Less Waste Post-Haste – Part Two

Welcome to Part Two.
Quick refresher: I set myself a zero-waste challenge for January and am writing a blog series about it. You can find the first part on the Blog page. No time to dawdle. I have a lot to say.
I’ve added lots of links, so you too can start to become a zero-waste hero.
So, it’s been exactly a month since I wrote the first instalment of the series. I had intended to write a post once a week but, truth be told, I’ve been putting it off. Firstly, there are so many things I’ve wanted to write about that I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by my own ambition and have therefore been putting off getting it all into print. There are scraps of (used) paper everywhere with little scribbled notes on to remind myself to write about or research:
– ear-buds
– bread – make??
– sandwich bags
– milks?
However, another reason for the delay is because I had a few ‘slip ups’ and I found some things harder to pretend I didn’t miss. More on that later.
Admittedly, the month had unintentionally been made a hell of a lot easier at the start. I had food in the cupboards to use up that I’d bought before the new year, as well as Christmas stocking fillers such as snacks, chocolate bars and shower gels which were yet to need replenishing. It was also Alice’s turn to buy a few of the communal things we needed for the flat, so I was already off to an easy start – you can judge whether it’s cheating or not, but I’m a big fan of a loop-hole.
It started off reasonably well. I’d buy all of my fresh fruit and veg loose from the local greengrocer’s, returning home to make big pots of sauces and stews, or trays of roasted vegetables. Tinned tomatoes are my go-to with most meals, and they’re also recyclable, so I started buying them in bulk. I’d take leftovers in lunch boxes to work and try to make sure I had enough snacks with me for the day. I make all of my meals from scratch anyway and love ferreting around in the kitchen for hours, so I was having a great time.
Emmie and I are sat in my living room after having made breakfast, typing ferociously on our laptops as though the quicker we type, the quicker our lives will be sorted out. I return from my shower ten minutes later and glare down at the floor with my hand stuffed in my dungaree pockets.
“I want a coffee.”
But we haven’t got any
… and I don’t know how I’m going to do this one zero-waste-ly.
Emmie offers to pop out and buy some, but the packaging is 100% not recyclable from the supermarkets near us. I’m also a coffee snob and refuse to get instant – if you’re going to have a coffee on occasion, you might as well have a proper one… I sound like such a twat, but that’s just how my brain works.
Em is a quick-thinking lass and suggests we go to the local coffee shop with a reusable take-away cup to bring back to our admin-squat. I bought myself an eCoffee cup a few years ago, which was one of the first things that got me thinking about taking waste more seriously.
Not Very Fun Fact No. 1: 2.5 billion paper cups are thrown away every year in the UK, less than 1% of which are actually recyclable.
This is a great plan and I love her for her brain, so we head out. This isn’t going to work all the time, though, as it’s a pretty expensive way of having a coffee every few days.
As part of my bumper birthday basket from two of my favourite people, I received a Keller-style jar of ground coffee which they explained they got from Whittard. You can take in your own container, and they grind the beans fresh and you pay for how much your container can hold. Incredible!
In my half hour break at my bar job, I devour the leftovers from mine and Emmie’s lunch that I’d taken to work in one of my glorious containers but am then characteristically ravenous again by 1am.
Without a second thought, I buy a small bag of salted crisps from the bar, inhale them in seconds and chuck the packet in the bin.
Again – as with my accidental Chinese takeaway on New Year’s Day – I didn’t realise my faux-pas until hours later.
I was working 5pm-3am, OK? GIVE ME A BREAK, MOTHER NATURE.
Arriving home around 4am, I suddenly realise about the crisps, then mentally kick myself in the shins before crawling into bed, racked with guilt.
I soon polished off my pre-January rice, bread and pasta and had resolved that potatoes were the only carbohydrates I could realistically buy ZW. I was so fine about that – potatoes are the best. But after a week or so of eating them every day, you begin to resent them a bit. I’d gone to get a loaf of bread from the local Co-op but the only things I could get without the paper bag with the flimsy plastic window were loose rolls, so I bought an assortment, but realised this was not something I could do regularly.
Now I don’t know about you, but I goddamn love bread. This was one thing I couldn’t do without and yes, I could have found a bakery, but I decided it was time to try out making it from scratch – I was spending a bit more money on the ZW versions of other things, so this was my way of saving a little. I had some pre-January packets of yeast in the cupboards so all I needed was strong bread flour and I was away. I’ve since mastered abasic loaf and it’s so bloody satisfying to make. I cut a chunk big enough for a few slices to eat on the first and second day, devouring the first end when it’s warm from the oven. I then slice up the rest, pop it in a bag and throw it in the freezer to either use as toast, or defrost for sandwiches. I’m coming to the end of the packets of yeast, so I’m now going to start buying it in a tin which should make it cheaper in the long run, too.
Deciding life was too bleak without pasta, I fished out the pasta maker my sister bought me for Christmas years ago and made my own tagliatelle one night. It was pretty bangin’, I have to say. The recipe is super easy and you don’t need to have special flour or a pasta maker for it. You can refrigerate or freeze it too. Well worth a try. Next stop: tortellini.
Supermarket are now more of a minefield than before. When I first went vegan, going to my regular shops became a very different experience – I was avoiding a lot of my usual aisles or shelves, and began to scan through ingredients listed on every product. It felt quite alien, but, like with anything, practise made perfect and I soon adjusted; I was flying in and out and grabbing everything in a whirlwind just as I had done before, minus a few products. But now, avoiding plastic was another level of difficult and going into the huge Sainsbury’s in Fallowfield felt a bit like being a kid in a sweet shop… with a new and severe allergy to sugar. I was staring gormlessly up at every shelf and mentally saying nope… nope… nope… because almost everything that I’d normally buy had some element of non-recyclable waste encasing it.
I’m not going to bang on about them too much now, because I rant about them enough on Facebook, but straws are a goddamn curse on this earth. If you really feel the need to use one, why not consider investing in a glass or metal one? Saying ‘I don’t need a straw in my drink, thank you kind waiter’ is the easiest way in the world for everyone to start going zero-waste-ish.
Not Very Fun Fact No. 2: 550 million single-use plastic drinking straws are thrown away every day in the UK and USA.
So, without further ado, I present to you the landfill I have produced in January.
1 x accidental plastic bag from Chinese takeaway delivery1 x small crisp packet1 x wrapper from free lemon cake [given to us on crowded commuter train back from Barnsley when we were sat on the floor next to the suitcases in the first-class section. The trolley man felt bad for us and offered us free cake. No, it wasn’t vegan. Free cake is free cake. Sorry animals, sorry planet.]1 x plastic window from paper bag of jam doughnuts #NoRegrets1 x plastic window from cardboard box of risotto riceMultiple small stickers on fruit and veg from local greengrocer’s
It’s far from my goal of absolutely none, but it’s a hell of a lot better than I’ve ever done before, and for that I’m quite proud.
I can so appreciate that a lot of you are probably thinking, ‘This is all very well and good, but the last thing I want to do at the end of a 40-hour week is spend three hours making my own baguettes.’ I have quite a lot of time on my hands at the moment, and not everyone has that to spare, but if you do have a minute or two, then why not buy loose carrots to peel and chop up as a snack or fancy hors d’oeuvre instead of buying packaged, pre-chopped carrot sticks? It’s cheaper too. I’m baking brownies and cakes every week at the moment to satisfy my sweet tooth, partly to stop myself watching more terrible trash on Netflix, but you can only work within your own parameters – time, money, energy and resources. If I could afford my own house, I’d invest in great insulation and solar panels and my own glorious vegetable patch, but I rent, I’m on minimum wage and we have a shared garden with four other flats, so I can’t do any of those things. If we all try to do as much as we’re able – however much that may be – then that’s a bloody great thing for all of us. Every little really does help.
Although I’m trying to lessen the time I spend on social media, one of the only notifications I keep on are from the ZW groups I follow. I can’t begin to explain how dedicated and nifty these eco-warriors are, and the things people come up with in order to cut down their personal wastage never cease to amaze me. (The first group I joined is ‘Journey To Zero Waste in the UK’ on Facebook, if you’re interested.)
I have learned so much because of this challenge, and I’ve adjusted a lot of my habits to become more environmentally-friendly. If you’re at all interested in what I’ve been waffling about then click on the hyperlinks I’ve added to above paragraphs and/or click here for a short list of the things I think are a good starting point. There are so many things I could rattle on about, but this blog post would go on forever and my fingers would fall off my hands, so I’m going to end it here.
This whole Zero-Waste January thing was initially inspired by something I saw on one of the Facebook groups around Christmas time. A woman had posted a video of her wheelie bin being emptied by the rubbish truck, and I didn’t understand the significance until I read the caption: this was the first time her bin was being emptied in 2017. How incredible is that? It then hit me how much one person can do. I don’t particularly want to know how often I had been taking full black bin bags out before now, and I’m nowhere near one annual emptying, but I’m going to try my damn hardest to reduce the amount of waste I contribute – one loaf at a time.

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