Researching Alternatives

In the lead up to the Rubbish Free Year challenge we are of course trying to create as little rubbish as possible, but there is a persistent myriad of mostly plasticy things filling our bin. The following catergorises the offending items into food, toiletries, stationery and misc. Looking at both the problem and the solution.

Food

Food relentlessly reappears as a rubbish problem every week. Food packaging is our household’s biggest contributor to the landfill, (the food itself is easily dealt with). We have so far come up with several ways of obtaining food without its non-recyclable packaging.

Product comparison: By simply comparing products a solutions may be found. For example I thought buying herbs and spices would require sourcing bulk produce, but upon closer inspection I realized that Gregg’s cardboard box range is completely plastic free. Another problem I assumed was moisturizer, but once I actually checked a few I found one large recyclable plastic #2 bottle that I think should see out the year (or more). Consider loose fruit and veg (with your own bags), tins rather than frozen, glass jars rather than plastic.

Bulk food stores: To make the most of these places you need to be well organised (which we aren’t yet!). Places like Bin Inn provide plastic bags (which defeats the purpose) but its pretty easy to reuse bags or make your own more durable ones. I am also taking my own containers, and refilling with its original contents, e.g refilling an olive oil bottle with olive oil. I am still looking around op shops for big glass jars suitable for housing rice etc. Our local Bin Inn was a place I had meant to go for years, even now we still haven’t actually shopped there, as it seems like such a big deal. But it will be a life saver next year; aside from items like dried fruit, seeds, nuts, flours, rice, pasta they also have honey, jam, soy sauce, bleach, spray n wipe, jif, liquid hand soap… If ‘ethical’, ‘local’, and ‘organic’ are music to your ears then you could try out your local eco grocery store too, we can get a wide range at our local, Piko Wholefoods (corner Kilmore and Barbadoes) http://www.pikowholefoods.co.nz/

Butcher, Baker, Green Grocer: Smaller stores seem to be easier on the packaging. I imagine they would be happy let you take their produce away in your own container, or in something recyclable.

Farmer’s Markets and Organic vege box: A great way to avoid packaging is to get it straight from the source. We are hoping to get cheese this way – because anything else will be a no go. Its cheaper, fresher, local… its all good. If you can get on to a Vege Box Delivery scheme in your neighbourhood then thats the easiest thing of all.

Baking: If all else fails!!! We both like preparing and eating home made food, we just struggle to get organized and to find the time. Things that will fall into this category will be: biscuits, cake, muesli bars, hummus, pesto. We are thinking of having an evening once a week allocated to the task. See how we go, so far I have at least gone out and bought baking tins and measuring equipment…

Abstinence: Yup, there will be certain yummy things that we may just have to do with out 😦

Toiletries

• Toothpaste and deodorant: We found almost 100% recyclable packaging with a natural health companies products, Weleda (bought at the wholefood store).

• Toothbrush: Don’t know yet.

• Toilet paper: So far have just found one company using paper to package, Safe (available at the wholefood store)

• Soap: easy enough to buy in paper, having to by single bars though. Trade Aid soap is packaged in recycled paper and a little waxed paper bag. Cheap too.

• Shampoo and Conditioner: Check for recyclable plastic, or use bulk dispensers. Some quite good brands are available.

• Dental Floss: Don’t know yet.

• Headache pills: Don’t know yet. But honey is good. So is sleep and having a stress free life!

• Shaving: Electric Shaver or blade shave (wow)

• Period products: Mooncup (reuseable cup, comfortable and convenient) washable pads. (I haven’t researched either of these properly yet but I am sure you can buy it all online.

• Make up: check for recyclable packaging. Use less? Google what Cleopatra used? Ask your grandma?

Stationery

• The humble pencil is simple genius

• Pens with refillable cartridges, not disposable ones

• No vivids (permanent markers), try pen, pencil or paint.

• No felt tip pens, try colouring pencils, crayons etc (artist quality products have excellent colours and will last for years)

• Blutack, metal drawing pins and paper clips

• Wooden rulers, steel staplers, card ring-binders etc

• No twink (correction fluid). What did people do before twink?

• No sticky tapes, except for masking tape

• Real brown string, not plastic string

Misc.

In addition to most of the short life span items mentioned above, there are other slow rotating items, that will, over the course of a year give up, empty out, wear out, and break down. Batteries are a great example, instead of continually throwing them we bought a recharger (only $30 on Trade Me). But this is a huge category of products that we are only very recently starting to think about. Many things that used to last for decades, even a life time are now so cheap, and poorly made that we almost think of them as disposable, think about paintbrushes, buckets, seed trays, shoes, water bottles and other longer lasting things like electric jugs, toasters, toys, electronics and clothes. Next time we replace something if we can afford it we will buy quality, non plastic products that might just last us a life time. And if its non plastic its probably recyclable when it does break down. If we can’t afford it we could try buying second hand, to save something from the land fill, and we can sell it if /when we get the money to buy something better.

7 thoughts on “Researching Alternatives

  1. A second hand bread machine? They are great even for your nann and pizzas. Can I ask why it is you cant eat flaffels? I have a recipe for them if you like 🙂

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  2. Hi, Cussons Pure soap is available from the Supermarket – 5 bars in a cardboard box, no plastic – cheap and good soap.
    Very interested in where you get cheese straight from the manufacturer that is cheaper – my experience is it is much more expensive than the 1kg blocks in the S/M.
    How do you store meat without plastic?? Do you have to buy it every day and wrap it in paper? No way to freeze it?
    Well done for doing this – I will watch and learn!

    Thanks for the Cussons tip, it is often difficult to know what is inside boxes and whether you’re going to open it and find each bar individually wrapped or something, so its good to know. As for the cheese we’ve now come to an arrangement with a friend who is going to make us some in return for us paying for the milk and providing some bread. The only meat we’ve bought so far was a whole salmon from a fish monger who just wrapped it in paper, however our friends buy meat from a butcher who is very happy to put it in whatever container they bring with them. We generally eat meat about twice a month so we’ll be doing the same when the time comes. Cheers.

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  3. As for deodorant – don’t bother getting any. I’ve stopped using it and have found after a while it’s not necessary. Shampoo I’ve stopped buying – it’s really not necessary. I just use soap from the EcoStore range every once in a while i.e. once every 10 days.

    Your body is an amazing machine and will keep your hair nice and shiny and healthy and your armpits smelling fine, all on its own! Who needs chemicals?

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  4. I thoroughly recommend the Mooncup, I’ve had one for a while and they are great. I got mine locally from http://www.poppypads.co.nz Good on you, we do our best to minimise waste and compost and manage to keep to about a month per CCC rubbish bag. We also use Ecostore products (laundry liquid, dishwash, etc), buying the 5kg/5L containers – they are plastic, but each lasts us more than a year. cheers, Megan

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  5. ‘Safe’ sell their toilet paper in all the supermarkets here in Australia. Maybe you should write to them and or you supermarket to ask them to start stocking it in a supermarket near you. It would be good if there was a NZ made option. The annoying thing is that they only use paper to wrap smaller amounts of rolls. We like to but in bulk so end up buying the one with plastic. Maybe I should write be writing to them too.

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  6. After reading your blog I got a morbid fascination with the Mooncup. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that these sorts of things existed. So I researched it on the web and 99% of people who write about it rave about it. So I have just bought and used one. Brilliant! I feel like I’m doing a (little) bit to help. And the thought of not needing to buy tampons for the next 10 years is a joy!

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  7. Helloooo

    I understand that by this stage you have definitely bedded down the majority of your choices but thought I would just add a product that I have been using for a while now (though i’d be surprised if you hadn’t heard of it).

    It is shampoo soap, made by a Tasmanian company called Beauty and the Bees (www.beebeauty.com). It is good for around 60 washes and comes in a small recycled and recyclable cardboard box. It lathers up and works as well as any liquid shampoo and I haven’t been looking for conditioner at all, just a rinse with diluted cidar vinegar (which regenerates itself). It must look fine too, no one has commented on my hair being any less dazzling without petrochemicals!

    Loving your blog

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