When our family first started out on cutting down waste (and it has been a gradual, unfinished process filled with uncertainty, difficulty, time issues and pain!), we found the three most effective steps were the below – we cut down to less than one shopping bag worth of waste per week, quite painlessly and our bin is now virtually empty each week which has eliminated the issue of plastic bin liners.
This didn’t happen all in one week, so I stress that you must aim for small, sustainable changes which will work for your family in the long term. Here’s three you can think about trying…
Compost. I know it seems obvious, but it’s not that easy to get started and it can be overwhelming – and if you don’t have any spare cash it can be difficult to get the resources. If you’re not in a position to start your own compost, look into the Share Waste company that matches people with composts with people who need to compost – it’s as simple as signing up and dropping your waste off!
Cut down on consumption of meat
When we started on this journey we were consuming meat around 3 – 4 times per week, sometimes less. We soon found that meat and meat scraps were holding us back in the composting department. Whilst Bokashi bins promise to be able to compost meat, the cheaper substitute we bought did not work for this (I won’t share the maggot story with you – you’re welcome) and we found ourselves stuck. We naturally started cutting down our meat meals and substituting for vegetarian options where all leftovers and scraps are able to be put in the compost.
Today, we don’t generally purchase much meat. We occasionally have a spaghetti bolognaise or eat meat when we are out. Of course, vegetarian substitutes come with their own problems – they are generally packaged in plastic and there is nowhere to my knowledge where you can purchase them in bulk or package free, so it’s a bit of a trade off.
When we do have meat – we put the meat scraps in an old tin or jar in the freezer and dispose of it when it’s full.
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We love a market haul!! One of the issues we have with reducing plastic is that Saturday morning is the only time our local bulk food shop is open, so we have to pre-plan shops and also source “better” waste options like pasta in cardboard or foods in glass. Today we sacrificed a bulk shop to make it to our local @janpowersfarmersmarkets and enjoy the gorgeous weather #markets #fresh #sprayfree
Avoid Single-Use Plastics
Avoiding single use plastics is hard. Very hard. We’ve managed to cut down a lot by purchasing most basic items at the bulk food store but we still struggle with things like milk, yoghurt, cream and vegetarian products. Generally I will search around and try to find options in tins, glass bottles or without the plastic – but it’s very tricky still. I look forward to a day when our government finally stands up and puts a stop to it and companies are forced to find alternatives.
Recycle Soft Plastics
Recycle soft plastics. We were already recycling the usual, but I was amazed to see how much soft plastic we used. And now, even though I try to limit how much plastic we buy (like refusing to buy vegetables covered in plastic) we still get a significant amount of this waste – society has developed so far, it’s difficult to avoid. It’s easy, just set up a bag and shove in all the soft plastics over the week (or 3 weeks if you’re us and forget to take them in…!) take your bags down to Coles or Woolies and put in the Red-Cycle Bins.
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Far from perfect.. here is our soft plastics packaged up and off to the red cycle bin at @woolworths_au – this is about 4 weeks worth (and the striped bag is an old toddler pool purchased years ago) which is a huge reduction from what we were producing before. Do you recycle your soft plastics? #progressnotperfection @redcyclebyredgroup
Buy less. This is a difficult one. I’ve been conditioned by the convenience generation to always have enough food to cook anything I want. But the truth is, we really didn’t need everything we were buying, and I was often throwing out things that didn’t get used. Write a meal list, a shopping list and buy what is on it. I guarantee you’ll get used to it and you will save yourself big $$, maybe even enough to get a good compost bin!!
Progress NOT Perfection
This is one that I have to constantly remind myself of. I have a tendency to OCD and focus on the amount of waste being produced by me, the country….the WORLD and then all of a sudden I’ve got waste anxiety and I’m stressing about every little thing that gets put in my shopping trolley. My three and a half year old will often say “plastic is bad” and then look at the iceblock at the swimming pool like she’s asking to get a bomb – so I do need to remind myself to be a little more relaxed about the whole thing and not drive myself to distraction trying to work full time, parent and feed the family with whole food, waste free foods and delicious foods – almost impossible!
Be kind to yourself and make better choices – that’s all we can do to try and improve the situation!
What have been the best things your family has done to cut down waste??