One of the things that I wanted to achieve this year is to reduce our family's plastic use. Having read Turning the Tide on Plastic...

Reducing our Family's Plastic Consumption

Friday, June 14, 2019 BookBairn 4 Comments

One of the things that I wanted to achieve this year is to reduce our family's plastic use. Having read Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegle at the beginning of this year I realised that simply recycling some of the plastic that we bring into the house isn't enough anymore. We need to try to stop it crossing the threshold. Before I say what we have done so far I wanted to say that there is no one-size fits all and I strongly believe the adage that

"We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly." (Anne Marie Bonneau).

I am trying my best. I have made many plastic fails along the way.

Very unscientifically I estimated that we have reduced our family's use of plastic by about 1/3 to one half since the start of the year. By unscientifically I mean that every month when we put our packaging recycling bin (which includes tins and cans as well as plastics) it was full. But now it's about 2/3 full on a bad month (i.e. the kids birthdays) and by half in the last month and our general refuse bin isn't as full each week either, which was a concern for me as I didn't want the plastic to end up in the landfill as I got better at knowing what I could and couldn't recycle. Our overall refuse is down by approximately one quarter.

Basically for me to make a change it has to be both sustainable for the environment but equally important it has to be sustainable for my lifestyle. There are so many good ideas and advice out there for things that you can do to move towards a zero waste lifestyle but there are also lots that personally I won't adopt because it's not how I want to spend my time. For example, I won't be making my own cheese from scratch or switching to a bidet rather than toilet paper. It just doesn't fit my current lifestyle. But here are some of the switches we have fit into our life*:

One of the first, quickest and easiest swaps that I made was getting a stainless steel water bottle to use for drinking water. Easy peasy and I've used almost no plastic water bottles since.

One of the more costly changes we have made is switching to a glass bottle milk delivery. This does cost us more, but then it does also get delivered to the door and the taste and quality of the milk is far nicer. Plastic milk cartons were one of our households most common types of plastic refuse so it was a must. If you are based in the UK and interested in switching to milk delivery I have a friend's referral code for the service we use (click here).

One of the other big changes we have made is switching to buying meat from the butcher. We have an excellent local butcher who does great value variety packs of meat which we buy once a month and then top-up with our favourites. This has been such an easy switch as it is very close to The Wee Page Turner's nursery so I can easily stop in after dropping him off at nursery. And we have discovered some new favourites. This has not only reduced our plastic consumption but also means that all our meat is local so we aren't contributing to the massive carbon footprint for meat as much as when buying at the supermarket. Again it's more costly for some things but this also means we have changed our diet to be more healthy having less red meat and eating more fish and vegetarian meals.

I have switched to a shampoo bar instead of a bottle. I tried a conditioner bar and didn't like it so have gone back to a spray in conditioner which I don't use as much of. You can't switch everything at once and it takes time to find something that works. I also switched to bars of hand soap.

Getting the kids on board! The kids have also been helping us reduce their plastic where we can and we no longer buy kinder eggs with plastic tat toys that just get put in the bin, as well as magazines and happy meal toys. Instead we give them pocket money so they can save up for a more worthwhile toy, and though this is often plastic, it is at least a toy that will get played with over and over rather than being destined straight for the bin.

Making smarter choices. When I'm shopping in the supermarket, which I have gone back to over online food delivery services as it gives me more control, I have been making smarter choices. I stick more rigidly to meal planning than I did before and rarely pick up any extras when I'm shopping which helps save on wast foods as well as saving money. But also I look for alternative options like buying fruit and vegetables which aren't wrapped in plastic, choosing tinned over froze vegetables for the store cupboard, choosing glass bottles of olive oil or glass jars of passata, chocolate bars wrapped in card and foil all over plastic alternatives. Where possible I have also been buying larger packs of things like rice, pasta and couscous which locally I haven't found in plastic-free option.

I cook more. I have started cooking more from scratch. Not just meals, which we pretty much always cooked ourselves (not owning a microwave for a long time we have never done ready-meals). But now I alos make things like chocolate mousse instead of buying tubs of it, or baking our own cookies, or bread. Things I would have said I didn't have time to do in the past but now I make time, and I enjoy it!

I discovered the Ellacycle scheme where I found out I could recycle the fruit pouches that the kids adore, and wouldn't give up, and found out the nearest location - a local soft play - where we can drop them off to be recycled.
We still have a long way to go! And I have some ideas for our next steps in reducing our waste, and in particular plastic waste:

Nappies - I regret not using reusable nappies with my kids and hate that we will have a legacy of them in landfill. But The Wee Page Turner is two and should soon (I hope) be potty trained so this won't be for much longer. But I will be investing in some reusable wipes in the meantime as I'm sure we will still use these long after potty training has finished.

Cleaning products - I have switched our previous products to more eco-friendly products but I would like to make my own, or buy in bulk where possible. I also need to invest in a guppy bag to catch those loathsome microplastics shed by synthetic fibres on gym gear and swimming stuff.

Yoghurt pots - I'm really not sure what to do about this one. The kids love their little fromage frais pots and eat several on a daily basis. And I'm not sure they would happily switch to a larger pot decanted. Something to try out. (I'm not going to start making my own yoghurt as as I mentioned at the start it has got to fit in with our lifestyle to be sustainable and work for us.)

Tea - tea bags contain plastic! What?! So I'm going to get a new teapot with a diffuser and buy loose leaf. And have a stash of teapigs tea bags for when I'm in need of a quick cuppa (their entire production line has now been declared plastic free!).

Crisp packets - the next worst offending culprit, after yoghurt pits which can at least be recycled, is crisp packets and some sweet wrappers. Any tips on this would be welcome!

Big changes!

Not strictly plastic but... this weekend we have been test driving an electric car - a Nissan Leaf - to replace our too small for our family Volkswagen Polo. And I loved it! Loved driving it! Loved the zero fumes driving experience. So we are buying one. There is quite a long wait time for them as there is a backlog in manufacturing vs demand but by this winter we should be fully electric with no more combustion engine fumes and petrol. An expensive choice but one we are happy to make as we are putting out money where our principles are by choosing electric. 

If you have any tips to share on reducing our plastic or becoming a more eco-friendly household I would love to hear them! As I say I'm trying to make small changes a little at a time to ensure that what we do is sustainable and not just something we will do for a couple of weeks and then revert to our original habits. So far all the changes we have made have stuck! And it's great.

Thanks for helping us with your ideas and hope you picked up some tips for reducing your plastic waste. I have been collecting picture books on the subject and I have two more to gather before sharing them in a blog post about great books for kids on the dangers of plastic so keep an eye out for that!

Kim and the bairns x

*We also use reusable shopping bags and straws but have been doing so for a while so I haven't mentioned it as a change for our family. I also didn't mention reusable coffee cups as I don't get takeaway coffee, being a stay at home mum I tend to make my own and drink at home, or buy when out at places like soft-play where they serve it in a proper cup. But this would be a great change to make if you do like a takeaway coffee.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! And thanks for doing your bit too!

  2. Well done - I'm trying to reduce plastic too. One thing I would really like to eliminate from my life is cling film, but it's just so useful! I really must invest in some beeswax wraps. I've taken to covering bowls and dishes with upturned plates or cloths, just as my grandmother used to, instead of automatically stretching film over them.

    1. We do that too! But beeswax wraps have the added bonus of being so pretty! I believe they aren't too tricky to make either!