You’re in your kitchen. What’s one thing you find almost every place you look? Plastic.
Clingfilm, cheap sponges, plastic wrapping, plastic bottles of cleaning sprays, plastic bristled dish brushes, nail brushes, plastic bottles of hand soap, plastic wrapped dishwasher tablets, bottles of washing up liquid, plastic tupperware, plastic spatulas, the list really is endless…
Dealing with all that plastic may seem overwhelming, but don’t panic! The kitchen is actually one of the easiest places to get started on your plastic-free and zero-waste journey.
Why Make Your Kitchen Plastic-Free?
Whether you have been living the zero waste life for some time, or are new to the journey, let’s have a quick refresh on why you should care about reducing your use of plastic and aiming for a plastic-free kitchen.
Plastics are made from non-renewable fossil fuels and creates a lot of pollution when produced.
Chemicals can leach from plastics into food, especially when heated, when plastic is old or in contact with oily foods.
Many single-use plastic items are used in the kitchen – like plastic wrap, plastic bags, plastic containers for food and cleaning products.
Recycling is not the solution (only about 9% of plastics are recycled).
2. Avoid cling film by switching to wax wraps. And swap plastic baggies for reusable silicone bags, or store your food in glass containers like tupperware or jars. You can also use silicone lids or fabric bowl cover.
3. If you’re a baker – invest in silicone cup cake cases which a reusable. You can also purchase silicone sheets to replace greaseproof baking paper.
4. When you need new utensils, pick a bamboo, stainless steel or wooden replacement. Remember – anything that is now plastic, used to be made from some other material. As you get rid of plastic plates, cups and stirring spoons, return to items made of wood and metal. This gorgeous set from Huski Home are made of sustainable coconut wood.
5. Use washable or compostable cloths or reusable fabric kitchen roll instead of paper towels. If you do want to stick to disposable kitchen roll, opt for a plastic free packaging, like paper or biodegradable materials and choose a bamboo kitchen roll, which is much more sustainable than paper.
6. Plastic dishes and cups are a staple in some kitchens – especially when kids are around. But plastic is linked with hormone disruption and that’s something you want to avoid, especially with kids. Instead of plastic for your children, opt for inexpensive ceramic dishes or a set of wooden or bamboo table ware. My two love their shaped bamboo tableware!
7.Swap plastic sponges for compostable bamboo dish scrubs, fabric unsponges or biodegradable varieties, that won’t shed microplastic in to the water system and ultimately our oceans.
8. Between cooking, cleaning, emptying bins etc, your hands need a lot of washing when you’re in the kitchen. Cut down on plastic bottles of hand soap by choosing either soap bars or refill your liquid soap at a zero-waste shop.
9. For cleaning the dishes, choose a dish soap bar – this eliminates plastic bottles of washing up liquid, and is also much better for the environment and water ways. This bar is so mild you can even reuse the water for your plants!
10. Plastic-free your laundry routine – even stain removers are available as bars. You also have the Eco Egg as an option, both for washing and drying.
A plastic-free kitchen is neither a hard, complicated nor an expensive goal to achieve.
Simple swaps will be easy on your budget, as well as the planet.
Now that the summer weather has officially arrived and restrictions are easing, we’ve started thinking about going out more, or you know, going out at all! (I think my son was surprised that there are more than 5 people in the world!) After over a year in shielding we had to have a good think what we would need to go out and about now we have two small people in tow, if we wanted to go to the beach or for a picnic.
So here’s our tips & ideas for a sustainable summer, including my Top 10 Sustainable Swaps & Product Recommendations.
Tips & Ideas for Plastic Free Picnicking
Make your own dips & salads, rather than buying pre-prepared ones in plastic packaging from the supermarket. A great homemade hummus recipe is this one from The Pesky Vegan. You could even have a go at making your own crackers or pittas to dip in your homemade sides.
If you’re having soft drinks, choose options from cans or glass bottles, rather than plastic bottles, we love cordials as you can stretch them so much further by diluting with water. If you want to you could give making your own cordial a go (extra hippie points if you forage your own elderflowers 😉 – seriously though foraging is great fun, but only forage for small amounts from areas with plentiful supply and only if you are 100% certain of what the item is and that it’s edible. Here’s two great articles on foraging for beginners from National Geographic and BBC Good Food.)
You can get some great snacks for on the go from your local zero waste shop or refill store, popping kernels for making your own popcorn, or choose from a selection of nuts and snacks like spiced chickpeas, banana chips, etc. You could also use their assortments of nuts and dried fruits to make your own custom trail mix.
Avoid ice in bags from the supermarket, by making your own at home in silicone ice cube trays (we have tons of these from making and freezing portions of baby food for when our daughter was weaning), or freeze bottles of water use a coolers in your picnic bag, they’ll keep your picnic nice and chilled and your drink will have melted en route and be lovely and cool. You could also try frozen grapes which will cool drinks and make a great snack when you’ve finished.
Top 10 Sustainable Summer Ready Swaps
Plastic straws generally can’t be recycled, so straws have to be sent to landfill, where they take a long time to degrade, can leach chemicals like BPA, break down into microplastics, and can be ingested by wildlife. There are however several alternatives:
Stainless Steel Straws are washable, and much more durable. They are BPA free and unlike plastic will not interact with and leak chemicals into the drink you are consuming.
Bamboo Drinking Straws can be reused hundreds of times and can be composted at the end of their life cycle. Our bamboo straws are an eco-friendly and sustainable solution to plastic, made without the need for any harmful pesticides or chemicals.
Silicone Straws tend to be light and durable, these ones are made from 100% Pure Food-Grade FDA/LFGB certified Silicone, they come with a lifetime guarantee from ecoLiving!
2. Travel Cutlery Set:
Avoid the traditional plastic cutlery of picnics past and invest in a reusable travel cutlery set, made from bamboo or metal which you can carry on you for takeaways, work lunches, food on the go etc. They’re stylish as well as sustainable and it stops all that waste of single use plastic going to landfill.
3. Reusable Water Bottle:
Instead of endless plastic bottles, opt for a reusable stainless steel or glass bottle. They are durable, and you can find ones that maintain the temperature of the drink inside, so you can have a refreshing drink throughout the day. They’re great for around the house as well as out and about, where you can refill them with water – look out for councils or shops that are part of the refill scheme.
Our Reusable Glass Bottles are made from BPA free and fully recyclable materials and provide a clean and pure drinking experience.
4. Lunch boxes
Picnics and packed lunches are massive sources of plastic waste – from the plastic lunchboxes themselves, to plastic tupperware, ziplock pouches, clingfilm, snack packs and individually wrapped plastic food packaging.
Avoid the plastic lunchboxes and opt for a stainless steel version, or one of our Huski Home rice husk lunchboxes, made using the by-products of the rice industry. Many lunchboxes have sections, so you can do away with the individual tupperware and snack packs and put your own products in loose. If you do want Tupperware you can opt for glass or glass/bamboo combo versions. Or why not store snacks in reused jars, we have snacks in old curry sauce jars that we’ve cleaned and relabelled.
5. Wax Wraps
Similarly you can avoid the clingfilm and plastic packaging by choosing wax wraps for your sandwiches and other homemade goodies.
6. Takeaway Cup
Whether you want a hot drink or an iced coffee, a fruity tea or just juice, taking a reusable travel cup with you let’s you ditch the disposable and many have the benefits of being insulated or double walled to keep your drink at the right temperature for longer.
7. Travel Wash Set
A great choice for the holidays we are now allowed on, whether you’re desperate to jet off or you’re choosing a Great British Staycation, maybe even just for long awaited visits to far away friends and family – a travel set is a great option for you to be low waste and avoid all those plastic travel miniatures, without having to take your full bars from home in individual tins.
8. Sun Cream in Tins/Refills
Yes this is now an option, some zero waste shops are now able to offer sun cream refills and the majority will likely have aluminium tins of sun cream available. I find the tins are easier to get the sun cream out of rather than faffing with the spray bottles that don’t work unless they’re completely upright.
9. Toothbrush Case
Great for when you’re away from home, bamboo toothbrush cases keep your brush clean and hygienic. We have both adults and children’s toothbrush travel cases in the shop.
10. Reusable Bag
Keep your picnic out of plastic and opt for reusable bags to carry your stuff on trips out or for shopping. Fold up, cotton or net bags are brilliant for stashing on you so you don’t have to pay for plastic bags if you do any impromptu shopping.
With the magnitude of stuff that comes with babies and children you might think that living more sustainably with kids is impossible. All that stuff comes with a lot of waste – and many children’s products are typically plastic based or disposable.
Here are a selection of swaps you can make to start reducing waste! Be sure to check out the shop for our featured products that can help with your sustainable living needs.
1.Reusable drinks bottles:
Instead of endless plastic bottles or cups, opt for a reusable stainless steel bottle. They are durable, and you can find ones that maintain the temperature of the drink inside, so your little ones can have a refreshing drink throughout the day. They’re great for around the house as well as out and about, where you can refill them with water, same as you would your own bottle.
2. Bamboo toothbrushes:
Every year over a billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away worldwide, ending up in landfill, in the sea or washed up on a beach. Using a bamboo toothbrush with a biodegradable handle is a small change but together we can make a big difference. Toothbrushes are not recyclable and their packaging may not be in your area either. With how frequently we switch them out, a sustainable option is necessary and it’s one of the easiest swaps. And they’re not just for adults too, we stock both baby and child sizes as well as our adult brushes. My eldest loves brushing with her “dee-eth” with her tiny Truthbrush.
3. Plastic Free Lunches
Children’s lunches are massive sources of plastic waste – from the plastic lunchboxes themselves, to plastic tupperware, ziplock pouches, clingfilm, snack packs and individually wrapped plastic food packaging.
Several alternatives include:
Silicone reusable food pouches, we make our own smoothies and then refill the pouches, so we can take them out and about with us, or as a quick and easy snack for our toddler to grab from the fridge. When you’re finished, wash them out (ours are even dishwashable) then they’re ready to use again.
Wax Wraps to replace cling film or foil, to wrap sandwiches and the like. Seal in freshness without the unrecyclable plastic.
You can buy larger quantities , bulk buy, or visit a refill shop to obtain snack items with less or no plastic. Then divide these up in to portions yourself instead of purchasing individually wrapped varieties.
Avoid the plastic lunchboxes and opt for a stainless steel version, or one of our Huski Home rice husk lunchboxes, made using the by-products of the rice industry.
4. Bamboo Tableware:
When it comes to feeding our small ones, many of us ask ourselves “what is on my child’s plate?” – Is it nutritious? Is it a choking hazard? etc. But many of us rarely ask “what is my child’s plate made of?”. The majority of kids’ tableware products are made from various forms of plastic that can contain BPAs and other potentially toxic chemicals. BPA has been known to leach into foods and liquids it comes in contact with, especially when these plastic products are heated.
Bamboo is a great alternative to plastic kids’ tableware because of the non-toxic factor. Since bamboo is grown without using pesticides or chemical fertilizers, bamboo plates are non-toxic from the get go.
Additionally, the inherent strength of bamboo makes bamboo plates durable without risking bending or cracking, while also being lightweight. Bamboo kids’ plates are also non-stick as well as heat, stain, odour, and water-resistant – all important factors during mealtime!
5. Wooden Toys
Having more durable wooden toys, which are better for the environment, and can be beautiful additions to the home, is a more sustainable choice then their weaker, more easily broken, plastic counterparts. Also, if you opt for open-ended toys, like wooden rainbows, stacking blocks and ‘loose parts’, there are lots of different ways a child can play with them, hence they get bored less easily.
6. Reusable Straws:
With children, especially small ones still learning to use cups or being given glasses while eating out, straws are often necessary. However, plastic straws generally can’t be recycled, so straws have to be sent to landfill, where they take a long time to degrade, can leach chemicals like BPA, break down into microplastics, and can be ingested by wildlife. There are however alternatives( which can be easily taken out and about to be used on the go):
Bamboo Drinking Straws can be reused hundreds of times and can be composted at the end of their life cycle. Our bamboo straws are an eco-friendly and sustainable solution to plastic, made without the need for any harmful pesticides or chemicals. The entire process is safe, non-toxic and completely organic. Each straw is 100% organic, handmade and biodegradable. Our toddler gets on with them just fine.
Silicone Straws tend to be light and durable, made from 100% Pure Food-Grade FDA/LFGB certified Silicone, they come with a lifetime guarantee from ecoLiving! They are also a great option for children who love to chew straws, as they are chew-proof, so no more cracked, flattened and ruined plastic straws.
7. Shampoo/Conditioner/Soap bars
Let’s face it kids get dirty a lot, there’s painting, splashing in muddy puddles, playing in the garden, baking, sensory play and just plain life, like food or drink spills. That’s a lot of reasons to need a bath or a hair wash, and that means you get through a lot of bubble bath, soap and shampoo etc. All of which you can purchase in bars instead, drastically cutting down your plastic usage. With the added benefit of less chemicals and harsh ingredients on your children’s skin.
8. Ethical Clothes/Preloved Clothes
Opting for second-hand clothes is both financially beneficial and eco-friendly. Charity shops, facebook selling groups, local swap meets, nearly new sales, and hand me downs from friends and family are great options to get ‘new’ clothes for your little people – who we all know are constantly in need of clothes as they grow so fast. Most of our children’s wardrobes are second hand – purchased from local selling sites and gifted from family (some of our daughters clothes have been worn by 3 or even 4 of her cousins first – now that’s getting the full use out of an item) Then when she outgrows them, what we don’t keep for her baby brother to wear later, we sell on local groups or donate to charity. And only when a garment can truly not be reused in anyway, either worn or repurposed, then it is sent to textile recycling at The Tip.
Those clothes that we do purchase new for our children are made of sustainable materials, so they have less impact on the planet, and also usually last longer as well. This includes bamboo, hemp and organic cotton. Babies skin is thinner than adults skin so GOTS certified organic clothing and bedding is very important, especially for newborns. Because they are very durable and quality garments, there is usually plenty of life left in them once our children outgrow them so we can sell them on or donate them for another child to wear. This keeps items away from landfill and extends their life – it also means one less garment being made and the impact of the production that goes with that.
9. Cloth Wipes
Most baby wipes are made of non-biodegradable materials and obviously can only be used once. They are a massive source of waste at landfill and also despite not being flushable (even the “flushable” and “biodegradable” varieties are not truly suitable to be flushed) they often end up clogging up our sewers and waterways.
Cloth wipes are more cost-effective, create less waste in the landfill, and help you avoid the use of irritating soaps and chemicals on your baby’s delicate bottom.
Cleaning up with cloth is as simple as just add water and wipe, though many people use homemade wipe solutions and you can purchase store-bought solutions if you prefer. You can keep them in special wipe boxes, or just use wet bags for on the go. They are available in a variety of materials, cotton is the usual go to or for luxury feels, you can buy ultra soft minky, velour, or bamboo cloths.
10. Cloth Nappies
Get eco-friendly by opting for washable cloth nappies instead of disposable nappies. Disposable nappies are made of synthetic materials, filled with chemicals, so besides being non-biodegradable, they can be harmful to your child’s tender skin. And obviously, you can only use them once.
A cloth nappy is a reusable nappy, usually made from cotton or other natural materials. The picture that might come to your mind when we hear the term are those squares of cotton that our mothers used. Now I’m not talking about terries or the endless soaking and boiling of previous years. Modern cloth nappies are easy to clean, dry pretty fast, have poppers or velcro (no fiddly or sticky pins) and come in a multitude of prints and designs. As far as cleaning goes, nappies and many wraps just go in the wash at 40 or 60. No need to soak or to boil wash.
It can sound surprising that cloth nappies are more cost effective than disposables because they can call for a hefty initial investment (though you could always purchase preloved from selling sites to save money). But in the longer run, they turn out to be less expensive than disposables, even better if you can reuse for more than one child, and you can always sell on afterwards.
Most estimates of how much you will spend on disposable nappies are around £850-£1,100 per child. If you choose to use a nappy disposal system, it adds in the region of £200; otherwise you’ll need to add the cost of nappy bags.
However, we paid just shy of £300 for our daughters nappies, they were brand new and are a popular and fairly top end quality brand, we also bought additional spare inserts. She has been using them for 2.5 years and our son has been sharing for the last 6 months. If they were in disposables that could have been up to 7,200 nappies between them so far. That’s a lot of plastic off to landfill, not to mention a lot of money. And while our daughter has started potty training and wont be using nappies much longer, our son will be wearing them for around another 2 years, after which we can sell them on and get some money back. Yes you have the costs of washing but if you wash your nappies two or three times a week at 60 degrees, and take into account the cost of electricity, water and detergent, then the grand total is about £1 a week, or about £130 over two and a half years.
So disposables could’ve cost us £2000 for our 2 children, instead of the £300 we spent on cloth nappies and maybe £260 on washing, as we do wash ours more than twice a week as we have two in cloth. That’s a saving of up to £1440, and we still have the potential to make some money back when they sell on.
According to WRAP, the UK adds 3 billion disposable nappies to landfill every year, so making the switch to reusables can really make a difference. They are not as hard as you think and most local councils offer a nappy voucher incentive when you buy your first set of nappies. I would highly recommend ‘The Nappy Lady‘ she has all the advice you need and offers a great support service too.
The bathroom can be a big source of waste. It is typically home to a multitude of plastic and disposable products. When your personal care products run out, evaluate what you actually use and need and switch over to sustainable options as needed. Use up what you already have, or donate unopened personal care products to local shelters or charities.
Here are 10 simple swaps you can make in your bathroom to start reducing waste today! Be sure to check out the shop for our featured products that can help with your zero waste bathroom needs.
Does a simpler swap exist? Change out your body wash for something a bit more natural… like a bar of soap! You may also want to make or invest in a “soap saver” bag to find a use for those little bits leftover at the end of each bar. If you prefer your liquid handsoap, then try your local refill store so you can keep filing the same container and save tonnes of plastic.
2. Bamboo toothbrush:
Every year over a billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away worldwide, ending up in landfill, in the sea or washed up on a beach. Using a bamboo toothbrush with a biodegradable handle is a small change but together we can make a big difference. Toothbrushes are not recyclable and their packaging may not be in your area either. With how frequently we switch them out, a sustainable option is necessary and it’s one of the easiest swaps. We stock Truthbrush in both adult and child sizes, our daughter loves brushing with her tiny Truthbrush.
Toothpaste tablets or pastes sold in glass jars are great alternatives to the unrecyclable plastic tubes that toothpaste usually comes in. Truthtabs foam and clean just like toothpaste, you simply pop one into your mouth, bite and brush.
4. Cloth Face pads
Instead of using make up wipes and throwaway cotton wool face pads everyday for your cleanser, toner, make-up remover etc., why not swap to reusable cotton face pads. You simply use as you would a cotton wool pad but instead of going in the bin, you pop it in the washing machine instead and then use again. They come in a variety of patterns and coloured prints and are so soft and gentle on the skin. Be sure to look for GOTS certified cotton.
5. Bamboo Cotton Buds
If you are a plastic cotton bud user then why not switch to bamboo? The ecoLiving ones in our shop are 100% biodegradable. Plastic cotton buds are often found on the beach, in our oceans and always found in plastic containers in the shops. These cotton buds have a bamboo stick and come in a recycled paper box. Bamboo is a sustainable product, it needs no pesticides or fertiliser to grow. It’s a super fast growing grass that is more efficient at taking CO2 from the air and producing more O2 than trees. In addition plastic-free bamboo cotton buds can be disposed of by simply throwing them into your organic waste or compost.
6. Natural & Plastic-free Deodorant
You can swap out your ozone destroying aerosols, or your landfill destined roll ons for unpackaged solid deodorant bars or deodorant pastes available in more eco-friendly aluminium tins. The added benefit of this swap is the more sustainable alternatives are usually much more natural, meaning its a win-win as you’re putting less chemicals on to your skin. Natural deodorants work differently than their counterparts, so prepare for an adjustment period while your body adapts.
7. Safety razor:
Unfortunately as the metal blades are embedded in plastic, billions of plastic razors and cartridges are thrown away every year. Switching to safety razors are a great way for plastic-free shaving. Safety razors use one single blade made from stainless steel, which is easily recyclable. You’ll likely also find that you’re able to achieve a closer, smoother shave without the razor burn and irritation that modern razors can cause.
If you’re a regular shaver, then this switch will save you money! Disposable razors and blades can be incredibly pricey, while new and vintage safety razors are standardised and have used the same style of blades for years. You can get replacement blades which are high quality and inexpensive. With proper care, the blades can last a good while, while the handle should last a lifetime. You can also eliminate cans of shaving cream with a bar of shave soap and a brush. Shop our Jungle Culture safety razor here.
8. Toilet Paper
Just like paper towels and napkins, toilet paper requires a ton of resources to be used for a few moments before being thrown away. It is also usually shrink-wrapped in non-recyclable plastic. Instead look for 100% recycled content or an alternative fibre like bamboo, or hemp. These rolls often come wrapped in paper as well.
You may even want to move on to family cloth like we have. Cloth wipes pair nicely with a bidet attachment on your toilet to eliminate the need for toilet paper altogether. It may not be for everyone but when you’ve got two small children squeamish goes out the window, plus when you already use cloth nappies and wipes for them you can easily make up a regular full wash load and it’s not really any different to washing soiled baby clothes in your machine.
9. Menstrual Products
A menstruating person will go through thousands of single-use products in their lifetime. Each requires resources to produce and can be very expensive if you add it all up. Invest instead long-lasting reusables to suit your needs, comfort, and budget. There are several options, including menstrual cups, washable pads and panty liners, period underwear, or any combination of the three.
10. Shampoo & Conditioner bars
Did you know shampoo and conditioner come in bar form too. This was one if the first eco swaps we made when we started out. Conventional products come in plastic bottles or soft tubes that are difficult to recycle, not mention that new bottles must be purchased time and again. If you have more than one bottle on the go, you may also have yourself some unnecessary shower clutter. They are so easy to use! Lather in your hands, massage it throughout your hair and rinse.
These changes may take some time to work into your routine, but soon they will just part of your daily life
So why try zero waste? Maybe you’re an environmentalist, a nature or an animal lover, you might want to be more frugal or give self-sufficiency a go. You might have watched documentaries about climate change and rising temperatures, seen images of oceans full of plastic straws on the news or read articles about melting polar ice and turtles caught up in lost fishing nets. Whatever your reason for taking steps to a more sustainable way of living, any changes you make, however small can make a difference.
For us, the reason why my family and I began to make more eco friendly purchased and sustainable choices was that we felt that the fast-paced, throw-away society of over consumption was so far disconnected from the natural world and the way we wanted to live and the culture we wanted to raise our children in.
We started our journey in early summer 2019, when after attending several vegan food and craft fairs, and speaking to volunteers from a plastic free programme, our eyes were opened to the damage being done to the planet. We watched documentaries and read articles and we decided that we needed to play our part, however small, in helping our planet and making a brighter future for our daughter. We went vegan overnight and we made a plan to start phasing plastic out of our lives as soon as we could and to do the best we could to make ethical and sustainable choices so that our impact on the world around us was a small as we could possibly manage.
When we used up the last of the shampoo in the bottle, we bought a plastic free bar to replace it. Items we bought were transitioned to more ethical brands. As soon as we had the money, we invested in cloth nappies for our daughter and loved that not only were we helping reduce the plastic going to landfill but she also had natural chemical free materials on her skin, we wished we had done it sooner and when our son was born this year we were so pleased to be able to cloth him from birth.
We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.
– Howard Zinn
We aren’t perfect by any means and we could still do and have plans to do more, but we are on our own journey to zero waste and taking steps forward whenever we can.
We buy fruit and veg locally to avoid the plastic wrapped offerings of the supermarkets, we cook from scratch more, we’re growing some of our own food, and making our own cleaning products, disposables have been swapped for reusables, clothes are repaired or repurposed, and any new purchases are thought through and properly considered first, choosing ethical and sustainable options.
We aren’t at zero waste yet and would rather classify ourselves as ‘low waste’ but we are doing something to save our planet and fight climate change, we’re protecting the animals and the natural world affected and were helping to make a more sustainable world for our children to live in.
When trying to make zero waste living work for you, it’s important to keep your own personal ‘why’ in mind. If you don’t, it may be difficult to sustain or to keep moving forward. Any changes you set out to make might not stick unless you feel the motivation to do so, and the small changes you do make will give you confidence to keep going. So find your why, and start making small habit changes. Don’t know where to start? Follow our blog for inspiration and ideas.
“Going plastic free is a lifestyle change. Take your time and don’t beat yourself up if something goes a little wrong. Simply start again.”