I have only just scratched the surface on the subject of reducing household waste. Like many others, I’ve recently watched several documentaries on the subject, including Stacey Dooley’s The Dirty Secrets of Fashion, Netflix’s The Cost of Truth, and BBC’s Drowning in Plastic.
We’ve all known about these topics for years. We knew that fast fashion was unsustainable and unethical, and we knew we couldn’t continue using single-use plastic the way we always have. We know that we are ruining the planet by choosing convenience over sustainability.
But something has changed in the last few years and it seems like everyone is concerned.
Not only do I care, I feel so guilty for spending the past 30 years not caring. Like many others, I am now determined to make up for lost time and do what I can to reduce our environmental impact on the world.
The problem is that many suggestions for reducing waste involve spending more money and doing more time-consuming work. How to promote sustainability online feels like a very privileged issue. There are companies that profit from sustainability, so naturally they will encourage us to buy more things to help the environment. That’s what companies do!
But really, the problem is that we buy too many things. You don’t need to buy more, you need to buy less. Much less!
I’m sure we get into this mess because most people (myself included) choose the cheapest and easiest option available when buying food, clothing, toys, things for the house, etc doing.
I’d like to pretend it wasn’t that way, but it is. I almost always choose the cheapest and easiest option. So this is not about making our own lives any more difficult.
If Primark boots sell for £25, it’s very difficult to buy similar boots for £250 from an ethical supplier. We know that a £250 pair is of better quality and lasts longer, we know that everyone involved in its production is paid fairly and the environmental impact is minimal, but you know what? That’s right, Primark’s pair are £225 cheaper. It made a big difference and I was really okay with having that 225 pounds of him in the bank instead of on my feet.
The same applies to food. A bag of carrots costs him less than £1 at Aldi, but a similar bunch of carrots in a farm shop costs him £2.50, and they’re covered in mud. Mud stuff is a great novelty when you first buy it. To be honest, I feel like an eco-warrior buying muddy carrots. But if you buy it three times, especially when you know you can get a perfectly clean one for less than half the price, it’s really just a pain because it’s such a pain to clean.
There are many things I want to do to reduce my family’s household waste, so I plan to make changes slowly. But these are all changes that make my life easier, not harder.
Here’s what I plan to do to reduce my plastic waste and household waste…
Cook in bulk
What I’ve been doing lately is cooking and freezing large quantities of food in bulk. It’s faster, easier, healthier, cheaper and reduces plastic waste. Also, if I buy a lot of meat, I go to the butcher (and use my own tub!), but I never go out of my way to the butcher just for a pack of sausages.
It also means less food waste because you can be more intentional with your produce purchases, knowing exactly how you’re using every carrot and every pepper!
I get all my vegetables and meat from the market (if not wrapped in plastic) and I know exactly what I’m making so I try to buy exactly the amount I need. Covid regulations make this more difficult at the moment, but we’ve found that most farm shops have a great delivery service.
I also love making mason jar salads for lunch and using leftover vegetables for soups. I usually make a random vegetable soup, add everything together and put it in the freezer.
For those new to batch cooking, I highly recommend the book The Batch Lady. I have many cookbooks, but this is the only one I always use. Your eyes will be opened to all the things you can freeze and the easy ways to cook in bulk for your family.
In trying to reduce the packaging of fruits and vegetables, I realized that there was so much packaging for our favorite unhealthy snacks. Things like cakes and biscuits arrive in lots of plastic packaging!
solution? Make it yourself.
This is not necessarily the easiest option, but it allows you to make high-quality baked goods more cheaply. And once you get things going, it doesn’t take long. It’s more fun, often healthier, and honestly, if it takes him two hours to make the biscuits, he eats almost none of them.
Baking is a great activity to keep everyone busy on a rainy afternoon, so having kids will help in this matter.
TRAVEL HACK TIP: Cake mixes and cookie dough freeze well, so you can make a big batch and then freeze it to avoid a mess the next time you make a fresh cake.
I also have a bread maker. OK, OK, we know this isn’t a cheap solution, but with hundreds of bread machines for sale on Facebook Marketplace and eBay, you can find a great deal on a used one. Making bread in a bread maker is super easy, mess-free, and cost-effective. And don’t forget, it’s great to wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread.
Read more: Panasonic bread maker review: Is it worth buying a bread maker?
Get a compost heap
If you have the space, consider creating a compost pile for your food waste.
If you don’t have space for a compost pile, consider bokashi composting. This is something I just started doing, so I’ll write a full blog post about it once I’ve been doing it for a few months. In bokashi composting, food waste is sealed in an airtight container and a layer is created with bokashi bran. Ferment for two weeks to speed up the composting process. Then, bury the food scraps in the ground or place them in the bottom of a large container where you plan to hold vegetables or flowers.
If you often plant flowers or vegetables in the summer, you can also save money by not having to buy compost in plastic bags.
Create a capsule wardrobe with what you already have + BUY LESS
I was avoiding the whole capsule wardrobe trend. Because it seemed like a lot of people were going out and buying a lot of monochrome and gray clothes. But that’s not necessary. You don’t have to buy anything, just use what you already have to create a more minimalist wardrobe.
Read more: Why you need to create a capsule wardrobe
I took every last piece of clothing I had and threw it in a huge pile on my bed. I knew I had a lot of clothes, but it honestly scared me when I saw how much I had. I have 10 pairs of jeans and they are almost the same. I found 11 white T-shirts and 4 pairs of black leggings. That’s completely ridiculous. I had so many clothes that I didn’t know what I had, so I kept buying the same things.
So what I did was create a small, minimal capsule wardrobe that I changed out every few months. My wardrobe consists mostly of denim and white t-shirts with lots of warm caramel colors (of course.
Having a well-organized wardrobe makes you feel good, but it also feels good to not have an overflowing wardrobe every morning.
After organizing this capsule wardrobe, I ended up with 9 suitcases full of clothes. Some of the clothes no longer fit so I sent them to a charity shop, but most of the clothes are still great so I’ve put them away in the attic for next season. I also have a lot of winter stuff in the attic, so I’m hoping next year I can dig it out and it will feel like new after being hidden away for so long. I’m sure there’s a jumper you forgot, so it’ll feel like a strange purchase in the attic.
For me, this doesn’t mean I’ll never shop again, but I’m going to buy far fewer clothes. It doesn’t just mean shopping at those expensive brands that claim to be ethical (but not necessarily as ethical as they would like to believe). It’s about being more careful when shopping and intentionally buying beautiful clothes that you know you’ll love and wear for years to come. These clothes may be second-hand, designer, or from the high street, but no matter where they come from, I want to wear them until they get old and fall apart. Microseasons are all the rage.
Use beeswax wraps
I replaced the cling film with beeswax wrap and now I can’t even imagine buying cling film. This is a very simple and nice method. Because beeswax wraps make food feel like an exciting little treat!
Read more: A Beginner’s Guide to How to Use Beeswax Wraps
Get a hobby
This may not be the same for everyone, but one of the reasons I buy clothes is because I’m bored or because I have a habit of going shopping when I have nothing else to do. When I go shopping, I feel busy and efficient because I go shopping!
Sam and I do that all the time. If I don’t have anything to do, I often stop in Chester to have lunch, browse the shops, or take a walk in the park. There’s nothing wrong with it being a nice day, but you can have just as much fun without the hassle of “strolling around the shops” and spending a small fortune on clothes and trash you don’t need.
But here’s an idea… How about we all fill our time with hobbies?
Maybe it’s because of my age, but I feel like I don’t have many hobbies these days. Maybe it’s time to find a hobby to fill your free time with something you love instead of buying unnecessary things?
The main thing I feel about reducing waste is that you need to be organized.
if you’re planning to attend a wedding and want to buy something second-hand, it will take much more time to scour eBay or Depop to find the perfect dress and matching shoes and bag than it will take to go to a department store. Store and buy new clothes!
Organizing especially applies to food. Everyone has experienced it at least once. Have you ever been out and about for longer than expected? Suddenly it’s 2pm and you’re hungry and thirsty and want something to drink, so you stop at a convenience store and buy a pre-packaged salad with plastic cutlery, a bottle of water, a pack of crisps, and a chocolate bar. Masu. You had to do it because you were starving, but now there’s so much plastic packaging. This happens to everyone, but it’s easily avoided by having meals and snacks on hand.
The solution is simple. Always carry a reusable water bottle with you and always keep snacks in your bag.
What I have been trying to do since my child was born is to prepare lunch boxes in advance. Even though I work from home, I often don’t have time to make a good lunch, and if I don’t prepare something, I end up eating toast for lunch every day or going to the store to buy something. -What’s in the package.
I often make 3 or 4 mason jar salads on Sunday night and use leftovers from dinner for lunch 2 or 3 days a week. If you’re already ready for lunch, it’s much easier to keep it in your bag in case you’re out for longer than planned.
Preparing healthy snacks ahead of time makes life so much easier, especially if you have kids like me who always ask for snacks!
Declutter your home
One of the best things about decluttering (aside from the lovely sense of freedom of having less junk weighing you down) is knowing exactly what you have. This means you won’t accidentally buy duplicates, and you’ll buy a lot less because you don’t want to clutter your home!
Sustainable sanitary products
Did you know that it takes 500 years for sanitary napkins to completely decompose? oh. Not only that, but sanitary napkins are also terrible!
Thankfully, there are now plenty of sustainable menstrual products that don’t clog up landfills and are super easy to use. Washable period pants and menstrual cups may take a little getting used to (but so do tampons!), but once you make the switch, there’s no going back. Also, although they are expensive to purchase initially, they can last for years, saving you money in the long run.
Read more: Lily Cup Compact Review
Make your own beauty products
I started making my own beauty products when I realized that all the ingredients in my (very expensive) facial oils were available online for a fraction of the cost. Even if you buy the ingredients in bulk, it’s still cheaper than high-end facial oils, so I thought I’d give it a try.
I was blown away when I realized that the versions I made were even better than the ones I bought, and I’ve been hooked on homemade beauty products ever since. In the end, you’ll use a lot less packaging, get a higher quality product, and save a lot of money. You can also make your own in small batches, making it perfect for people who are tired of beauty products and looking for a change. I just created a new oil using fresh, tangy essential oils. It’s gorgeous for spring, but I think you’ll want something different for summer.
Read more: How to make your own facial oil
Make things easy
Reducing household waste doesn’t have to make life more difficult. It’s hard to stick to a new routine if you’re actually making life difficult for yourself. But many of these have actually made my life a lot easier and a lot cheaper, so I think these are a great place to start.
I’d love to hear any little tips and tricks to make your life easier when it comes to reducing household waste.