Week 14 – plain sailing

The rubbish free challenge is working out to be a lot easier than we expected, in fact it has become so normal for us its kind of gone off our radar. Because of this we have decided to blog every second week rather than every week. The ease of the challenge certainly has come as a surprise to us. Who would have imagined that two normal ‘rubbishy’ people could go from a bag a week to a bag a year!

Once we decided we were serious about living rubbish free in 2008 there certainly was an initial flurry of action. Actually I would go as far as to call it a quantum leap. Before we even started we were busy for two months sourcing products, buying baking equipment and containers, sewing bags, researching where and how to rehome things etc. (Our first couple of blogs detail this more).

But despite all the preparation there we certain things we didn’t start until the start date of the challenge simply because of the enormous power of a habit. For example, I put off an baking until we started because it was so much easier to buy a packet of biscuits than find a recipe and go and buy all the ingredients. And despite doing reconnaissance missions to the local butcher, baker, Bin Inn etc I still rushed out the door and flew around the aisles of the supermarket while I could, thinking to myself I’ll change my habits next week. It was only the start date of the challenge that pushed us to change. Why are habits so powerful? I don’t know, but I guess the good side of it all is that now we have new habits – powerful routines that now make living rubbish free seem second nature. We have also benefited from the accumulated wisdom of all the readers, family and friends that have helped us along the way. Thank you to all of you who have so far given your comments and emails with such great support and encouragement.

Jan 19 Post

Yesterday we went to Bin Inn and did a mammoth shop. I have been lamenting all the extra time needed to shop for food at various local stores when I realized that all of the stuff we buy at Bin Inn are dry goods. So yesterday we bought enough for a month. Hopefully. We bought all sorts of things that I think I know what they are but I actually don’t. We bought pinhead oatmeal, polenta (flour from corn), wheatgerm, wheatbran and stoneground wholemeal flour. With it we will make muesli bars, Irish bread, tortillas and naan. We also bought lentils, chickpeas, cous cous and black beans for dinners; sugar, raisins, sunflower seeds, peanuts and porridge oats; and stacks of baking soda and salt for cleaning etc. A month’s worth for only $65

I have never soaked beans before, and my recipe for cheesy bean burritos said I needed one can of black beans, so I guessed that half a can of dry beans might equal a can of ready to go ones. I think my beans are still expanding and I have well over a cans worth. I’ll try one third next time.Today I went to the Farmers Market in Lyttleton, it was small but had lots of fresh produce, speciality breads, cheeses etc. I had gone hoping to find cheese and honey. The honey I found, 2kg of clover for $11, in a white plastic tub. The guy encourages people to bring their old container back by giving a $1 discount on the next one. I didn’t find any cheese for us though. This means our burritos wont be very cheesy tonight. Tomorrow I might go to Riccarton Market. Fingers crossed. I am really missing cheese!!

We also popped into Piko, (our local organic store) to get detergent, and toilet paper, then a really quick stop at Pak n Save for cans of tomato and corn and some spices. (We can buy spices at Bin Inn but buying the Gregg’s cardboard box range saves time) Again, we bought at least a month’s supply in both of these places. Its good news is how cheap everything is turning out, we really only need to buy fruit and vege now, so we are hoping it will turn out a lot cheaper than the old regime.

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 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 😦


• 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?


• 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


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.