A few months ago when social media all abuzz with sustainable swaps, #plasticfreejuly and going more #zerowaste, I was inspired to look at our plastic consumption to see if we could do any better with our recycling habits, which I actually thought were pretty good at the time. Conveniently, plastic-free July seemed to collide with an extreme urge to nest I was experiencing that month, and after Matt informed me our local Bottle Depot was no longer accepting soft plastic, I went on a eco-rampage at our house.
Within a month, I had:
- set up a whole new recycling system at our house to separate stretchy plastic from crinkle plastic, along with the usual hard plastic, tin, glass and paper system we already had set up
- became extra diligent about washing and separating out all recyclables instead of lazily throwing them all in together, barely rinsed out (which I now understand get tossed in the garbage if they are not cleaned)
- started saving glass jars for bulk food storage
- bought cloth bulk and produce bags
- bought beeswax wraps to replace plastic wrap for food storage
- attempted to purchase as few plastic-wrapped foods as possible (which was almost impossible at Costco I discovered)
- bought as many dry goods as I could in the bulk section
- cleaned out our spice cupboard and washed/refilled all the spice jars I could from the bulk section instead of buying those little plastic baggies of spices
- shopped at summer farmer’s markets first before hitting up the grocery store
- decided to stock up on reusable wipes, clothes and cloth diapers (that I purchased second-hand) for baby
- switched to shampoo and conditioner bars, soap bars and shave bars (Unwrapped Life products are amazing!)
- bought a brass safety razor instead of more plastic disposable razors (still trying to figure out how to shave my legs without creating a crime scene in the shower)
- made my own cleaning products and hand soap in leftover glass containers (I bought pump tops for mason jars and some glass spray bottles, and just used vinegar, distilled water, tea tree and lemon essential oils to make the cleaner, and castile soap with tea tree and lavender oils for the hand soap)
- switched to using washable make-up remover pads and menstrual pads (you need these for the last part of pregnancy and beyond, trust me)
- put a small recycling bin in each bathroom so paper and glass products like toilet paper rolls and make-up containers don’t end up in the trash
- made a conscious effort to choose products in glass or tin over plastic
- started to eat less meat and dairy again
Sounds exhausting, right?
It was overwhelming at first when I realized just how non-eco friendly our household actually was. But with the power of pregnancy nesting on my side, making those swaps and changing how I shopped was easily accomplished within a month.
My advice to anyone who wants to live more zero-waste or plastic-free (and who is NOT powered by pregnancy hormones) is to just start with becoming a more diligent recycler and to stop buying (or at least cut down on) purchasing things wrapped in plastic. Then, you could go room by room or cupboard by cupboard (kitchen, bathroom, pantry, cleaning supplies closet) and make note of things you can switch out to eventually that doesn’t contain plastic.
Since making all the changes mentioned above, I’ve noticed we produce WAY less garbage than before. I used to throw out a full kitchen bag or two a week — now it’s one bag maybe every 2-3 weeks. Since setting up a proper recycling station (which is basically just four garbage bins labeled with what should go in it), it doesn’t take as much time or effort to recycle properly. I’ve also noticed our grocery bill has decreased as well, thanks to buying more foods in bulk, making my own cleaning products, baking instead of buying treats, and shopping a bit more eco-consciously. Speaking of cleaning, I’ve also noticed we haven’t had to buy paper towels in months since I have been using reusable/washable cloths to clean instead of an entire roll of paper towel like before.
I know there are still more swaps we can make, but this has been a good start and living eco-consciously is becoming more second nature as time goes on. Every time I’m about to be lazy and throw out a tiny piece of plastic or buy fast fashion or purchase something wrapped in plastic for convenience sake, I think of what kind of planet I’m leaving behind for my little one, as well as picture oceans of garbage suffocating sea turtles just because I was being lazy. It’s bleak, but effective in getting me to change my behaviour.
Aside from linking to a few of the products I use above, here are some other handy resources I found when getting started on my journey to living more plastic free:
- Recycle BC website – to learn more about how/where to recycle in BC
- Greendeal.ca – A list of everything you can recycle at London Drugs (they take soft plastics, electronics and more!)
- Saanich’s carbon calculator – see how your household is doing in terms of greenhouse gas emissions you produce
- The Good Planet Company and Zero Waste Emporium – two local Victoria shops for all your reusable, bulk food and plastic-free needs!
Any great resources or swaps I’ve missed? What should I focus on/swap out next?