Go Old School for Low Waste

There are certain things in the supermarket isles that appear to be packaged to death. ‘Fresh’ fruit vacuum sealed despite already coming with a natural protective layer, or crackers wrapped in plastic and then also packaged in a cardboard box. In comparison there are some things that on the surface don’t seem to have excess packaging, like milk or eggs, however at the end of the day packaging is still packaging, especially when it’s plastic. But they have to be kept in something right?

However the plastic bottles that milk comes in still constitute as waste, waste that’s destroying our environment at an alarming rate, and it’s not something you can easily reuse so at the end of the day it’ll still end up in the bin.

But there is a way to cut down on even this kind of waste, and that’s to go old school with it.

A few days ago my mum was visited by a milkman from our local dairy. That’s right daily milk deliveries are still a thing, and they do more than just deliver milk. We’ve signed up for both a milk delivery and an egg delivery to start out with. There are also plenty of other options such as orange juice, broken biscuits and compost that you can have delivered at the same time. The best part about this, other than supporting your local businesses and not giving all of your money to massive multinational corporations, is that all of the packaging gets reused!

Take the milk for example, it’s just like you see in the old movies, it comes in little glass bottles which you leave on the doorstep, which the milkman takes to be refilled when he comes to deliver your next set. The boxes that the eggs are delivered in can also be left with the empty milk bottles to be reused. This is also a great way to avoid excess, you sign up for a certain amount of deliveries each week, it’s easy to change if you realise you’re not using as much as you’ve ordered, and if you go away you leave a note in the empty bottle asking to skip a delivery. This also means that its a few less things that you need to think about when you do your food shopping. No going to the store and then realising that you’ve forgot to get milk once you’ve lugged all of that shopping home.

Also something you may find surprising is that the price isn’t all that different from supermarket milk, we pay 75p for a pint of milk which we have delivered twice a week. You also have the added advantage of knowing exactly where your food is coming from. Supermarkets most often get their milk from large dairy chains which utilise massive herds that are often kept in crowded conditions. Local dairy’s and farms are often smaller scale and due to this have a higher incentive to look after their herds. Your food is also much more likely to be fresh as it hasn’t travelled as far as some of the supermarket stock.

Also as someone who is lactose intolerant I have found that they provide milk alternatives, such as soya milk, these also come in reusable glass bottles. However substitutes such as rice milk and almond milk are currently not available, but these are relatively easy to make at home which would also help to solve the packaging issue. If anyone is interested in a good milk substitute recipe then leave a comment and I’ll make a post on how to soon. The fact that my local dairy doesn’t offer these substitutes doesn’t mean that your local dairy won’t, and if more people ask for it then the more likely it will be that dairy’s and farms are to see this as a viable option for them to offer in the future.

Why not contact your local dairy or if you live in the country like me, your local dairy and surrounding farms, and see if you can sign up for regular fresh deliveries.

How to Reduce Food Waste

One of the biggest sources of avoidable waste that I and I think a lot of people have to deal with is throwing away food. Sometimes its completely unavoidable, there are parts of the food that you can’t eat, or you’ve just forgotten something in the back of a fridge and its gone off. But here are some tips that i’ve found to help me reduce the amount of food that I waste.

1. Prepare a meal plan

One of the biggest reasons I waste food is because I buy it with the full intention of using it for some meal or to experiment with new ideas and then always find a reason to not use it. I can’t be bothered to cook that tonight, theres something else that takes my fancy, i’m just lazy. But planning your weekly meals in advance can help with this, i’ve found that unless I have previously planned my meal I will go for the easiest (and normally least healthy) thing because then I don’t have to make the choice when i’m actually hungry. Plan a full weeks worth of meals and then you still have a choice from day to day, for example you may have put a pasta dish down for Monday but would rather have the roasted vegetables that you put in Thursdays place instead, so when Thursday comes around you’ll have Mondays pasta. This way you still use the ingredients that you bought without fully limiting yourself.

My meal plan

2. Shop with a list

Carrying on from tip 1 make a list when you go shopping. Once you’ve laid out your meal plan write down what you need to make each meal and buy that. Also stick to your list, it’s very easy when you get to the supermarket to be drawn to spur of the moment snacks and foods, but if you buy them as well as everything else on your list then your bound to have something that will just sit in your fridge or cupboard until it rots.

3. Don’t shop whilst hungry

Frivolous and spur of the moment food purchases happen more frequently when your hungry. I tend to shop after eating so that i’m not thinking about food as something that I need right then and there but more as something that will be needed later. This way i’m less likely to stray to the chocolate isle and buy something that I will regret later.

4. Cook in bulk

If there is something that you eat a lot of which requires fresh ingredients then cook it in bulk and freeze it. That way you’ve used up all of the ingredients, so you wont have half a lemon going mouldy in your fridge, and you have a pre-prepared meal for those days when you don’t want to cook a full dinner from scratch.

5. First in, first out

When cooking and freezing bulk meals make sure that the oldest thing in your freezer is at the front, this way when you go for an easy meal your not eating the freshest thing and leaving the oldest food to go off. Label your tupperware with the date of preparation so you know how long it can feasibly stay frozen and still be safely eaten.

6. Learn how to store fresh food

There are certain foods that we all store incorrectly, how many of you keep your eggs in the fridge? Learn where best to keep your food to make it stay fresher for longer and don’t be afraid to freeze things. I know that I can’t eat a full loaf of bread before it goes mouldy so I put the whole thing in the freezer and just defrost each slice as and when I need it. Real simple has a very handy post detailing how to store fresh produce and how long you can expect each item to last https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/shopping-storing/more-shopping-storing/how-to-store-vegetables

Top Tip: Here’s something my mum taught me before I went of to university for those of you who are just getting into making and storing your own food. Food cannot go into the freezer in the same form that it came out in. What this means is that once something has been defrosted it cannot be refrozen until it has been cooked. The example she gave me was mince meat (this is the same for actual mince and vegetarian mince), once the mince meat has been defrosted, for say a lasagna, you must cook the whole thing before putting it back in the freezer. This is where the cooking in bulk comes in handy, make a lasagna that would feed 6 people and portion it out, then refreeze each portion and you have 5 more dinners ready to go.

An Hour Off

Something I have always been well aware of and not liked is a feeling of addiction. One of the main reasons why i’ve never smoked, drank or tried drugs is not wanting to fall into a cycle of being reliant on something.

On the few times that i’ve found myself with an addiction, e.g. caffeine. I have made a concerted effort to cut the addiction off at the source, often going cold turkey until I no longer crave it. When I wanted to reduce my consumption of caffeinated and carbonated drinks (after realising I was literally having withdrawals after a day of not drinking it) I reduced my intake to one glass a day, until it got to the point where I could easily go a few days without drinking it. Now I very rarely drink carbonated drinks (to be honest, when you remove the addictive need for it most carbonated drinks don’t even taste that good).

One of the most common modern addictions is screens, queue groans from everyone. But it’s true, how many of you spend all day at work staring at a screen and then go home and watch TV, play on your phone or mindlessly scroll through social media? I’m betting quite a lot of you.

I’m not saying that we should all go back in time and completely denounce all technology. I myself have made friends all over the world through social media, I make and run this blog through a screen. What i’m saying is that we need a break from screens.

I realised that my screen was becoming a bit of an addiction when it got to the point that I couldn’t leave one room without taking my phone with me, I couldn’t even go to the toilet without scrolling through Facebook or watching a youtube video.

Studies have shown that this screen addiction can ruin sleep schedules, cause an increase in depression, stop us from connecting with family and friends in real life and stop us from completing even pleasant tasks. For me my screen stopped me from doing one of my favourite past times, reading.

If I manage to rip myself away from my phone or the TV and pick up a book then i’m still very aware of the fact that i’m not paying attention to the constant stream of information that my screens are trying to jam down my throat. My phone is still next to me, and any notification I get draws me out of my book. Even if I don’t look at it, that buzz is enough to break my immersion in my task.

How many of you have been in the middle of a non-screen related task and stopped it to check your phone because it buzzed?

Another negative impact of being absorbed in our screens is, as I stated previously, that we are constantly assaulted by, often mindless, information in the form of adverts and social media posts.

So why not try and break the control that your screen has over you? I have started by taking at least an hour a day to do something completely separate from a screen, I go for a walk, I read, I make things. This hour off includes leaving my phone in another room so that i’m not tempted by it or distracted by the buzzing of notifications.

Of course just one hour a day doesn’t break the habit of screen addiction but it does make it easier to go longer without your screen. Often my hour off bleeds into two hours because i’m absorbed into my task without distraction. It makes me less tired, helps my mind relax and allows me to actually complete tasks that i’ve wanted to do for a while. It also helps me to stop buying pointless things because i’m not scrolling through social media and being subtly bombarded by adverts. I have also made the decision to leave the screens at least half an hour before I go to sleep, to help my mind shut down and help prevent insomnia.

A Month of Letting Go

As April approaches, and the urge to spring clean begins, I come to you with a game. A game and a great way for you and your family/friends to reduce the amount of unneeded stuff in your life.

Started by The Minimalists (https://www.theminimalists.com) I present to you the 30 day minimalism challenge.

How it works

On day one you choose one item to get rid of. It can be anything, jewellery, clothes, technology etc. On day two you choose two items to get rid of and so on and so fourth until you reach the end of the month when on day 30 you chose 30 items to get rid of. If you follow this then by the end of the month you will have gotten rid of 465 items!

Now the minimalists use the stipulation that whatever you pick must be out of the house by midnight on the night you choose to get rid of it. I however will be collecting my choices and disposing of them on the 1st of May, this way I can donate, gift or throw away everything in one go.

My plan of action

What you choose to give up is up to you, i’m planning on going from one side of my bedroom, where I keep the majority of my stuff, to the other. If I then run out of things that I am willing to get rid of I will move into the other areas of my house.

A good way to go about deciding what to get rid of is to ask your self the following questions:

Non season specific items (aka things you use regardless of the weather):

  • Have you used it in the last month?
  • Are you going to use it by the end of the next month?
  • Does it actively improve or enrich your life?

Season specific items (aka summer dresses, winter coats etc.)

  • Did you wear/use it last season?
  • Are you going to wear/use it in the next year?

If the answer to these questions is no then you have to get rid of it.

I think one of the biggest issues for me will be the possibility of getting rid of my ornaments. Logically they don’t really add to my life in any meaningful way, and most of them were bought on a whim some years ago so they also have no sentimental meaning. So for myself I have a stipulation for objects that I don’t physically use e.g. ornaments, and it is this, do I remember when I got it, why I got it or who got it for me? If the answer to these is no then i’m getting rid of it.

I invite you to join me on the 1st of April to start on your month of letting go. Why not comment with your plan of action or what you know you’re going to get rid of? Share photos and tips with each other. Have fun!

Scrapstores: Where Nothing Goes to Waste

For many of you creative types out there you may be wondering how you can keep up a low waste lifestyle whilst still indulging in your hobbies. Many hobbies such as sewing, sculpture etc leave you with off-cuts and other bits of waste that you often don’t want to keep, and can’t find a use for.

There are many ways that we can reduce waste whilst still doing what makes us happy. The biggest and most effective way is to reuse things in your creative endeavours: Make sculptures out of old nuts and bolts, make organisation boxes out of old cardboard such as cereal boxes or toilet rolls, use old clothes for materials. This helps to reduce your impact as even if you’re left with offcuts its still less than if you hadn’t reused in the first place.

Now when it comes to getting your hands on these refuse materials that can be another matter. If you’re like me then you don’t want to keep hold of every bit of scrap just in case inspiration strikes, especially if you have already decided to reduced the amount of waste that you create by buying products with less packaging etc in the first place.

This is where the Scrapstore comes in.

A new discovery for me, the Scrapstore is a place that collects refuse material and offers it up to schools, youth clubs and even individual artists in return for a yearly subscription. There are many Scrapstores across the UK, and a quick google search will let you know if there is one in your town. You can utilise the Scrapstore in one of two ways, by donating your offcuts and other waste products to them for use by others, or by getting your own supplies there.

A yearly subscription may initially seem off-putting but it often isn’t a lot considering that once paid you can take as much as you want, this is especially good if as I stated earlier you run a craft group or a youth club. Most scrap stores also offer a student discount on this subscription, for example the yearly subscription for the London Scrapstore is£70 for non-students and only £30 for students.

For those of you interested in visiting a Scrapstore here’s a link to the ReusefulUK website where you can find a list of Scrapstore locations and find out more information about the charity and how you can help: https://www.scrapstoresuk.org


All photos used in this post are curtesy of Jenny Camp.