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A Plastic-Free Future? It’s Already Happening (Here’s Proof)

When we think about the kind of world we want to live in, and then look around us in the present, the difference can feel worlds apart. It can seem impossible to imagine how we will ever make progress, from where we are to where we want to be.

Yet when we start to look closely, we discover that these new ways of thinking are being acted out, all around us. There are groups, businesses and organizations changing the old story by doing things a different way. They are visions, or “pockets” of the future” except they are happening now, in the present.

These “pockets of the future” remind us that change is possible, and that it is already taking place. These examples provide a framework for others to follow, and take the next steps.

When we talk about plastic-free or zero waste living, and the circular economy, we can see plenty of gaps in the system.

We might take our own bags – but what about all the produce arriving in the store in single use packaging? What about those of us who don’t live near bulk stores? What about convenience?

These are simply missed opportunities, and innovative people are plugging those gaps with solutions. I wanted to share a few ideas to give you hope that momentum is building. Change is coming.

How Stores are Addressing Single-Use Packaging

I’ve had this conversation more times than I care to remember when talking about zero waste or plastic-free living. Someone asks: what about the fact that most bulk stores receive goods in packaging, and that packaging the stores receive isn’t reusable?

Whilst that’s mostly true, a huge amount of waste eliminated when stores buy in bulk and allow customers to use their own containers.

Now, stores and businesses are stepping up to the challenge and trying to implement reusable and returnable options for their suppliers.

The Source Whole Foods Victoria Park (WA) – Kombucha

My local bulk store The Source Whole Foods (in Victoria Park, WA) recently started selling kombucha on tap. I’m not really a kombucha drinker, but I love the story behind this product. They have three flavours, which are delivered in stainless steel drums by a local producer in the south-west. Once empty, the drums and switched with full ones, and the empties are returned for cleaning and refilling. Zero disposable packaging.

Not all items that get delivered to bulk stores come packaging free. Many products get delivered in big 20kg sacks or drums, but these cannot be returned to suppliers for refilling. However, many bulk stores that care about zero waste are now starting to have these conversations with their suppliers, to see what options there are to reduce waste at the level upstream.

It’s beginning to happen.

Dunn & Walton Doubleview (WA) – Milk

Dunn & Walton is an organic store in Doubleview, Perth with an excellent cafe and deli. They receive their milk in bulk from Margaret River, and decant into glass bottles which their baristas use. They have saved more than 5,000 plastic bottles from landfill by doing this.

Coffee culture is a big deal in Australia, but almost every cafe uses plastic bottles and tetra paks. For plant-based milks, there’s the DIY approach which cafes are increasingly adopting. The Raw Kitchen in Fremantle is one of a growing number of cafes here in WA offering homemade non-dairy nut milk instead of the carton tetra-paks which typically end up in landfill.

Dunn & Walton Doubleview (WA) – Takeaway

Dunn & Walton also run a tiffin night on Thursday evenings, with gluten-free, vegan Indian takeaway food made by the supremely talented Arti of Arti’s Traditionals. Tiffins are stainless steel, stackable lunchboxes suitable for transporting hot food, typically Indian food.

At Dunn & Walton, customers can buy a reusable stainless steel tiffin on the night, or they can bring their own reusable containers from home, but there is no single-use disposable packaging available as an alternative.

More and more takeaway shops are willing to let customers bring their own containers, but most customers still have the option. Tiffins are not a new idea – millions of people use them every day in India. But they are not commonly seen in Australia… yet.

Coffee Cups to Go (and Come Back)

Reusable coffee cups aren’t new, although they are definitely becoming more mainstream. However, reusable coffee cups rely on us remembering to bring them – what if we forget? What about those people who like to text their coffee order ahead? Having a reusable cup doesn’t work in that instance.

Well, people are beginning to think about ways to get round that.

The Freiburg Cup (Germany) – Borrow and Return


I first read about the Freiburg (it’s in Germany) reusable coffee cup scheme earlier this year. When a customer buys a coffee from one of the 72 registered outlets, they can choose a reusable cup (made of dishwasher-proof plastic) by paying a small deposit. This reusable cup can be returned to any of the outlets for washing and reusing.

Go2Cup (Perth) – Reusable Coffee Cups to Borrow

When I read about the German scheme, I thought it sounded great. I wondered how we could introduce it here. Then I discovered that somebody (Daniel Grosso of Go2cup) is already getting out there and starting it, right here in Perth :)

Go2cup is slightly different to the Freiburg system, and in my view, slightly better. The Freiburg Cup still has a disposable lid, and the scheme is limited to cafes. Go2cup uses fully reusable cups (the lids are also reusable), and has expanded beyond the cafe market. It is also working with events, Farmers Markets, and businesses.

Cups are provided for patrons to use, and these are returned for washing.

Schemes like this allow people to forget their reusables and still refuse the single-use option. I’m sure these ideas will be adopted more widely in the future.

Reusable Bags (to Borrow and Bring Back)

People forget their reusable bags sometimes. Or they pick up more than they intended, and don’t have enough reusables to manage. Rather than resort to picking up plastic bags, there’s another solution – borrowing bags.

Boomerang Bags and Morsbags (Worldwide)

Boomerang bags are reusable shopping bags made by members of local communities, using donated and second-hand materials. Once a stash has been sewn, these are deposited outside stores for anyone to borrow, and bring back.

Forgotten your reusable bags? No problem!

Boomerang Bags started in Queensland, Australia, but have spread across the globe. Morsbags is another reusable bag initiative, founded by Claire Morsman (hence the name) with a similar ethos, in the UK. Before I moved from the UK to Perth in 2011, I worked in a building that had Morsbags hanging in the hallway for anyone to borrow at lunchtime.

Returnable and Refillable Packaging from Online Sellers

There are countless companies out there selling products in recyclable packaging. What is better than recyclable, though, is reusable. That’s where the zero waste movement wants us to head.

Obviously, taking our own containers to bulk stores means refillables. But not everyone lives close to bulk stores. And not all bulk stores sell the whole range of products.

Plaine Products (US)

Plaine products are a US company doing things a little differently. They sell shampoo, conditioner and body wash in recyclable aluminium bottles. Better than simply offering recyclable bottles, they offer a full ‘return and refill’ scheme.

Other companies allow customers to return bottles for recycling. But returning them for refilling is pretty new.

When you receive your order you also receive a return shipping label. When the product’s empty, the pumped is switched with a refill cap, the label is placed on the original box and the product is shipped back – and Plaine Products covers the shipping fee.

I’m lucky enough to have access to plenty of bulk stores, and I prefer to shop local over shopping online. But I do live in a city with plenty of options. For those people who rely on online shopping, this is a much more sustainable option than single-use packaging.

We don’t have a zero waste or circular economy – yet. But innovation is happening all the time, and good ideas are being spread. Schemes like this give me hope for a world without waste.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Were any of these new to you? Do have experiences with using any of these – good or bad? Do you know of any other innovative ideas tackling waste upstream? Any other initiatives you’d love to see happening? Any other thoughts? Please share below in the comments!

(Disclaimer – I am an affiliate for Plaine Products, meaning if you click a link and choose to make a purchase, I may be compensated a small amount at no extra cost to you. I only ever share organisations and businesses whose commitment to creating zero waste and plastic-free solutions I believe in.)

7 Plastic-Free Alternatives to Food Wrap

I’ve always found cling-wrap (or glad wrap, or clingfilm, as you may call it) to be unbearable. Even before my plastic-free days, I couldn’t bring myself to use it. I found that it was either unbearably sticky, and would stick to everything except the one thing I actually wanted to wrap, or the opposite: it was so ridiculous non-sticky that it would stick to nothing at all, and definitely not the thing I wanted to wrap.

It gives me great pleasure then, to share with you some alternatives for clingwrap. Let’s rid ourselves of the frustration, and the cursing, and the inner torment. Nobody needs that kind of stress in their lives! (Or is that just me?!)

Of course, the plastic is completely unnecessary too. If you’re not with me on the frustrations, hopefully you are there on the plastic-reducing ;)

As with all single-use plastic items, there are plenty of alternatives. Here’s 7 of my favourites.

7 Plastic-Free Alternatives to Food Wrap

1. The Bowl on the Plate

I love this option. I love it because it’s simple, doesn’t require any more stuff and suits my laziness. Provided whatever-the-leftovers-are can fit in a bowl, then a plate can go over the top. Job done.

I don’t believe that everything needs to be airtight in a fridge, and the plate-on-the-bowl method is good enough. We don’t have any problems with anything smelling in our fridge, but if that’s something you’re concerned about, popping a small jar of bicarb can help reduce fridge odours.

2. Silicone Lids

Silicone lids are a fancy alternative to putting a plate on a bowl, but have the bonus of being able to form a seal. They are also heat-tolerant so can be used on hot pans.

Silicone is technically not plastic, and seems to last much longer than plastic. It also seems to be more resistant to heating and high temperatures. On the downside, silicone isn’t recyclable. I’d only opt for silicone if I knew I’d use it regularly, and consider it a purchase for life.

I have 3 silicone lids of varying sizes that were a gift from my mum (similar to this lilypad silicone cover). I do find them useful, and I use them regularly, but I don’t think they are a kitchen essential unless you are a clingwrap fanatic ;)

3. Storage Containers (Tupperware, Pyrex, Glass or Stainless Steel)

Rather than wrapping a baking dish with cling-wrap, I prefer to decant my leftovers into glass Pyrex storage containers. Any storage container would work, but Pyrex is what I have the most of.

The great thing about Pyrex (and to some extent, stainless steel) is that it is oven-proof, so if you want to re-heat the leftovers the following day, simply remove the lid and pop in the oven. Putting the original container back in the oven tends to bake on the food, making it much harder to clean.

Whilst I don’t recommend buying new plastic storage containers, if you’re new to plastic-free living or zero waste, you might already have a heap of old ones – in which case, use them. Over time you’ll be able to repurpose and donate and they will eventually break, and you can replace with better alternatives.

4. Glass Jars

Glass jars are the mainstay of the zero waste movement, and for good reason – they are useful for almost everything! Glass jars are great for most leftovers. We use them for chopped veggies, roasted veggies, pasta sauce, curry or dahl, rice, sauces… anything that doesn’t have a structure (so layered lasagne might not work great).

The great thing about glass jars is there’s never a shortage, and they are easy to come buy for free. They also come in every imaginable size, and are particularly helpful for portioning food.

5. Beeswax (and other Wax) Food Wraps

Beeswax wraps, made by by neighbours at Vic Park Honey and sold by my friend Jo in her Urban Revolution store.

Beeswax food wraps are made from cloth that has been coated in beeswax, often with extra additives like jojoba oil and pine rosin (colophony) to make them supple. They can be used in place of cling wrap to cover bowls and wrap food.

Vegan food wraps that use soy and candelilla wax (rather than beeswax) are also coming onto the market.

With both types, they are only suitable for hand washing and not machine washing (the wax will melt at high temperatures). They are not suitable for meat or fish, or wrapping hot food. In time the wax may be lost but they are very easy to re-coat.

In my experience, beeswax food wraps are expensive to buy and cheap to make. If you’re on a budget, I’d recommend making your own. By making your own you can choose the sizes that are most practical for your needs, too. However, if you’re not the crafty type or don’t have the time, supporting local independent businesses is just as good.

6. Sandwich Pockets

Sandwich pockets are made of fabric that has been coated to make it waterproof. In contrast to beeswax and other wax wraps, these are machine washable. The coating is often some kind of plastic, but on the plus side, they are reusable and will not need to be recoated.

The fabrics and coatings vary brand by brand. I would avoid PVC as this plastic contains phthalates, which are known to be detrimental to human health. Some use polyester and others use plant-based plastic which are stated to be biodegradable when they wear out. I’ve had 4myearth sandwich pockets (the ones in the image – which are cotton with a plant-derived plastic lining) since 2012 and they have lasted very well.

These sandwich pockets will help retain moisture and prevent food drying out, but they do not seal and are not airtight, so are better for short term use.

7. Parchment Paper and/or Foil

Not a zero waste option, but a plastic-free option nonetheless. Both can be used to wrap items individually, or they can be used together. Wrapping meat or fish in paper and then foil is recommended as a way to freeze these without getting freezer burn.

I use the If You Care brand of parchment paper – it is FSC-certified and unbleached. It has a silicone lining but is certified compostable, and I have successfully composted this paper at home. They also produce 100% recycled aluminium foil.

Aluminium foil can be washed and reused before being recycled. If you’re careful, you will be able to wash and re-use foil a number of times before recycling it. Yes, it can be recycled – save it up until you have enough to form a ball about the size of an Easter egg and pop it in your regular recycling bin.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Clingwrap: friend or foe?! Which of these solutions is your favourite? Any other solutions to suggest? Anything you’ve tried that didn’t work that you want to warn us about? Anything else to add? Tell all in the comments below!

Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links which means if you click a link and choose to purchase a product, I may be compensated a small amount at no extra cost to you. The links are included to give you more information about some of the products that I own and use. As always, I’d always suggest making do and shopping second-hand before buying new.

Plastic Free July: I’ve Made My Pledge, What’s Yours?

When it comes to making a positive contribution in the world, nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something. How big or how small that something is, well, that depends. It depends on so many things: the time we have available, our family commitments, energy levels, where we live, the resources available to us, and more.

Better to make just a single change than to do nothing, simply because others are doing more and we feel that our contribution is small and insignificant. Millions of small contributions add up to make a huge positive impact.

If we can only make one or two changes, then let’s go ahead and make those changes, and be proud of what we are doing.

But let’s not get complacent.

Usually I say: whatever we can do, that is enough. And I do believe that to be true. But I also think there’s a time and a place to re-evaluate and ask ourselves the question: is there something more that I could do?

I think Plastic Free July is the perfect opportunity.

I first took part in Plastic Free July in 2012. (The challenge, if you’ve somehow missed hearing about this great campaign, is to refuse all single-use – or even better, all – plastics for the month of July.) Of course, that first year was a challenge for me (but isn’t that the point?!). The second year wasn’t without its trials. But by the third year, I’d pretty much got my plastic habit under control.

I had two choices. I could sit there smugly, applauding myself on how far I’ve come. Or I could look at my current routines and habits, ask myself: is there any room for improvement?

Guess what?! Unsurprisingly, there is always room for improvement! Nobody’s perfect. Firstly there are always the exceptions that can be tackled. Then there’s the stuff that was too hard or not possible last year – maybe something has changed since then?

Even when things seem good enough, there is always room to adjust and do things slightly better.

When we fostered and later adopted our greyhound last July, I wrote about whether we could have a dog and be zero waste. My biggest challenge was and still is dog food. We have been buying the big 20kg plastic bags of dog food. I’d love to make my own, but when I first looked into it, I ended up feeling overwhelmed. I put it on the backburner.

On the backburner is where it is still sitting.

At the time, it wasn’t a cop-out. Having a dog was something completely new to both myself and my husband, and we needed time to adjust. But 11 months on, it’s fair to say it’s time to revisit this.

Buying processed dog food, made from industrially produced meat, produced overseas, and sold in a plastic bag; that pretty much goes against everything I believe in and everything I want to support.

It was a good short-term solution. But it’s in danger of becoming a longer-term one, because I’ve let myself get complacent.

So for Plastic Free July this year, I am setting myself the challenge to start making my own dog food. We are lucky that our greyhound is the least fussy eater on the planet. I’m a little bit terrified of the extra responsibility, but I can read and research – and I have enough common sense.

By the 1st July, I’ll have something in place.

It might not work. It might be a terrible disaster. Our greyhound might suddenly become the world’s fussiest eater, or it might not agree with him (greyhounds have sensitive stomachs), or it might take so much time to source the ingredients and make that it simply isn’t practical.

But I will never know unless I try.

Isn’t that what a challenge is all about?

Talking of challenges… now I’m going to challenge you.

If you’re new to living with less waste, then I’d recommend giving Plastic Free July a go this year.

If you’ve been pursuing the plastic-free lifestyle for a while, I’m going to challenge you to look at everything you currently do, and find just one more thing to try, to revisit, or improve. Plastic Free July is one month: that’s 31 days to give something a go. That’s 31 days to build a new habit, research alternatives and try something new.

At the end of the 31 days, you might decide that it was all a bit too hard, and you’re not ready. That’s okay, if you tried and gave it your best shot. However… you might find that these new habits aren’t nearly as hard as you thought, and you’ve made a change that you know you will stick to. How great would that be?

There’s never a bad time to embrace change, but the great thing about doing it in July is that there will be plenty of other people embracing making changes too. When I say plenty, I mean a lot. In 2016 over 1 million people took part, and 2017 is set to be even bigger. There’s nothing like doing a challenge with others to feel motivated, and being part of a movement only makes that even greater.

The other important step to making changes is to tell others what you’re planning. I’ve told you my Plastic Free July goal, and now it’s your turn. In the comments, take a minute to pledge your commitment for the month of July. Shout it loud and proud! Let’s see what positive changes we can bring about this July and onwards :)

Seriously, I want to hear from you! Is this your first Plastic Free July and if so, are you taking the no single-use plastics pledge or the no-plastics-at-all pledge? Are you returning for another year and what would you like to change this year for a month? Are there any sneaky bad habits you’d like to shake once and for all? Anything else you’d like to add? Declare all in the comments below!

Plastic-Free For Absolute Beginners: 7 Tips for Getting Started

When we’re new to living plastic-free or zero waste, just looking at the journey ahead of us can seem a little… daunting. On one hand, we’re eager to make changes, and excited to be making a positive impact on ourselves and the planet. But what first steps to take?

There are so many options it can almost feel overwhelming. If you’re feeling like that, don’t panic! I’m here to help.

If you’re keen to get going with plastic-free or zero waste living but don’t know where to start, here’s a handy guide to help you on your way.

1. Don’t throw anything away!

Before you begin, don’t just throw all your plastic in the bin, or dump it at the charity shop. Whilst it can be tempting to “begin again with a clean slate”, it creates a huge amount of waste. If your main motivation for embracing plastic-free living and zero waste is to reduce waste, this is completely counter-productive.

In time you’ll be able to decide whether you can re-purpose things, pass them on to someone who will use them, or use them up yourself. You’ll learn the best way to dispose of things responsibly. You’ll also know whether you need to replace them.

Plastic-free and zero waste living is a journey, not a race.

2. Remember change takes time, and the more time you spend on it, the faster you’ll see results.

Going plastic-free or zero waste is about changing habits, and change takes time. Like any habit, if you practice every day you’ll get there faster. The more you practice, the easier it will get.

Yes, you can go plastic-free or zero waste and work full time, have children and pursue other hobbies. You will just make slower progress.

Take into account how much time to have to spend learning new habits, and set yourself realistic goals. If your expectations exceed what’s likely or practical for you to achieve, you’ll end up disappointed and disheartened.

3. Go to your regular stores with new eyes.

Bulk stores (especially those that have been established with waste-free and plastic-free living in mind like The Source Bulk Foods) are an ideal place to buy packaging-free groceries, but in the beginning, don’t rule out your regular stores completely.

Instead, take a little extra time, and go to your regular stores and walk up and down every aisle, looking at every single product. Look for products in glass, cardboard, or paper.

When we shop, we often operate on autopilot. We don’t browse the overwhelming choice of products. We tend to buy the one we always buy, or we choose what’s on offer. Now is your chance to look with a different parameter – plastic-free.

You might find there are more alternatives than you realised.

4. Get your reusables ready.

When you first go zero waste or plastic-free grocery shopping, take more reusables than you think you’ll need. As well as reusable shopping bags, take reusable produce bags, glass jars, and glass or plastic containers with lids of various sizes.

Almost everyone has reusable shopping bags; if you don’t, I recommend looking for natural fibres rather than plastic ones that will eventually end up in landfill.

There are many options for reusable bags, and if you sew you can make your own out of old net curtains or bed sheets. If you can’t sew, handmade reusable produce bags can be found via Etsy, an online marketplace for people who do know how to sew.

If you don’t have glass Pyrex or stainless steel food containers, consider using plastic in the short term until you know which sizes work best for you. Glass and stainless steel is an investment, so knowing what you need is helpful before you splash out. If you’re ready to invest, this directory of online zero waste and plastic-free stores might be helpful.

(There are other bits and pieces you might find you need, like cutlery, a water bottle and a coffee cup. You can find the day-to-day reusables I carry in my handbag here.)

5. Look for bulk stores, Farmers Markets and health stores in your local area.

Before you step out the door, it makes sense to look on the internet. Are there any bulk stores close by? Are there any cooperatives that might have food in bulk? What about bakeries or farm shops? Italian grocery stores often have dry goods in bulk, and well-stocked deli counters. Check when local Farmers Markets run, and where.

You can call places to find out if they have a bulk section, but nothing beats going to have a look. Even if bulk isn’t an option, there might be plastic-free and lower waste solutions. Just having a browse can open your mind to some of the potential.

6. One change at a time.

Rather than change everything at once, focus on one thing at a time. It makes sense to tackle things in the order they need replacing. With food, fresh produce comes first, like fruit and vegetables, milk, and bread. Then there’s longer life fresh stuff like yoghurt and cheese. Then there’s dry goods, and it might be a few months before you need alternatives for some of these.

The same will apply in the bathroom, the cleaning cupboard, the wardrobe and the rest of the house.

Work on replacing things as you need to.

7. Join the community!

Zero waste and plastic-free living is a movement, and a movement needs people! You will find it so much easier and far more rewarding if you connect with others on the journey. You’ll be able to share ideas, vent frustrations, ask questions and guide others.

Not everyone has the support of family and friends, at least not at first. Finding a community of like-minded people will give you a strong support network to keep you motivated.

If you can find people locally to connect with, that’s awesome (if you don’t know where to look, the Transition Town movement is a good starting point). If not, there is plenty of opportunity online – and these groups will welcome you with open arms!

Remember, no-one has all the answers on the first day! Plastic-free and zero waste living is a journey. Enjoy the process, have fun, and know that everything you’re doing makes a difference.

Now I’d love to hear from you! If you’re a beginner, is there anywhere in particular that you’re stuck? Anything you’ve been struggling with? If you’re a veteran, are there any other tips you’d like to add? Anything you think I’ve missed out? Any other comments? Please share your thoughts below!

Isn’t Zero Waste Living Meant to be Cheaper? (+ What To Do When It Isn’t)

Zero waste and plastic-free living are often spruiked as a way to save money. I avoid using that reason (I explained why I won’t talk about money-saving here). Even though, yes, living zero waste means I spend less.

It is pretty hard to stop buying stuff and spend more ;)

Whilst overall I spend less than I used to, some things I buy do cost more than their packaged equivalents. In the early days, I stood in the aisle, looking at the cheaper pre-packaged item and the more expensive bulk or zero waste one, and felt torn.

If someone embraces zero waste living solely as a way to save money, this is the point where they will stop. That’s one reason why I don’t use the ‘money-saving’ reason as a benefit. I want others to embrace this lifestyle beyond the choices that cost the least amount of money.

I want others to embrace choices that make the best sense for the bigger picture: local communities, our health, wildlife, workers rights, the environment and the planet as a whole.

For those of us who aren’t motivated solely by the money-saving aspect, knowing things are considerably more expensive can still be frustrating! No-one wants to feel like they’re being taken for a ride. I received this question recently, and it got me thinking:

“I’m having trouble justifying buying package free pasta and rice and such, when it is literally 10x as expensive as the same stuff I can get in the supermarket. I feel like I’m just wasting my money. If it were 2 or even 3x more expensive I might be able to justify it, but I feel like the price difference is kind of outrageous. Any wisdom?”

Oh, I’ve been there! These are my suggestions for what to do when zero waste isn’t the cheapest option, and you feel conflicted.

1. Remember Why You Chose the Zero Waste/Plastic-Free Lifestyle.

Most people choose this lifestyle for a number of reasons, and some of these reasons are about more than ourselves. Reasons such as: supporting local businesses and growing local communities, reducing litter, improving the environment, protecting our marine life, limiting harm to wildlife, reducing our impact on the world’s resources.

When we make choices that support ideas that are bigger than ourselves, we feel good. If you’re faced with a difficult choice, try to keep your ‘why’ at the front of your mind.

It might help you see the choice you’re making in a different light.

2. Ask Yourself What You Value.

For me, it comes down to values. I value locally grown, reduced carbon emissions, and organic. I value supporting independent businesses, and eating real food.

I value spending my money with companies I believe in. I value ethical and Fair Trade and sustainably produced.

(That’s not to say I don’t have a budget – I do! I’ll talk about that later.)

I want to see more products that fit in this niche, and more stores that support these ideas. The best thing I can do is vote with my dollar, and choose to support these brands and allow them to grow. Ultimately I don’t want this to be a niche, I want it to be mainstream. Supporting it is the only way this will happen.

Which is why, rather than shop at the bulk aisle in my local supermarket, I choose to shop at independent bulk stores. My favourite is The Source Bulk Foods. There’s one in my neighbourhood, but they have 33 stores across Australia (there’s 3 in Perth, and more planned). They aren’t the cheapest option, but they align the most with my values. Importantly, they are passionate about zero waste (some bulk stores here aren’t actually focused on the waste aspect).

The Source also have a huge variety of Australian-grown produce: almost all of their nuts are grown in Australia, and they even sell Australian quinoa. Supporting stores that champion these practices is more important to me than saving a couple of dollars.

3. Avoid Comparisons (Ignorance is Bliss).

Have you heard the saying ‘comparison is the thief of joy?’ No-one wants to feel ripped off, or like they spent too much. When we know that there’s a cheaper option, sometimes it can be hard to make the right choice.

My solution is not to look.

I rarely go in the supermarket now. I never look at catalogues or shops online. If I don’t know what I’m ‘missing out’ on, it stops the comparisons, and I’m happier,.

I know what I need, so I go to my regular shop, and decide if I want to make the purchase based on the price that day.

If you didn’t know that the supermarket was cheaper than your local bulk store, it would change your whole perspective. Where you can, avoid looking.

4. Rather Than Asking ‘Is It More Expensive?’, Ask ‘Can I Afford It?’

It’s funny how we can get hung up on the price of some things, but not others. When avocados hit $4 in the shops here, everyone goes nuts at the ‘expensive price’ – even though they are locally grown, delicious and very good for us.

Yet bumper boxes of super processed biscuits – the ones made entirely or processed sugar, processed flour and trans-fats (or palm oil)? If they are $4 people think it’s a bargain.

It’s all about perspective.

Rather than stressing that the waste-free version is more expensive than the pre-packaged version, we can re-frame the question. We can ask ourselves: can I afford it? Is there something I could go without in order to buy this? Do I want it that much or could I go without?

I buy chocolate, and I buy coffee, and both of these could be considered luxury items. (Even if I like to think of them as essentials!) If something else I really wanted seemed expensive, I could pay the extra and forgo one of these. If you regularly buy takeaway coffee, or take-out, or magazines, could you reduce your spending in this area?

These are the choices we can make.

There may be things that you just can’t afford to buy zero waste at this point in your journey. Then you have two options: go without; or compromise.

5. Rather Than Worrying About The Price of Individual Items, Set Yourself a Budget For Your Entire Shop.

It’s all very lovely to talk about values and priorities, but most of us living a zero waste or plastic-free lifestyle have a budget. Hello, real world! Much as we might want to, we can’t necessarily afford to make all the perfect choices.

I’d like to buy everything organic, but in reality, my budget doesn’t allow me to.

Rather than stressing over individual items, we can set a budget for our whole shop. Many things in bulk are much cheaper than their pre-packaged counterparts, yet we tend to focus on the stuff that costs more rather than celebrating what costs less.

Are things really too expensive, or can we accommodate them by making other changes?

Knowing exactly how much we have to spend will help us make better decisions – either now, or in the future as our circumstances change.

The answers will be different for everybody.

Don’t beat yourself up because you can’t always afford the perfect option (most of us can’t). But if the better choice is only a couple of dollars more, ask yourself what’s really stopping you making that choice?

For me, the question isn’t “does it cost more?” The question is, who will benefit if I choose the zero waste, organic, local option? And who will benefit (and who will suffer) if I don’t? When I’m on the fence about making the more ethical choice over the cheaper one, this helps direct me back to my priorities.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you ever get torn between cheaper options and more ethical, expensive options? How have your choices changed over time? Is there anything that you’re currently struggling with? Do you have any tips to add? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

How Much Does a Zero Waster Recycle?

The zero waste lifestyle is all about living in a way that creates as little waste as possible. It is often described as “sending nothing to landfill” and most people living the zero waste lifestyle will track their landfill waste. In fact, the jar full of waste has become rather iconic of the zero waste movement.

Last year I collected all my own landfill waste in a jar (I shared the contents of my annual trash jar here). I did it as I thought it would be an interesting experiment, and it was. I learned a lot.

However, I also think there are some downsides to focusing solely on personal landfill waste.

One of those downsides is that zero waste living is not just about reducing landfill. It is about reducing waste overall, and that means reducing our recycling too. The goal is to produce no landfill waste and no recycling either.

Yet that is much more challenging, and much less talked about.

How much recycling zero wasters produce isn’t discussed as often as it should be. Personally, I think we should be talking about it more. This time last year I decided to record my recycling for an entire month, and share it (view April 2016’s recycling tally).

I’ve decided I’m going to make it an annual thing. There’s no particular reason why we chose April last year (I probably thought up the idea in March!). I’m choosing April again this year to keep things consistent.

There are no special rules for the month. We don’t do anything differently. That said, I’m sure it is in the back of my mind and I’m subconsciously more careful. Any waste that we (our household consists of two adults and one greyhound) create goes into our recycling bin as normal. After 30 days have passed, I tally it up.

Here’s our monthly recycling for the 30 days of April 2017:

I did threaten my husband that I would divide the recycling up into separate piles of mine and his, because he creates more waste than me and I don’t want to be tarnished with the same brush! But really, we are one household, and I think most people can relate to one member of the household being more enthused than the others.

What’s in my (Zero Waste) Recycling Bin?

This is a summary of what’s in the bin, from right to left.

Plastic Bag of Dog Food: For the first four years of living zero waste we didn’t have a dog Now we do. He is also a dog with a sensitive stomach! We have tried a number of dog food brands. So far this is the one that works best. We get through one bag every 5-6 weeks. I would love to make my own dog food, and maybe one day I will. Right now it is still a little overwhelming. This bag can be recycled via REDcycle at our local supermarket.

Aluminium Beer Cans (and their Cardboard Packaging): My husband likes beer. A beer shop locally sells packaging-free beer on tap, but my husband prefers to visit the regular store on the way home from work. I don’t know enough about beer to go the bulk store for him! He chooses aluminium rather than glass as cans are recycled, whereas glass is crushed into road base in WA.

Pasta Boxes: My husband also loves pasta. We can get gluten-free pasta (buckwheat spirals and quinoa rice penne) from our local bulk store, and regular vermicelli nests from the small bulk section at our independent grocer. We eat these most of the time. Occasionally my husband will come across Barilla pasta in the cardboard box without the plastic window and will insist on buying it. He’s like some kind of collector! He probably buys one every 3 months or so. We just happened to have two boxes in this month’s recycling.

Tin of Coconut Cream: I made crumble recently as we had friends over for dinner. I didn’t have any cashews to make cashew cream, and there wasn’t enough time. My husband dashed to the shops for me and picked this up (at my request). Crumble just doesn’t work dry!

Ball of Tin Foil (and Corresponding Chocolate wrappers): Oh, I am so guilty of buying packaged chocolate. I have a weakness for Green & Blacks 85%. I have a serious weakness, in fact: in April I managed to eat my way through 8 bars (as demonstrated by the wrappers). We ate a fair amount of chocolate from the bulk store too.

Dolmades Tin: Sometimes I feel like my husband is a packaging fiend! (I realise the packaging he buys is minimal – it’s just a big part of our recycling.) He likes to buy tinned dolmades when we have people round for dinner. It makes me a little bit mad, because I love to cook from scratch and go to all this effort to make home-made food, and then he serves up pre-packaged food. He sees it as a treat!

Champagne Bottles and Metal Tops: Our friends brought a bottle of sparkling wine when they came for dinner. The other bottle has been in our fridge for 18 months (it was a moving gift) and needed using up. It was actually pretty flat. The corks have gone in the compost, and the foil is part of the foil ball.

Nonsense Promotional Material: We received a pamphlet from the RAC telling us most people don’t have enough insurance. What a waste of paper.

Unnecessary Letters in the Post: An enormous water pipe is being installed underneath our road to supply water to the new Perth stadium, and we are sent a weekly letter giving us updates. They’ve been camped out for almost 5 months now, but they are finishing up so we won’t be getting many more notices.

Envelopes: We still get the odd thing delivered by post. My husband recently had to renew his driving license (they need renewing every 3 years); some insurance documents that they couldn’t send via email; a new bank card as the old one had expired; and some other things.

Till Receipts: Wherever possible we refuse a receipt, but we still pick up a few every month. We recycle them. Some people don’t recycle thermal (BPA- coated) receipts, but I was advised that a few BPA receipts in a container load of paper doesn’t create a problem.

Paper from Workshops: I run sustainable living workshops, and use paper for some activities. Some people learn better by physically writing stuff down. As someone who’s partial to taking notes on the back of an envelope, I can relate. I don’t buy new paper, I use reject printing from workplaces, or mail I don’t need. Then I recycle it.

Recycling versus Composting

Some zero wasters choose to compost all their paper rather than recycling it. That makes the recycling pile much smaller, but in terms of energy, research shows that recycling paper is a better use of the resource than composting. Paper production is enormously energy intensive and recycling paper helps slow down new paper production.

Whilst I live in a city with good recycling infrastructure, I will always choose to recycle my paper over composting it.The only paper I compost is paper that cannot be recycled: anything stained by food or grease, tiny scraps, or shredded paper.

Whilst I’d love to see our recycling drop to zero, it’s heartening to know that we created less than this time less year. Some people say that “near-o waste” is a more accurate term than zero waste, and I’m inclined to agree. However, that doesn’t stop me aiming for zero.

Please tell me what you think! Do you find tracking your waste and recycling a helpful tool? Or is the extra fuss and effort too much hassle? Do you find seeing pictures of others’ waste inspiring, or do you find it demotivating? Is there something else you find more motivating? I’d love to hear what you think so please leave me a comment below!

My Zero Waste Kit (Zero Waste Handbag Essentials)

I truly believe that the zero waste lifestyle does not mean going out to buy a whole heap of stuff. Saying that, there are definitely things that I have bought, which make waste-free living a lot easier for me. I refer to these things as my zero waste “kit”.

Recently I received a lovely email from a lady called Rachel who follows my Instagram feed, and she asked me: “I’ve seen you mention “zero waste kit” a few times and was wondering what that was!” It dawned on me that I’ve never taken the time to explain what I have and why. So here it is: my list of handbag essentials for zero waste living.

What is essential for me might not be essential for you, and this is definitely no command to go shopping! As always, I recommend using what you have. Whilst I’ve provided links so you can find out more details about the things I’ve personally chosen, please consider making do, buying second-hand and shopping local where you can.

What’s In My Zero Waste Handbag?

My handbag is by no means a hold-all! None of this stuff takes up that much room and the only heavy thing is my water bottle, when it’s full.

I’ve included links below of the actual things I have, so you can see specific product details, dimensions etc.

Water bottle: I have a Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottle with a bamboo lid. It holds 800ml. I chose this because it is completely plastic free and I love that Klean Kanteen are committed to producing products with the environment in mind.

Sometimes I leave the water bottle at home to save weight and use my reusable cup instead.

Reusable Coffee Cup: When I started out, I had a plastic KeepCup, but once glass ones were introduced in 2014 I made the switch. I have a 8oz glass KeepCup with a cork band but bigger sizes are also available. The lid is plastic but I like that the rest of the cup is not, and that it is a standard barista size.

I often use this as an impromptu container, or to grab a glass of water from anywhere with a tap if I don’t have my water bottle with me.

Reusable Cutlery: I have a To-Go ware set that was a birthday present: it contains a bamboo fork, spoon, knife and chopsticks and the pouch is made from recycled water bottles. The cutlery is surprisingly sturdy and I have skinned and de-stoned a mango with the knife. It is also suitable to carry onto planes in hand luggage.

Reusable Straw: I have added a reusable metal straw to my reusable cutlery pouch (it needs to be 21.5cm or smaller to fit in the To-Go Ware pouch). I also have reusable glass straws that I love, but I tend to take them out with me less often. The ones I have are made by Glass Dharma and come with a lifetime breakage guarantee. There are other brands with different colours and patterns. Reusable bamboo straws are another option.

Glass straws sound fragile but the glass is toughened and it would be impossible to bite through it. Because the edges are smoothed I think they are a good option for kids.

Produce Bags: Almost all of the produce bags I have are handmade (not by me!), and I think Etsy is a great place to find local craftspeople if you can’t sew your own. My own bags (mostly gifts) are made from old fabric, cafe curtains and an old bedsheet of mine. I love sellers who repurpose old fabric rather than buying new, like these produce bags made from old tablecloths.

I also have a few Onya produce bags too which are handy as they fit in a little stuff sack. The company started down the road from here and the owner is passionate about reducing plastic-bag use.

Reusable Bag: We have a number of calico bags that we’ve picked up over the years and would recommend choosing natural fibres where possible. As well as these, we have a couple of Onya reusable shopping bags. Whilst they are plastic, they scrunch up into a tiny stuff sack when not in use, so they are handy for my husband (who does not carry a handbag!) or when we are travelling as they are pocked-sized.

Sandwich Wraps: These are coated fabric and can be used in place of containers. I have snack pockets and sandwich wraps made by 4MyEarth, a local Perth company. They used to make 2 sizes of each but now they just make 1 size of each. The fabric is coated to make it water- and grease-resistant: it is a plant-based plastic and they are PVC-free. I like that they are machine washable, and they have lasted me a really long time (I got them in 2012).

Metal lunchbox: I bought my husband this metal lunchbox to take to work every day, although we also use it if we are going out to a restaurant or cafe (you never know where there might be leftovers!). I’ve added to our collection since then: a three-tier tiffin and a four-tier tiffin, and a round stainless steel lunchbox for myself that I bought in Thailand.

Stainless steel is expensive  – it is an investment piece that will last forever. If you have an Indian supermarket nearby it is worth checking out if they stock tiffins as the price will likely be kinder to your wallet. Sometimes, they pop up in charity shops too (although I’ve never been this lucky)!

Hanky: I keep a hanky on me at all times, which doubles as a serviette if I’m out. Department stores will likely sell them, but I prefer to keep things local and I’d look on Etsy if I needed more. Or, I’d just cut up some old clothes and make do with the ragged edges ;)

The links above are mostly for Australian stores. If you’re not in Australia, this page has a list of online zero waste and plastic-free stores which you might find useful.

Now I’d like to hear from you! What are your zero waste essentials? How did you choose your items? What eco-minded companies have you chosen to support? How have you been able to make do? Have you made any great second-hand purchases? Any recommendations for where others might be able to make do or find second-hand? Do you consider any of the items I’ve chosen a waste of time?! Anything else you’d like to add? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Disclaimer: These items are all items that I genuinely use and love, and have purchased with my own money or were received as gifts from friends and family. No company has paid me to be featured on this list. This post contains some affiliate links which means if you click a link and choose to purchase a product, I may be compensated a small amount at no extra cost to you. This in no way affects my recommendations as my priority is always you, my readers.

My Annual Waste Jar, Deconstructed (+ Lessons Learned)

For the last 12 months, I saved all* of my landfill waste in a jar. I talked last week about why I felt like it was a bit gimmicky but did it anyway; the purpose behind keeping our waste in a jar, the reasons I liked doing it, and the reasons I did not like doing it.

*I also talked about why ‘all’ didn’t actually mean all. I shared a picture of the contents of my jar.

But I didn’t actually talk about what was in the jar.

You know me, I love talking about rubbish. Give me any excuse ;) I thought I’d explore what was in my jar with you, and what I learned from the experience of collecting my rubbish. If you have any questions or would like to share any wisdom, I’d love to hear at the end!

Contents of a Zero Waster’s Annual Rubbish Jar:

The entire contents of my jar (plus my passport and that scandalous polystyrene container, which didn’t fit.) I’ve divided up the picture into 4 to talk about each segment separately.

Polystyrene container: After 5 years of plastic-free living, I end up with a polystyrene container! Shortly after we moved we went to a nearby pizza place. I took a container with me for leftovers but the pizzas were bigger than expected, and didn’t fit. The waiter asked if I wanted a box, and as they are usually cardboard, I said yes. Imagine my horror when I was handed a polystyrene box! Needless to say, we will never go back!

A local place recycles polystyrene, but I’m not sure if it is just the expanded stuff. I intend to go there with my container and find out more. (It’s called CLAW Environmental.)

Lesson learned: Never assume, because you are never too experienced to get caught out unawares!

Brown Packing Tape: This could be polypropylene (plastic #5), the same as sellotape/sticky tape, but I’m not sure so I kept it in my jar. If it is, it can be recycled through REDcycle (who collect soft plastic for recycling via supermarkets in Australia). I recycle any sticky tape I get this way.

Lesson Learned: Recycling is complicated, and it isn’t always obvious what material something is made from. Refusing is always the best option, if possible!

Plastic packet: We needed to buy a specialty light bulb for a common-shared outdoor light. We purchased the bulb, so it counts as waste in my eyes.

Lesson Learned: Some plastic just cannot be avoided.

Plastic chip from our soap dish: Our shower has a plastic soap dish attached (it came with the house), and my husband seems to constantly knock it off. Plastic can only be dropped so many times before it shatters! The rest of the dish is intact, it is just missing a corner.

Lesson Learned: Next time, choose a material that lasts and can be recycled or composted at the end of its life.

Cable from our garden hose: We bought a new hose to water our veggie patch. The hose was attached to a cardboard label via this cable. (It is possible that CLAW Environmental also recycle this type of plastic, so I will check.)

Lesson Learned: If you buy new, there is almost always packaging.

Loyalty and Membership Cards: One is a loyalty scheme we joined by mistake. We thought we wouldn’t get a card, but the sales lady meant you don’t need to show the card to get the discount (they can look our names up). Two key fob ones too, lucky us. The other card is an unnecessary membership card for a bicycle organisation.

Lesson Learned: Loyalty might be rewarded, but the environment is not.

Courgette seed packet: This pack is a combination of paper, foil, and maybe plastic. Some seeds come loose in paper packets, some in plastic zip lock bags (which can be repurposed) and some like this. In the future I plan to save my own seeds, but I needed seeds to start with!

Lesson learned: Sometimes activities create waste in the beginning, but help reduce waste long-term.

Red elastic bandage: Our greyhound went to the vet for an x-ray and we picked him up sporting this bandage. I have no idea what it is made from, but I am almost certain it isn’t recyclable.

Lesson learned: Sometimes plastic is a medical necessity.

Plastic packet: After 5 years of living plastic-free and my promising to label our pantry jars, my husband finally had enough and purchased two grease pencils to label them himself! They came in this pack.

Lesson learned: Everyone has a limit to their patience ;) Sometimes a little waste is worth it to keep the peace.

Passport: My passport expired. I sent it back to the UK Passport Authority. They sent me my new passport but also returned my old one. It arrived on day 364 of my year. Thanks guys – now I have to add it to my waste jar!

Lesson Learned: At least it is only once every 10 years…

Underpants: I prefer plain, sensible underpants. But for some reason in my late twenties I decided I should give fancy underpants a go. Fortunately the phase didn’t last. These aren’t cotton and so won’t compost.

Lesson learned: Choose fabrics that can biodegrade.

Tedx Lanyard: The lanyard strap from my Tedx Perth talk (I composted the cardboard part) which I needed to access the venue. It is a shame that they couldn’t collect them for reuse, as all 1700 people had one! I will separate the metal clip for recycling. (My husband kept his as a souvenir!)

Lesson Learned: Sometimes the system creates waste, and if we really want a zero waste society, we need to work to change the system.

Dental floss: Used for emergencies. I have used more than two pieces but they were gobbled up by the vacuum cleaner. When this (pre-2011) roll runs out I will choose biodegradable floss.

Lesson learned: Think about the end of a product when choosing something new, and stay alert for better options.

Jumper label and hanging ribbons: I used non-biodegradable old clothes to stuff a bed for our greyhound, but this jumper was wool so I composted it. These bits aren’t compostable so they ended up in the jar.

Lesson learned: 100% cotton/wool/silk/hemp doesn’t necessarily mean 100% biodegradable.

Black wristband: from the Tedx post-event wrap-up celebration. I assume it was issued by the venue.

Lesson learned: Plastic can be found in the most unexpected places, but we can write to companies/businesses/venues to share our concerns and suggest alternatives.

Plastic bottle caps: Mostly from medicine bottles; the orange one is from a whisky bottle and the black one from an oil bottle I used to refill.

Lesson learned: plastic lids are not recyclable in Western Australia, so avoiding them is always best or they will end up in landfill.

Blister pack from two coin batteries: The old ones had run out.

Lesson learned: The less batteries we use, the less waste there is.

Sticker backing: The first thing to go in my jar! Possibly recyclable via REDcycle but I wasn’t sure of the material. It was the backing for our “no junk mail sticker”.

Lesson learned: Sometimes we need to create waste now to reduce waste in the future.

Razor blade and packet: I still use a plastic razor with blades I purchased pre-2011 (I talked about why here). With careful looking after, each blade lasted me a year. I am now down to my last.

Lesson learned: With care, we can prolong the life of things deemed “single use” or “disposable”.

Sim card: My phone died in March last year and the replacement needed a nano sim rather than the micro sim that I already had. So I had to replace the whole lot.

Lesson learned: Sometimes planned obsolescence is unavoidable.

pH strips: I thought these were paper, but after putting them in the worm farm discovered they are plastic.

Lesson learned: Looks can be deceiving.

Tiny toothpaste tube: I found this, still sealed, when picking up litter in a park. I figured it was less wasteful to use it. Terracycle recycle toothpaste tubes so I will drop off at one of their collection points.

Bank cards: I have English cards and Australian cards, and they all expired last year! We changed banks when we got our mortgage, so that was an extra set of cards in the jar.

Lesson learned: If I simplify my banking there will be less plastic and waste.

Tea bag wrapper: This can be recycled via REDcycle. It is a combination of foil and plastic but I mistakenly thought it was paper. It was from a workshop I attended.

Lesson learned: sometimes we make mistakes. The fact this should actually be in the recycling bin and not the jar is a mistake. I wonder, what did I mistakenly put in the recycling?

Medicine packets: My husband and I both got the flu last year, and took almost all of these in that week. We try to avoid medicine except for emergencies. This was an emergency.

Lesson learned: In medical emergencies, our health is a priority.

Plastic tags: I’ve purchased a few second-hand items from charity shops, and they all come with little plastic tags.

Lesson learned: Second-hand keeps waste to a minimum, but doesn’t eliminate it altogether.

Googly eyes: These are from a toy my in-laws purchased for our greyhound. Mister Duck’s feet got gnawed off too but those went in the bin. I debated whether Hans’ waste (which I have no control over) should go in the jar or not, so I compromised. (Plus the feet were absolutely covered in slobber.)

Lesson learned: it isn’t always possible to avoid all the waste that all our family members create, and sometimes there needs to be a little compassion and compromise.

Green twisty tags: I have no idea where these came from. I have noticed that they have already started to degrade in the jar.

Lesson learned: plastic often isn’t fit for purpose.

Pink tape: Ironically, from a waste reduction behaviour change campaign I worked on. We used pink gaffa tape in the project. At the end we received thank-you cards sealed with this tape.

Lesson learned: Novelty gestures almost always result in waste.

Miscellaneous bits: The clip on a pen lid; an elastic band tangled in some (non-biodegradable) fabric; a plastic toggle from a pair of shorts (the other one is already lost); melted plastic from a Pyrex lid I put too near a hot saucepan; and a paperclip that  isn’t plastic.

Lesson learned: If there is any plastic anywhere in the home, it is likely that at some stage it will end up in landfill. Where there is an alternative, seek it out!

Overall, I enjoyed the experience of collecting my waste in a jar, and I learned a lot. Will I continue this year? I’m not sure. My passion is community, and I’d rather spend my time and energy helping others reduce their waste than fixate over a piece of dental floss or a plastic blister pack.

Personal change is great. But building a movement? That’s much better.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Tell me – would you find it helpful if I continued to keep an annual waste jar? Is it something that you’d like to see again next year? Was there anything in my waste jar that surprised you? Was there anything that you expected to see in there that wasn’t there? Do you have any suggestions for how to dispose of any of the items currently in the jar? Do you have any other thoughts about my waste, or waste jars in general? Anything else you’d like to add? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

DIY Body Scrubs (4 Recipes plus a Simple Formula to Invent Your Own)

Is that food on my face? Yes, it is! I take great satisfaction in making DIY skincare products out of regular ingredients that I have in the pantry. There are a few reasons:

  • If it’s safe enough to eat, then it’s safe enough to put on my skin. I don’t need to worry about reading labels, or trying to decipher chemical names, or battling through greenwash claims.
  • Food items are some of the easiest things to find plastic-free and generally packaging-free. Chemicals come in bottles. Coffee grounds, sugar, salt – all of these things can be picked up from bulk stores.
  • It keeps my home uncluttered. I like owning things that have multiple uses, and that goes for ingredients as much as for other stuff. One jar with multiple purposes. Plus, it’s kind of fun when you run out of something in the bathroom to just head over to the pantry, rather than traipsing all the way to the chemist.

That said, my bathroom routine is super simple (you can read about it here). Gone are the days when I thought I needed all of those products that the marketers tell us we need. I had the day cream, the night cream, the eye cream, the body lotion, the face scrub, the body scrub… I also had a cluttered bathroom and an empty wallet!

I’m also a big fan of making things that involve little effort. I like to make things from scratch, but I also like these things to take minutes to put together and to be fail-safe (I don’t want to stuff it up and have to throw anything away).

Mixing ingredients together in a jar, now that’s the kind of level of complexity I’m talking about.

DIY Skincare Scrubs from Scratch

Body scrubs exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells (there’s plenty of marketing mumbo-jumbo about glowing skin and improved lymphatic drainage and looking 20 years younger, but I’ll spare you any wild claims.) Some body scrubs also moisturise and these generally have an oil base alongside the exfoliating ingredient. I’m a big fan of products with multiple purposes, and I’m also lazy, so any product that can clean, exfoliate and moisturise all in one suits me perfectly!

A good body scrub has three main components: an exfoliator + a moisturiser + essence

By essence I mean more than the fragrance: I also mean the way it makes us feel. For example, lavender is known for its calming and sleep-inducing properties, citrus is energising and awakening, and chocolate feels decadent and indulging.

Good Natural Skin Exfoliators

Sugar, salt, dried coffee, used coffee grounds, ground oats, ground rice, bicarb of soda.

Different exfoliators have different properties. Sugar is considered more gentle on the skin than salt as the crystals are smaller and they dissolve more easily in water. Oats and ground rice are gentler on the skin and may be more suitable for face scrubs.

Good Natural Skin Moisturisers

Olive oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil.

Oils are not created equal. Some have far superior properties – and often far superior price tags to match. Olive oil is readily available and affordable so is a great optionto start with.  It does have a strong fragrance and a green tinge though, whereas almond oil is a more natural colour and without a strong fragrance.

Coconut oil is unusual in that it is solid below 25°C. If you live in a very cold climate you may have a hard time getting a scrub made with coconut oil out of the jar, but if you like the idea of having a more solid product to rub in it’s a good choice.

Ideas For Essences

Essences don’t need to be fancy. You can skip them entirely and leave the scrubs plain if you prefer, or just add a drop of essential oil for fragrance. Or you can go to town, combining essential oils and flower petals and all kinds of things. Up to you.

Stimulating essential oils: grapefruit, lemon, lemongrass, orange, peppermint, bergamont

Relaxing essential oils: lavender, rosemary, cinnamon, ylang ylang, rose, chamomile

Other ingredients to add: lemon, orange or lime zest; lemon, orange or lime juice; lavender flowers or rose petals; honey; thyme or rosemary; cocoa nibs; loose leaf tea (green tea, chamomile tea, peppermint tea).

DIY Body Scrub – a DIY Formula

A body scrub needs to be easy to remove from the jar, spread on your skin and rinse off.

Start with a tablespoon of your chosen oil, and a tablespoon of your chosen exfoliator, and combine. Add more of either to get your preferred consistency. Add your essences last.

If adding dried herbs, flowers or tea you may need a little more oil, as these will soak up the oil.

If adding lemon, lime or orange juice, you may prefer a little less oil as these will add more liquid to the pot.

Test it out! Always do a patch test first. Put a small amount on your skin in the crease of your elbow, and wait 24 hours to see if there is any adverse reaction. Use it in the shower, and see if you like the consistency. Make a note of any adjustments you might want to make. Test on your body before trying on your face as your facial skin is more fragile, and always avoid the eye area.

DIY Body Scrubs: 4 Recipes to Get You Started

From left to right: citrus olive oil scrub; coffee scrub; lavender sugar scrub; green tea and epsom salts scrub.

These are some ideas to get you started – feel free to play with the ingredients you have to hand and make your own combinations. All of these scrubs are fresh and do not contain preservatives, so are best stored in the fridge and/or used within a couple of weeks.

Citrus Olive Oil Scrub

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil (30 ml)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp lime zest
juice of 1/4 lime
Optional: a drop of lemon, grapefruit or lime essential oil

Mix together the sugar and oil. Add the lime zest and lime juice, and essential oil if using. You can add extra sugar or oil to get your desired consistency. Spoon into a glass jar.

Allow the scrub to settle. A layer of olive oil on the top of the jar will help keep it from spoiling. Stir before use.

Coffee Scrub

Ingredients:

2 tbsp spent coffee grounds (ask a local cafe for their used grounds)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil
Optional: a drop of orange essential oil

Method: melt the coconut oil if solid, and mix the coffee, sugar and oil together. Add the essential oil last. Store in a glass jar in the fridge.

I love using coffee grounds as they are a waste product. You could use fresh coffee, but why wouldn’t you want to have a cup of coffee first?! If you use homemade coffee grounds, let them dry out as the extra moisture will mean it spoils more quickly. There’s no reason why you couldn’t use olive oil instead of coconut oil. I just like to experiment :)

Lavender Scrub

Ingredients:

3 tbsp almond oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 drops lavender essential oil
Optional: 2 tsp dried lavender flowers

Method: mix the oil and sugar together, then add the flowers and essential oil.

You could substitute the lavender flowers for chamomile flowers or rose petals, and lavender essential oil for chamomile or rose geranium. Almond oil works better than olive oil as the delicate floral flowers can be overpowered by the olive.

Green Tea Scrub

Ingredients:

3 tsp Epsom salts
3 tsp bicarb
1 tsp matcha powder
3 tbsp olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the olive oil. Pour into a glass jar.

Epsom salts are not actually salt, but a mineral compound containing magnesium which is thought to be very good for the skin. If you can’t find Epsom salts, regular salt or sugar will be fine. If you don’t have matcha powder, you can use regular green tea.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you make your own skincare products? Do you want to, or is it something you can’t see yourself bothering with? Do you have your own favourite recipes or flavour/scent combinations? Are there any other products you make from scratch? Have you ever had any disasters, or things not going to plan? Any tips you’d like to add? I’d love to hear from you, so whether you’re a DIY skincare enthusiast or avoid it at all costs, please leave me a comment telling me your thoughts!

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Disclaimer: the information here is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. It is a record of my own experiences. Always do your research before using ingredients on your skin, particularly when using essential oils.