Some of you may recall the series I did on Live Lagom with Ikea in 2015. It was all about living that bit more sustainably and how Ikea can help you with that journey. You can read all about it here and see all my previous posts on it in one place here.
Our project goals were to reduce energy consumption, and also reduce food waste. Through our journey we did both of these things in easy steps, and in a way that was sustainable for us to maintain. While we were reducing food waste we started working on waste in general. We didn’t have an excessive amount, mostly recycling, but we wanted to see how we could reduce what we had.
This led to us looking at the concept of Zero Waste. There is a lot of literature out there on Zero Waste, and some really great blogs and websites on it also. For example my friend, as a family with a new baby went on the journey and she talks all about it here. Or Kate Arnell’s YouTube channel here – she was on the Live Lagom project the same year as I was.
At first it can seem daunting, you ask yourself, how can I reduce what I buy? But when you break it down it becomes quite simple. I started off one room at a time. Doing it room by room made it seem more approachable for me. I would like to be clear and honest – we have not gotten fully zero waste, but as Live Lagom encourages, we are on the journey in a way we can manage and sustain and works for us. So what did we do?
I will give an fairly detailed overview of the bathroom to show how easy the switch outs were. I didn’t do these switches all at one time, I used up all my shampoo for example before moving to the waste free option below etc. Phasing it in slowly as things needed replacing with the zero waste option worked for us. So here is the list:
- Safety razor – no more plastic razors needing more plastic blades (that last no time at all). One razor that will last a lifetime with care. The replacement blades cost €1.30 for a box of 15 and come in a cardboard box with paper sleeves. They also last a super long time and I think they give a better shave too. I bought this nearly 2 years ago now and am only on the second blade for it!!
- Shampoo – We buy refills at a local zero waste market of a eco friendly shampoo and conditioner. I bring along the Ikea Korken bottle and they fill it up for me. For using the shampoo/conditioner in the shower I found a super cheap solution – Enudden soap dispenser sits in our shower shelf. We fill these from our Korken bottles. The dispensers are plastic, but they won’t break if they drop in the shower, so I chose the plastic over glass here.
- Toothpaste – We use toothpaste tabs. We bring a glass jar to get these dispensed into, again from our local minimal waste market.
- Dental floss – We use a non nylon dental floss that can actually go into the compost bin. This is sold in a glass vial the first time you buy it, and after that you just buy refills for the little vial. This is the one we use but there are many others.
- Shower gel – We use soap bars instead of shower gel. They are environmentally friendly as there is no palm oil or nasty chemicals in them, and last longer, and have no packaging.
- Cotton buds – For these we bought ones with a paper stem, and again can be composted. There are many brands available on these, so it is pretty easy to source. You can also bulk buy them so that if they come in a cardboard box, you have very little recycling.
- Bathroom cleaning – Dr Bronner’s Castile soap! This is my go to cleaning solution for nearly all the house now. I finished off a spray cleaning bottle in the bathroom and just reused it to make up a solution of Dr. Bronner’s for bathroom cleaning. You simply dilute to the strength you need. I get refills of my original Dr. Bronner’s bottle from the zero waste market, so I don’t have bottles going in the recycling all the time. There are handy cheat sheets for the dilutions needed. If I need more cleaning strength I use vinegar, baking soda or citric acid powder, again bought in my own containers from the zero waste market.
- Face cleansing – Reusable cotton rounds instead of cotton pads, or make up wipes. Use them, rinse out in soapy hot water and hang to dry. Into the wash then every few days. I don’t wear make up often so I find a set of 5 works for me, but if you wear make up a lot, you may need more in rotation.
We have a small recycling bin in the bathroom now, but it is just for the toilet roll tubes, and we don’t find much anything else goes into it. We have a small jar separately for the floss etc for composting. We have also just ordered recycled toilet paper – don’t freak out, it is not what it sounds! It is from a company that has really good social ethos and you can get recycled paper or bamboo paper, so it is all very sustainable. The company can be found here.
In the kitchen then we buy our food from a fruit and veg market, rather than a supermarket. We find it fresher firstly. Secondly, all the produce is sold loose. This means that you take what you want and put it into the plastic baggies they provide. So what we do here is use cloth produce bags, similar to these. The ones we use are very light weight, so they add next to no weight to your produce. You can get mesh ones also that are even lighter. Simply search for produce bags online. Some people make their own also. The market people are happy with us using our own bags – we are the odd young couple that come in early on a Saturday morning and bring their own bags, but they think it is great.
I also use these bags to buy bread in the market, or in the bakery section in Lidl if I need bread and can’t get to the market – or if I have a craving for a giant chocolate cookie. The Lidl staff don’t mind us using our own bags, the tip is to not have the draw cord pulled closed so that they can look inside easily, and also as they pick up the bag it helps if you tell them what is in it to make it quicker for them to scan. They may have a quick peek to double check then, but it speeds things up. Their own bakery bags have the plastic window so the staff can see in, so this compromise works well and they have never had an issue with us using them.
The fruit and veg market we go to also has a butchers counter, and here if we are buying meat or fish (we don’t buy very much, I am vegetarian and my husband eats mostly vegetarian at home), we use our own glass containers, like the Fortrolig range. This means no plastic wrap and no foam trays used to package up the meat for us. I find that most butchers will let you use your own containers quite happily if you ask nicely.
We have stopped buying sweets etc in packaging also. I will put in a caveat here and say mostly, there is the occasional slip up. But this doesn’t mean no goodies at all. Again at the zero waste market we can buy chocolate buttons, chocolate & cinnamon coated hazelnuts (heaven!) and more. There are also other places where if you approach them nicely, they will provide their products to you in your own packaging – it saves them money in the end.
There is a lot more we are doing, but if I keep listing, this blog post will become a thesis worthy essay, so I will leave it at the overview above and move onto the bins. So we are bringing in very little that needs to be put into bins, and most of that is recycling or food waste. We found ourselves putting out the recycling bin purely only because there was no lift charge for it, and we were paying a weekly service charge anyway.
So for the ‘privilege’ of having a doorstep bin collection we were paying:
- €3.25 a week service charge – regardless of whether we put bins out
- Black bin (non recyclable or compostable waste) – 35cent per kg
- Brown bin (food waste/compostable) – 23 cent per kg
- Green bin (recycling) – free
The average bin weights and what we paid:
- 15kg black bin = €5.25 at the pricing above – Our average 7kg = €2.45
- 6kg green bin = Free at the pricing above
- 7 kg brown bin = €1.61 at the pricing above – Our average 14kg = €3.22
- Standing charge for us per year = €169
When we started focusing on reducing waste we went from putting out our bins every 2 weeks, to the black bin once every 3 – 6 months and the green bin every 2 months or so. We found that with our new focus on bringing in little to no packaging on food, toiletries etc we really had nothing going into the bins. We compost ourselves in two large compost bins down the end of our garden. We have next to no ‘black’ bin rubbish. Most of it is ‘green’ bin stuff. So I did a quick look online and found a recycling center near by. As in a 5 minute drive. It is corporation run. You drive in, drop off your glass, recycling, oils, fabric etc, and head off again. Free. For no cost.
So for the inconvenience of sorting recycling into container of our own in the garden, and driving down to this yard every 4 weeks or so, we can save €170 a year – just on the standing charge. Not counting the weight charge every few lifts. The other saving is the responsibility of having to do it ourselves – we are really consciously seeing how much waste we are producing, so it spurs us on to reduce it even more. So the environmental savings are also really effective.
So above all our Live Lagom journey is still continuing, and still making improvements in our life. Not only saving us money, but helping us do our bit for the environment.