Zero Waste Challenge – Roundup

So here we are at the end of the Zero Waste Challenge and nearly a month has gone by since it ‘officially’ finished, allowing me time to reflect upon the experience.

Week One

The first week was a learning curve, realising just how much non-recyclable plastic waste my local supermarkets (Sainsburys and Waitrose, I’m looking at you) use.  I emptied out a glass jar from my pantry and assigned it to collect all the non-recyclable and non-compostable garbage we would use in a month.  With one exception to this rule being the dirty nappies from my toddler.  No way I’m saving those up for a month!  (Although we use cloth nappies, we also use biodegradable nappies for night, but because they contain human waste after use, they have to go into the garbage rather than the compost bin…according to my friend’s bin man).  At least they will have decomposed in 4-5 years rather than 500 years like regular disposable nappies.

Week Two

Week two was more about changing my practices as a consumer and being more confident in demanding that my purchases create less waste.  I just started finding the whole experience less…well…less embarrassing to be honest.  So I now make sure that the fishmonger and butcher just wrap my purchases in paper (which they do anyway) but I ask them not to put them in a plastic bag afterwards and instead I place them in a washable bag.  I found that the most cost effective way of shopping with less packaging was by making a menu plan, creating a list and then going to the local village shops.  We are fortunate to have a local organic green grocers which also sells a lot of Middle Eastern foods, a fishmongers, a butchers and if you like wine, there is a shop which sells wines on tap from barrels and you can bring your own bottles to fill up.  I like using the local shops too because you don’t need to buy big packs of food and can order just as much as you need for your menu plan.  This helps reduce food waste.

Week Three

By week three I noticed that we were creating a lot more recycling, compost waste and bits of paper to go into the fire basket. I guess this was a by-product of me making sure that any packaged goods I did buy were in recyclable packaging. I think we’ll have to deal with that at some point, as even creating lots of recyclable waste still isn’t ideal. I was also finding it really frustrating to realise that there actually weren’t any bulk food stores around to get dry goods. I am from Canada and most of the supermarkets in my home country have a bulk foods section and there is even a great chain of bulk food stores that have been around since I was a kid, called the Bulk Barn. I don’t think I ever really appreciated it that much…until now when I realised that the only bulk food shops around  here are the big Whole Foods in Kensington (where I used to do my bulk food shopping when I worked around there), Unpackaged at Planet Organic in Muswell Hill and The Dry Goods Store in Maida Vale.

You also have to remember that even the most self righteous of zero waste shoppers can never be truly zero waste. Even those bulk foods come packaged somehow. So if, like me, there isn’t a local bulk food store in your area, there is a good argument for getting a bunch of likeminded local friends together and doing some bulk ordering of some pantry staples you use a lot of in your kitchen. You’ll just need someone who is a bit organised to pull it all together and you’ll need a good set of scales for dividing the order up fairly!

Week Four

I got really DIY-ey this week. Throughout the month I had been making the zero waste baby wipes for my toddler, but at this point I needed to replace some of my own personal care items and made a batch of my homemade deodorant (recipe coming soon!), as well as making my foaming hand soap  with a new essential oil blend of lemongrass and ginger for summer.  I really love doing DIY personal care items, but for me, they do have to work.   Especially the deodorant!  Unfortunately I haven’t found a homemade shampoo recipe that works well so at the moment I’m still using a commercial brand of shampoo which I like.  (If you know of an amazing DIY shampoo which actually works…tell me about it!)

At this point I also ran out of bamboo toothbrushes, so I made a new order on Amazon.  I don’t know why more people don’t buy these.  The bristles are made from nylon and they are exactly the same as the bristles on a normal toothbrush.  They just have handles made from bamboo rather than the mixed plastic handles of normal toothbrushes which end up in landfill because most recyclers won’t go to the trouble of separating the plastics.  I do appreciate the fact that ordering a toothbrush to come in a large cardboard Amazon box is not the most ‘zero waste’, however right now nowhere local carries the environmentally friendly toothbrushes and I do buy in bulk so at least I won’t have to buy them again until later in the year. Also, for my toddler I get these little Jack N’ Jill compostable toothbrushes for babies with cute little animals on them.

Conclusion

So, I have to say that my husband wasn’t the most co-operative partner in this Zero Waste Challenge and I did see a bit of non-recyclable packaging make it into the garbage can, so in addition to the night time nappy waste, over the month in total we produced a loosely filled 40 litre bag of garbage.  So as a household we were not entirely zero waste this month. However, excluding my husband and baby’s contributions to landfill…I do feel proud that my personal contribution to landfill from the whole of the month of June fit into the space of a Kilner jar.

OLOL Zero Waste Jar

Now, going forward will I chop my garbage up into small pieces and store it in a glass jar every month?  No, probably not.  Will I keep up the additional zero waste practices I’ve adopted over the course of the month?  Absolutely.  And I will continue to add to them as I can.  I’ve equipped our household with a few additional zero waste necessities, like pyrex glass and stainless steel water bottles to ensure we can take enough water on our outings and day trips and also some extra mason jars for food storage, snacks, layered salads and the like.  I already have my favourite glass standard barista size Keep Cup which my husband bought me last year and which I carry with me everywhere so I can get coffee on the go.

I’ve also started doing a bit more “from scratch” in the kitchen like cooking up dry pulses in slow cooker (avoiding tinned and boxed black beans and chick peas) and making my own cashew milk and storing it in glass bottles, thus saving on the high cost of nut milks and also the packaging they come in.

I could feel like a failure and just give up entirely thinking “oh that zero waste thing didn’t work out for me”, but I think that actually we’ve made some great steps this month towards living a reduced waste lifestyle in the long-term and that will have significantly more environmental impact than one zero waste month experiment would have.  And I’m happy with that.  And even my husband is now getting into the swing of things…even though he still thinks some of it is pretty weird.

And now head on over to my fellow green blogger MumBalance to see how her family did with their Zero Waste Challenge.

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44 thoughts on “Zero Waste Challenge – Roundup

  1. Stressed Mum

    I think when you actually look at how much waste you have, it is surprising, we have a compost pile so a lot of ours goes on there, and I tend to try to buy packets etc and less packaging when I can, as it annoys me x

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    Reply
    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Oh that’s amazing. We’re pretty urban so I haven’t figured out quite how well the compost thing would work yet in our garden but meanwhile our Council provides compost bins for us so at least its being composted even though we’re not doing it.

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  2. LaaLaa (@LaaLaaMonroe)

    I use that exact bamboo toothbrush and I’ve even got the jack n jill rinse cup LOL. I love eco products. I think even making the right moves is a step in the right direction and I’m glad your husband is starting to get into the swing of it. I think we could all benefit from being a bit more eco friendly x

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      I love it! So many kindred spirits already doing all this stuff to help reduce waste. I’d love to be ‘zero waste’ but I think as a realistic first step, I’m okay with ‘reduced waste’. 🙂

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  3. Hannah Clementson

    This is such an interesting challenge, we have more waste in our bin that you did in a month, that fascinates me but makes me feel sad too. I am working on making more of my own and working more on being more loving to the earth. This was awesome.

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Its all baby steps Hannah. The challenge was fun to do, but in reality I think making small changes on a regular basis is the key to moving towards a truly sustainable reduced or zero waste lifestyle which, as you beautifully put it, is more loving to the earth. Thank you for your kind words.

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  4. HchClem

    This is such an interesting post. It makes me quite sad to read this and realise how much waste we actually go through as a household that I could recycle. I am working on trying to be more earth loving and making my own things and growing more of my own. Now I really feel i need to think about what I am bringing in too. Thats amazing going. Congratulations! x

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Thanks again Hannah! Making your own stuff is just so much fun and its really satisfying every time you use it. I’m definitely going to be focusing on doing more DIY beauty and personal care posts in the coming months.

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  5. Sarah

    I am absolutely ashamed after reading this post! We throw away so much in this house. 😦
    I do try to recycle a lot though too.
    But well done you for pulling this off, you should be so proud!

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    Reply
    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Thanks Emily, I think it was important to be honest about the challenges because I find it frustrating seeing perfect ‘zero waste’ lifestyle gurus and thinking that I’ll never be as ‘good’ as them. I want to share the philosophy that you don’t have to be perfect to make some amazing eco-friendly changes in your life. Anybody can make one change, and then another and another, as and when they can. I want to leave a world worth leaving to my daughter.

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  6. Charli Bruce

    This is absolutely amazing and I think you need a massive well done for how you have pulled this off! I remember watching a show on a couple doing something similar to this and was highly fascinated. I do recycle everything I can but I have to admit I chuck away everything else xx

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Ana, there are some great blogs and YouTubers on zero waste living. Bea Johnsen of http://www.zerowastehome.com is one of the founders but personally the YouTube channels are my favourite. More and more people are choosing to live with voluntary simplicity. I must admit that it brings a sense of satisfying peace which I wasn’t anticipating. I probably should have included that in the blog but I didn’t want it to sound smug or anything.

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  7. Liz Mays

    This sounded like a really good learning experience. It’s pretty hard to make huge changes over the course of a month but I can see how this helps you learn how to make some incremental changes.

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    Reply
    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      Thanks Tanya! Well, a good place to start is that you love the Lush products and they are big supporters of the zero waste movement. I personally don’t use them because of the parabens, but by choosing their products rather than other more heavily packaged brands, you are already doing something! They are always happy to give you as little packaging as possible and its all recyclable or compostable. Also, shopping at the farmers market helps as their fruit and veg aren’t packaged in plastic. And you might enjoy playing around with some DIY beauty or household cleaning products. Believe it or not, its pretty fun! I found the main thing was just acquiring less ‘stuff’. 🙂

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    1. Our Little Organic Life Post author

      I love them. I didn’t say in my piece, but at my last visit to the dentist he was convinced I was using an electric toothbrush and found it hard to believe I was using a bamboo toothbrush. Part of it is in your brushing technique obviously but it does show that they are really good toothbrushes too.

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  8. nicol

    this challenge is different! i always waste food as i don’t plan my meals and end up buying something else to eat. i need to stop this

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