Week 16: New Motivation

Oh hey blog…It’s been a while.

Sorry for the drought, but it’s tough being a blogger, especially when you have been busy breaking records for the longest time a Londoner has lived without Wi-fi. On top of that, the only place to get phone signal in our house is in the room where the baby sleeps. Less than ideal. Anyway…

Happy Earth Day, earthlings.

As it’s Earth Day, it seems like a good time to get things back on track and to reflect on progress.

It’s been a slog. As I’ve whined on about since this blog started, our living situation has been temporary for so long, it feels permanent. Our resources to waste less are limited as so much of our stuff remains packed away in boxes. We waste less where we can- coffee cups, water bottles, cloth nappies and wipes, etc. We are yet to get really creative. At last, the end is in sight! We will have keys to our new home in just a couple of days, and then the fun can begin!

Our new home needs rather a lot of attention. After months of waiting, it’s a huge relief to finally start making plans for the work that needs to be done. Most exciting is our intention to put wasting less at the core of the work. The temptation to take the easier (and much quicker) route of a new bathroom and kitchen has certainly been high, especially for me. It has felt like the end of my maternity leave is a looming deadline for us to be settled. The delays have meant there is absolutely no chance of that now. Thankfully, Chris has been a voice of reason on this. He loves the idea of wasting less, but that’s not his only motivation…When he was told the average cost of a new kitchen is around £15,000 (whaaaat?? ), it’s like he took it as a personal challenge to knock a couple of zeros off. Yes please! We’ll report back on that one.

I’m so glad he didn’t let me lose heart here. There is no way this renovation will be zero waste (there is stuff in the house that I’m sure cannot be saved) but we are determined to create as little waste as possible. We made a commitment to change our habits and challenge our norms in order to leave a smaller footprint on this planet. This is an opportunity to create a home that works with that.

We’ve already had offers of unwanted furniture and paint to get things started (amazing!) and we’ve found some paint reuse schemes and salvage sites we plan to check out… we may have even got ourselves a preloved oak kitchen to work with! Watch this space!

Any advice, tips, recommendations or DIY skills you’d like to share are most welcome!

Week 9: Waste Less Limbo

We are still living in limbo, with no idea when our packed up belongs will be liberated. Part of me wonders if we really need any of it… we’ve survived a month already with just the bare essentials.

Even as I write that, I realise how privileged we are. We are in a lovely, warm house. There is space for the baby to safely perfect his crawl (mostly due to us having no furniture set up). We love it here, and we really do have plenty, but the temporary nature of it is quite exhausting. It’s especially infuriating when trying to waste less. There have been so many times we’ve  needed something that we know we have, but where? Cue frantic and fruitless searches. It’s like a game of Tetris- minus any fun- each time you need to get to something. Certain wasteful items have crept back into our lives, like kitchen roll, because ‘Where the **** are all the tea towels?’.

On the brighter side, we’ve been making the most of the decent kitchen and freezer by batch cooking nice soups, curries and sauces. Mostly they are produced waste free with vegetables from the farmers market. Perfect comfort food for all the glorious spring weather we’ve been having.

We are also enjoying planning the work the new place needs. It’s a project. We are hoping to find used kitchen and bathroom fittings online. Please share any good tips for renovating a house with minimal waste! That is going to be our biggest waste-less challenge yet… please, please, PLEASE bring it on!

Week 8: “It’ll be fine, I’ll just wash them in the sink.”

We just had our first family holiday, and it was exactly what we needed. We chose Center Parcs because we didn’t want to go very far, and we found a very good last minute deal. For five days, we walked, cycled, swam, dined and rested! Center Parcs is built for families of every shape, size and age range and although we were a little worried that it was geared to families with older children, the fresh air and subtropical swimming pool can tire out even the most nap shy baby. As an added bonus, the heavy blackout curtains in our hotel room delayed morning for at least an extra hour each day.

As we booked last minute and Chris was working, packing was left to me. If you follow us on Instagram, you might have noticed my small nappy induced panic the night before we left. How do you do cloth nappies in a hotel room? Well…with some difficulty, to be totally honest.

Rather than our favoured all-in-one nappies, we decided to try a two part system using our night-time wraps and boosters as inners. This was partly to save space, but mostly because hand washing and air drying all-in-ones in a small hotel room was likely to take all year. Maybe there was a laundrette somewhere, (we didn’t see one) but if there was, we didn’t feel comfortable turning up with a bag of dirty nappies while other guests waited to wash their delicates. So they were soaked in a sink of nappy potion and rinsed in the shower before drying on the towel rail. The system worked, but it definitely took some serious dedication to the cause.

What did we learn? Well…

– If you hand wash nappies in your hotel room, you are winning at wasting less.The plastic inflatable baby ring you purchased for the swimming pool canbe overlooked just this once.

– We don’t have enough outer wraps. They had to be washed and dried a couple of times a day! (Thanks for the perfectly timed print release, tots bots!)

– Cloth nappies need washing machines. No matter how thoroughly you hand wash, the stink won’t leave. It won’t leave your hotel room either…

– Reusable swim nappies are amazing. We swam every day and only needed one.

Forgetting the nappies, the holiday was great! Having a baby makes every experience new and exciting again, like meeting ducks. So much joy can be found through the eyes of a baby. Center Parcs is a long way from being waste free, but it is a great place to waste less. Just like any other day, if you want to avoid waste, go prepared…and crack the window open a few times a day.

Week 6: Sharing the Love

We’ve moved! It’s temporary, so we’ll be moving again, but boxes are boring so time for a change of subject.

As this blog is late (again) and it is now Valentine’s day, it seems appropriate to share some love.

So as Maria would say; These are a few of our favourite waste-less things:

1) Family and friends

Firstly, and most importantly, there is no greater zero waste resource than the people around you. Sharing, borrowing, giving, loaning…we are extremely fortunate to be surrounded by so many kind and generous people. As I write this, our boy is napping in a preloved pram, hand-me-down outfit, hand-knitted cardigan (not my handiwork) and borrowed wool snuggle suit. He is quite literally wrapped up in love. Thank you!

2) Cloth nappies

For us, this was the best zero waste parenting decision we made. Using cloth nappies can save around 5000 nappies from landfill/incineration per child, and can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 40%. This can depend on how you look after your nappies: cool washing cycles, full machine, line/airer drying all make a big difference. We have a collection of about 25 all-in-one nappies, 5 bamboozle night nappies and a selection of boosters (some of our nappies and most of the boosters were pre-loved). This allows us to do a wash every 3 days. There is no need to boil, soak or bleach cloth nappies anymore, so 2 extra washes a week is really not a big deal. And if you use them again, or pass them on, even better. My sister already has her eye on our nappy stash… it probably helps that they look totally gorgeous on tiny bums too!

3) Guppyfriend

This is our new nappy wash companion. As the liners we use are fleece (they are amazing at keeping the baby feeling dry and the nappies stain free) they can shed microplastics in each wash. This is something that REALLY bothers me. With few other options that do the job as well, the Guppyfriend is helping us reduce this problem until we find a decent alternative (suggestions welcome!). All our wet fleeces now get washed inside the Guppyfriend, find out more about how this works here. I wouldn’t recommend using this for dirty nappies, unless you want poo in the corners.

4) Coffee cups

We love coffee. We love our cups. They have already diverted thousands of disposables from waste. Ecoffee Cup is my favourite as it is long lasting, light to carry and plastic free. The glass Keepcup is also a winner in our house.

5) Water bottles

Cold, fresh water to hand everywhere we go? Yes please. My water bottle has become my best friend, especially these last few months. Parenthood is thirsty work!

Trying to cut out waste can be a real challenge, but there are so many ways to enjoy it too! I look forward to seeing the waste-less-loves of other people… share the love, please! Maybe you’ll inspire someone.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Week 5: Life Still in Boxes

Alas, we are still where we were a week ago. These things never go to plan. Living with almost all of your life packed away is hard. The boxes have multiplied and been joined by borrowed suitcases and bags. Our house is such a mess, we have been too embarrassed to open the blinds for what feels like weeks. Actually, it might be weeks.

Someone pointed out that this is a good exercise in figuring out what you really need… well, its safe to say that our kitchen is only stocked with the essentials. Those boxes have been unpacked and repacked a hundred times already. The things we don’t really need are the things we have dug out from the depths of the wardrobe, or under the beds. We have made multiple drops to local charity shops, ebay’d, given away, recycled and dumped (only what couldn’t be used in any other way). Growing up, we moved quite a lot. I remember seeing boxes being taken from one house to the next without ever being unpacked. They’re probably still in the old shed. Maybe those boxes hold forgotten treasures but it’s more likely they hold several years worth of bank statements, or something even more boring, that no one ever wanted to deal with.

We only want to take things with us that won’t sit in a cardboard prison for the next 10 years. Somehow, we still have so much to move. Not to mention all the furniture to dismantle… Thankfully, my role on moving day is to entertain the baby.

During the chaos, we have been trying to continue wasting as little as possible in our daily routine. The problem is, our routine is all over the place. Even the baby has decided to abandon routine. Who needs sleep at a time like this anyway?

Time to come clean…

We ordered Dominoes (just because we didn’t have enough boxes already). With dips.

And chocolate Hobnobs.

We’ll do better next week.

Week 4: Life in boxes

Week 4… it’s been almost a full month since we started the waste less weeks. Right now we are in this weird place where minutes seem to pass like they will never end, but days just disappear. Shortly after our baby was born, we realised our home is a long way from ideal for our growing family. For starters, our front door is at the bottom of the steepest, narrowest, most uneven stone steps you have ever had to navigate. Pregnancy was fun- the stairs got harder when I could no longer see my feet. Throw in the total lack of storage (our house constantly looks like the washing machine just spits the clothes out when it’s done) and lack of space for grandparents and great grandparents to stay… we knew the time had come to leave our basement flat and move up in the world. Literally up. Street level, ideally. Almost 4 years to the day since we moved in, the ‘for sale’ board went up.

At some point we must have blinked and missed a month or two, because we’re now frantically packing up boxes and waiting for confirmation of our moving date which is meant to be ‘the end of the month’. 3 days away. While that date is looking less and less likely, all being well, it shouldn’t be long after. Moving is always difficult. Doing it with a baby, two dogs and a vow to waste less… impossible.

This is what we have learnt so far:

  • You can accumulate a lot of stuff in just 4 years.

We’ve found things neither of us even knew we had (like a jar of molasses that went out of date in 2014).

  • Paperwork is *almost* a thing of the past.

I had a huge, bulging folder of important documents. It’s the kind of folder you create and add to over many years of phone contracts, credit cards, student loans, insurance… You keep adding to it, but never remove anything ‘just in case’. When we committed to starting the waste less weeks, we were excited by the prospect of less. We’ve done a pretty good job so far of reducing what we consume and minimising the waste we produce day to day, but we haven’t tackled historic waste in our home until now. That particular folder was concealing more than a few trees worth of paper waste. After a proper look through, only three sheets of paper needed to be kept.

Rather than being disheartened by the now overflowing recycling bin, we marvelled at the progress… hardly anything had been added since we moved here in 2013. Hurray for mobile banking, online payslips and pdf insurance certificates!

  • We only wear a tiny fraction of the clothes we have.

For me, this is mostly because I’ve been hanging on to the hope that my pre baby clothes will fit again one day. How long are you meant to wait? Even when they do fit there are other things to consider… can I crawl around the soft play in those skinny jeans? Not a chance. The local charity shop now has half my wardrobe.

For Chris, its because jumpers are itchy. You’ll find him in jeans and a t shirt all year round. Occasionally paired with a grey beanie. His jumpers are now also seeking new homes.

  • Moving is wasteful, but we are trying to waste less!

Stuff needs to be cleared out, packed up, wrapped up and transported safely. All of our bins are full for the first time this year.

To pack, we’ve used boxes that my dad collected from work and every bag for life we can get our hands on. My mum came over equipped with paper to wrap up our kitchenware today. To save waste, she asked a local coffee shop for all the newspapers at the end of the day. Go, mum!

It’ll be over soon, and we’ll be in a street level, clutter-free, grandparent friendly home!

Fingers and toes crossed, please!

Week 3: Caca Rouge

This week, my hair changed colour. Without ammonia. Without bleach. Without packaging. With henna!

I’ll admit that I’ve always been a little afraid of henna. From what I’ve heard, it’s quite a commitment. You can’t just switch back to a normal dye, so whether you like it or not, you’re stuck with it. This has put me off for years, but now it was almost part of the appeal! I want to waste less, but giving up dye altogether wasn’t part of the plan (my grey hairs have quadrupled in the last 6 months).

A quick trip to Lush and a chat with some really helpful staff later…

IMG_8321

Being cautious, I carried out a strand test before taking the plunge (highly recommended to check for allergy and to check the colour). A full day later and my strand didn’t look any different. So, with no idea what colour I was getting, but confident that my face wasn’t going to blow up, I went for it.

For those of you who haven’t used henna, you add hot water to melt the block, then mix it until it looks like melted chocolate. Or something else. In all honesty, it reminded me more of the contents of a dirty nappy. Which makes sense seeing as this particular henna is literally called ‘red poo’. Not appealing so far! It got worse. Once it’s melted, you rub it into your hair. This is surprisingly difficult because as soon as you touch it it cools and starts to solidify. Quite quickly, you realise you are now trapped on the spot as the ground around has become a minefield of gritty little lumps. The lumps are also on all surrounding surfaces, in your bra, pressed in the waistband of your trousers, between your toes, down your back and inside the gloves. At least it doesn’t stain, right?

Honestly, I wasn’t really prepared for the level of bathroom destruction that came with henna. Thankfully, Chris was distracted by the baby throughout. I don’t think he’d have coped if he’d seen the chaos I created before I had the chance to clean up! It’s fine though, you have at least 3 hours to kill before it’s time to wash it out. Which happens to be the next opportunity to make a world of mess… more gritty lumps, more staining…

Minutes, hours, months and years passed before the bathroom was finally clean, my skin was finally stain free (almost- thank goodness for moisturiser) and my hair was orange. Yes, orange.

I think I like it.

IMG_8433

Week 2: Crispgate.

This week started with a phone call from Chris asking if he could buy some crisps. I’m not sure why he asked, but he quickly wished he hadn’t – the answer was no, followed by a question about whether he was even taking this seriously (blame the lingering baby hormones and lack of sleep). It didn’t take long to realise that maybe this was a bit mean, especially as we agreed at the start that we couldn’t change everything over night. So, the oven went on, potatoes were sliced, and crisps were made. They were awful. Some were burnt, others were soggy, and the seasoning was just wrong. Seriously, how can it be so difficult to bake slices of potato? At the time, this felt like it might be a moment that would undo our progress, that the realisation that crisps might also be off the snack menu would be a step too far. However, when Chris got home, and generously ate (and pretended to enjoy) the horrible substitute crisps I’d made, he said it was fine because he really didn’t need them anyway. Need…such an important word on this journey. In this context, Chris wasn’t only referring to waste, but to his waistline.

We’ve come across a few new learnings on the waste less life this week:

1) We snack less.

It must seem like we are slightly obsessed with snacking. We used to frequently demolish a pack of hobnobs or a share bag of crisps while watching Netflix. Now, it’s much more difficult to do this. Especially as the packaging on our favourite treats can’t even be recycled. Instead, we have baked homemade cookies and picked up the odd donut from the bakery while on our quest for a fresh and waste free loaf. That is a huge improvement! We are definitely feeling healthier.

2) We spend less.

Reading other blogs and looking through online zero waste group posts, expense seems to be a barrier to a zero waste lifestyle for a lot of people…for some reason, buying things without packaging seems to cost more.  The key to overcoming this barrier? You buy a lot less. It is extremely difficult to impulse buy anything! Partly because you are desperately avoiding packaging (I think Chris and I may be in some kind of unspoken contest to see who caves first now) but also because your attitude is changing. You are thinking about what you need, and about what you don’t.

3) We cook more.

It seems the only way to create less waste at meal times is to cook. We cook for each other, the baby and the dogs. Chris is the chef in our household. He does it properly using recipes which taste AMAZING, whereas I take more of a ‘throw it in and see what happens’ approach. It’s usually edible (crisps excluded).

This week our vegetables were ordered direct from an organic farm and delivered by Farm Drop, along with a few other treats from local sources. The delivery driver came in to the house, unpacked the shopping and took away all the packaging to be used again. Loved it!

There are so many ways we generate waste in our daily lives that our routines make us oblivious to. By changing things up in the last couple of weeks, we are learning a lot about ourselves, our attitudes and the things we genuinely want and need. Change isn’t always easy, but as you can see, we are finding enjoyment in it. Celebrating when things go well, like cooking a meal without single use packaging, is important. It’s also important to accept the occasional crisp packet and not be too hard on ourselves or each other. We are not perfect, and this isn’t about perfection, so until my crisps actually become edible. I’ll have salt and vinegar, please.

Week 1: Getting over the merry mess

Week 1 of the waste less weeks… I don’t feel like we have come very far. We are starting the year using up what we already have, and will work our way “waste less”, week by week. I knew the first few weeks would be a learning curve, but I wasn’t prepared for the biggest lesson- how much we were already wasting. I thought we had room for improvement, now I feel more like we need a full over-haul.

We could make excuses about Christmas, and visitors and the baby… but that’s not what this is about. I want to celebrate the changes we make and waste we reduce, but I also want to be honest about where we have fallen short in order to improve. Before Christmas I read an article about how much waste is produced over the festive period in the UK. Some awful figures were displayed and I felt genuinely upset. More upsetting was the statistic that 60% of people don’t even care, as they don’t think their waste counts at Christmas. We are not in that majority. We love Christmas and enjoy celebrating each year, but we try to be careful about reducing waste. We use old magazines or newspaper to wrap gifts and tie them with paper string to avoid any plastic tape. We buy second hand gifts when we can, such as books, toys, even clothes. We avoid waste plastic, like the pointless cracker toys that are thrown out with the scraps of Christmas dinner (I made the crackers this year!). These are just some examples, but the point is, we try. Despite our efforts, and the fact we were hardly even home, we have somehow accumulated A LOT of post-Christmas waste. You know the culprits… biscuit trays, wrapping paper, food packaging, Amazon boxes, more Amazon boxes, bubble wrap, plastic film, beer bottles…  We need to try much harder next year. Hopefully, this journey will get us there.

Now I am done crying over our merry mess, I’d like to reflect on this week and the little glimmers of progress we have made!

We have had family visiting this week, and my husband wanted to cook his speciality for them. The recipe is quite specific and he had a long list of supplies to pick up. When he got to the shop and realised he had forgotten to bring any bags, he came home and got them! I am still impressed! Chris is totally on board with this, but he is still a little more slack than I would like him to be… he came home with a share bag of sweets tonight and argued that he was saving waste by getting a bigger bag. Meanwhile, I was busy baking cookies because I knew he was starting to find the lack of snacks a challenge now we are through the Christmas stash (nan, if you are reading this, yes he has finished them ALL). Baby steps.

I went on my own quest for ingredients this week. I went into the local Tesco Express to pick up a few things for dinner. I actively looked for packaging free produce, but when I couldn’t find it I found myself settling for the packaged stuff. Once this realisation hit, I put everything back and left the store. I then spent the best part of the next hour visiting multiple shops on two different high streets trying to complete my shopping. Not ideal. My goal for the next few weeks is to get to know the local area better, and hopefully find a few hidden gems where I can shop conveniently and guilt free. If anyone is reading this, feel free to point me in the right direction!

Also this week…IMG_8213

  • We introduced our baby and his two tiny teeth to a bamboo toothbrush.
  • I baked! I baked the way my mum does… I used what I could find in the cupboard. I managed to make banana bread (amazing recipe here) and cookies, and I froze some cookie dough for another time too. Goodbye snack packets!