Tag Archives: baby wipes

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.

Zero Waste Babies

Today I wanted to talk about zero waste parenting.  It was around the time I was in my third trimester while pregnant with my daughter that I really started looking at ways to reduce the vast amounts of waste we produce in the process of raising a child.  I was determined not to contribute to that and it was in my research that I became aware of zero (reduced) waste living.

Baby Wipes

I’m going to start with one of the easiest zero waste things I do as a parent.  I make my own baby wipes using only 3 ingredients: coconut oil, tea tree essential oil and boiling water.  Have you ever read the list of ingredients on a package of baby wipes?  I suggest you check it out because most of those ingredients boil down to being formaldehyde and phthalates.  I used to keep a packet of Water Wipes in our diaper bag for outings, but now I use one of these incredibly convenient 2- pocket (get it, one for clean wipes, one for dirty!) waterproof wet wipe bags filled with 5 or 6 reusable baby wipes. When at home, I make my baby wipes using Cheeky Wipes (or if you’re in the US you could try these organic Charlie Banana ones which I wasn’t able to get here in the UK).  You could use just cut up squares of terry cloth, muslin or flannelette if you are on a very tight budget or if you want to use organic textiles.   Be sure to check out my video below which shows you how to make them in 10 seconds flat!

Nappies/Diapers

So lets talk about that number one environmental parenting problem – nappies (or diapers as we call them in Canada and the US).  Disposable nappies take 500 years to degrade in landfill (note I don’t say biodegrade) and the average baby will fill up 12 wheelie bins per year with disposable nappies.  Now multiply that by the number of babies on your street, in your neighbourhood, in your city and…yeah, that’s a lot of garbage which will still be sitting in landfill when your great, great, great grandchildren will be sitting in their nursing homes.  But the good news is that modern cloth nappies are  easy to use.  We use a brand called Applecheeks which are made in Montreal, Canada, and they are wonderful (and easy to find for sale here in the UK).  They fit our baby beautifully AND – here’s the best part about them – you don’t have to pull the stinky, pee-soaked insert out before washing.  I’m a total wuss when it comes to touching anything gross or dirty (like poop) and they are brilliantly designed so the insert comes out in the wash automatically.  When it comes to dealing with um… solids, we buy these flushable bamboo nappy liners which catch the poop and you can neatly pick it out of the nappy by the clean corners and toss it in the toilet and flush it (you probably shouldn’t really flush the liners even though they’re biodegradable – see why here – but I confess to having done it myself a few times when the poo was just too gross).  I’m a big proponent of using second hand items normally, but I will share from my own experience that it will save you money and frustration in the long run if you don’t buy second hand when it comes to cloth nappies.  Often the PUL material (the waterproofing part!) or the elastics in the legs can be degraded from improper care or simply from the nappy having reached the end of its lifespan and you will end up with lots of leaks and frustration, before ultimately  giving up on cloth diapering.  While many recommend having around 24 cloth nappies, we found that because we use biodegradable disposable Naty nappies for overnight and longer day outings, we actually only have needed around 15 newborn nappies and around 10 of the size 2 nappies.  For the first couple of weeks as you’re getting to grips with being a parent, you also might find it easier to use biodegradable disposable newborn nappies before moving into newborn size cloth nappies.  With this number of nappies there is no messing about with sloshy buckets of disgusting water.  I just line a pedal bin with one of these PUL (waterproof) lined drawstring laundry bags (for US Amazon link click here), throw the used cloth nappies straight into the bin and every 2-3 days throw the whole thing – bag included – into the washing machine.

Baby Stuff

Now what I’m about to say relates to just about everything you buy for your baby.  Clothes, furniture, baby baths, slings, highchairs, strollers…you can get it ALL second hand.  Regardless of the size of your pocket book and ability to buy everything shiny and new, the environmental impact of buying and using second hand baby stuff will make a difference.  There are some things you should buy new for either safety or functional reasons and as far as I’m concerned these are:  car seats (unless its a friend giving you a hand me down which you know is still new-ish and safe to use), mattresses (you don’t want to risk giving your baby a bed bug filled mattress or something…urgh) and cloth nappies/diapers (for the reasons I’ve already mentioned).   I appreciate this gets harder as babies turn into toddlers and toddlers turn into kids and they’re much harder on their stuff and properly wear it out.  In particular newborn stuff is barely used at all, so head to your local charity shop, the Oxfam Online Charity Shop, nearly new sales or go onto eBay (or hit up your friends with older kids who can give you hand-me-downs).  Its not just all the baby ‘stuff’ that creates a mountain of landfill, its the packaging that all the baby ‘stuff’ comes in and the garbage that creates, not to mention the shopping bags its put in when you buy it.  I’ve found its emotionally easier to part with things I bought second hand as well, and not create a shrine to my child in the loft.  “Awww, that’s the tub we bought in John Lewis.  Let’s keep it ‘just in case’.”  Its much easier to just be happy that I only spent a few pounds on something second hand, be grateful for the service it provided and then send it on its way to a new home where it can be used again by another baby.  I live in a fairly well-to-do area and its not just those on a budget who have tapped into the second hand baby market, but everyone.  So whether its for financial reasons or environmental reasons – or both – think about what you could get second hand for your baby or child.  If you are pregnant and you’d like more advice on what you actual need for your baby – the real essentials and not all that other stuff they’ll try to sell you in shops – check out my post on Baby Essentials.