Category Archives: Zero Waste

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.

Green & Sustainable Style Edit – July 2016

This month I’ve pulled together a sophisticated, but bright and summery capsule wardrobe featuring clothing from eco clothing brand, Komodo.

I’ve paired up a black SENS t-shirt made from 100% bamboo with a pair of lightweight, sulphur coloured ADAM tencel linen shorts.  In case you’ve not heard of tencel, its a very sustainable fabric made from wood cellulose, and is one of the most environmentally friendly fabrics on the market.  I’ve also opted for this 100% organic cotton gathered tie dress  in black from People Tree for more formal occasions and to take the look into the evening.

OLOL July Style Edit Clothing

Both looks go equally well with the accessories I’ve chosen.  I know there are plenty of 443512-290be77a2dd24ddeb0bb7aeb43bc27adother eco-brands of shoes on the market now which probably have better eco credentials, but I’ve been wearing Birkenstocks since I was about 15 and I’m not going to stop now.  I always make sure I get the most out of each pair by caring for them well and getting them resoled as needed.  These gold crackle effect sandals look great paired with a cork & gold oversized clutch from Etsy and this simple gold layered necklace from Komodo or a pair of Brazilian paxiubinha seed earrings from LauraBijoux.  With 20 years of jewellery design experience, Brazilian expat Laura Torster now lives in Portugal and she ships her eco creations worldwide.  She’s also very happy to work with you to create something bespoke for you and at the moment I’ve commissioned her to create a pair the same earrings pictured above for me, but with a spring loaded loop, as I am one of those rare individuals without pierced ears.

OLOL Style Edit Accessories

When it comes to sunglasses, I’ve always slightly struggled with the eco options.  They’re often made from bamboo and are probably great if you have one of those faces that looks good wearing classic RayBan wayfarers.  But I don’t have one of those faces.  And I was so happy to find these stylish and feminine black & honey MARINO sunglasses from Antonio Verde, made from recycled plastic and bamboo.

AV1608_004_black_honey

I always would encourage anyone to shop sustainably by going to charity shops and second hand clothing stores, however sometimes its hard to get specific pieces you might need when shopping this way, and so I want to share these style updates as a regular, up to date resource guide for you to find out what is out there in the eco fashion world.  I have done style edits in the past, but as I’ve started to research and connect with all the wonderful companies out there producing green and sustainable fashion, I want to get a chance to feature as many as I can. In particular, UK-based companies. There has been a great response from nearly everyone I’ve approached so far.

I have not been compensated (financially or in kind) for featuring any of the brands listed in this style edit.  I just genuinely like them. Komodo have, however, been kind enough to provide me with some lovely high res images to use in this feature and they’ve also tipped me off with some insider information that their summer sale is due to start later this week on their website: www.komodo.co.uk.

I hope this inspires to you to check out some of these eco brands when you’re updating your wardrobe this summer.

Zero Waste Travel

One of the things I love about travel is the feeling of freedom and how you realise that you can actually live without most of the stuff you own.  But making sure you actually leave a small footprint behind you when you go home is even more important.  I’m sure there are other ways to travel zero waste by hiking cross country and camping, or staying at youth hostels with shared kitchens, etc.  But I’m in my 30’s and I have  a young child.  And I like to be comfortable.  So I’m going to share what works for us.

Where to Stay

When we first book a holiday, as soon as the flights are confirmed, we go onto the AirBnB website (click here to save £25 or $31 on your first booking), check out the reviews and rent an apartment in the location where we are planning to travel. In the past we have also used VRBO and Home Away websites as well.  We find this is the most comfortable, cost effective and low waste way for us to travel. By having our own private apartment we can pack light (taking one carry on suitcase each) and travel with a capsule wardrobe that we can wash every few days in the washing machine at the flat. Most Airbnb apartments provide washing powder but we bring a gentle and ecologically friendly one with us. We also shop at the local supermarket and farmer’s markets, buying organic, healthy foods in as low waste packaging as possible, and then cook our own healthy meals. We’ll usually go out for restaurant lunches during the day, but we sometimes also prepare packed lunches to take with us for day trips. We can afford to have the option to do that when we’re saving on the costs of expensive breakfasts and dinners by eating at the apartment.  Another way in which renting an apartment is more zero waste-friendly than staying in a hotel is because you will be able to use the recycling and composting services available to residents, rather than having to throw your apple cores or empty glass jars in the garbage knowing they will needlessly go to landfill.  You can also bring any composting or recycling waste you accumulate throughout the day back to the apartment (such as lunch leftovers or plastic water bottles in case you get caught out and are desperate for a drink – it happens) and put it in the correct bin.

This was our view from our alfresco dining table on our private balcony from our last holiday rental…not many restaurants can boast a view like this:

OLOL Zero Waste Travel Amalfi Italy

What to Pack

No matter how long the holiday, we allow ourselves one carry on suitcase each.  Not only is travelling light easier, but its cheaper too, as we can easily use public transport and can often walk to our apartment from the train station, avoiding taking taxis.  My toiletries kit is usually filled with reusable silicon GoToobs filled with my homemade toiletries or those dispensed from larger containers at home.  You may also note that I mention a mason jar.  Bear with me.  At home I use a separate glass water bottle and a glass coffee mug which I take with me everywhere I go.  But when I travel, my space is limited so a mason jar provides a universal solution.  You can fill it with water and its a water bottle.  Its heat resistant so you can pour tea or coffee into it, so its also your coffee mug.  It also makes a great snack jar for trail mix.  I pack one reusable shopping bag which folds down really tiny and a couple of the reusable produce bags, for buying fruits, breads, etc at the market.  A sandwich box might be useful here if you want to buy berries or cheeses.  The rest of the time you can use it for, you know, carrying around your sandwich.  And finally I take half a dozen organic cotton muslins which can multi task as napkins, handkerchiefs, for wrapping your sandwich up inside its sandwich box (instead of cling film) or for wrapping up baked goods bought at the market so to avoid having to take a paper or plastic bag.  Then you can clean them in the washing machine at your apartment and they dry quickly, ready to take out and use again.

Here’s an example of what my suitcase contents look like:

  • Capsule wardrobe (I won’t go into detail as obviously what I wear depends on the season and destination, but I keep it pretty simple.)
  • Toiletries kit (GoToobs filled with shampoo, homemade toothpaste, homemade deodorant, body lotion and homemade aftersun gel.  Eye cream.  Face oil.  Bamboo toothbrush.  Possibly sun protection cream, if required.  Razor.  Makeup bag.  My 10 ‘first aid’ essential oils kit.)
  • Mason jar
  • Sandwich box
  • Reusable shopping bag & produce bags
  • Clipper tea bags (because finding organic tea in unbleached bags is near impossible!)
  • 6 organic cotton muslin squares (yes, like the ones for your baby!)
  • iPad (for movies, emails and day trip planning)
  • Book (I can’t help it…I’m not a Kindle girl.  I love a good real book when I travel!)

Souvenirs

Its easy to get caught up while on holiday and buy loads of stuff you’ll wonder what to do with when you get home.  You don’t need to buy anything to bring home though.  Some people like to bring home their train tickets and flight stubs to glue into their journals.  My husband loves to buy the tackiest, most gaudy resin magnet he can find and that is his single souvenir from each trip.  I don’t entirely approve of this, as these horrible bits of resin will be probably languishing in a landfill long after we’re dead and gone.  (Surely no one will want to inherit them!)  But it brings him joy, so I have to have a somewhat balanced perspective when it comes to these things.  As for me, I make these ‘memory jars’ filled with sand, pebbles, shells and sea glass from each of our beach holidays.  I reuse the plastic ziplock bag they make you use at airport security to put your liquid toiletries in by using it to store collected beach treasures and a bit of sand or pebbles.  Then, when I get home I put the contents of the bag into an old glass jam jar and add a luggage tag noting the date and location of the holiday for the contents of each jar.  I keep them in my secretary desk and each time I open it, I smile, remembering how happy each holiday made me.

OLOL Memory Jars Zero Waste

Traveling with Children

Traveling with children can be actually really zero waste-friendly.  By staying in a rented apartment or house, rather than a hotel, you can continue to use your homemade wipes and cloth nappies because you can machine wash them as often as you need to.  Its much easier to prepare your child’s snacks and meals in a real kitchen with fresh ingredients from the market or supermarket, rather than constantly having to buy expensive packaged and potentially unhealthy snacks on-the-go.

I hope you find some of these tips useful in helping you to have a zero waste holiday…or at least to help you reduce some of the waste you might normally create when on holiday.  Being able to travel is a wonderful experience in life, but it is so important to keep our planet as clean and beautiful as we can so our children and grandchildren can experience it in the same way that we have.  What about you?  Do you have any great zero waste holiday tips to share with me in the comments below?

 

 

Zero Waste Shopping

So its 9 days into my Zero Waste Challenge and I’m feeling uncomfortably close to having filled up the jar where I’ve been keeping all the non-recyclable and non-compostable household waste.  (With the exception of the biodegradable nappies we use for overnights on our baby…I’m not storing those up until the end of the month.) Regardless of the outcome, I promise to be honest and to share with you how much garbage our household produces this month.

It has become very clear over the last week what the main culprit is for us: the non-recyclable plastic film that the big supermarkets like Sainsburys and Waitrose use to package EVERYTHING. There is no reason that this film cannot be made from a recyclable  material and indeed sometimes its not even necessary at all.  Ideally as a zero waste family would make the time to go to a bulk food store or join a food co-op, but its been a slightly difficult week or so for us as my husband has put his back out and I’ve been running the  entire household on my own.  So time has been precious, meaning quick trips to the supermarket have been the reality of the situation when it comes to shopping for food.  But that’s fine because most people shop at supermarkets and it means I’ve been having to try to figure out ways of acquiring less garbage with my food while shopping in this type of environment.

Check the label:

I know, I know.  You’re already checking the label to make sure the stuff is GMO-free, organic, yadda yadda yadda, and now on top of all that, you have to check whether the packaging is recyclable.  To be entirely honest with you, if I have to choose between some kind of GMO, canola oil, glucose-fructose filled piece of junk food in recyclable packaging and something organic and healthy in non-recyclable packaging, I am probably going to opt for the latter, with some amount of accompanying guilt.  But usually it doesn’t come down to that.  Just check the packaging for what you’re buying and if it isn’t recyclable, just try to keep it to a minimum.  And obviously, buying ‘real food’ from the bulk aisle helps a lot.

Take your own produce & bulk food bags:

These little produce bags are great and you can shove them inside your main shopping tote, or even stash a couple in your handbag in case you need to do some unexpected shopping while you’re out.  They’re light, so they roughly match the weight of the plastic bags provided by the store, and can be used for any type of fresh produce.  They’re also great in the bulk section of the supermarket because they just as easily hold dried grains, beans & pulses, nuts, flours and even dried fruits (as long as they’re not too sticky).  Finally, they’re also useful in the baked goods section as they will hold loaves of bread or bread rolls and will store them nicely at home too.  You will want to throw them in the washing machine for a short cycle after each use to avoid any cross-contamination.  I liked these organic cotton, linen and silk ones which I found on Etsy and I’ve included the links in the photo credits at the bottom of this article:

Zero Waste Produce Bags.jpg

Take your own shopping totes:

Since the introduction of the 5p per bag charge here in the UK, I think we are all getting better at doing this.  I always keep a foldaway shopping bag in my handbag as well, in case I end up buying something on the hoof while I’m out.  Here’s an article I found on realsimple.com road testing the various brands reusable shopping bags.

When you get home:

At this point you may wonder “Okay lady, I’ve brought home my bulk food packaged in its organic, reusable packaging…now what?”  Well, now you need something to put your stuff in to store it.

Its up to you at this point, but for dry goods I recommend opting for glass storage jars for your family’s health and wellbeing for these reasons.  The easiest solution for a really slick look is head on over to Ikea, choose a design you like which is going to be practical and air tight,  as well as something that comes in a variety of sizes from little jars for peanut butter to mahoosive jars for flour…and then stock up.  But if you are on more of a budget, you can use recycled jam jars (I love empty Bonne Maman jam jars and use them for everything) and mason jars are great too!  You may find larger jars at vintage shops.  I would recommend investing in a wide mouth funnel to avoid the frustration of spillage when transferring from the bags to the jars.

Fresh fruits and vegetables can be placed in the fridge, the fruit bowl or in a wicker storage basket lined with a clean linen cloth, as appropriate for each item.

Jars for Storage

Photo Credits: Pexels (header) Kootsac (silk bags), OhHelloHenry (linen bread bag) and TheLandofWishes (organic cotton bags), Ikea and Mason (jars)

 

Zero Waste Challenge

About a year ago I came across the concept of the zero waste lifestyle.  I loved everything about it in the same way I once loved reading Vanity Fair.  A lifestyle promoted by impossibly perfect, model-like women living in their unattainably stylish, minimalistic New York micro-lofts, shopping at Whole Foods and fitting all their annual household rubbish into a mason jar and then blogging or vlogging about it.  I mean, good for them.  If I were 15 years younger and starting out from scratch I’d do the same (without being impossibly perfect or model-like).  But what about when you already have a house full of stuff, a husband, a baby and a very hairy geriatric dog?

Well, you do what you can.  That’s what you do.

We are not a zero waste home, but we do our best and I have made significant reductions in our household waste over the last year.  I started moving towards my zero waste goal at home by making small changes.  I switched to a bamboo toothbrush (rather than a plastic one), started making a lot of my own personal care items and…well, just buying less ‘stuff’.  Every time you go out and buy ‘stuff’, you come home and take it out of its plastic bag, unpackage it, use it / wear it for a bit / put it on a shelf with your other ‘stuff’ and then get rid of it.  All of that – the bag, the packaging and the ‘stuff’ itself – ends up in the recycle bin or charity shop at best, and more often than not, it ends up in landfill.

The green/eco blogging community is a fairly small one, and so when another green lifestyle blogger approached me to do a Zero Waste Challenge with her throughout the month of June, I thought it would be a great opportunity to up my own game at home.  So over the next few weeks I’m going to write some posts to help you learn a bit about some practical ways to introduce a few zero waste changes into your own lifestyle.  And I can promise you that you’ll be model-like and have a perfect, stylish home and will only shop at Whole Foods by the end of it.  Okay, maybe not…but you’ll definitely notice your house will be filled with less crap, your medicine cabinet will look a lot more chic, you’ll spend less money and most importantly, your garbage bin will be less full each week.  Meanwhile, here at chez OLOL I’m going to work on introducing a few more changes into the way we do things to even further reduce our household waste.

If you’d like to get inspired to learn more about realistic small changes you can make to move towards a zero waste lifestyle, please come back and check out my posts throughout June and if you’d like to see a family who really does successfully live this way, check out Zero Waste Home where Bea Johnson and her family in California produce just one jar of rubbish per year.