During the summer I have become completely obsessed with the ‘zero waste family’ – a family of four in The States who live in such a way that this year they only created a small jar full of household waste. With their mantra ‘refuse, reuse, recycle’ they managed to live a healthy, fabulous life in a gorgeous clutter free house and never wake up panicking that they didn’t put the bins out as they hear the dustcart trundle off into the distance for another two weeks. What’s not to love?
I read the blog and set about with gusto on the journey a zero waste lifestyle. First steps, de-cluttering (which I love doing anyway) and making sure I have a canvas bag on me at all times – so far so good. Then valuing experiences rather than stuff which is great! Imagine the kids surprise when they mithered for plastic toys and instead of just saying “No!” I told them, “If I buy you that it will eventually end up in landfill or worse in the sea where it could kill a really cute animal.” This new answer bemused them for long enough to forget what they wanted in the first place and be happy with a trip to the park instead.
Most of the tips from Zero Waste Home revolve around the bulk aisle of the supermarket which I’d never heard of as we don’t have them in the UK. The nearest unpackaged food store is Unpackaged in Muswell Hill which looks fab but much too far from me to carry anything in bulk.
A marvellous plastic free substitute for me (and would certainly be available for most Brits) is a local veg stall, an Indian shop and the local butchers. They do the job for my fresh food and at least my cash will be going to a local families rather than some tax evading zero hours contract corporation. So, with a skip in my step and a wholesome feeling in my heart I decided to pop on my piny and make everything else.
With the help of my seven year old daughter I set about baking cakes (delicious) biscuits (yum) breakfast bars (turns out I’m allergic to sunflower seeds) and finally bread (would be perfect as a brick in the new extension) and we have a lot of bonding fun in the process.
Now to tackle washing and cleaning. Castile soap is the thing to get and use for pretty much everything. I got mine from Archimage Organic Soap already scented and it is lovely. Apparently is good for washing hands, bodies, hair, dishes, floors and just about everything else. After some initial grumbling from Big Hubby about washing his face with the same thing we use on the floor he gave it a go and it turns out it is better for faces than floors. The biggest difference has been with my daughter who suffers from a lot of eczema particularly on her hands, after about a week of using this as hand wash they cleared up dramatically. I will definitely buy this again. It’s not quite powerful enough for our floors or for heavy duty clothes washing but for a gentle wash and for hands and bodies it is the business.
So far so good, I’m feeling light and virtuous and although my wardrobe is not yet capsule it’s on the way. Now, I need more advice, more knowledge! I’ve consumed the website with its blog and tips every evening like an addict so now do I buy the book? On one hand I need more information but do I need another book? I’ve just given two boxes of books to charity (they are the only things I find hard to get rid of) There is a kindle version but then I’d have to buy a kindle too, more stuff, I’m in a predicament. I order more castile soap and another Simple Human soap dispenser for the kitchen (it dispenses soap in your hand not across the room like some others) and a special bag for vegetable shopping from Onya Bags – I love this, it has little bags inside for veg shopping, washing and even storing. I seem to be buying an awful lot to achieve a zero waste lifestyle. Everything is online too and I read somewhere Amazon was evil, I’ll use Ebay, I think they’re OK. I haven’t had time to bake yet this week but now I’ve got the hang of a lemon drizzle all the supermarket cakes look synthetic and unappealing, we’ll have strawberries for pudding, again (from the garden, I am so wholesome). I haven’t had to change the waste bin for well over a week which is brilliant but I look into the recycling bin and it’s full of those plastic 4 pint milk containers – that can’t be good, even if you can recycle them. I remember seeing a cow wandering around a supermarket on the news and Facebook posts about paying more for milk and I feel bad.
Then I have an epiphany….
A milk man! Milk to your door in glass bottles which they take away and refill, bypassing the supermarket chain, its such a good idea, I had one growing up so where have they gone? Do they even exist in the UK anymore?
Yes, and you can manage your account online and pay monthly by direct debit, you can find your nearest here, I use Milk and More. Per pint they are a bit more expensive than a supermarket but for the price I’m paying for the delivery, saving money by not being tempted to buy the other stuff I didn’t need before I walked into the shop and not having loads of plastic containers (although they do sell them in plastic containers if you want them).
So, while I sometimes fancy a non biodegradable bag of Kettle Chips of an evening and might not be making my own toothpaste any time soon, trying to live zero waste has made me look at our lifestyle in a different way. My big waste bin is now the recycling bin and I’m generally more aware of the amount of plastic stuff we consume as a family. But the biggest bonus I’ve found is the lovely nostalgic feeling of happiness which completely takes me by surprise when I find three old fashioned milk bottles on my front step twice a week like a present from the Dairy Fairy.