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Making household environmental changes to cut down on plastic

Making household environmental changes to cut down on plastic

The plastic bag ban which rolled out in 1stJuly 2018 left me thinking more about the amount of plastics my household consumes in a singular week. It’s actually pretty confronting when you start looking at everything in the pantry and fridge, all those individual muesli bars, rice wheels packets and apples in plastic containers in plastic wrapping start to add up.

Here’s a quick video on the impact plastics are having on our oceans, makes you stop and think about what you need to change to save the environment for future generations.

The huge mass of plastic waste floating in the Caribbean

A colossal ‘sea of plastic’ which stretches for miles has been found floating in the Caribbean.

So is it time to change our plastic bottle behaviour? (Via BBC Radio 5 live)

Posted by BBC News on Friday, 3 November 2017

I have for some time been rethinking how my family can decrease our environmental footprint. It’s been trial and error, with somethings easy to implement, whilst others have been more of a challenge and required some DIY effort. For me, changes need to be doable within the time restraints of our busy household of two full time working parents. Every change I make, I look at four key things;

  1. Cost to implement,
  2. Potential cost saving long term,
  3. Positive environmental impacts
  4. Is it something I can continue with on going. There’s no sense implementing change without follow through.

In the few months I’ve been making changes, I have come across some really great ideas, products and DIY recipes which I am going to share with you!

1. Shopping Bags

I’ve been one of those people with all good intentions that ‘forgets’ to bring their environmental bags into the supermarket with them. On a recent holiday to Japan, I picked up this really cute little carry bag that fits perfectly in my handbag. I’d highly recommend having something with you at all times, my bag gets used frequently.

A new edition to my environmental shopping bags, is smaller bags for my fruit and vegetable purchases. I’ve started to steer away from anything pre-bagged or in plastic containers and instead use my re-usable bags. I purchased some via Norwex, but there are cheaper options popping up in stores that are just as suitable. If you are handy with a sewing machine, this is a super cute and even more environmentally friendly option, recycled lace veggie bags featured by Ministry of Handmade! #fancy

Check out Kelly’s post here for more plastic bag alternatives. 

Non-Plastic Bag Options

Notes:

  • APPROX COST TO IMPLIMENT – $90 (wish I’d seen those lace bags sooner! Will be making in the future
  • COST SAVING – don’t have to buy bags every time I go to the shops!
  • ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT – less plastic bags being sent to landfill
  • ON GOING – totally doable, having in my bag makes a difference

2. Laundry Liquid

I’m not sure about you, but I do at least one load of washing a day and there is only four of us! My daughter has had some skin rash issues with most laundry liquids, so I moved us to a gentler option long ago. HOWEVER, I felt that I needed to investigate a BULK option to decrease the weekly plastic container disposal.

What I found on google, was an endless supply of DIY Laundry Liquid options, some with borax, and others without. I opted to trial the DIY Laundry Liquid recipe from the Frugal and Thriving Blog, after reading how gentle sunlight soap was on skin. Not only has it been an excellent environmental switch, the recipe uses just five (5) super cheap ingredients;

  1. 1 bar sunlight soap,
  2. 1 cup washing soda,
  3. 2 teaspoons pure essential oil (I use eucalyptus oil)
  4. 2 litres boiling water PLUS 8 litres cold water once soap and washing soda dissolved. That is it!

I now have a ‘Laundry Liquid’ maker kit in addition to the ingredients above, this kit includes:

  1. A 20 litre soak bucket to make the mix
  2. An old cheese grater I picked up from a garage sale
  3. Catering stainless steel kitchen spoon for mixing, also from a garage sale
  4. Unused protein shake bottle with measurements
  5. Old vinegar bottles to store laundry liquid ‘potion’

Notes:

  • APPROX COST TO IMPLIMENT – $50
  • COST SAVING – When you purchase ingredients, most will last you 6-12 months before needing replacing. At most $30 a year for ingredients depending on the size of your family.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT – less plastic containers being used, less landfill.
  • ON GOING – so far this year I have had to make 2 batches, so I am averaging 4 months per batch for family of 4. That’s pretty good and doable for me in regards to effort. I have also switched from fabric softener to just using a cap of vinegar. Works a charm!

environmentally friendly household options

stuff you can use in the kitchen that is more environmentally friendly

3. Household Cleaning Kit

I loathe cleaning, but it’s a necessary evil. I can honestly say that the Cleaning Challenge I did in 2017 with Kat from The Organised Housewife really did change my cleaning life, not only the way I think about clutter, but the commercial products I use to clean. Kat has some amazing DIY Cleaning Product Recipes and here are my favourites:

  1. All-Purpose Cleaner– this is seriously the BEST cleaning product ever to come into my life. This DIY recipe is easy to make and this product works wonders on kitchen, bathroom and chrome (you HEARD ME – CHROME) surfaces. I am so obsessed with this all-purpose cleaner, that I went to a thrift shop and found a measuring jug so I can always have some ‘pre-made’. The best part about this recipe is, you know what’s in it. My kids have weekend chores which include cleaning down the bathrooms and toilet. I’m happy for them to use this product.
  2. Cleaning a smelly toilet– If you have a son (or a partner with bad aim J) you need to read this post by Kat on cleaning your toilet. It is CONFRONTING the first time you do it. Horrified doesn’t begin to describe what I felt when I had to ask my husband to use the GRINDER to cut the bolts off the toilet because I couldn’t remove the seat. It’s a housewife fail best forgotten. I have since opted for an easier dismantle toilet seat and monthly do a full clean J#happydays
  3. How to clean the Oven– I actually laughed when I read Kat’s instructions for cleaning an oven, like baking soda and vinegar were going to succeed when toxic cleaning sprays had failed. You could have knocked me over with a feather when almost effortlessly my oven was clean. A little bit of scrubbing, but on the whole this method is astonishingly easy and CHEAP!
  4. Dishwasher and Washing Machine Cleaner – Again Kat has been my saviour when it comes to keeping my dishwasher and washing machine clean. I’m no angel with either of these jobs, but I do strive to put through each machine a vinegar and bi-carb wash every week to keep them cleaner. If you are a Costco member, the bulk bi-carb is SUPER SUPER CHEAP.

As with the Laundry Liquid, I have a Maker Kit for the recipes above, my tools include:

  1. An old measuring cup
  2. An old spoon
  3. 3 Spray bottles
  4. 1 old jug with lid for storing extra All Purpose Cleaner
  5. Old salt shaker for Bi-Carb
  6. Rags, I cut old t-shirts and cotton clothing not worthy of handing on, into cleaning rags. They are fabulous and it saves on buying items like Chux. Best of all these cleaning rags can be washed over and over.

Notes:

  • APPROX COST TO IMPLIMENT – $100
  • COST SAVING – Massive, household cleaners add up quickly on the grocery bill. Buying key ingredients in bulk saves on cost and plastic waste
  • ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT – Decrease in plastic containers, decrease in chemicals going down the drain
  • ON GOING – Everything in this list is so easy. The All Purpose Cleaner spray bottle lasts for 4-6 weeks, dependent on bottle size and frequency of use. It’s not a huge deal to whip together a new batch, I just ensure I always have ingredients on hand.

environmentally friendly options for the house

4. Hygiene Products

One Saturday I sat and pulled everything out of the bathroom cabinet, I was shocked at how many little ‘tubes’ of things we had. I realised half of it we’d never even use!

Since that time, I have implemented a few changes in the bathroom that are cutting down on the items we purchase. The biggest move was soap.

5. Soap

I love liquid soap and conditioners, but there is so much packaging in the product and plastic waste. I have switch the liquids for good ol’fashion solids for:

  1. Body Soap– I’ve found a bar of soap with a soap saver lasts a good while, even my husband is converting. We have a girl and boy soap option in the shower and I’ve also moved to buying more handmade soaps from the local markets as the kids have gotten bigger. We LOVE soap shopping!
  2. Shampoo Soap– I initially just wanted shampoo soap for our trip to Japan, but I am now totally converted to Lush Hair Shampoo, it is seriously good stuff. My only comment is to have it in a container to stop it ‘dissolving’ when your tween decides to have a 60 minute shower.

Lush Shampoo Bar

6. Face Scrub

Another move I made was to make my own shower face scrub. Many face scrubs use microplastics, so I did the switch and moved to a DIY Coffee Face Scrub from The Holistic Ingredient Blog, which uses 4 very simple ingredients:

  1. Coffee Grind
  2. Coconut Oil
  3. Raw Sugar
  4. Vanilla Extract

This feels weird on your face, but lovely once you wash and dry. I’ve also found it is great in summer to rub under your arms to really get rid of any ‘smell’. For me this is a great face ‘freshener’, plus a good way to get my daughter into a good skin habit before she moves into her teens.

7. Menstrual

Recently I took the plunge and purchased a 7 Day Pack from ModiBodi, I thought about trailing a menstrual cup, but my flow is pretty slow now with my contraceptive implantand I wanted to test the ModiBodi for my daughter. So far, I am REALLY impressed. I got the full brief which look like Grandma undies on me, but they are comfy as. Even though I’m a size 12 (in most sizing), in undies I normally go a 14 for comfort, I probably could have gone in a 12 in the ModiBodi.

Moving forward, I’m actually keen to get more and test the smaller size in the ultra-light flow. I’ll definitely be purchasing for my daughter to have in her school bag.

Notes:

  • APPROX COST TO IMPLIMENT – $300 (ModiBody 7 Day Pack was around $180)
  • COST SAVING – Not so much, think it will even out about the same if not a little more. Especially as ModiBodi only has 6 month guarantee (also can last up to 2 years)
  • ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT – Decrease in plastic containers, wrappers, plastics from feminine products and microplastics
  • ON GOING – Easy.

8. Kitchen

The kitchen is probably my most ‘still working on’ space. There are a few things I’ve done, but I really do need critique further what plastics we can cut down on in this space. Achievements:

9. Cling Wrap

In truth, I don’t use cling wrap very often, I have had the same roll for 3 years! I do use it for the cookie dough I pre-make and freeze for school lunches. I’ve just always made it habit to purchase containers that come with lids, saves on the cling wrap. It’s also great to purchase a sectioned lunch box, like the Yumbox, which makes it easy to do nude food.

Yumbox

10. Straws

Straws, we’ve all heard how bad straws are for our waterways and wildlife, this video of a turtle getting a straw pulled out of its nose is disturbing. We’ve made a family decision of no more straws in our house, we have tried the stainless, glass, paper and bamboo alternatives, we didn’t like any of them, so goodbye straws. The kids have been the final decision makers in this, which makes me really proud that they are happy to give something they like up to make a small difference.

11. Plastic Storage Containers

Over the past few years I have de-cluttered my kitchen cabinets several times, especially during specific stages of my children’s development, goodbye sippy cups!

As we’ve moved forward, I’ve really tried to keep everything in the same brand and style, simple for storage. It stacks better and is easier to keep organised. I do a lot of food prep and store a lot of pre-prepared meals in the deep freezer. This is my sanity lifeline when work gets crazy and allows us to still eat healthy home cooked meals. I store food in 2 ways

  1. Sistema – has been my go to plastic brand for food storage, however, I have been finding that the plastic starts to bubble and crack when going from freezer to microwave, meaning I’m throwing out plastic containers unnecessarily (actually my husband uses them in the garage, but still there has to be a better way!).
  2. Bain Marie Pans to store some food in the freezer. Bain Marie Pans come in all kinds of sizes, they are designed for industrial kitchen use, so they are tough and durable. You can also purchase lids for all the sizes, meaning that no cling wrap needs to be used. Best of all, you can bake in them too and if you buy from the one supplier, they will all stack inside each other!

I really love the versatility of the Bain Marie Pans and have just purchased more sizes so I can store more freezer meal in them. The only downside is they can’t go into the microwave.

12. Bench wipes

I did at one time purchase a full Norwex kitchen kit, as it turned out, there was too many colours and requirements for it to be a successful implementation in my home. An expensive lesson. However, from the kit I did get some great clothes to wipe down benches and clean spaces. I don’t use them as intended, but they get used, washed and reused constantly. I partner them with my supply of cloth rags and the system works.

Norwex Wipes

Things I’d like to change

  1. Dishwasher cubes – I’m currently using individually wrapped dishwashing cubes because they are convenient, this powder recipe looks pretty easy enough to implement. I don’t think I’d make the cubes based on time, just use a scoop
  2. To replace my Sistema obsession, I have been considering moving to a glass storage solution such as Glasslock or the Ikea range, the cost is significantly more and I’m not sure how much I trust my kids with not dropping the containers.
  3. Food packaging – I’d like to look further at what we are buying in regards to packaged food and why. Seeking if we can move to some more bulk options to cut down on plastics
  4. Recycling- I need to prefect our recycling station, it needs to be practical and easy to use for all members of the family. Liking the stackable storage unit at Ikea.
  5. Composting – We do have gardens and were actively composting before I started working full time, we need to reintroduce the composting system and perhaps look at an alternative such as Bokashi.

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