Navigating a low waste path through the pandemic

The past year has meant huge changes for all of us and, when it comes to our plastic-free journey, the pandemic has been a whopping great hurdle. 

With the juggle of home-school, an extremely noisy household and work, I kept on waiting for a quiet moment to blog. That moment never came! Then there came the dreaded eco guilt of all our plastic-free fails – and that’s another blog in itself (to follow). So here’s a long overdue update on where we are now.

Where now?

Without question, we’ve had more plastic-free fails over the past year than we’ve had at any stage over the whole nearly 4-year long journey. And we’re still trying to navigate the best path through it all in a fast-changing world.

We’re lucky enough to be able to get fruit, veg and eggs from a farm shop and market nearby, but it’s been difficult to visit the refill shops and smaller retailers further afield that we’d come to rely on before the pandemic. Plus, like so many others, our income has taken a knock so we’re needing to make more frugal choices.

When we’re limiting our trips out of the house to bare essentials and with five of us at home so much of the time, we’ve had to revert to a weekly supermarket trip during the height of lockdown and that makes it incredibly difficult to avoid plastic packaging. 

If you have to hit the supermarket shelves or a local convenience store, there are a few quick wins to look out for – Barilla pasta can often be found in boxes, cordials in glass bottles instead of squash – look for the concentrated varieties to ensure it goes even further. Look out for Percol coffee in its home compostable packaging, boxed porridge oats, paper-wrapped bread, sugar and flour, and of course any loose fruit and veg that you can get your hands on. 

For fish and meat, it means taking your own containers to the counters, which is easy enough but certainly more pricey than buying plastic-packed goods off the shelves and the options can be limited. This means, we’ve had to do a bit of both and that has meant a fair few plastic fails.

Previously, I’d settled into a pattern and it had become easier to make plastic-free living work. I’d plan trips to small refill shops, markets, the butcher and fishmongers around the boys’ sports matches, the school run or with a slight detour when commuting to a work meeting. Now, trips anywhere are a rarity!   

We can stock up online from some great plastic-free websites like My Little Eco Shop and The Good Club, order store cupboard goods from the Ethical Superstore and milk from Milk & More, but we’re keen to get back out there and support the independent stores we had come to know and love on this journey. 

The positives

Still, it’s not all been doom and gloom. There have been some positives to being homebound. Generally, we haven’t accumulated much stuff – with little shopping other than food, and that certainly means less packaging challenges.

The kids are getting more adept at baking – largely driven by the lack of interesting goodies in the house, no doubt. They know we don’t tend to have biscuits and cakes unless we’ve made them due to the packaging so, particularly when I’m stuck at my desk, they will be the ones to make them and – from time to time – dinner too.

After some fairly disastrous attempts at making shampoo from soap nuts, and accidentally telling one son to wash his hair with vinegar (I must get better at labelling bottles), I’ve started making face oils and a moisturiser. Once you’ve got your hands on the ingredients, it’s surprisingly easy and it’s great to know that all the ingredients are completely natural. 

Similarly, other than washing liquid and dishwasher tab refills from Splosh, almost all of our home cleaning products are home-mixed concoctions of vinegar, water, bicarbonate of soda and essential oils. And it works surprisingly well.

While I’m all too aware of our failings from the past year, I started this blog to share tips and so I hope you’ll forgive the fact that we’ve taken a good few wrong turns recently. 

We’re still trying to work out how best to balance limited travel and social distancing with plastic-free living and the chances are that it’ll be a while before we’re fully back on track, but we’ll keep giving it our best shot. 

Now for your thoughts…

What have been your plastic-free successes and fails during lockdown?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s