It didn't used to be. We were deemed tyrannical crazy hippies (well, perhaps by some :/) and it is validating for this subject to be so mainstream now.
I'm Joy, one of the co-founders of Elephant Box. I've been trying to reduce the waste we create as a family for quite a few years now and in this blog I'll share a few of my thoughts.
Firstly - our landfils are full! The second answer is a fairly gritty one. Hold on to your hats. Over consumption equals harm. Everything we do uses resources and creates waste and CO2 among other greenhouse gasses. This is really messing up our environment!! Everything we buy has been manufactured, transported, taken home and the waste from that item also has to be disposed of. Energy is used in every one of those stages and if the end waste product isn't degradable it could end up as a pollutant - in the sea or landfill. If it's a disposable thing - like a coffee cup or a takeaway carton, that whole thing is repeated! Oh lawdy!
Being careful about what we buy will lessen the harm we do to the humans and other animals living on this planet. Buy better, buy less. Every little change really does matter. It does all add up to a big and meaningful change.
Here are some things that I do.
Buy less and buy second hand is the most obvious thing. Then there's make do and mend and all that.
Think about the end life of the product. I buy things that will last a long time and are 100% recyclable or compostable. Basically, metal, wood, paper or natural fibres. Remember to include clothes in this. Nylon or acrylic clothes are still plastic and will still at some point end up in landfill even if they go to rags first.
A trick I use is to look clearly at whats there on the supermarket shelves! So I look at the packaging on those chocolate covered pretzels! Do I really need them? Probably not, so I choose palm oil free chocolate wrapped in paper instead. I take produce bags with me so that I don't need to use the disposable ones provided for fruit and veg. Even if it's a degradable or paper bag it has still used up resources to manufacture and transport. And it's easy to steer clear of stuff like multi packs of food cans wrapped in plastic. I'm remembering to take a reusable box to the deli or takeaway more than I used to! Put simply, we buy as little packaging as possible and eat all the food we buy. More about food waste in the next blog! :)
Refilling our washing up liquid bottle was, 20 years ago, a major change. Now I don't even buy tea bags! I have a reusable cotton teabag that I can fill with tea bought at a refill shop! Having a refill shop close by is a boon. Not sure how I would get by without ours now. Pretty much every high street used to have a “scoop shop” but they went out of fashion about 10 yrs ago. I am chuffed to have them back.
Another habit I try to foster is to take food with me. I use up leftovers, probably eat more healthily and avoid all the packaging you get with shop bought sandwiches. It's cheaper too. For this I do need to plan a little bit and there is some kit which is very useful. Stainless steel lunchboxes to take food with you or for take-out. A water bottle, to-go cup and our bestelling stainless steel spork! I don't use a straw, but if you do you'll need to pack one of those too. Buy a pack of 4 here.
I keep things to reuse. Old toothbrushes are good for cleaning. Keeping any packaging that comes in the post will always come in handy - especially if you have no actual plastic bags left in the house. One of my faves is finding bits of string, rubber bands and keeping old shoe laces! Am I sounding like a mad woman yet? Stretching out the life of all these things will reduce the manufacture of new stuff. Yay.
At home we’ve gradually reduced a lot of plastic
Our brand new Elephant Box prototype stainless steel washing up bowl !
Metal or natural bristle scourer, natural bristle brush with replaceable head, loofah, cotton dish cloth or cloth made from an old towel! A metal dust pan and brush with natural bristles and for cleaning we use refillable spray bottles & washing up liquid bottles.
It's incredibly easy to have a plastic free bathroom. We use loofahs and a refillable spray bottle (filled with concentrated solution bought from our refill shop) and on my list of aims is to use homemade cleaning solution. For plastic free loo roll check out Who Gives A Crap And we have a wooden loo brush with natural bristles in a metal bucket.
There’s so many brands now selling plastic free soap and shampoo. My favourite is Funky Soap, based in London.
We use bamboo toothbrushes and toothpaste tabs in refillable tin and natural waxed cotton floss. I use a stainless steel razor and I buy moisturiser in metal or glass containers. I use makeup with replaceable contents - like lipstick. Lush also refill stuff and get top marks for refill and recycling.
I couldn’t do without washable sanitary towels or my moon cup. If you're interested you could start your search here. So many plastic free options, better for the planet and your wallet!
We get our deodorant in paper or metal packaging or solid bar. Earth conscious deodorant is made on the Isle of Wight and is vegan friendly.
That's it for now folks! Check out our next two blogs in this series which will follow shortly. Our next one will include some surprising and maybe shocking stats and in the third blog of the series we will give you ten tips for living a low(er) waste life.