Last week I was asked to join a group called Zero Waste Bloggers network, which is a lovely small group of 41 members and growing nicely by the day. I accepted the invitation and have had the pleasure of meeting interesting people from all over the world who are also on a zero waste journey. Gruenish who started the blog thought it would be a good idea if we nominated 3 zero waste bloggers to answer 10 questions on what zero waste means to them. This week Rachelle Strauss from My Zero Waste nominated me, thank you Rachelle. So here is my attempt at answering the following 10 questions as best as I can. I feel into zero waste by accident really, although I had been very much a person who cared for the environment my whole life. Then 2 years ago I decided after having had a knee accident and as a result my business folding that it was time to take stock of my life and change the way my family lived for the better so we started a journey not knowing where it would take us, to live an earth friendly, simple lifestyle. We played at it for a while, while I did lots of research reading books, blogs like this one and listening to podcast’s. Then a year down the line I came across The Rubbish Diet which I decided would be a great challenge to take part in. When I approached my husband about taking part in the rubbish diet he thought he would hummer me but then as time went on through the challenge he thought I needed help from the doctor to stop me losing my mind because he thought I had completely lost the plot and I never really realising that the rubbish diet challenge would change our lives for ever. I became as you may call it addicted to rubbish even measuring our rubbish bags at the end of the challenge. From then on we have fully adapted to a zero waste lifestyle and never looked back. To be honest when I look back I can not believe 3 years ago we were throwing so much waste into landfill and thinking well its not our problem and blaming lots of other people for our waste. 2013 I started changing our lifestyle and in 2014 we started our zero waste journey. I personally feel living a zero waste lifestyle is a journey that never ends because there are always things that occur throughout your life that challenges your zero waste ethics. For example recently I was challenged when I had to work out a way to travel long distances every day with my children and not produce any more waste than we do when we are at home. Although this was a challenge I work out away and it resulted in us producing less waste that week. You can read more about my recent challenge here.
- Think before you buy – This is so easy to do before you put your shopping in your basket or trolley. Just stop and think do I really need this? How much packaging does it have protecting it? Is it made of a material that is sustainable and can be recycled? Once you have finished with the product can it be recycled or composted? Remember being zero waste is not just about food its about everything you buy for your home, to wear and even down to travel.
- How much food do you really need – Its so easy to go food shopping on the hop and end up buying food you don’t really need or over buying food that you can not eat before it turns bad. By setting up a few strategies and routines before you go shopping will not only save you money but reduce your food waste as well. Then once you have the right amount of food in the house, it’s important not to waste what you have got, this can be as simple as freezing leftovers, making new meals out of left overs or blanching and freezing vegetables.
- Cook & Preserve – Its amazing the amount of food we buy already made that we could very easily whip up in our kitchens which not only taste better, saves you money but has no waste whats so ever. These can be things from preserves, condiments, pickles, bread and cakes.
- Saying No To Single Use Items – Single use items are one after food the biggest things we throw away each year. But with careful planning and getting into easy routines we don’t really need these single use items in our lives. You can find tips on reducing your dependency on single use items here.
- Slow Your Fashion – Its so tempting to go out and buy the latest new catwalk trends from the local high street but do we really need 10 pairs of jeans 20 t-shirts? Not really because one its over consumption but secondly fashion creates waste from the start of production to the point we no longer want to wear it. Reducing our clothes and accessories not only frees up space in our bedrooms and allows us to see more clearly what we have, it also reduces the amount of clothes we discard either to landfill or the second hand shops (which 80% of donations get sent to the rag man). Instead we should be thinking do we really need another jumper and if we do our first port of call should be the second hand shop before buying brand new.
- Make Do And Mend – There are lots of items we own that we send to landfill that does not necessarily need to end up there because if we spent a little time fixing the item it would last us a good few more years. This can be anything from patching up holes in our clothes to buying replacement parts for our washing machines. If diy and fixing things is not your forte there are lots of independent tradesmen and tradeswomen who at a very small charge will help you fix whatever is broken instead of it landing in landfill
The important thing to remember is prevention, prevention, before trying to deal with the problem of what should I do with the waste I have consumed.
Living this lifestyle does not take up much of my time at all, I have got myself into such a routine that it does not take that long to cook lots of simple food from scratch in bulk and then freeze. Once a month I cook a huge pan (my jamming pan) of pasta sauce which I then pour into glass jars and freeze for when its needed. The same for our tomato ketchup and in the summer we go and pick our own fruit (an activity the children love doing) and then I bulk make enough jam to last the year. I am lucky enough to have a bread maker that I add the ingredients to before I go to bed and set the bread machine to come on in the early hours so when we wake up in the morning wella we have fresh bread. I also use the bread machine to make pizza dough, (which takes 40 minutes) I then roll the dough out and freeze so I always have a pizza base in my freezer for a quick go to meal.
Thanks to my mum and watching her once a month spend a whole day (in our house it was known as backing day) where she backed cakes all day and froze them for the month so there was always homemade cake in the house as a child. I have learnt from this childhood memory and I have followed suit, which the children love because they come in and join me making cup cakes, flapjacks, sponge cake etc.. I think they enjoy licking the bowl the most but its a family activity that everyone can get involved in.
I think apart from my bread machine, my slow cooker is my most loved item in our kitchen. Not only can I prepare a home cooked meal from scratch in the morning and by tea time its all cooked with me hardly lifting a finger. But I can throw all my vegetable peeling in there with some water and a few hours latter I have liters of my own vegetable stock and the same with my roast chicken carcass to make my own chicken stock.
But I do understand that some people may find all this preparation before hand looks and sounds very time consuming but really its not. I can have a the pasta sauce cooking away while I am cooking tea, washing the dishes, answering the children’s questions and laying the table because the pasta sauce is only taking up one ring on my hob. I am not just standing there cooking a bulk load of pasta sauce.
There are times when I really don’t fancy cooking and we have take out (not very often) but then our waste is zero is not compromised because our fish and chips come in paper only (as thats what I have asked for) and I take my own reusable tub for the curry sauce. The chinese comes in containers that I can reuse to freeze leftover food or fill with homemade sauces to freeze.
Thats a good question in 2014 before we started the rubbish diet we were putting out 2 big black bags of rubbish a week for the bin men and now in 2015 we put out 1 black bag every third week. Which I don’t think is to bad but I would like to reduce that down even more. But like I said this journey is an ongoing process and we are learning different ways to reduce all the time.
I wish you could hear me laughing out loud, no we are not rich and far off the point of being rich. Before hubby had to take sick leave from work to have open heart surgery we were comfortable. We had enough to pay the bills, put food on the table and some left over for treats (like ice cream or a pasty) when we went out on family day trips. While he has been off (hubby is self employed so while he does not work he does not get paid.) work the purse strings have been tightened and the treats are for the moment (hubby is going back to work in a months time) have disappeared but we can just about afford to live with no change at the end of the month.
But what I will add is even though our finances have taken a cut we can still live the same zero waste lifestyle as we did before hubby stopped work because living this lifestyle is cheaper than living a non zero waste lifestyle. 3 years ago my food shopping bill was £150 a week and for over a year (nearly 2 years) my food shopping bill is £50 for a family of 3 adults (my son is 17 and eats like an adult) and 2 children. Our electricity and water bill has over halved and our petrol bill has halved saving us a massive amount of money each month that we can have the luxury of owning a 17 foot sailing boat and a project racing car for hubby. We are richer financially, health and lifestyle now than we could of ever dreamed of 3 years ago.
If someone asked me if I would like go back to the way we lived 3 years ago I would say No way life is more of an adventure living a zero waste lifestyle.
Nothing at all because we took the process slowly we have never notice now that we don’t use them. I guess we have got ourselves into such a routine in doing things in a certain way that we don’t really look at how we use to do them.
- Disposable razors although I have just found a company who sell metal razors that you can re sharpen that I am looking into. Not sure how hubby would react to them so they are still up for discussion.
- Gadgets and technology as I am a bit of a gadget and technology freak, I like my smart phone, laptop, tablet and I really don’t think that will change. I don’t like to admit but we have 3 smart phones, 5 tablets and 2 laptops in our house but we do only have 1 TV.
- My sons lifestyle, he is 17 and if does not want to live our lifestyle I can not enforce it on him so although we don’t buy shampoo, conditioner etc… he does and that’s fine. He keeps it in his room for when he needs it.
- We don’t enforce our lifestyle on anybody else so if someone buys us a gift and it is covered in packaging that not zero waste we are still thankful for their kindness and we are not rude by turning their gift away. The same goes for the children’s Christmas and birthday presents we will over look the packaging to give them a gift we know they would love.
This is a hard question as I don’t really read that many blogs any more, that’s not because I don’t want to but I have a pile of books and a stack of podcast’s I have been trying to get through over the last year. I guess the blogs I mainly keep up to date with are;
- Jen from My Make Do And Mend Year – Jen blogs about how we can extend the life of our stuff with some really useful tips that we can all do now without spending a penny.
- Zoe from Eco Thrifty Living – Zoe sets herself the most amazing challenges to be waste free that I am at ore with her. Last year Zoe set herself the challenge to go toilet paper free which just completely filled me with inspiration that what my family are doing is on the right lines. Although we have not gone toilet paper free yet.
- The Green Living Guy – Although I don’t read his blogs that often they always packed full of up to date information on green living issues and products.
- Pam from Plastic Is Rubbish – Pam is like the equivalent of a guru in my eyes, not only is Pam a lovely lady (I can say that after meeting her last year) but she amasses me in to a trance how she manages to live her life fully plastic and waste free from a van travelling the breath of the country. If I am feeling a bit low or questioning why am I bothering then I pop over to Plastic Is Rubbish and my mood is fixed straight away. It like free therapy for me.
- Although I live close to the sea and I spend a lot of time by the sea, I can not row for anything. When I was a teenager my parents took myself and a group of other teenagers canoeing for the day. I was the only one who spent a large portion of the morning just going around and around in circles in the same spot I started in and then had to be towed by my dads canoe up the river in front of all my peers to where we were going to have lunch. To find everyone had eaten their lunch and were waiting my myself to appear. This traumatised me so much I have never sat in a canoe on land or water ever since.