Today is the last day of Zero Waste Week. There’s an extra dimension to the challenge today: to go completely plastic free.
What’s happening today
It’s fancy dress day at school for the Big One; a usual day in the office for The Husband; I’m off on a training course this morning; and the Little One is staying at home with The Grandparents. I’ll be back for lunch and we’ll have a relaxed afternoon with a few chores to do and the Big One to pick up. I’m glad we don’t have any plans for this evening as we’re all tired (and possibly coming down with colds).
The milkman delivered two pints of milk in glass bottles this morning. Breakfast was a choice of cereal (packaging-free from Charlotte’s Cupboard) or toast (wrap-free sourdough from Infinity Bakery) and fruit. I packed up zero waste lunches for The Big One and The Husband before sitting down to bran flakes and coffee. On the food front this morning, we’re there. Zero waste has arrived.
An easy but expensive swap: milk in a plastic bottle for milk in a glass bottle delivered by the local milkman.
Today I’m wearing glasses instead of contacts; I can’t say the same for The Husband. The new clothes for the Big One’s fancy dress costume had labels in: 2 thin pieces of plastic to be binned. It’s not even 8am and we’ve already failed the plastic-free part of today’s challenge 🤦🏻♀️.
Zero waste geek. Glasses for the win over single-use contact lenses.
It’s 9.15am and time for me to leave. I’ve packed my Chilly’s water bottle and fresh apricots to tide me over till lunchtime. I won’t need to pick up any snacks or drinks on the way to the workshop, I doubt we’ll be given a drink, so taking one will avoid the need to buy anything on the way back to the car. I need to take some photos and ID documents to my training session; I take them in an old, used envelope. The session is in Horsham where the council’s multi-storey carpark has a ticketless system. No ticket to recycle (or lose). I wonder how many bits of card they save with this system? By lunchtime we’re practically zero waste family. At last!
When I get home I find an empty sandwich packet in the bin from The Grandparents and an empty brioche bag on the side. There’s a half eaten tub of houmous on the kitchen table with some slices of pepper freshly picked from Grandma’s garden this morning. This reminds me that I really must grow some vegetables in our garden at some point.
I put the brioche bag to one side to recycle at the supermarket and I’ll use the houmous tub as storage in the future. The sandwich box can’t be recycled so has to stay in the bin; the leftover pepper can be composted. I’m glad the Little One has had a lovely morning and enjoyed lunch with her Grandparents. We’re very lucky to have both sets of Grandparents nearby. After a pot of tea (using loose leaves) I re-heat some leftovers for my lunch. There’s a piece of clingfilm to throw away, but nothing more.
Before we know it, it’s time to pick up the Big One. I take some of the loose chocolate buttons bought earlier this week for the girls to have as an after school treat. Dinner for the girls is pasta in sauce (there’s a shop bought tub hanging around in the fridge and it’s close to it’s expiry date) with leftover sweetcorn; dinner for us is a black bean chilli with leftover brown rice. Here’s the waste after prepping our chilli.
Everything leftover from preparing a black bean and squash chilli for dinner: cardboard box, empty tin, peelings from a Patty Pan squash and chilli.
The Husband is extra hungry after walking home from the station, so I cook some shop-bought naan breads. It’s a pity as this means another unrecyclable plastic wrapper in the bin. We’re completely rubbish at going plastic-free in this house.
While the chilli is cooking, I clean up the kitchen. A great tip from Lucy Siegle’s recent book Turning The Tide On Plastic is to save used plastic tubs for food storage. I’ve never considered doing this before. I keep glass jars but not plastic containers. Plastic tubs with sealed lids have turned out to be very useful this week. We know that plastic lasts for hundreds of years, so if you buy something in a tub that can be reused, why not keep it? Yes, less aesthetically pleasing than shop bought glass jam and kilner jars but cheaper and less wasteful.
Empties ready for our next bulk delivery.
Bulk grains and nuts in a mixture of storage tubs and jars. Our store cupboard is starting the get the zero waste aesthetic.
It goes without saying that you need to wash out old food tubs properly if you’re going to keep them. If you’re worried, you could soak them in a sterilising solution. Zero Waste Maman, a local zero waste campaigner, had some plastic tubs left over from a take-away last week. She’s kept them for child-sized yoghurt portions, perfect for packed lunches and picnics. A great idea.
The Final Bin Bag
We’ve used 2 bin bags this week. We took out the original challenge bin bag on Wednesday night as the food waste was starting to smell; by lunchtime today the new bag contains the plastic rubbish already mentioned and a little food waste. By the end of the day, there’s the plastic naan bread wrapper, a piece of clingfilm and some waste from the girls’ dinners. The bag is pretty empty. It’s a big improvement on the beginning of the week.
Overall, we’ve produced less than half a bag of landfill rubbish since Sunday. We usually fill 2 to 3 bags per week, so I’m really, really pleased with our combined efforts.
Stepping Up The Challenge
It’s not been an easy week to undertake the challenge. Back to school presents all sorts of challenges and extra things to think about. But I’m glad we’ve given it our best, if at times, half-hearted shot. There’s heaps of room for improvement and when I’ve had a chance to reflect properly, I’ll post about some of our best ideas and about the things we’ve really struggled with and hope to improve.
Here’s to a lower waste future. I don’t think we’ll ever be Zero Waste family but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop trying. And there’s always next year’s challenge.
Did you join in with Zero Wast Week last week? Have you completed Zero Waste Week in the past? How did you get on? Have you changed your habits? How many live in your household? Did everyone join in? What was your biggest triumph and greatest struggle?