Just over a month ago, DH and I decided to attempt one month totally plastic free. It was Earth Day and it seemed like the perfect way to honour the day. Now, I’ll start by saying, we failed. But, we gave it a really good go, and we learnt a huge amount. We’re now making major changes to the way we live day to day and hopefully that will mean a positive impact for Baby O.
People ask why I’m so passionate (read: ranty and opinionated) about the environment and whilst it started before Baby O arrived, he is now one of my key reasons for being more diligent in my attempts to live sustainably. It devastates me that he may never see the Great Barrier Reef, or Polar bears, or be able to sit on a beach in the Maldives, because we messed it all up, it’s not fair. So, every little bit I do, is in the hope of making a positive change.
We kept track of every bit of plastic we used for the month and here it is:
DH makes granola every few weeks, so a lot of this is ingredients for that. Yoghurt we couldn’t live without, a few sneaky packs of cheese, herbs and dried fruit. The scary thing is that if we did this every month, even with the changes, it would take a long long time to get rid of the plastic already in the flat. The bathroom being the worst repeat offender.
When waxing lyrical about all of this one day – and by that I mean getting on my soapbox again – a friend told me to politely shut up and just write my top tips for going green. So, thank you Mal, here they are:
1. Cloth cloth cloth! Nappies/diapers, whatever you call them. This is the obvious one but often seen as the hardest. Do not listen to the scaremongering! The poop and laundry is nothing, especially when you are washing so much anyway. The savings are immense as well, depending on brands you buy, you can save a ton (check links below).
Babies will use an epic 5,850 disposable nappies in their lifetime, and each nappy will take around 450 years to biodegrade. Yuk. If going fully cloth isn’t for you, perhaps try swapping out just a few a day, perhaps when you are staying at home with bubb.
Many people baulk at the idea that they are more environmentally friendly, especially after some controversial (and downright ridiculous) studies that suggested they aren’t. Ensuring you have a full load, washing nappies at 40 degrees, and line drying them when possible, will always be more efficient and have less of an environmental impact than disposables. Disposables use water, energy, plastic (petroleum) and a host of chemicals in production and distribution, and are then thrown into landfill. If you have multiple children, cloth nappies can be used for the family, and if not, passed on to another family. Many of Baby O’s cloth nappies were hand-me-downs having kept the bums of two babies before him dry.
So, find a brand you love, and wash away the guilt. Plus, they are ridiculously cute!
2. Cloth Wipes. I can’t tell you how much I love these. Water, or a lovely natural solution (I make up water, castile soap, witch hazel, lavender, aloe vera and coconut oil), and they clean up all messes. No chemicals or plastic in sight! You need a lot but old t-shirts, flannels, or specially made ones all do the trick. Throw them in the wash with the nappies and you are good to go.
I have zero craft skills, so bought ready-made Charlie Banana wipes and have them presoaked or when I am out and about a little spray bottle of solution and dry wipes.
3. Reusable containers for food and milk. Pumping milk and storing it in reusable beakers/ice cube trays rather than bags, saves a huge amount of waste. If you buy ones that can be sterilized as well, this means you can use them before 6 months. I bought the Avent storage pots and they double up for purees, finger food storage and milk.
4. Shop in your local market rather than supermarket. Veggies are significantly cheaper and when baby is chucking most of it around the room and onto the floor, this eases the pain! Just remember to say “No thanks” to the plastic bags.
In Hong Kong, plastic is king, and if you aren’t vigilant everything comes in some kind of plastic wrap/tray/bag. It baffles me that a pomegranate needs a tray and wrap, but this is how they are sold. So, off I trot to the local wet market with a shopping list and a plethora of reusable bags. My shopping for veggies used to cost me hundreds of dollars a week, I now spend around $250 and that lasts me all week, including Baby O’s meals.
5. Meal plan plan plan! This has been the biggest money and plastic saver for us. On the way to the market on Saturday or Sunday, we plan out our meals and stock up on all the things we need. We also sat and discussed the meals that we could eat that did not require plastic. So, for regular meals this unfortunately meant that out went some meat, cheese, and imported veg. Meals consist of mainly veggies and grains, and we eat really very well! I will pop up a post about our meal plan at some point.
6. Beeswax paper rather than cling film/cellophane wrap. Baby O is now eating solids and we are doing a mix of purees and BLW (Baby Led Weaning). This means pots, spoons and half eaten pears everywhere. Beeswax paper keeps your fruit, veg, meals, bread, etc all lovely and fresh. Not a brown avocado in sight.
7. Coffee cup and water bottle. I never leave the house without at least one of these, ever. It is the simplest way to reduce plastic use; mummy needs coffee to stay sane, and mummy needs lots of water to keep her booby milk supply.
Now, I am sorry to come across a little judgy but in 2018 and with so many amazing cup/bottle options, it baffles me that we are still using disposable. I rage every time I walk past a Starbucks that has a multitude of people sat in using TAKEAWAY cups. Seriously?? Ask for a mug, and a metal spoon. And refuse the straw, please. Thanks.
8. Bars of soap rather than liquid. Now I know that they don’t look as pretty, and you end up with a bit of soap scum stuck to a pot, the sink, etc but they are plastic free and come in a range of yummy flavours and smells. I have just converted to shampoo and conditioner bars as well, so when I actually manage to wash my hair, it smells lovely! The conditioner bar, I am yet to fall in love with as it is harder to apply but the shampoo and soap are divine. I bought them from Lush, so all natural to boot. No grossness flushing into the sea, yay.
So, these are my top tips for now. I am still learning and striving to do more.
Comment below with your own tips or ones you plan to adopt into your family!
Elisha is a real, average mum of Baby O. Based in Hong Kong but originally from UK, Elisha is a lover of food, the environment, sleep and the occasional wine. Her blog follows her very normal life as a new mum in Hong Kong.