It's Plastic Free July and three years since my household did a plastic audit. It was quite an eye-opening experience, when I considered ourselves quite "eco" but all that soft plastic from supermarkets was piling up in front of our eyes. Along with crisp packets and packaging from toiletries.
Having already switched to cloth wipes (making a gentle cleansing solution with camomile tea bags!) with our first child, and cloth nappies when the second one came along, and thinking we didn't really buy much needless stuff, the rubbish we put out was fairly minimal. However the recyling bin was pretty full and it all came from the supermarket. So, we made some simple swaps such as bars of soap, shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes, family sized pots of yoghurt and those share bags of crisps instead of individual packets, and we decided to try out local fruit and veg boxes, buy unpackaged items and have milk delivered the old fashioned way.
Not everything worked out. For example I took my tupperwear to the cheese counter at my local supermarket and was told they cant put it in there for hygene reasons?! The milk was being delivered in the middle of day when we werent in and was getting hot on the front step. And a few trial and errors, such as deodorant testing resulted in quite an expensive misadventure! However, what it did do was set us off on a journey to know better and do better, eventually leading us to make some of these products for ourselves. Well... we have a book about cheese making... but have yet to start experimenting!
We stuffed plastic bottles with soft plastics to make eco bricks, which currently insulate our shed (there are two of the clubhouse walls that arent straw bale, but more on the clubhouse another time). We found a terracycling scheme for crisp packets and other recycling streams, we learnt what we can take to the council recycling centre, and we learnt to repurpose things for ourselves making things we needed out of rubbish, and this led to lots of creative crafting!
We have been growing and foraging our own food, and whilst it is not enough to sustain us, during harvesting times it reduces our food bill dramatically and helps us tune in with seasonal eating. I've learnt how to preserve foods through jams, cordials, freezing and fermenting.
That same year I was selected to join IKEA's Lagom project, learning and sharing how small changes can have a big impact. The Swedish phrase “Lagom är bast” means “the right amount is best” and Swedes believe that’s the key to sustainable living. I was equipped with new skills such as making draught excluders, mini aquaponics systems and how to keep food fresher for longer.
What we do isn't perfect, and we are always changing, trying things out, sometimes slipping, but I think Jen Gale at Sustainable-ish sums it up perfectly: "I got fed up with the narrative that we can can only make a difference if we live off grid in a yurt and learn to knit our own yoghurt. We all have a huge potential to create positive change, imperfectly."
I've been following Jen for a long time, taking part in her plastic-free audit and other challenges, and her Useful Stuff resource is a great place to start. She also hosts carbon literacy training and an online community called the Sustainable(ish) Clubhouse. Her point is to just change one thing at a time, however imperfect that change might be. Beacuse if we all do something it will make a difference.
Our latest endeavour is collecting milk bottle lids to be recycled with the amazing Burton Rerun, who have huge plans to unlock the potential to fund community workshop and enable the community to live more sustainably, with repair cafes, access to tools and workspace, educational materials, skill sharing, social events and so much more.
Seriously check out the links mentioned above to really be inspired - we are a community!
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