How to susty hack your way to zero-waste (ish)

We’ve all been there. Looking admiringly at our recycling box, giving ourselves a pat on the back at the enormous pile of junk that isn’t going to landfill and then thinking oh… that’s still a lot of waste that needs processing. And remember kids, recycle is the third R – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. That means instead of popping it in the green box, we should make little backpacks out of our macaroni cheese ready meal sleeves… or better yet, reduce the amount of packaging we bring in to our pad in the first place.

zerowaste.jpgThanks, Simon Fraser University!

You may have heard of the zero-waste lifestyles, and guys and gals who’s trash for the year fits neatly into the palm of their hand. Or something equally as impressive. But it seems kind of impossible, doesn’t it? Especially when you have real overflow troubles on your hands when you miss the bin men just for one week.

Now, even the pro zero-wasters do recycle and compost, and they define their waste as trash with a one way ticket to landfill. That said, the below should help bring a little less packaging into our homes, or help avoid stuff making its way into the trash can.

If that doesn’t inspire you enough, I was reading recently that the less stuff we have, the more time, money and energy we have to give to others. 🙂

1. Go naked.

You know this, I’m sure. But have you thought about how many products this can apply to? Try soap instead of shower gel. You can get some great solid shampoos and conditioners from Lush that tackle all your mane troubles, and they often last longer than their bottled cousins. Okay, that’s the bathroom covered. What about your veg? Get ’em loose, whether its from your local greengrocer or in your usual supermarket – although the former are likely to have brown bags you can use (and then re-use next time you pop in). Oh, and brown bags keep your veg fresher for longer in the fridge – yay! – and sidesteps that random plastic packaging you get when you buy two posh pears in their own little tray. Herbs and spices are great loose too, and are SO much cheaper than even the supermarket own-brand pots you get. You can also get ingredients like bicarb of soda or flour loose, too. A scoop or two of the former cost me 12p last time I popped in to Scoopaway.

2. Make it yo-self

If you’re a fan of ready meals like macaroni cheese (as above) consider making it yourself. Goodbye plastic film and burnt-on-cheese tray. If you want to switch things up a notch, you can make things whip up your own nut butter or plant milk, Deliciously Ella style. If you find the kitchen to be a devilish place, maybe pay your friend handsomely to cook an extra portion for you. Meanwhile you can also make cosmetics like your own toothpaste – conventional toothpaste tubes are like a nightmare for the environment.

coconutoil.jpgThanks, Meal Makeover Moms!

3. Buy all-in-one products

Exhibit A, coconut oil. Throw it in the pan for cooking and baking, and then pop a dollop in your coffee or smoothie if you so desire. Then take it to the bathroom and moisturise your face (and body) with it, mix it with 2 parts sugar for a delightful body scrub, wipe off make-up with it, whip it up with some beeswax and shea butter for a nice lip balm, deodorise your pits and leave it on your hair over night for an intensive treatment (put it just on the ends of your hair or you will have some seriously trouble getting it out. I usually use an enormous blog of shampoo to make sure, cos it just lurvves to hang about). It’s also great for oil pulling. Now, I’m no dentist (no kidding), but one time I had a huge lump in my gum, my face was swollen, and I thought I’d need antibiotics, but it was a Saturday night. Dang. Before bed, I swilled coconut oil (which I mix with mouthwash for the taste, but peppermint oil is probably better) for about 15 minutes, and in the morning, my gums were about 75% better. By Monday, I was fine – I didn’t need to go to the dentist at all. Woah.

There’s also like a million other uses that I haven’t gone into. Think of all the packaging you’re saving from the multiple products that you won’t be buying?

4. Refill

Top up your reusable bottle instead of buying the plastic kind when you’re on the go. Depending which article you read, branded bottle water costs 300-2,000 times more than the stuff out of the tap. C-razy! In Bristol, you can fill up at over 200 stations – from farms to opticians to pubs – across the city for free, thanks to the ‘Refill Bristol’ campaign. That means free hydration + less yucky plastic waste. You can also refill your old bottles for kitchen essentials like eco washing up liquid, detergent, multipurpose cleaner etc at your local health food store. You can also use refill pods that turn your disposable bottle into one that’s reusable – these are popping up in supermarkets, if you’re not near a health store.

Thanks, Howard Lake!

5. Send it back

When you collect five black Lush pots and return them (clean) to the store, you get a free face mask. Win! Then you can use that pot and collect four more to do it all again – a virtuous circle (and hopefully some virtuous skin to go with it, too). Veg box schemes often suggest putting out your empty delivery box the following week so they can use it again and again.

6. Fix it, first

I have a pair of summer sandals that I love that have recently broken 😦 But it’s nothing that a cobbler can’t handle for like a couple of quid. After a while, whether they’re cheap or expensive, your most loved shoes may need re-heeling or a little bit of TLC from time to time. That’s okay – and it can make them feel as good as new! We’re just so in the mindset of ‘throw-away fashion’ that we forget sometimes that broken things can be fixed.

Same goes for stuff that needs a little upcycling. I had a long sleeved stripey tee that I wasn’t digging as much anymore, so I cut the sleeves off and rolled them up and it had a whole new lease of life!

If you don’t have much in your wardrobe or feel like you need some new stuff, get inspiration from capsule wardrobe bloggers. I love this blog, which shows 13 cool ways to style just one white shirt. I also interviewed vlogger Verena Erin @ My Green Closet recently here on Susty Girl, and she’s totally down with capsule fashion.

7. One gal’s trash…

You might think that some rubble, a broken sofa or old fabric scraps would be bound for landfill-ville, but they might be just what someone is looking for! You can find (and advertise) this stuff in the Free Stuff & Freebie section on Gumtree. A girl near me had just moved house using a bunch of banana boxes and advertised them for free for anyone who might want them. I’m just about to move, too – so these will be so useful! Once I’m done with them, I’m going to re-list them for free for anyone else who want them. Hopefully they’ll continuously make their way around the city 🙂

I’d love to hear your best zero-waste/packaging-cutting/minimalism tips! Shoot your ideas below. If you want more tips like this, why not subscribe to the Susty Girl newsletter💗

5 thoughts on “How to susty hack your way to zero-waste (ish)

  1. Summer Edwards says:

    My favourite zero waste hack is to go without. There are so many things that we think we need, but we have only been convinced that by chemical companies that want to sell us cleaners and cosmetics. I have naturally wavey hair, and I used to need to use product to tame the frizz. But then I switched to only using aloe vera gel. Once I went without the styling products, it was easy to stop using shampoo and conditioner- instead only washing my hair with water. The natural oils actually do the same thing to may hair as the styling product used to do! So now I hardly even need to use aloe vera to tame the frizz. The only time that my hair is washed with shampoo is when I visit the hairdresser (every 8 weeks), and she can not tell that I don’t wash my hair in between visits. (I rinse my hair 2-3 times a week, but only with water). What’s more, I find my freshly washed hair so annoyingly fluffy, that I spend three weeks wishing my hair would go back to it’s natural state.

    We really don’t need to use nearly as many products as we think!


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