It’s funny how the more you learn about sustainability, the more there is to learn. Sustainability isn’t just about buying locally, recycling, avoiding plastic packaging, and planting a new tree here and there. It needs a mindful, almost holistic, approach and lots of things need to be taken into consideration the ethics, materials, production and journey of products. Consumerism has a lot to answer for too. There isn’t a lot of money to be made by persuading people to buy less, or adopt a more natural approach. There is much more money to be made convincing people that they ‘need’ things to be happy, efficient, or beautiful. Then there is “greenwashing” to consider, companies that focus more on communicating their green efforts than on the efforts themselves.
When you start making changes, the place you look first is the changes that are either the easiest or that would have the biggest impact. Take milk for example. The largest contributor of plastic in our recycle bin. I recently guestimated that we must drink 12 pints a week for our family of six. I was wrong, we consume at least double that, around 24 pints. We use it in cereals hot drinks, smoothies (although I’ve recently switched to coconut milk for smoothies) custard, homemade Yorkshire puddings & white sauces. We would love to both reduce the amount of milk that we drink and to have our milk delivered by a milkman in glass bottles. I cant however justify a cost of £24 a week, (~£96 a month) on milk through more sustainable glass-bottle deliveries when the comparative plastic-covered supermarket cost is £6 per week (~£24 a month).
The changes that need to be made must come from either the consumer or the government, but any changes made will take time. Consumer power is huge, but its hard to make & stand behind those kinds of ethical & moral decisions when time, resources & finances are tight. Where I live there aren’t a lot of zero-waste options, and travelling further afield to buy packaging free options, would be much more expensive and defeat some of the objects. We are a one income family and our decisions have to be economical as well as sustainable.
I feel like we have come so far already, we are much more thorough with recycling and composting and we have halved the amount of waste we send to landfill, which is amazing. At the same time, it’s almost disheartening at points. Try walking around a regular supermarket looking for things not packaged in plastic, and you will probably only return home with just bananas, apples, sugar and flour: Not enough to feed a family of six an healthy diet. The battle to be sustainable fighting against the need for convenience and the need provide a healthy balanced diet for your family.
In an ideal world, I would bake our own bread from scratch, keep rescue chickens in our garden, shop at independent local butchers, cook every meal from scratch and bake a whole selection of snacks to feed the family through the week:- My neighbours wouldn’t appreciate chickens, my children are fussy eaters anyway and I just don’t have time.
But does that mean that every small change isn’t important? No – because every mindful step is an important step in the right direction. Instead of focusing on the things we don’t have the finances & time to change, lets celebrate the changes we are making instead. With that in mind, these are our changes in February & our plans for March.
Our Progress In February
Solid Shampoo Bars
Last month we used up the last of our liquid shampoo and decided to try solid shampoo bars. So far it has been an easy swap, all six of us using the solid shampoo bars happily now. The one issue we have found is that they need to dry out really well in between uses because they start to fall apart if they stay wet. I did a lot of research first to see where to buy solid shampoo, and which brands people recommended, and I wrote about our findings here. These ones are from Lush and were recommended by a friend, especially ‘seanik’ (the blue one).
I sometimes adopt a ‘send it anyway’ approach to recycling, hoping that anything incorrect will be taken out. I’ve read recently that this can cause a whole batch of recycling to be rejected due to contamination. Which really defeats the whole object of recycling, so I won’t be doing that in future!
We have plastic recycling boxes currently, into which we separate plastic, cardboard, glass and metal. This sounds like a good idea in theory, but in practice, it doesn’t work very well. Recycling gets blown down our streets in windy weather, and even I, an able-bodied adult find full boxes heavy and awkward to carry. I would say around one-quarter of my street doesn’t put out any recycling boxes at all. It would be brilliant if my local council introduced a recycling wheelie bin, which other local councils have successfully done. I think it would encourage more people to recycle, and an increase in recycling volume from those who already do.
I also would love our local council to provide more information on what can be recycled locally: such as Tetra Pak (usually fruit juice, or plant-based milk cartons) and TerraCycle schemes (pens, baby food pouches, biscuit and cracker wrappers and other usual non-recyclables)
Another thing I learnt this month, is that some supermarkets also operate a carrier bag recycling scheme, and other forms of stretchy plastic can also be recycled there. Such as the plastic bread bags, cereal bags, and wrappers from toilet rolls. One of my plans for March is to store this kind of plastic waste to drop off at a recycling point, instead of sending to landfill.
Cleaning with baking soda & Castile soap.
This was one of our aims for last month, but we still have such a large stock of cleaning products to use up, we haven’t needed to look into this just yet. When my dad passed away in November we brought back all the cleaning materials from his house and shop and we still have a cupboard full now. I have already purchased some castile soap, ready for when it’s needed and I am looking for an eco-friendly soap dispenser to keep near our kitchen sink.
Our Plans For March
Eco-friendly party decorations.
A few years ago, we started a little tradition of celebrating birthdays with a big foil number balloons. This photo is from Amys 4th birthday last April. She is 5 years old this April, and I want to find an eco-friendly way of celebrating. I wanted to make some colourful reusable garlands for the walls, then a big decorated number to celebrate her age. All made out of paper, card, or spare material rather than plastic.
A lot of our household waste for landfill comes in the form of stretch plastic that I didn’t know could be recycled. This month I hope to find storage for these types of recycling and take to my nearest drop off point. TerraCycle has a drop-off point about 20 miles away, but I am hoping I might be able to approach some local organisations who would be happy to support a TerraCycle scheme in our local town. They recycle things such as pens, baby food pouches biscuit wrappers, and make a small donation can be made towards a school or charity in return (currently 1p per item for most things). It will be really interesting to see what difference this makes to the amount of waste we send to landfill!
Eco-friendly soap dispenser
I want to research a well-made, good quality foaming soap dispenser to keep near our kitchen sink. I want to replace our store bought handwash with a mixture of diluted castile soap. Castile soap is really versatile and much more environmentally friendly. I am hoping to use the same soap mixture for both washing-up liquid and handwash. Swapping should save us money, be safer and more environmentally friendly as well as reducing our recycling.
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What are your February eco-friendly wins? I would love to hear! You can join in on social media using the hashtags #100smallactsofdefiance or #smallstepstosustainability or leave a comment below.