grandmother that’s over 3,000 plastic items not being consumed, just. by. me.
Back at home I had a couple of travel soap containers- yes, they are plastic but not single-use and have plenty of life in them yet, so I am using the lids as temporary soap dishes in my bathroom and kitchen since the bottoms were reserved for my shower soaps.
I want to have soap dishes and even though I do have my heart set on these bamboo soap dishes, I couldn’t resist this cute little bathroom set I found wandering through a charity shop.
For £2.50 I found a perfectly good soap dish and toothbrush holder/cup, which is the ultimate zero-waste action: finding something that can be reused so nothing new had to be produced in the first place AND no packaging!
Unfortunately, a week later I dropped a bottle on the soap dish and broke off a piece, but following the 5 Rs, I noticed it was a clean break and opted to repair the soap dish with some Gorilla Glue.
The repair is visible, but I then discovered Kintsugi. It is the Japanese art of repairing broken items with gold or silver. By embracing the flaws and highlighting them in a beautiful way not only rescues the item from becoming waste, but gives it some character and a story.
Once I can get around to getting a kit, I will be trying this!
I’m thinking the damn soap dish came into existence purely to teach me some lessons.
Other Zero-Waste Changes You Can Make
Even though my zero-waste transition is in the early stages, I found that by being frugal I was making zero-waste changes before I knew what zero-waste was.
I can’t stand brooms and dustpans. The broom never gets everything, and the dustpan can’t allow all the little crumbs to get in so there’s always a little pile left behind.
Naturally, I turned to Amazon and bought myself a Swiffer. Simple, broom-like, but everything just sticks to the disposable duster pads and in the end, you toss the dirty pads in the bin. Does a fab job. I love it and still use it weekly.
BUT. Before you get into a twist.
Now, I don’t use the disposable duster pads to go with it.
This was not because of zero-waste, but because I wanted to save money. Why would I spend £17 pounds a year to buy disposable duster pads when I could buy a pack of 12 microfibre (Ugh! I know!) cleaning cloths at B&M for £3 and never. spend. another. penny.
So, that’s what I did. They fit just fine, do just as well as the disposable ones, and I just toss them in the wash with towels and no fabric softener (they don’t glide on the floor if you use softener) and they come out perfectly clean, ready for another use.
If those wear out, I will probably just see if I have an old towel or face flannel that needs to retire to the cleaning rag pile, and I will have free replacements. You can also use old socks and stretch them over as well.
Furniture is another fabulous way I unknowingly found to reduce.
I have bought a wooden trunk, an alcove hutch for my front room, and a dining table with 4 chairs. I bought these because they were items I needed for my home, and with furniture potentially being pricey purchases, these saved us lots of money.
On those three items I spent £57. The table and chairs are solid pine and the wooden trunk is also solid wood. The hutch for the alcove is a laminate piece, but it fit so perfect, I didn’t (and still don’t) mind.
Each one I painted or refinished to clean them up and make my own, which is more time consuming, but if you have a bigger budget then you can easily find high-quality second-hand pieces that don’t need the TLC.
In my wardrobes, I have shoes. A lot of shoes. My foot stopped growing when I was 12 so I found very quickly that if I take care of them, they will last a long, long time.
Like my Doc Martin’s boots.
I bought them when I was 14 and the way I see it, they are in great condition and only a handful of years away from being vintage.
I have other shoes that I love and have worn the heels down, so I took them to a cobbler.
Not only did he fix the heels for a fraction of what it would cost to replace them, he polished them, too for free. It’s like getting new shoes but already broken in.
I haven’t replaced the soles of any shoes yet, but that can be done as well.
The lesson here is that if anyone tries to tell you that going zero-waste is more expensive, well that may be the case for some food items, but the money you save everywhere else should more than make up for it and ultimately save you money.
What Will My Next Steps Be?
I know my family has a long way to go because my grey bin still has rubbish every two weeks.
The positive note here is that my little family of 4 only fills it just over halfway in two weeks with the small changes I’ve made so far.
How does yours look?
What Will YOUR Next Steps Be?
Hopefully, you have been inspired to look at different ways to reduce your waste. Maybe you’ve just had a lightbulb moment (like switching to energy-efficient bulbs??) and come up with other great ideas.
We are on this journey together so please share below how you intend to make a change. Is there anything you are struggling with?
(Putting your comment out there tends to make you more accountable and likely to follow through as well. Just sayin’).
There will be people out there that will think you are being weird (and that’s ok) continue to lead by example and you will see changes.
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