In 2017, I watched ABC’s amazing program, “The War on Waste”. This was the single most life-changing program I have ever seen and has changed my family’s lives in more ways than I ever imagined.
Just when I thought this program was enough to scare me into action, along came “Plastic Ocean”. Eye opening, truly scary and totally disgusting but much needed to give me an extra boost.
Did you know the amount of waste we produce as a country is overwhelming, with one in every 5 bags of groceries we buy going straight to the bin in waste?
So, rather than sitting back and thinking “this is so sad but there is nothing I can do”, we decided to make the change.
To be honest with you, my kids, 5 and 12, are now far greater eco warriors than I ever will be. This is what I want to see all of our future generations growing into – true eco warriors. No, this doesn’t mean you need to wear tie-dye clothes and walk around barefoot. It simply means living a life that gives more thought to our environment.
All this change can be so overwhelming and to start with there will be some level of cost involved, so to spread the load and the budget, I made a pledge to myself to take on one change a month. Small achievable goals lead to great success.
If you’ve been wondering how to live a more sustainable life but don’t know how to get started, I’ve complied a list of my top 12 ideas for reducing your home waste. One change a month. This is not an exhaustive list but a good starting point.
Let’s get started.
1. Buy a small rubbish bin
Do away with the huge bin that sits under your bench and buy a small bin for your counter top. This will remind you about the waste you are creating. It will encourage you all to think, “does this belong in landfill or recycling” before you bin it. You will be surprised how quickly your habits can change with this visual reminder.
2. Compostable toothbrushes
We have just made the switch to Sasa bamboo toothbrushes which are 100% compostable, including the packaging. As an added bonus, they deliver to my door every two months. These rather funky looking brushes are a great alternative, especially when you team them with home-made toothpaste in a reusable container. Even if you don’t have a compost heap, pop them in your green waste bin and they will decompose.
3. Stainless steel straws
Are your kids forever drinking from bottles with a straw? These plastic straws are the worst thing for the environment because they are so lightweight they often end up down drains and go straight to the ocean. It’s a sad sight to see a dolphin with a straw in its mouth. So, switch to stainless steel. They are reusable basically forever and easy to clean with hot water. Add them to school bags and keep some in the car for those family day trips.
4. Redcycle soft plastic
We have now changed our larger kitchen bin into our Redcycle bin. Every day, any soft plastics from packaging go straight into this bin and once filled we take the contents to a drop off location so it can be recycled. The Redcycle wesbite has all the information you need.
These were a fave of my dad’s when we were growing up, to wipe our faces with a bit of spit. Turns out, he was onto a good idea. Think of how many tissues the kids blow through with every cold they get and the number that end up in your landfill bin? Scary thought really.
Invest in good quality BPA free drink bottles and take them everywhere with you. They come in a huge range of colours, styles and patterns, sure to please the coolest kid on the block. You could also switch to glass bottles, which of course is an even more eco-friendly alternative, however, I just don’t trust glass in the school bag.
7. Reusable lunch wraps
Beeswax wraps and reusable fabric pouches are a staple in our home now and have replaced plastic zip locks and cling wrap. Not only are they better for the environment but they keep your food fresh and can be made at home with a few simple ingredients. If you have crafty kids they could make their own or at least be a part of choosing the fabrics for the wraps.
8. Shampoo and soap bars
With so many fragrances to choose from, soap bars are one of my personal fave changes we have made. I am loving heading to the local markets to see what I can find. You will find soaps suitable for all skin types and shampoo bars suited to all hair conditions. Generally these come wrapped in paper or paper boxes which can be recycled with ease. What about conditioner? I use a spray bottle filled with raw apple cider vinegar and my hair is shiny and clean all the time.
9. Reusable pads
This one is just for the lovely ladies. I will be honest, at the start I thought, “YUCK, I don’t want to do this”. However, I am proud to say I have now made the change to reusable fabric pads and I couldn’t be happier. Many businesses also make a teen starter packs in super funky colours. My recommendation for school would be to provide them with a little waterproof toiletries bag to bring home used pads for cleaning. I highly recommend Mense Sense, however there are many on the market.
10. Start a veggie patch
Growing your own beautiful fresh veggies is better than anything else. Not only will you save money in the long run, but think of all the plastic bags you will go without when you don’t have to visit the produce department at the supermarket. Kids love being outdoors and encouraging them to take ownership for their garden is an experience that will grow with them. Even if your plot is a planter box on your deck, something is always better than nothing. This will also teach your kids that veggies come in all shapes and sizes. The perfection (bought on by masses of waste) that we see in the supermarket is totally false. If you need a hand, you can download my full step-by-step guide to growing your own veggies.
11. Switch to low tox cleaning
Did you know that for almost every cleaning job in the home, vinegar, bicarb soda and elbow grease are really all you need? Buy these ingredients in bulk from your local bulk supplies shop, pop them in reusable containers and get creating. Mixing vinegar and bicarb soda together creates a great tile cleaner or add in your fave essential oils for a fresh clean smelling home. There are so many uses for these products and trust me your wallet will thank you too. Feel free to check out my hints and tips for low tox living.
12. Refresh your wardrobe
Have you ever considered hosting a clothes swap party? There are so many ways you can reuse the clothing you have, for example adding new buttons and funky patches from vintage fabric. Swap clothes with your friends, everyone loves great hand me downs.
I hope this has given you a great place to start living more sustainably and that it inspires you to start making changes in your life.
About the Author: Melanie Grant
Melanie’s personal long term goal is to live a totally self sufficient life in her tiny house, on a block of land with her veggie garden and orchard. Right now, she lives in the Yarra Valley in Melbourne, with the goal to live as sustainably as possible and reduce her carbon footprint on the earth. Melanie is a mum of two amazing children and she’s helping them grow to take responsibility for their decisions on this earth and see that every choice they make has an effect on the world around them.
Melanie also runs her business, Life is For Living. Life is For Living is a collection of the best Yarra Valley and Australian eco-friendly, ethical businesses, all in an easy to find online directory. She aims to inspire people to live a more sustainable life, a whole life and a more fulfilling life through this business.