Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Reducing my waste (again)


This term I've been trying to reduce the plastic waste I produce as much as possible. My forays into conscious consumption have been on an on-again-off-again journey. In 2015, I wrote a post about how I was going to only buy clothes/cosmetics from charity shops or ethically-conscious shops, because I didn't want to support sweat shop labour or animal testing. That promise was quite easy to keep, partly because I love charity shops and don't use much make up at all.

In 2016 I wrote about reducing waste and eight different ways I was trying to put that into practice, from using solid shampoo to making soup with slightly-past-it veggies. I kept some of those good habits, but definitely fell back into bad habits, particularly regarding food packaging.

But with renewed energy, inspired by the likes of Sedona Christina, Sustainably Vegan, Venetia Falconer and blessed by the abundance of unpackaged shops in London, I'm trying again! I'm far from perfect, and I wanted to make it really clear that it's not a matter of perfection. The earth will benefit far more from a concerted effort of many imperfect individuals than the performance of one perfect individual. The aspiration for perfection can make making the first steps (and inevitable mistakes) really daunting. Instead I try to think that the way I am trying to live is out of grace for the earth, because of the grace God has shown me. And if I am trying to live a life of grace, it is necessary to have grace for myself too, so that my mistakes aren't condemning but just part of life, to be recognised and improved on where possible.

Here are some things I've put into place, and some habits I've cultivated/am trying to cultivate as I continue my low waste journey:

1. Using a menstrual cup. I got this quite early on but found getting used to it really difficult and quite painful, since I hadn't even ventured into the world of tampons. After lots of patience, youtube tutorials and support from fellow cup-using friends, it has now become really easy to use and honestly makes having your period so much less of a faff since it only requires changing every 8-12 hours (without any risk of Toxic shock syndrome)! Added bonuses include:

- Being able to swim with them in unlike pads
- Not worrying about period supplies for up to 10 years
- Some menstrual cup manufacturers work to reduce period poverty, e.g. freedomcups, stopperiodpoverty, thecupeffect
- Not throwing lots of pads/tampons into the bin
- Basically not feeling them at all
- Becoming more familiar with my own body

2. Buying unpackaged food items. I get unpackaged dry goods (rice, lentils, pasta, coucous, nuts and seeds, spices) from the SOAS co-op or the Harmless Store in Wood Green, just a 15 minute cycle away. For fresh items, I get what I can from ALDI and Lidl, and for what is packaged (most things) I either try and find them at the farmer's markets on Saturday or the little vegetable and fruit shop outside the archway tube staion.

Some things I'm still working on:

- Frozen items (particularly peas - I love peas!!!) I've got some frozen peas, spinach and berries at the Bulk Market in Hackney (40 mins away) but that's quite a long way to go for frozen food.
- Beans in cans. This is largely out of convenience since I find cooking beans a drag, and also out of caution from that time I almost burnt down my student house when I forgot I had some chickpeas boiling on the hob. Thankfully cans are recyclable, but obviously it would be great to reduce even recyclable waste.
- Soy Milk - still comes in a carton, and while my council recycles them lots of places don't.
- Jarred things (maple syrup/sundried tomatoes) The jars, when finished, are actually quite useful for storing dry items (though not in the case of maple syrup jars I have to say)
- Peanut Butter/tahini - I tried making my own with bulk peanuts, but the little food processor was not having it, so to preserve its life I stopped. I do try to get the biggest tubs of peanut butter/tahini possible to reduce packaging, but I'd still like to find a decent affordable alternative.

3. Making food items that I miss in packaging. I used to get these date and coconut bars from Aldi which were absolutely delicious. This year I've made a lot more hummus and my own snacks, from bliss balls to granola to spiced nuts/seeds to a chocolate mousse made of black beans (don't hate on it till you try it, it's so good)

4. Replacing packaged cosmetics/toiletries with items in recyclable packaging. Aside from solid shampoo and soap, I've started using solid deodorant (which comes in a metal tin) and am picking up some solid sunscreen (also in a tin) tomorrow! Instead of using cotton pads for toner I use the edge of a towel (although I still have leftover cotton pads, which I'm saving for if I go travelling or something)

Things I'm still working on:

- Toothpaste. I tried the coconut oil and baking soda she-bang and did not enjoy it, and am still not quite sure about baking soda based toothpastes for dental hygiene and tooth health. (Baking soda, however, seems to be the base of most commercially produced zero waste toothpastes) I don't know how to solve this, and ma actually hoping to find a squeezy toothpaste in recyclable or compostable packaging (if you know of any please tell me!)
- Make up. Thought I only have a few bits, they are all in plastic/non recyclable packaging (apart from the mascara and skin tint I have from lush which I think are recyclable) I don't plan on buying any more at the moment, but when I do need some in the future I'm not even sure where to start looking! (particularly if I'm in Singapore)
- Shaving. Currently on my last of a big bunch of disposable razors Hannah gave me when she left the UK, but I do plan to get a safety razor with replaceable blades after that. Still kind of scared of that since I've heard some horror stories about the sharpness of those things, but with practice and care hopefully I won't cause a disaster. (Update: have got the safety razor, it's all fine. I did nick myself a little but but it was not a disaster at all)

5. Other little things: got a coconut bristle dish brush which works wonderfully. Not quite so wonderful is the 'unsponge' I got, a fabric sponge which is washable and reusable. Unfortunately it doesn't dry easily and also doesn't scratch off stubborn bits of food so well.

6. As before:

- bringing food in a tupperware/old ice cream container when I pack food, plus a spoon/fork from the kitchen and a water bottle where ever I go is always useful.
- using cloth tote bags instead of plastic bags
- bamboo toothbrushes going strong
- second hand clothing purchases as always, although I have expanded out from charity shops to depop and ebay. (Depop and ebay, however, generate waste with the shipping packaging...)
- research, research, research! It took me a while to find different bulk stores/items like the coconut brush, but with more people thinking about, writing about, and promoting these things, it is a lot easier than it could be!

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