How to Reduce Waste at Home
We can all do many things around our homes to reduce the amount of waste we produce.
In the Kitchen
The Kitchen can be the area where we create the most waste. Whether this is due to hygiene and cleaning practices or food preparation this is the heart of your disposable habits and the first place to target when going zero waste. Whether you want to go completely zero waste or just make a few good changes here are some handy tips for making the first moves or even just getting rid of that junky plastic and opting for a more homely vibe.
Doing the Dishes:
Swap your brightly coloured plastic scrubbing brush for an eco-wooden brush. At the end of its life you can throw this one away without the guilt – and with a replaceable head, it means you can just replace the tops. It lasts twice as long and looks way better than the ugly plastic one you just tossed out of your life. These are available online or stores like Stevens and This + That.
Replace your plastic supermarket dishwashing liquid for a classic glass bottle and pump, which can be refilled at stores like Bin Inn – or you can make your own! If neither of things are your style, you can always buy a large bulk bottle of dishwashing liquid and refill your glass bottle OR cut out the bottle all together and go with a soap bar, which is just as effective.
For a more eco-friendly and better look and better feel, opt for cotton tea towels. They function a lot better than those towels that just push water around and they’re much better for the environment.
Get rid of the plastic wrap and single-use solutions. Once you have done this, your ingenuity will step in and you’ll come up with better and more eco-friendly ways to store your food and leftovers. Not only does it eliminate that rubbish build-up but it will help you have a better looking, better organised kitchen.
This may take some time and some practise but you will feel great about it!
Start by buying a set of nice storage containers and put labels on them. You can either buy labels or make them yourself. There are some really cool channels to watch on YouTube that will show you how to do this, otherwise a printer and some double-sided tape will do the trick.
It’s not always easy going waste-free; it usually means changing your diet so if you’re not ready to go that far yet, start by organising your grocery list in advance and buying bulk goods that you can store in the container you have. Ideally, you’ll have access to a bulk goods store like Bin Inn, which is happy for you to take your containers in and fill them directly.
As you progress you’ll find that your food preparation will become easier, you’ll be throwing less away and you won’t have piles of plastic wrappers and containers in your pantry.
Here are some other ways to avoid the supermarket plastics:
Fortunately, supermarkets in New Zealand have all gotten rid of the plastic carry bag. It’s always a great idea to store a carry bag in your workbag/handbag or keep a few cardboard boxes and bags in the boot of your car.
Choose a butcher for your meats and eliminate the plastic/polystyrene trays and plastic wraps. Butchers will also usually sell cheeses and spices, so stock up. And while you’re there, talk to them about what your options are for going waste-free and whether they are OK with you bringing your own containers or even if they can wrap your meat in paper rather than plastic for the trip home (and then transfer it to a container for storage) Just be sure to get a ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date from them.
Fruit and vegetables can be bought at the supermarket but it pays to take your own produce bag. Otherwise visit the grocers or grow your own!
Bake your own treats and lunch box goodies.
Homemade bread is amazing and the smell alone can make the effort worth it BUT if you are strapped for time, there are services like PureBread.co.nz where you can order fresh-made bread and have it delivered to your door before you wake up. They have a whole section for paper-wrapped options and they also have vegan, paleo and gluten-free. Most supermarkets will have a bakery section where you can pick a loaf of bread like ciabatta or cob loaf rather than getting the plastic bagged pre-cut loaf.
Milk can be found at Beach Road Milk in Omata or Dolly’s Milk in Stratford, which is raw milk that comes from a dispenser into whatever bottle or container you provide. It works similarly to a vending machine and is super easy to use. If you are dairy free, unfortunately there are not a lot of options for zero waste unless you make your own but it is better to get the plastic recyclable bottles of almond/soy milk from the supermarket fridge than the lined carton, which is not recyclable in our region.
Shopping online saves a lot of hassle, especially if you have young kids. Order what you want and opt to either have this delivered or you can pick it up on your way home. The food is packed in paper bags and when you order, leave a note like, “please reduce as much plastic as possible”, and you will find your fruit and vegies arrive free-flow.
Quick tip: you can use the paper bags from shopping by rolling or folding down the sides to create easy storage for the pantry e.g. potato/onion sacks.
Instead of plastic wrap and zip-lock bags:
When storing your food in the fridge it is important to keep your food covered to avoid germs. There are options such as bees wax wrap and material wraps for dry foods. For more dangerous foods like raw chicken I would recommend silicon covers, which stretch over a plate or bowl and create a spill-free air tight seal. These can be cleaned with hot water once you’re finished using them.
Invest in clip-lock containers and freezer storage. Also, a supply of screw-top glass jars is great for a quick solution when you have left-over canned food, stock and gravy (and other wet ingredients).
Start a Kitchen Garden:
Growing your own fruit and vegies means that you can take what you need at the time rather than trying to estimate what you’ll need and throwing that extra away or falling short. If you only have a small space for growing, consider planting some potatoes, lettuce or herbs in pots or buckets and see how that goes. If you have a large space, do some research on your favs and get planting!
You can take your garden waste and food scraps and put them to use by making some compost that will help your vegies to grow by giving them nutrient-rich soil. Compost also stops all that kitchen waste going to landfill. You can find out more by going back to the ‘At home’ link and clicking ‘Garden’.
An easy way to divert your waste from the landfill is to have access to separate bins in the kitchen, which you can transfer to the kerbside bins or a transfer station later. The best way is to have three small bins nearby: one for general waste, one for recycling and another for kitchen scraps. Have the kitchen scrap bin on the bench while you cook and store it out of the way when you’re done, and have the recycling and general bin together. (More information on recycling can be found on your district council’s website.)
Get rid of your bin liners. This sounds gross but when you’re rinsing and separating your recycling and putting your organics in the compost, you shouldn’t have much left to go in the waste bin – and what goes in there will mostly be non-recyclable plastic . Give it a chance and see how it goes; you can always rinse your bin at the end of the week.
Packed lunches for work or school:
Find a flat clip-lock container for sandwiches or look into reusable snack bags that are made of cloth material with a funky pattern and are closed by Velcro or zips.
Take fruit; they have their own natural packaging.
Buy bulk yoghurt and reuse the container, or make your own. You can buy the yoghurt making kit from the supermarket and it only takes five minutes to prepare and 8-12 hours to turn into yoghurt (something you can do before you go to bed and leave overnight). Put the finished yoghurt in a water-tight container to prevent leaking in your bag, clean the container when you get home and refill it for the next day.
Quick tip: cutting fruit the night before and storing portions in a glass jar with a dollop of yoghurt or mascarpone is a great way to get a delicious snack into your busy day – and also looks café-ready!
Bake muesli bars, muffins or slices and put them in a snack bag or container. You can even simply wrap these ones in paper (which can go in the compost, by the way).
Avoid all the single-use portion packets like snack packs of chips and crackers, and buy the bulk version. It will save you money and stop you or your child from throwing away several packets a day.
Thing to Eliminate:
It will be a challenge to begin with but you will adjust and new habits will set in. Here is a list of things to never buy again, or replace with eco-friendly options:
- Cling film/plastic wrap.
- Paper towels.
- Anti-bacterial wipes.
- Small single-use packets.
- Plastic bin liners.
Love Food Hate Waste https://lovefoodhatewaste.com/
Plastic-Free July https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/
Bread online https://www.purebread.co.nz/
Reusable snack packs https://www.lunchskins.com/collections/reusable
Bees wax wrap https://www.beeswrap.com/
Eco dish brush https://www.stevens.co.nz/search?q=dish+brush
Homemade dish soap https://www.mommypotamus.com/homemade-liquid-dish-soap-recipe/
Natural housekeeping tips https://www.thespruce.com/homemade-and-natural-cleaning-products-1900456
The rubbish trip (zero waste in Taranaki) http://therubbishtrip.co.nz/regional-shopping-guide/zero-waste-in-taranaki/
In the Laundry
Level-Up your Laundry Game
Cold wash: as simple as flicking a switch, changing your water temperature is the easiest eco-friendly change you can make. Ninety per cent of a washing machine’s power usage comes from heating the water! You save money, benefit the environment and prevent clothing dye from bleeding!
Do full loads: keeping in mind your machine needs to have a tiny bit of room left to spin, try to cram in as much as you can with each load. The same amount of water and power is used per load. If you can reduce the number of times you use your machine each week, then you can save huge amounts of water and power! Furthermore, a full washing machine equals less friction between clothing, a factor that is more important than you’d think. Friction during washes removes microfibers from clothing, leading to thinner, damaged clothes and oceans full of little microfibers.
Air dry: dryers can be really expensive in more ways than one. They use heaps of power, costing you and the environment. They reduce the life-span of your clothes. Shrinkage, colour fading and reduced fabric quality are all common results of heavy dryer usage.
What’s the solution? Use your clothesline as much as you can to protect your clothes and the environment!
Wash clothes inside-out: save yourself the hassle of consistently replacing worn out clothing! Wash clothes inside-out to protect the outside fabric from fading and wearing, keeping your wardrobe newer for longer.
Remove stains naturally: make a paste of vinegar and baking soda to brush into fabric with an old toothbrush for an eco-friendly stain-fighting tool.
Stains caused by tomatoes, sugary products, coffee, wine, mustard, grease and yellow underarm stains will vanish when soaked in white vinegar for 10 minutes before washing. If the stain is still fresh, sprinkle on salt and baking soda before soaking in vinegar.
Eco-friendly laundry soap: our oceans with thank you for using brands made from natural and biodegradable ingredients. Products such as Earthwise, Ecostore and Eco Planet are found in all supermarkets and leave your laundry just as clean. Eco-friendly soaps may cost a bit more than other brands but remember, if your keep your power and water usage to a minimum, you’re easily making your money back.
Stainless steel clothing pegs: a little bit fancy, but a super saver over time! Plastic pegs break quickly under the harsh Kiwi sun, ending up in landfills forever. Stainless steel pegs last a lifetime and are far more sustainable. Wooden pegs are a good choice too. They last longer than their plastic cousins and if they do break, the wooden part can be composted.
Soap nuts: time to replace laundry detergent with a bag of nuts! Soaps nuts are the berries of the Sapindus mukorossi tree of northern India and Nepal. Its shell contains lots of natural saponins (soap). Each load only needs three to six soap nuts, placed in a cotton-wash bag. They can be reused up to six times before heading to your composting bin. Being completely hypoallergenic, they are suitable for even the most sensitive skin, and they work out cheaper than chemical detergents!
In the Bathroom
Zero Waste: Health and Beauty
How can we be a little more responsible with our beauty regime?
Perhaps your bathroom cabinets, windowsills and shelves are full of unwanted stuff, bought it error or on impulse because the packaging was eye-catching or there was a tempting offer in store that day.
If you want to work towards a zero waste beauty routine, it is as much about reducing waste and unnecessary packaging as it is eliminating toxic ingredients and opting for products made with more natural ingredients.
The easiest place to start when it comes to reducing your environmental impact is to buy from brands that use recycled and recyclable packaging, and shop local where possible. These aren't always easy to find but, as a rule of thumb, avoid packaging that includes plastics.
Here are some easy swaps that you can make to reduce your waste footprint. You may be surprised to see just how easy it is to make the contents of your bathroom more sustainable.
Washing your hair without plastic might seem like an impossible dream but there are already thousands of people that have switched to solid shampoo with its obvious reduction in packaging.
Ethique products are definitely the most popular New Zealand-made option on the internet. Their solid shampoo and conditioner bars smell divine and leave your hair feeling glossy and sparkly clean without all that nasty packaging to dispose of. To save on postage you can also pop into Egmont Honey or Farmers to pick up these products.
There are also some cool micro-businesses at the local Seaside Market that make their own soaps, solid shampoo bars and other beauty products. If you can shop local and support independent businesses that are providing these greener options, then that is a much better option for the environment.
Lush Cosmetics is another option, with stores across the world (including Australia, New Zealand and UK). They have lots of different solid shampoo options tailored to hair type so have a good browse before you pick. They also do lots of other unpackaged bathroom products.
A quick Google search will take you to the most popular online stores for stocking up on your sustainable hair products but don’t forget to try in your local health and beauty shops too.
If you want to take it one step further and try the no shampoo route for washing your hair then try using baking soda and apple cider vinegar. You can find detailed instructions here.
You can also substitute lemon water in a spray bottle for hairspray. See recipe here. You can fight greasiness with cornstarch in place of dry shampoo, which can buy you an extra day before needing to wash again.
It’s a good idea to stop dyeing hair, not only in terms of waste but also because of the chemicals that get absorbed through your scalp. Use cocoa powder to darken roots temporarily, if you wish, and lemon juice to lighten hair in summertime.
This is a difficult area in which to reduce packaging. You could stop wearing makeup but if that’s too extreme, then start thinking about alternative products with better packaging.
You can make your own lip stain (with beet juice), lip balm, and bronzer (using cocoa powder). Béa Johnson, author of The Zero Waste Home, has recipes for homemade mascara (buy a brush to apply it) and eyeliner, which comes from a kohl powder she buys at the bulk store.
When it comes to packaging, support companies that offer closed-loop production and accept their containers for refill. Check out these plastic-free products on the Oh Natural website or have a scroll through what’s on offer at Etsy. Lush also offers some affordable ready-to-go products. Check out this blog for all the details.
You don’t need to use facial wipes or cotton pads to take off makeup. You can cut up squares of old flannel, fleece or muslin cloth to use instead and wash when needed. Or you could buy a sponge: Konjac Facial Sponges are vegan and compostable after two to three months of use, or you could even try a fair-trade, sustainably grown sea sponge.
For the actual remover, try using oil (olive, coconut or sweet almond). Oil does a surprisingly good job at cleaning the skin and is an excellent makeup remover for the sensitive eye region.
Q-Tips feel satisfying to use but they’re actually not that great because they can push wax further into your ears and create blockages. They are also a big source of waste, particularly the ones made of plastic. The truth is, you don’t actually need them at all. You can just rinse your ears thoroughly in the shower with hot water and dry with your finger in a towel.
Less is more when it comes to maintaining healthy skin. Wash with a delicate soap – olive oil, oatmeal, lavender, goat’s milk, etc. that you can buy loose with no packaging. The Seaside Market in New Plymouth has a number of microbusinesses selling unpackaged soap and other facial products made using natural ingredients.
Exfoliate with the most basic ingredients that can be bought at bulk stores in reusable containers – baking soda, sugar and coffee grounds all work well. Mix them with water or oil, and wipe off with a homemade washcloth.
You can also make your own masks for special occasions using clays (French, bentonite or kaolin) bought in bulk online.
It’s best to moisturise with pure oils – sweet almond, olive, coconut, shea butter, etc. – many of which you can buy in bulk or reusable glass containers. Down to Earth has a good selection of these products in their health and beauty section.
Try waxing or sugaring your legs, using squares of old clothes to pull it off. You can use a double-edged razor on your face, drying well after each use. These blades are known to last for up to ten years if you look after them. Buy an unpackaged bar of shaving soap or try coconut oil.
Buy a metal clipper and nail file. Moisturise the nail bed and cuticles with any oil or beeswax balm that you use elsewhere on your body.
Making your own deodorant really is not that hard. Amanda in Waste Free Land has all the tips on making DIY deodorant that you can just rub onto your skin with your fingertips. It is all natural and there are no nasty chemicals.
If you don’t have time to make your own deodorant or you want to have a backup in the cupboard, there are many products in either glass containers that can be sent back to the manufacturer or compostable containers that can be buried in the garden. Down to Earth offers some lovely deodorant in compostable packaging options, or you can just Google ‘zero waste deodorant’ for lots of online stores that have products that minimise your consumption of single-use packaging (and can be delivered straight to your door).
Not only is it difficult to find safe perfume to use, but it’s not something you can buy with reusable containers. Gill Deacon, author of There’s Lead in your Lipstick, recommends mixing a few drops of essential oil with some sweet almond oil and rubbing it over your body after a morning shower. It smells just as good as perfume and is much safer. You can also opt for a solid perfume bar from Lush to minimise on packaging that you can’t reuse, or try to make your own perfume bar.
If you are frustrated with the amount of unnecessary single-use packaging on your toothpaste then making your own might be the way for you. Not only does it taste a lot nicer if you accidently swallow a bit but you can eliminate any questionable ingredients. Here is a great DIY recipe that you can make at home with cupboard ingredients and know that everything included is totally natural.
Find local options for donating, recycling and disposing your items safely and correctly.