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One Year’s Worth of Trash (Except, It Isn’t)

The idea of keeping landfill trash in a jar has become a symbol of the zero waste movement. Bea Johnson from Zero Waste Home started keeping the waste produced by her family of four in a glass jar back in 2010. Now more and more people use this idea to track their progress and show others what is possible with a little bit of determination and effort.

I have to confess, I don’t love the idea. I find it a little gimmicky (I’ll talk about that later). At the beginning of last year, I was interviewed by a journalist and she asked me if I had a jar of waste. I said no, and she suggested I start one. That it might be a good idea because it was a valuable tool to show others.

I hadn’t really thought of it like that.

I also thought, there I was pooh-poohing the idea when I hadn’t actually given it a fair shot. Wouldn’t it be be better to try it out and see, rather than making judgements? I decided to give it a go.

As fate would have it, at the end of January this year, Channel 9 contacted me to film a segment about zero waste for their 6pm news show. When they found out I had a waste jar, they insisted it be part of the story. So my little jar of waste was on the news…

I began our annual jar of waste on 2nd March 2016 – so today it has been exactly a year since I began. So how much landfill waste did our household produce in a year, and what have I learned.

Annual Waste in a Jar – My Rules

The idea is that anything that would end up in the landfill bin is kept in the jar. This means anything that is not recycled, composted, repurposed or repaired.

I didn’t really make any other rules when I started; they formed along the way. The intention was that the jar was for our household waste (my husband’s and mine) but in July we adopted a greyhound, which changed things slightly.

These are the rules we ended up following:

  • Anything purchased or acquired pre- going plastic-free or zero waste in 2012 still counts as waste.
  • Any waste generated by us inside our home goes in the jar.
  • Any waste I produce outside the home goes in the jar (and my husband’s, if he is with me.) My husband’s waste at work and some dog waste (!) does not go in the jar for practical reasons.
  • Any waste that others bring into our home that we do not use does not go in the jar. However, if we use it in some way, then it does.
  • I often find fruit stickers, old clothes elastic and random plastic labels in the compost bin, but 6 households share our composting system and I do not know for sure it is ours – and it is too much effort once it is covered in compost.
  • Anything that is downright gross or dangerous does not go in the jar.

Different people have different rules. These are ours. Our waste shows us where we personally can improve, and let us share what we have learned. It is not a competition.

How Much Landfill Waste Did We Produce?

This is our waste from 1st March 2016 until 1st March 2017.

What Didn’t End Up in the Jar?

Not all of the waste we produced over the last year has ended up in the jar. Here’s what was missed:

  • We broke two glass jars and a glass light bulb in the past few weeks, and I am sure that over the year there were more.
  • We put all weeds in the compost bin except couch grass which is super invasive. We put this in our landfill bin. (It goes through a commercial hot composting machine at the tip, but I’d rather deal with it at home.)
  • I still have an old tub of dental floss I keep for emergencies. Mostly after eating corn-on-the-cob. That tends to get sucked up by the vacuum cleaner.
  • Condoms. For obvious reasons.
  • When I mentioned earlier that our greyhound complicated things, there were a few “issues”.
    • I refuse things, and I refuse things on behalf of my husband ;) but my husband has decided, I cannot refuse things on behalf of our greyhound. If somebody buys him a gift, it is not for me to decide to donate it straightaway simply because it will end up in landfill.
    • Our greyhound has received a few toys as gifts. People tell me they were careful to avoid plastic, as we receive yet another toy made of polyester. (Which is plastic.) They are also cheaply made and do not last. One was torn to shreds and covered in slobber and ended up in the bin. Fortunately Hans is settling down and less prone to destruction these days.
    • Hans is also very particular about his bathroom habits, and categorically refuses to go to the toilet in our yard. Not even for number 1s. His preferred toilet stop is the dog park 10 minutes away. We have a dog poo worm farm at home, but carrying his mess home twice a day with newspaper is a trial. I do it as often as I can, but sometimes it isn’t practical. When it’s raining, the newspaper gets wet before we make it home. When the dog park is full of other dogs we don’t hold onto it – the other dogs are too interested :/ So sometimes dog poo goes in the bin.

Is the ‘Waste-in-a-Jar’ Thing Gimmicky?

That’s a personal choice. For me, I still feel like it is. I have never taken my waste jar to a talk or workshop I’ve presented. In fact, it has never left the house.

I’m not a limelight-lover, and I feel that the jar invites a “look-at-me!” approach that I am just not comfortable with.

I also feel that extremes can put people off making changes, and waste jars might be seen as extreme. I’d prefer to encourage lots of people to change one thing than encourage one person to change everything. My priority in inspiring others, not seeking perfection myself.

That’s not to say it can’t (and doesn’t) work for others. For every cynic in the room, there is someone else who is inspired. For those who love and relish the limelight, it is an awesome opportunity to share and motivate others.

It just does not work for me.

Gimmicks aside, there are things I love as well as things I don’t.

Things I love about keeping my waste in a jar:

  • I like being able to track my progress and visually see where I could make improvements.
  • I like being able to see which companies are responsible for the non-recyclable waste, so I can contact them and suggest that they make changes.
  • I like that it pushes me to look for solutions with the items I end up with.

Things I don’t love about keeping my waste in a jar:

  • I don’t like that it doesn’t account for human error. I put many things in my recycling bin, believing that they will be recycled. But I don’t know for sure that they are. The decision is based on my knowledge, which may be flawed. I could be wrong, and it could end up in landfill.
  • I’m a person who likes details. My goal is always to be transparent and honest. The jar is a simplified view, and I have this constant nagging feeling I need to justify and explain everything. It makes me a little stressed.
  • I don’t like the way it invites comparisons, even though every person takes a different approach.
  • I think it focuses too much on the personal. At the beginning I think a journey of change is always personal. For me, there comes a point when it is time to move onto the local, national and beyond. Worrying about a piece of dental floss or an accidental foil-wrapped teabag isn’t important. I want to encourage change on a bigger level. For me, my jar distracts from that.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Tell me – do you think the waste jar idea is a great idea, or a gimmick? Do you love it or loathe it? Do you keep a waste jar, and what lessons have you learned? Have you tried in the past but given up? Have you thought about it but not committed yet? Have you just started your own, and what are your thoughts so far? What is your favourite thing about them? What is your least favourite thing? Anything else that you’d like to add? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

How to Make (Scrappy) Apple Cider Vinegar from Scratch

I love knowing how stuff works. Even though I can buy apple cider vinegar  from bulk stores locally, I want to know how to make my own. Not because I’m a glutton for punishment who wants to make everything from scratch ‘just because’. I think its important to understand where our food comes from and how its made. Making actual food out of “waste” food appeals to my love of avoiding waste. Plus of course, my inner chemist likes to play with her food.

Once I know how to make something, then I decide whether it’s worth the effort involved to keep on doing it, and how easy/affordable it is to buy. I don’t have time to make everything. I buy my pasta, and laundry powder. I make pesto and crackers and peanut butter.

Apple scraps/cider vinegar is such an easy and low effort thing to make that there’s just no reason not to.

Apple cider vinegar is made from the apple pulp left from making cider, which uses whole apples. Apple scraps vinegar is pretty much the same thing, but only uses the cores and skin of apples rather than the whole thing. The end product is pretty much the same.

Unless you’re making cider, I wouldn’t recommend using whole apples to make apple cider/scraps vinegar. It works just as well with the cores and peels, and you can use those apples for something else delicious. Making apple cider/scraps vinegar from the waste bits is much more satisfying!

I’ve made apple scraps vinegar a couple of ways, and I’ve included both methods below. One uses the cores and peels only, and the second uses the leftover pulp from juicing apples.

Frozen apple cores ready to go, and a previous batch of finished apple scraps vinegar.

 Apple Scrap Vinegar from Apple Scraps

Although I’ve given you quantities, they don’t really matter all that much. More apples will work more quickly, and make a darker vinegar than less, but don’t sweat it if you have different amounts. Try and see!

A couple of pointers before we start:

  • If you don’t eat a lot of apples, pop the cores (and peels, if you like to peel your apples) in a jar in the freezer, and wait until you fill the jar.
  • The sugar is to kick-start the fermenting process so don’t leave it out! 1 tbsp is adequate but I find it works faster with 2 tbsp. Honey should also work if you’d like a more natural alternative to sugar but I haven’t tried it.

Ingredients:

Apple peels and/or cores from 6-8 large apples (around 300g)
1.5 litres water (rainwater or filtered water if possible)
2 tbsp sugar

Method:

Part 1:

Pop the apple cores and peels in a clean glass jar with a wide neck, add the water and sugar and stir. Cover with a clean tea towel. The secret now is to keep stirring, whenever you remember. Any time you walk into the kitchen, give your jar a stir. First thing in the morning, last thing at night – stir!

You want to stir to keep it aerated, and to stop any mold growing on the surface. Fermentation works because the good bacteria/yeast/microorganisms win against the bad ones, so we need to keep conditions favourable for the good guys! With most ferments the aim is to exclude oxygen, but not this time. To make cider, the oxygen is excluded, but to make vinegar it is not.

Keep stirring your jar over a few days and start to notice how it changes. It may start to smell like cider, or like vinegar, or both. Bubbles will appear on the surface and maybe froth or scum. All of this is good! Once any trace of alcohol smell has gone, there are less bubbles,  and the apple pieces begin to settle and the vinegar will be ready for the next step.

Part 2:

Strain the contents of your jar into another clean jar (or a bottle) using a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Squeeze out the liquid from the pulp. (If you taste the pulp, you will find that it is completely flavourless.)

Now there are two options.

Option 1: Put a lid on your jar, and leave on the kitchen counter for a few days, opening the lid every day to release any pressure. If there’s any fermentation still happening, the pressure could build up and the jar might explode in your kitchen cupboard, so this is a safe option.

Option 2: If you can’t keep an eye on your vinegar, or you want a break, pop the bottle in the fridge to slow down the fermentation. I’d recommend loosening the lid so any gas can escape. It will ferment very, very slowly. When you’re ready, bring it back to room temperature to continue the fermentation.

Straining the spent apples from the vinegar. Cheesecloth is the best option but muslin or a fine sieve will also work – you’ll just end up with slightly more sediment in the vinegar.

After a week, taste your vinegar. If you find it sweet, leave on the counter to continue fermenting. Once you’re happy with the way it tastes, secure the lid and store in a dark cupboard.

Apple Cider Vinegar from Apple Juice Pulp

This is a great way to use up pulp from juicers. Unlike the first recipe, this contains all the fibre and flesh of the apples, but with the water (juice) squeezed out. This means it looks totally different – but it produces the same result.

Ingredients:

Leftover juice pulp of 6 apples (around 300g)
1.5 litres water (rainwater or filtered water if possible)
2 tbsp sugar

The apple pulp from juicing 6 small apples. Don’t worry about the brown colour, it is simply the apples oxidising.

Method:

Pop the apple pulp in a large 2 litre jar, and add the water and sugar. The pulp will expand and absorb all of the water, and will look totally crazy and you’ll be sure you’ve done it wrong. In fact, I currently don’t have photos of this because when I tried it, I was sure it was going to fail! If it looks wrong, it’s right!

Stir. As above, stir, stir, stir. When not stirring, keep covered with a tea towel. Because the pulp is so fine, it is hard to see bubbles developing, but you will notice the smell changing to cider and then vinegar. Keep stirring. After 4-5 days (longer if the room is cold) you will notice the pulp start to rise and clear liquid will be visable at the bottom of the jar. Keep stirring to push the pulp down. Because the pulp floats, it may get pushed up out of the jar if you don’t stir.

Once the pulp is consistently floating, strain the contents of the jar into another clean jar using cheesecloth (or an old tea towel).

Leave the jar on the counter with the lid loosely fastened until content with the taste, secure the lid and store in a dark cupboard.

A note about colour:

The colour will vary with each batch made, dependent on how many apples you use and how brown they are. I tend to find that using apple pulp makes a darker vinegar than using apple scraps; and that fresh apple scraps make a lighter colour vinegar than frozen apple scraps. Rather than use the colour as a guide, go by taste. You’ll be eating it, after all!

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever made apple scraps vinegar? Have you ever made cider? Do you have any tips to add? Did you struggle, and what went wrong? Are there any other pantry staples that you currently buy that you’d like to make? Are there any that you make already that you’d like to share? Have you ever tried any other fermentation? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

A Zero Waste Guide to Sharing (+ the Sharing Economy)

There’s already a lot of stuff in the world. Dare I even say, too much stuff in the world. If manufacturers declared they would be making no more cutlery sets, or dining chairs, or cushions in the foreseeable future, it’s unlikely we’d be unable to eat dinner or get comfy. We’d make do with what we had, or use what already exists. We’d borrow, and we’d lend.

Sharing stuff isn’t new. Since the explosion of the internet and our increased connectivity though, this idea of sharing what we have has also exploded, because we are no longer restricted to the people we know. Technology has adapted to make it easier for us to borrow from and lend to complete strangers.

The terms ‘the sharing economy’, ‘collaborative consumption’, ‘peer-to-peer lending’ and ‘access economy’ are all used interchangeably when talking about this kind of lending, and the definitions are often confusing and contradictory. Personally, I don’t think the definitions are important. (But if you’re really interested ,this article does a great job of explaining.)

The premise is: you have something you’d like to share or give away, and you need to find someone who wants what you have; or you need something and would like to find someone who has what you need.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s peer to peer lending or if there is a company involved; if there’s money exchanged or if it’s free; whether it relies on technology to work or good old word-of-mouth; whether it’s for-profit or non-profit. It’s all sharing – making better use of time, resources and energy.

What is important to me, and anyone else interested in owning less stuff and creating less waste, is the idea of resource optimization. Getting the most use (and best) out of stuff that already exists. For people who are passionate about this, the explosion of the sharing economy has been great.

Global versus Local?

Global or local – which is better? I think it depends, and both have a place. If I travel to the other side of the planet, being able to find accommodation and travel easily is very helpful, so global networks work well. It’s unlikely that I’ll need to borrow a lawnmower whilst I’m there though, so global tool networks or general borrowing sites are less helpful. Global borrowing sites tend to be more focused around urban cities.

Global networks have bigger infrastructure and costs, so tend not to be free. Keeping things local means costs are much less. Local options are much more useful for meeting local people, reducing travel, plus building networks, relationships and community.

Many global share sites have launched to great fanfare, only to fold within a couple of years. The internet is littered with these stories. I think it’s a sign that in many cases, local is best.

Global Sharing Networks (The Ones I Use)

The few global sites I use are one where money generally changes hands. In these cases, having the security and reputation of a global network can go a long way in building trust.

Accommodation: Airbnb

Maybe the best known of the sharing websites, Airbnb is a global network allowing people to rent out their spare rooms and entire homes to travellers for a price. I like knowing that rather than homes sitting empty, they are being offered out to others.

Cost: Accommodation is charged per night. Fees apply to hosts who rent out rooms. Free to join

W: www.airbnb.com (if you sign up via this link, you’ll save $50AUD on your first booking.)

Accommodation: Couchsurfing

This is a global community of travellers offering their couches, floors and spare rooms to those wanting free accommodation, and also offering meetups and information about local events. I used it to both stay and to host back in 2008, but I have no current experience of the site.

Cost: free for basic membership (premium membership also available); accommodation is free

W: www.couchsurfing.com

Classifieds: Craigslist

This is the most popular classified list in the US, with sections devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, items wanted, services, community, gigs and discussion forums. I’ve never used it as it isn’t popular in the UK or Australia, but I have used similar sites.

Cost: free to list most items; some goods free to buy, most have a cost

W: www.craigslist.org

Classifieds: Gumtree

The most popular classified site in the UK, this is a great way to pick up second-hand items, find a new home for your unwanted stuff. It also offers services. Although it’s an international brand, most sales are made locally via cash on delivery/collection.

Cost: free to list most items; some goods free to buy, most have a cost

W: www.gumtree.com.au (Australia), www.gumtree.com (UK)

Composting: ShareWaste

This website and app connects those with compost and food scraps to those with compost bins. It’s a fairly new app so whether it will stand the test of time, I’m not sure. I have registered my bin and as yet, no-one has used it. There was no-one registered within 400km of where we were staying whilst on holiday – and I cannot believe not a single person there had a compost bin!

Cost: free

W: www.sharewaste.com

Selling: eBay

This auction site allows users to buy and sell used goods, either by auction or for a fixed price. Most countries have their own eBay site, but if international shipping is offered, listings may appear across multiple sites, meaning there is access to a huge audience. It’s a useful way to sell rare or unusual items, but most items must be posted, so weight is a limiting factor.

Cost: free to join; listings may be free or a small cost, fees payable once an item sells

W: www.ebay.com (US), www.ebay.com.au (Australia), www.ebay.co.uk (UK)

Transport: Shiply

Shiply connects lorries and trucks already on the road with people who need things delivered (such as bulky things they’ve purchased second-hand on eBay). Shiply aims to make use of transport already on the roads to reduce carbon emissions. Users list their delivery request, and companies quote for the job based on their existing routes.

Cost: free to request a quote as a customer or join as a transport company; fees are payable if a quote is accepted.

W: www.shiply.com

Transport: Uber

Uber connects people with cars to people who want to go somewhere. It’s a peer-to-peer ride-sharing service where private cars are used in place of taxis. No cash is exchanged as all transactions are made through an app.

Cost: free to join; taxi services are charged to users.

W: www.uber.com

Local Sharing Networks (Ideas to Look Out For)

These are ideas rather than specific sites:  whilst the underlying principles are generally the same across the world for each idea, the companies, organizations and groups that run them are different.

Bike Share

Bikes share schemes differ from bike rental in being a much more casual arrangement, often for shorter periods of time, and with the option of picking up at one point and dropping off at another. Often these points are close to train stations, and are unmanned bays. The idea is to make bicycles available for people to take short trips as an alternative to car use or motorized transport.

Whilst not currently active in Perth, it is reported to be coming shortly. Currently these bike-share schemes operate in 172 cities in 50 countries.

Cost: varies, but is often free for short trips

More info here.

Car Share (Car Clubs)

Like the bike share schemes, car shares are like short-term rentals where the car is charged by the hour. They are useful to anyone needing a car on a short-term basis but who don’t need to own or even hire a car for extended periods. They work on a self-service model so there is no restriction with opening hours. Car-share schemes require users to join as a member.

There is currently no car-sharing service in Perth, but it is common in some parts of the world, with 1.7 million users reported across 27 countries.

Cost: membership fee and subsequent car hire fees

More info here.

Community Groups

These are groups of like-minded people, joined by a common interest. The common interest could be a hobby (gardening, fishing, beer brewing, sewing, art), it could be based on age or circumstance (young mums, working parents, retirees) or it could be based on a common interest (sustainability, politics). These groups are great to tap into for many reasons: to connect with others and share ideas; to gain access to specialist equipment; and to find or pass on second-hand items.

Cost: Some free, some with membership fees

Where to find: community notice boards, or Google search your local area.

Facebook Groups

Facebook groups are different to Facebook pages. Facebook groups are member groups where there is no news feed, but a discussion area where any member can post. (In contrast, a Facebook page is “owned” by a single person, team or organisation, and they control the news feed.) Facebook Groups are currently ad free. You request membership rather than liking a page, and may need to meet conditions to be accepted (like being located in the area). Groups can be public, closed, private or secret.

You need to be a member of Facebook to use Facebook groups, but there is a separate Facebook Groups app you can install on your phone. This means you can be a member of groups without actively using a personal Facebook page.

This is what the “Facebook Groups” app looks like on my phone, along with a collection of groups I’m currently a member of.

There are groups for everything you could imagine, and plenty you wouldn’t. Join the ones that appeal to you (you can always leave if you change your mind). If you see a great idea for a group but can’t find one in your area, start your own!

Cost: free

Library

Anybody who is not a member of their local library is seriously missing a trick! We use our local library to borrow books, DVDs and magazines, and occasionally use their printing services – which means we do not need to own a printer. All libraries are different, and not all services are free, but membership usually is.

What’s on offer: Books, eBooks, Magazines, newspapers, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, internet and printing services, talks and workshops

Cost: Usually free to join, most services free, some incur a small charge

Where to find: check with your local council.

Specialist Libraries

These are usually community- or volunteer- run services, but may also be run by local councils. They lend specific items, such as tools and light machinery, gardening equipment, or toys.

Cost: Varies – there can be a membership cost, and often there is a small charge to borrow items

Where to find: check with your local council, or Google search your local area.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and new share sites pop up all the time. I hope it gives you some insight into the kinds of things out there, and encourages you to think about embracing this bold new world (and yet very traditional, centuries-old idea) of sharing.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Are you a sharer – and how do you share and borrow? Do you prefer to use global networks or local ones? Do you have personal experience of any of these sites or any of these ideas? Do you have any others you’d recommend? Have you had any bad experiences with sharing? Any stories to share? Are you involved with running or administrating a local sharing site, and how have you found it? How to you feel about the growth of these sharing networks – is it a good thing or a bad thing? Are you still undecided? 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.

Where to Find Zero Waste + Plastic Free Essentials Online

As someone who does her best to discourage shopping, I’ve put off writing this guide. For years. Yet I’m regularly asked where to find certain eco-friendly products. And yes: there are certain items that make living plastic-free and zero waste easier. The purpose of this website is to make it easier for people to live more sustainable, ethical, plastic-free and zero waste lives. Very occasionally, that means stuff.

I’ve put this resource together to help anyone looking for zero waste or plastic-free alternatives. I would always encourage everyone to use what they have first, and to look for second-hand options before buying anything new. Borrowing things from friends to establish whether you will actually use them before buying is also recommended.

I would also plead: shop as local as possible, and support independent stores. We all bemoan the lack of choice, the rise of big box stores and the demise of the independent store. Yet when we buy something, the temptation is often to choose the cheapest option, rather than the most ethical.

Remember, when we buy things, we vote with our money for the companies we want to support and the kind of future we want to see.

Zero Waste and Plastic Free Online Shopping

I’ve tried to feature stores that have a range of products, rather than just one or two offerings. This list is only as good as my personal experience and the feedback and recommendations I receive. If you know of a store I should add to this list – please tell me!

The most zero waste option is always to buy from a physical store rather than to purchase online, where the option exists. The next best option is to choose the most local online store to you. Etsy is a handmade marketplace and is a great place to find handmade produce bags, reusable bags and other crafted items, and to support local producers.

Zero Waste and Plastic Free Online Shopping, Australia

Biome Eco Store

An online store (with stores in Brisbane) that isn’t exclusively plastic-free or zero waste but with a very high proportion of zero waste products. They do have a dedicated “No Waste and Plastic Free” section, and also ship their products without using plastic.

Great for: stainless steel and glass lunchboxes and containers, water bottles, reusable straws, icy pole moulds, cutlery, glass jars, bamboo dental care, and lots more.

W: biome.com.au

Delivery: Australia (Free Delivery over $130); international delivery at cost

Shop Naturally

An online store (with pickup from their warehouse available in NSW) is an online health and wellbeing store with a fair range of plastic-free products in bamboo and stainless steel, and BPA-free silicone.

Great for: water bottles, bamboo kitchenware, glass food storage, popsicle moulds and ice cube trays.

W: shopnaturally.com.au

Delivery: Australia only (free shipping starts at $100 spend and minimum spend increases with weight and postcode).

Flora & Fauna

Flora & Fauna is a vegan, cruelty-free and eco-friendly online store selling everything from fashion to homewares, dental care to reusables. Not everything in their store is zero waste or even plastic-free, but they do have a range of options spread across their categories. They also sell some unusual products including copper water bottles.

W: floraandfauna.com.au

Delivery: Worlwide. Austalia: $6.95 for orders up to $50.00, free delivery over $50. Some smaller items have free shipping with no minimum spend. New Zealand: shipping from $10 via DHL. Worldwide shipping from $15 via DHL.

Dandelion Eco Store

An online health and wellbeing store based in Perth, WA (with pickup available from the Growers Green Farmers Market, South Fremantle on Sundays). Rachel has a growing collection of stainless steel and plastic-free food storage and food preparation containers.

Great for: plastic-free food storage solutions including lunchboxes, water bottles, other reusables.

W: dandelionecostore.com.au

Delivery: Australia only (Free shipping to Perth metro over $50; $15 flat rate shipping for Australia-wide metro with spends up to $299; free shipping Australia-wide metro for spends over $300; rural Australia shipping calculated by weight and postcode).

Urban Revolution

An online eco-store based in Perth with a range of plastic free items and reusables and a big focus on natural and compostable options, that ship all parcels with reused materials and avoids plastic where possible.

W: urbanrevolution.com.au

Delivery: Australia only (delivery calculated by weight; local pickup available)

Ecolosophy

An online eco-store with a range of plastic free items and reusables, that ship all parcels without plastic tape or packaging.

W: ecolosophy.com.au

Delivery: Australia only ($9.95 under $150, free delivery over $150)

Going Green Solutions

An online store based in Melbourne (with local pickup available from Hurstbridge, Melbourne) with two main categories: green catering & packaging; and eco home & lifestyle. Has a broad range of products with some less-commonly found items including make-up refills.

W: goinggreensolutions.com.au

Delivery: Australia only (free delivery over $100 if less than 3kg; heavier orders calculated by weight; local pickup available)

The Source Bulk Foods

As the name suggests, The Source Bulk Foods are predominantly a food retailer. They are passionate about zero waste living and reducing plastic though, and have a number of reusables for sale on their website or at their 33 stores across Australia including beeswax wraps, produce bags, Planet Box lunchboxes and water bottles.

W. thesourcebulkfoods.com.au

Delivery: Australia only (from $9.95; price dependent on postcode and weight of order)

Zero Waste and Plastic Free Online Shopping, USA and Canada

Life Without Plastic

An online store dedicated to offering products that are plastic-free, this store has everything you might need (and no doubt, plenty you don’t!) for living a plastic-free and zero waste lifestyle. All of the products are made with stainless steel, glass and wood.

W: lifewithoutplastic.com

Delivery: Flat Rate Shipping to North America & Canada (excluding Hawaii & Alaska); International Delivery at cost.

Mighty Nest

An online store with a focus on natural, organic and non-toxic products, with lots of glass, stainless steel and non-plastic options.

W: mightynest.com

Delivery: USA (free delivery over $50 except Alaska, Hawaii and US Territories), Australia and Canada (delivery at cost)

The Ultimate Green Store

This isn’t a plastic-free or zero waste store as such, and there are no dedicated categories. There are lots of natural products and recycled materials, and the range is huge. The store offers bamboo homewares, recycled glass products and a small selection of reusables. You won’t find specialist zero waste products here but it is helpful for the basics. They also have a big range of organic natural clothing.

W: theultimategreenstore.com

Delivery: USA only (except by special request)

Tiny Yellow Bungalow

A small eco-store based in Athens, Georgia (local pickup is also available) dedicated to zero waste living, which also sells a small number of vintage items.

Great for: vintage and arty zero waste items, and reusables.

W: tinyyellowbungalow.com

Delivery: USA (price per order value; orders over $100 cost a flat rate $15), International ($26 for orders under $150, $36 for orders over $150)

Wild Minimalist

A small zero waste online store based in San Rafael, California which also sells a small number of vintage items. They are committed to packaging items plastic-free, and use recyclable materials where possible.

W: wildminimalist.com

Delivery: USA and Canada (shipping calculated at checkout; free standard delivery for orders over $75 to the Continental U.S. & Canada)

NU Grocery (Canada)

An online zero waste store with a growing collection of zero waste products under five categories. They also ship their products completely plastic-free and all packaging is fully recyclable.

W: nu-grocery.myshopify.com

Delivery: Canada only ($10, free delivery on orders over $85)

PAREdown Home (Canada)

An online zero waste store with a small range of products, most of which are plastic-free.

W: paredownhome.com

Delivery: Worldwide, no prices listed.

Zero Waste and Plastic Free Online Shopping, UK and Ireland

A Slice of Green

The sister site of Green Tulip (listed below), A Slice of Green products are focused on waste minimization and the mantra “reduce-reuse-recycle”. Not all products are plastic-free, but the emphasis is on reusables and sustainability. Focussed on food preparation, storage and transport.

W : asliceofgreen.co.uk

Delivery: UK (free delivery over £30, costs £2.95 under £30), international delivery at cost (on request)

Green Tulip

An ethical gifts website with 6 core values: organic, natural, British, recycled, sustainable and fair trade. Their sister site A Slice of Green focuses on food-based reusables, but Green Tulip has plenty of sustainable alternatives to conventional products including garden, wellbeing and recycled glass.

W: greentulip.co.uk

Delivery: UK (free delivery over £30, costs £2.95 under £30), international delivery at cost (on request)

Boobalou

Boobalou is a small UK company working to reduce household waste, with a huge focus on family-friendly reusables. There are four main categories: eco lady, eco baby, eco home and eco living. Whilst not everything is plastic-free, the majority is, and all of the products are more eco-friendly than conventional alternatives.

Great for: anyone with babies, young kids and families.

W: boobalou.co.uk

Delivery: UK (free delivery over £50, costs £2.85 under £50), International (£6.85 flat rate; large orders at cost)

Less Plastic

This small online store is committed to promoting the plastic-free way of life, and all products are designed to live without (or with less plastic). Most products are for food prep, storage and transport, with a real emphasis on stainless steel reusables.

W: lessplastic.co.uk

Delivery: UK (£3.50 under £50, free delivery over £50), international delivery on request

Eqo Living

A small online store and family business committed to offering eco-friendly, reusable products for living with less waste. Most products are for food preparation, storage and transport.

W: eqoliving.com

Delivery: UK only (£4.90 standard delivery under £100, free delivery over £100)

&Keep

Based in Dorset, this online homewares store stocks products chosen with the idea that they are bought “once” and will last forever. Lots of natural materials and fibres, and a selection of reusables.

W: andkeep.com

Delivery: UK only (Standard delivery £1.99, free delivery over £50

Ethical Superstore

This isn’t a plastic-free or zero waste store as such, and there is plenty of plastic! But there is such a vast array of products (it is definitely a superstore!) that there are some zero waste options. They have a home composting section, bamboo homewares, and a small selection of reusables. You won’t find specialist zero waste products here but it is helpful for the basics. They also have a big range of organic natural clothing.

W: ethicalsuperstore.com

Delivery: UK and Ireland only (free delivery over £50)

Natural Collection

Owned by the same company as Ethical Superstore, this online shop has many of the same products but they seem to run different offers, so it may be worth checking both.

W: naturalcollection.com

Delivery: UK and Ireland only (free delivery over £50)

Anything But Plastic

A small online eco store selling a limited range of plastic-free products including personal care items (dental floss, soap and make-up).

W: anythingbutplastic.co.uk

Zero Waste and Plastic Free Online Shopping, Europe

European stores are divided into two sections: those with English versions and those without. (The latter are presented as a list simply because I am unable to read them to give a more detailed account of their offering!)

Sinplastico (Spain)

A Spanish website (with English and French translations) that focuses on alternative products to plastic. There are five categories: kitchen, bath & body, home, kids & babies, and takeaway.

W : sinplastico.com

Delivery: Europe (Spain and Portugal €3-10 under €120, free over €120; France €10 under €120, free over €200; rest of Europe €15 under €120, €10 over €200)

Non-English Online Zero Waste Stores:

France:

Sans BPA
W: sans-bpa.com

Hakuna Tata – Boutique Zero Dechet
W: boutiquezerodechet.com

Czech Republik:

Econea
W: econea.cz

Germany:

Laguna
W: laguna-onlineshop.de

Monomeer
W: monomeer.de

Original Unverpackt
W: original-unverpackt.de

Plasno
W: plasno.de

Plasticarian
W: einfach-ohne-plastik.at

Zero Waste Laden
W: zerowasteladen.de

Zero Waste Shop
W: zerowasteshop.de

Greece

Sapontina
W: sapontina.gr

Netherlands:

Babongo
W: babongoshop.nl

Ecomondo
W: ecomondo.nl

Bag-Again NL
W: bag-again.nl

Younetics
W: younetics.nl

Now I’d love to hear from you! Please help make this list as useful as possible to as many people as possible! If you know of a store that’s missing, please let me know in the comments so I can add it to the list. If you have any experiences of these (or other) stores, please share away and let everyone know your thoughts – good and bad! Any other tips or alternatives to find products also welcome. Tell me what you think in the comments below!

Disclaimer: These companies have been included by me or recommended by my readers as great online stores to purchase zero waste or plastic-free products, based solely on their product offering, ethics and customer service. No store has paid me to be featured on this list. Whilst I have not personally shopped at all of these stores, I can recognise products that I own or recommend in their pages, and I trust the opinion of my readers. 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.

Changing the Story: Talking Rubbish on the Tedx Stage

Taking the stage at last year’s TedX Perth event has to be one of the highlights of the year. On behalf of the zero waste and plastic-free community, the opportunity to share the message about living with less waste with 1700 people was pretty mind-blowing.

From a personal perspective, talking in front of that many people was pretty mind-blowing too!

I never thought of myself as a public speaker. At school, if asked to speak in front of the class, I’d end up bawling until I was allowed to sit back down. (I’m sorry, classmates, for having to put you all through that.) And yes, this was in my teens.

When I first began writing this blog back in 2012 it was completely anonymous.

I’m not someone who loves the limelight.

My first public speaking opportunity came in 2013, when Plastic Free July asked me to talk for 5 minutes in front of 60 people. The only reason I said yes was because I felt that the message I had to share was more important than my personal fear of embarrassment/humiliation/self-doubt.

I remember pacing in the toilets beforehand, heart racing and sweaty palms, panicking about standing in front of all those people.

After that 5 minute talk, where I spoke too fast, flailed my arms wildly and trembled, a radio host who was watching asked me for a pre-recorded interview. I said no.

He approached me again as I was leaving. After some persuasion about how important the message was, I reluctantly agreed.

Then the next community group or organsiation asked. And the next.

And that is how this non-public speaker became a public speaker. Whenever I was asked to speak or present, I’d remember that the story and the cause is the most important thing, and I’d bite my lip and agree.

And in time, with practice, I got better. I learned to slow down. I learned not to panic. I felt more confident in myself, and in what I was talking about.

I still flail my arms uncontrollably! Something to work on ;)

Now, I love to speak to others. It’s a way to amplify the message. I can do what I do, and tell all my friends, but the impact is limited. When I start to speak to people who don’t know me and share my story with them, that’s when the message really starts to spread.

If you’re passionate about the plastic-free life and the zero waste movement (or something else!), then I encourage you to get out there, into your community, and spread the word. You don’t have to take the stage at a big event (at least, not at first)! I have spoken to groups as small as 15 people.

The opportunities are everywhere: at your local library, the farmers’ market, your workplace, a local school or community group. Your message is too important not to share.

You don’t have to be a public speaker. I wasn’t. You don’t have to love standing in front of an audience, or have confidence in spades. I didn’t. I’m just someone with a message I want to share. That’s all you need to get out there and make a difference.

Now I’d love to hear from you! If you get a chance to watch the video, I’d love to hear what you think! And if you’ve tips for keeping flailing arms at bay, I’m all ears ;) Have you personally had any experiences of speaking in public? Is it something that you embrace, or that you dread? Is it something you’d like to do in 2017? How have you managed to conquer your nerves? Do you have tips for anyone starting out? Is it something you still struggle with? Anything else you’d like to add? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

How to Compost for Zero Waste Living Without a Compost Bin

When I gave up plastic, I quickly noticed that the only thing going into my rubbish bin was food scraps. Take out the plastic, and food waste is pretty much all that’s left. Glass, paper, cardboard and metal are commonly recycled, so these would go in the recycling bin.

It’s not that I was throwing perfectly good food away. You wouldn’t catch me doing that! Food waste includes spoiled fruit and vegetables, the peels, the skins, the outer leaves, the cores, the husks, the seeds. The inedible bits.

Food waste makes up almost 40% of the average domestic rubbish bin. Without the plastic, it was nearly 100% of mine! I realised that if I could set up a system for dealing with food waste, my bin would be empty.

The thing was, when I began living zero waste, I lived in an upstairs flat without a garden. The good news is, we managed. There is always a way! There are actually plenty of ways to deal with food waste without having a garden or even a compost bin.

A Zero Waste Guide to Composting (No Garden? No Problem!)

1. Regular Composting

Zero Waste Plastic Free Gardening Homemade Compost Treading My Own Path

A standard compost bin requires a patch of soil or dirt about 1m² where it can be dug in. That isn’t a huge amount of space. Even if you don’t have your own garden, there might be a shared area where you can put one.

And if the reason you’re not composting is simply because you haven’t yet got yourself a compost bin yet… Well, get yourself on the local classifieds sites or Freecycle immediately! There is no time to lose ;)

Suitable for: anyone with a small patch of dirt.

Not suitable for: apartment dwellers, those with no outdoor green space.

2. A Rotary Composter

rotary-compost

A rotary composter is a compost bin suspended on a frame, making it useful for small spaces and paved surfaces. They are also called barrel composters and spinning composters. They are often more expensive than regular compost bins, and it is worth paying extra for one that is well designed and sturdy. They can be difficult to turn when full, particularly the larger ones, so bear that in mind before choosing the XL model. Read reviews to find a model that suits your needs.

Suitable for: anyone with a balcony, yard or space outdoors.

Not suitable for: people with back or strength issues (who may find turning it hard).

3. Neighbours with Compost Bins (or a Garden)

You might not have a garden, but what about your neighbours? Would they mind if you put a compost bin on their land? How about family and friends living locally? It doesn’t hurt to ask, and it’s a great way to build good relations with your neighbours.

Alternatively, check out this great site Sharewaste.com, which lets you either find places to take your compost, or offer your compost bin to others. I’ve registered my bins!

Suitable for: anyone with friendly neighbours or friends/family with a garden.

4. Council collections

When I lived in Bristol (UK) I was lucky enough that the council would collect food scraps from my door once a week for composting. If you live in an area with this service, make use of it! If you don’t live somewhere where this happens, contact your council and find out if there are any plans to launch it in the near future.

(If your friends or family have this service but you don’t, maybe you can make use of theirs!)

Suitable for: anyone with a council composting collection service.

5. Collected Compost

This is similar to the council composting scheme, except they are run privately. Food waste is collected from your door and taken away for composting. Unlike the council services, there may be a small charge for these services.

Sometimes Farmers Markets offer this service, so you can take your compost waste to the Farmers Market.

Suitable for: anyone living in the catchment of a private compost collecting company.

Not suitable for: anyone on a tight budget who doesn’t want to commit to weekly collection fees.

6. Community Garden Composting

If you don’t have space to compost at home, and you don’t have neighbours, friends or family who are able (or willing) to help you out, community gardens are a great place to take your compost. Many are willing to take food scraps without the need for you to be a member (although being a member is a great way to support a local organisation doing good in the community). Find out where the nearest community garden is to your home or your place of work, and get in touch to find out how you can connect your waste with their bins.

Suitable for: anyone living or working near a community garden with compost bins.

7. Worm Farm (Vermicomposting)

Build a DIY Worm Farm

A worm farm is typically a box with air holes, drainage and a lid, and worms. Worm farms (also called vermicomposting) uses composting worms, which are fast growing and fast eating, rather than earthworms that you might dig up from your garden. They eat food waste and turn it into rich worm castings that is a great soil additive.

They are available for purchase (often in the second-hand ads) or you can make your own using waste materials.

Worm farms can be kept indoors or outdoors dependent on climate (worms don’t like the cold). If looked after properly they do not smell.

Suitable for: everyone, but especially apartment dwellers and those without a garden.

8. Bokashi

Bokashi Bin

Bokashi bins ferment waste rather than breaking it down. They are an indoor home composting system and can deal with all types of waste, including cooked food and meat/fish products. Inoculated bran is added to the bin to kickstart the fermentation process. The bokashi bin is sealed and does not smell.

Once filled the contents need to be dug into a garden or added to a compost bin, so access to outside space is necessary.

Find out more about bokashi composting.

Suitable for: meat eaters who have waste unsuitable for composting.

Not suitable for: anyone without access to outdoor space.

When we began our zero waste lifestyle, we started out with a single worm farm. That grew to two worm farms, and we added a bokashi bin to the mix too. Now we have a garden we still have the worm farms and the bokashi bin (although this is not currently in use) and have established not one but four compost bins! This means we have space not only to compost our own food scraps, but other people’s too :)

Now I’d love to hear from you! How do you deal with your food waste? Do you compost, or have a worm farm, or a bokashi? Do you have all three?! Or none of them, and you do something completely different? Have you tried any of these and not got on with them? Do you need help or troubleshooting? Which one is your favourite? Any that you’d like to get started with? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

Can You Live Plastic-Free without Bulk Stores?

One of the most common challenges I hear from people who would like to embrace plastic-free or zero waste living, is that they don’t live near a bulk store. Access to bulk stores definitely makes plastic-free living infinitely easier – but that doesn’t mean that without them, it’s impossible.

In fact, there are still plenty of things that you can do to reduce your plastic footprint, wherever you live, wherever you shop and however busy you are.

Here’s a list of my top 8 (as always, feel free to add your own ideas to the comments below).

Don’t make the mistake of doing nothing because you cannot do everything.

This is so important! Just because there isn’t a bulk store near you, that doesn’t mean that you should give up before you begin.

Remember that every single piece of plastic that has ever been made is still in existence today, so every single piece of plastic you refuse is one less piece entering our environment.

We just need to start where we are, with what we have, and do what we can. Even if you can only refuse a few things, or make a couple of changes, it all counts. If we all did the best we could, think how much better the world would be!

Don’t stress about what you can’t change, look for what you can change.

Eat more fresh vegetables!

Apologies for sounding like your Nan here, but seriously – food packaging accounts for such a significant amount of the waste we produce, and one of the easiest ways to reduce this is to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.

Look for unpackaged fruits and vegetables, or if you still need to buy in packaging, try to choose the bigger packs (there will be less plastic overall).

Potatoes and sweet potatoes are a great high-carb alternative to pasta and rice, and are easy to find plastic-free.

If you don’t know how to cook something, look on the internet for simple recipes. This is where I’m going to offer different advice from your Nan – you do not need to boil everything for 30+ minutes! Plenty of veggies can be roasted (try carrots, broccoli and cauliflower), stir-fried, broiled, baked, sautéed – or eaten raw.

Zero Waste Vegetables Plastic Free July Treading My Own Path

My local veg box delivery comes mid-week and direct to my door (convenience shopping with a difference) and it’s an easy way for me to get produce that’s plastic-free and locally grown.

Also, many veggies can be frozen once cooked. If you live in a small household and don’t want to eat an entire pumpkin this week, chop into cubes, roast it as usual and freeze what you don’t need. Other vegetables, such as leeks and broccoli, can be blanched for 1-3 minutes, and then frozen.

This guide lists how to freeze a number of vegetables and might be a helpful starting point.

Bring your own reusable bags – not just your main shopping bags

As well as your own shopping bags, bring reusable produce bags for all your loose produce items, and a cloth bag for any bread you need.

You can find produce bags available for sale online (made of cloth or mesh, some pre-labelled and others plain) – or you can make your own using your own fabric or even old net curtains!

Fruit and Veggie Produce Bags Treading My Own Path

Reusable produce bags are a great way to buy loose products at the store without needing to take those pesky plastic bags!

If you forget, and you’re buying too many items to simply pop them in your trolley loose, you can often find paper mushroom or potato bags so use these as an alternative to plastic.

Look for packaging in glass, cardboard and paper, and adapt where you can

When I first started out with plastic-free living, I continued to shop at the supermarket. Whilst I found most of the pre-prepared products were packaged in plastic, I found many wholefoods and single ingredients that were packaged in glass and cardboard. For example, in my local store I could buy pasta and couscous in cardboard packaging, as well as oats and rice, but I could not buy quinoa or bulgar wheat.

I began buying more oats over breakfast cereal; eating porridge for breakfast and using more oats in baking. In glass jars I found passata so I began to buy this rather than chopped tomatoes in Tetra-Paks (which are difficult to recycle) or tins (which are plastic-lined and contain BPA).

After all, passata is just chopped tomatoes that have been blended! (Later I discovered that simply using fresh tomatoes and quickly chopping saved packaging dilemmas altogether.)

How far you take this will depend on whether you have dietary restrictions or fussy eaters in your household, but even one change is a step in the right direction.

Remember, you can still buy bulk within the store

I’m not talking about buying huge quantities of food you probably won’t eat here, I‘m referring to choosing one product over individual portions and single serves. Even if the bigger one still comes in packaging, it will be far less than all those individual portions added together.

Rather than buying individual pots of yoghurt, buy a 1kg tub (or bigger) and split into smaller containers at home.

Rather than snack portions of raisins or crackers, buy a big pack and divide up yourself.

Rather than buying individual slices of cheese, or grated cheese, buy a big block and chop or grate at home (tip – you can freeze cheese so there’s no reason why you can’t buy a big block and freeze what you won’t use straightaway for later).

Aside from saving the plastic, you’ll save a huge amount on your grocery bill. Check the price per kilo of the bulk items versus the “convenience” items and you’ll find that convenience comes at a price – and you won’t just be saving the environment with these choices!

Supermarket or not – bring your own containers!

It’s possible to take your own containers to the counters at the supermarket or your local stores: the butcher, fishmonger, cheese shop or deli. Make sure they are clean, and explain why you’re doing it as you hand your containers over.

Confidence is everything – act like you’ve done it a million times before, and it is the most normal thing to do in the world!

If you’re unsure that they will be accepted, or feel really nervous, you can always phone the store in advance and ask if they’d be happy to take your own clean containers (be sure to tell them why).

You may find the odd place that isn’t willing to help, but most are happy to support this kind of shopping. If they have restrictions, find out what they are. (They may be happy to use containers for pre-cooked products, but not raw, for example. They may be happy to fill your own containers, but only if you drop them off by a certain time, or on a certain day.)

Reusable containers. Simply take to the shop and ask the server to put your goodies directly inside!

Reusable containers. Simply take to the shop and ask the server to put your goodies directly inside!

If a staff member is unwilling to comply, it may be that you simply need to check with the manager (they may be fearful of losing their job, and a quick conversation can sort this out).

If the store is definitely against it, you could push higher up if they are a chain or have a Head Office, or simply take your business elsewhere. If you do receive a “no”, keep it in mind and try again in a few months – something may have changed!

If places aren’t willing to comply, there may be the option of the staff wrapping your item in paper and you putting the paper-wrapped product into your sealed container yourself. It’s always worth asking if they have paper behind the counter.

Refuse single-serve and single-use items

“Refusing” is such a big part of the plastic-free living journey, and we can remove so much plastic from the environment just by making this simple choice. Refusing bottled water and carrying our own bottle and refilling from the tap; choosing to dine in rather than get takeaway or bringing our own containers; refusing straws; refusing individual sachets of sauce, butter or those tiny little portions of milk… it all makes a difference.

Carrying your own water bottle or coffee cup and a reusable straw is a great alternative if you’re often out, and a great way to start conversations. Simply asking at the cafe if you can have a splash of milk directly into your tea or a little bit of butter cut directly from the block rather than the single-serve portions is a surprisingly easy way to avoid plastic and make a point.

Go outside and pick up litter

No matter where you live, what shops are available to you or what your budget is, or how much time you have to spare, you can do this. Simply go out of your front door and onto your street with a bag, and pick up all the plastic litter you come across.

You may prefer to go to the beach or alongside a river, if you have one close by, but wherever you choose to go, I guarantee there will be some litter. Whether you opt for a 2 minute beach clean, simply commit to pick up 3 things, or decide to take a 30 minute walk and see what you come across, it all makes a difference.

Pick up any plastic items that you find, and then dispose of them responsibly. You’ll be stopping that plastic getting ingested by wildlife or making its way to the ocean, and making your local environment a more pleasant place to be. You’ll probably feel a lot more determined to avoid single-use items afterwards, too!

Treading My Own Path 30 Minute Litter Pick Up Litterati Take3 July 2016

I picked this up in 30 minutes simply by walking around my local streets.

Whatever you can do, you really must know that what you do makes a difference. The smallest actions can have the biggest impacts, and choosing just one thing to change is better than changing nothing at all.

The planet, the turtles and the plastic-free community; we will all thank you for it. Don’t let a lack of local bulk stores stand in your way. It really doesn’t matter how far you take this.

What matters is that you try.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Are you struggling to find bulk stores near you? What items do you struggle to find without plastic packaging? What have been your biggest dilemmas and challenges? What have been your best successes and greatest a-ha moments? What are you currently working towards changing? Any other suggestions for those who live far from bulk options? If you are lucky enough to have bulk options near you, are there still items that you struggle with? Do you have any others that you’d add to this list? Any other thoughts or comments? Please tell me what you think in the comments below!