While there are plenty of really BIG things to focus on or worry about right now, you don’t have to stop caring about the little things that matter to you. We’ve been taking a few minutes each week to focus on how we can help our planet. There are so many simple easy ways to be more environmentally conscious and it can be a fun project to get passionate about as a family.
In the last few weeks our effort has been to reduce waste at home. This is not only helping our planet – it’s saving us money and giving us something positive to focus on. Giving us back some power when the world around us seems so uncertain.
Like most people, we recycle as much as possible, use re-useable bags, take our bottles to the local collection point, use not-toxic cleaners and minimise food waste, but we can always do more.
You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.
I’m not an expert in this department so I’ve included a list of some sustainability champions I follow for inspiration at the end of this article. I hope this post sparks some ideas for you and as always, I’d love to hear your recommendations too!
STEP 1 I GET YOUR ENTIRE HOUSEHOLD ON BOARD
Everyone is so much more passionate about our cause because we make our decisions as a team. Once a week, while having dinner we discuss some simple things we can do to help our planet as a family. The past month we’ve been aiming to ‘Reduce Waste’ at home. Our discussions go something like this:
- We talk about a product we’d like to reduce and why
- We brainstorm how we currently use this product
- We decide if there are alternatives, we can replace it with.
We want our ‘sustainable living’ steps to be economical and sustainable. So many of the green alternatives out there are costly – think beeswax wraps, fancy silicon lids and re-useable silicon bags. I know these items are considered a long-term investment by many, but we wanted to see if we could come up with solutions that were cost effective and didn’t involve more shopping.
Here’s how we’ve reduced waste with two common products from our daily lives.
Our aim is to do lots of small things that add up to make a big difference.
STEP 2 I REVIEW PRODUCTS & ALTERNATIVES
1. REDUCE WASTE FROM PLASTIC WRAP
According to The Australian Marine Conversation Society, 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year. We all know that most plastic is non-biodegradable. Plastic wrap is a single use item that is either going to end up in landfill (best scenario) or in our oceans and natural surroundings. Here, it will stay for a very long time, potentially killing animals that end up swallowing it.
Plastic wrap is a kitchen item that I’ve always felt like I couldn’t live without, but I was surprised to find it has only been around since 1953. Long before the invention of plastic wrap, food was stored in dishes (a bowl with a plate on top) or wrapped in clean dish towels. So, what do we currently use plastic wrap (or gladwrap) for? We brainstormed how we use it and potential alternatives.
HOW WE USE PLASTIC WRAP
To Wrap Small Left Overs ( eg. ½ onion, ½ avocado, ½ can chickpeas) I Alternative: Glass Jars
Simply remove the labels and wash empty jars of different shapes and sizes. These are perfect for storage of most small leftover foods.
I had a strange preconception that food needed to be covered with plastic to keep the air off the surface. For instance, I would have thought half an avocado would go brown in a glass jar, but I’ve had them in there for three days and they still look perfect – they actually seem to last better than they do in glad wrap. These small jars come free of charge and complete with the perfect screw on lid.
To Wrap Cheese I Alternative: Storage Container with Lid
To Cover Large Left Overs (Salad, Pie etc) I Alternative: Use Glass Storage Containers with Lids or Tin Foil (which can be recycled) or Cover With A Plate
I now use glass food storage containers with a lid for serving food at the table for meals like tacos and fajitas that require lots of little bits – diced tomato, lettuce, grated cheese, spicy beans, etc etc. If there are leftovers we simply pop on the lid after dinner and into the fridge it goes. For large glass dishes that don’t have a lid, I cover them in foil.
In School Lunches (Sandwiches, Wraps & Baking Stored in The Freezer) I Alternative: Bento Boxes & Paper Bags
As we’re working and schooling from home at the moment, we haven’t trialled our no glad wrap lunch situation completely. We use bento lunch boxes with compartments and a lid to separate and seal each item. I plan to place sandwiches and wraps in a paper bag if need be.
In the past, I stored baking individually wrapped in the freezer. Now I store my baking in containers with lids and simply remove items as necessary to place in lunch boxes.
Wrapping Individual Portions of Meat (Purchased In Bulk For The Freezer) I Alternative: Re-useable Plastic Containers We Already Own
Do I still have glad wrap in my cupboard? I do at the moment, but it will be used on very rare occasions, not regularly as it has been in the past. We have reduced waste from glad wrap to almost zero.
2. REDUCE WASTE FROM PAPER TOWELS
Every year the world discards around 254 million tons of paper towels according to Green Lifestyle Magazine. Unlike other paper products, paper towels can’t be recycled. It simply isn’t cost effective to do so. Furthermore, it takes 17 trees to make 1 ton of paper towels, so we would need to plant 51,000 trees every day to offset paper towel production. This is more than enough motivation for us to try and reduce waste from our use of paper towels.
HOW WE USE PAPER TOWLS
We went through the same process, brainstorming how we currently use paper towels and potential alternatives?
To Prevent Microwave Splatter I Alternative: Use a Plate or Purchase Microwave Food Cover
As Napkins (When Eating Messy Food eg. Burgers) I Alternative: Fabric Napkins or Microfibre Cloths
To Drain Food (eg. Fried Bacon or Poached Eggs) I Alternative: Small Micro-fibre Cloths
To Wipe Up Spills I Alternative: Old Towels
To Clean Animal Accidents & The Toilet I Alternative: We Couldn’t Come Up With One
We decided that by purchasing a microwave food cover and using microfibre cloths we could almost eliminate paper towels, but not completely.
We’ve made a decision to keep a roll of paper towels for animal accidents and cleaning the toilet. I can’t bring myself to wash cloths covered in doggy doo, or vomit – sorry. So yes, our kitchen will contain a roll of paper towels, but they will be used rarely. A thoughtful, less wasteful approach has been our best option.
Every little bit helps. Small changes, like using cloth towels in the kitchen, might be awkward initially, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly you adjust. Look at the alternatives, find the ones that work best for you, and significantly reduce waste. I’d love to hear your tips on being more environmentally conscious. Let me know in the comments below.
VESSEL I An affordable zero waste shop at Nundah, Brisbane for quality skincare and home cleaning products.
BIOME I Eco-friendly, stylish and clever products and gifts at Paddington, Brisbane or online.
CONTAINERS FOR CHANGE I Recycling Containers for 10c Per Item (Qld & WA)
LITTERLESS LIVING I A Brisbane Blog About Everyday Sustainability & Lifestyle Choices.