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There is a common misconception that living eco-friendly is a more expensive lifestyle. In fact, it is the exact opposite! There are so many small changes you can make in every element of your life to become zero-waste, helping you to save money whilst doing your bit to help the environment. Make the effort to create change now and it will eventually seem like second nature. Becoming a zero-waste family will take time to adjust to, so don’t put yourself down if you don’t get it right to begin with. The most important thing is trying your best and involving your children in order to instill a lifelong interest in protecting their planet.
A great way to make sure you don’t waste any food is to plan your meals each week. Get the whole family involved and ask what they’d like for breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks and only buy exactly what you need. It can be tempting to go into the supermarket and pick up all sorts of things that you don’t need and that might go to waste. So, create your plan and go shopping with a strict list to follow and you will minimise the amount of food that goes to waste.
Single use products are one of the biggest contributors to landfills, which is a huge shame as non-disposable alternatives are almost always available! For example, think about how many nappies, wipes and cloths you would go through in a single day with a baby. Once the whole family has gone to bed, the bin will be full of cotton wool, earbuds and makeup wipes. After dinner, you’ve thrown away some clingfilm, kitchen towel, foil and a plastic sponge which needed changing.
All of these things have eco-friendly alternatives that will save you throwing things away unnecessarily, whilst also saving you money! Buy reusable nappies and baby washcloths that you can use over and over. Invest in reusable cotton wool pads that you wash and bamboo earbuds. Replace your cling film and foil with stretchy lids and reusable oven liners. It really doesn’t take long at all to find fantastic alternatives that will last for years and save you massive amounts of money in the long run.
Eat less meat
Reducing the amount of meat you eat as a family will reduce the cost of your weekly food shop, help the environment and also improve your families health. Firstly, meat is much more expensive than other protein sources. Chickpeas, beans, lentils, tofu and peas are all full of protein, can be bought in bulk and are much cheaper than meat. You can also access these easily at many zero-waste supermarkets, whereas unless you go to a butcher, meat is often packaged in lots of plastic.
Secondly, great amounts of farmland is taken up by animals that are reared for meat. Not only would people eating less meat increase the space available for growing nutritious crops, but it would also dramatically decrease the amount of greenhouse gasses being emitted into the atmosphere.
Finally, eating less meat can decrease the risk of things like heart disease and stroke, as the saturated fats in meat can contribute to weight gain, high cholesterol, blood pressure and further complications. Cutting down on your meat intake is a great option to improve all areas of your life.
Make packed lunches using bamboo boxes and bottles
Buying lunch on the go usually comes with unnecessary cardboard boxes or plastic bottles and packaging. So, your most eco-friendly and waste free option is to make packed lunches for the whole family. Not only is it more cost-effective than grabbing a sandwich, but you will also reduce waste. Additionally, you have no idea how schools source the food for lunches, so with packed lunches at least you know exactly where the food is coming from when you make it yourself.
Opt for things that don’t come with any packaging, like homemade sandwiches, tortilla chips that you made out of leftover wraps at the weekend, carrot and cucumber sticks or homemade chocolate granola bars. You can easily source the ingredients for all of these things without having to throw away much packaging.
When it comes to choosing the lunch boxes, go for something sturdy and biodegradable, such as bamboo lunch boxes and water bottles. You won’t struggle to find them as they are a big craze recently, because they offer a fantastic eco-friendly alternative to plastic sandwich bags or lunch boxes. They will last for years and eventually when it is time to get rid of the lunchbox or bottle, it will be fully compostable.
Go to fruit and veg shops or grow your own!
One of the most heavily packaged foods you will find in supermarkets ironically is fruit and vegetables. All fruit and veg come with some sort of skin or protective layer which makes it difficult to understand why so much packaging is needed! For a waste-free alternative that tastes much better, go to local fruit and veg shops. Rather than being imported, the fruit and veg will be locally sourced, making it much more eco-friendly.
Additionally, it is extremely rare that you will ever find plastic packaging in your local fruit and veg shop. You will usually find rows and rows of individual fresh pieces of fruit and veg that you can pop into your reusable cotton shopping bag and head home. Opting to go to your local fruit and veg store is not only better for the environment, but it is often cheaper, and it will always taste better!
The best option you have is to grow your own fruit and vegetables at home. You can control exactly what you are eating and you can use organic products to support the growth of the plants. Get the family involved and they could develop a love for growing their own food and continue it in the future. You will save ridiculous amounts of money by investing some of your time each week into growing food. Research how to use seeds and roots from fruit and veg that you’d usually throw away to grow your own vegetables. Reduce waste completely and save plenty of money!
Upcycle old furniture
If you think an item of your furniture has become outdated, or it is slightly broken, don’t throw it away! It is so simple to upcycle furniture and you create a bespoke piece for little to no cost in the process.
For example, perhaps you have an old dressing table that is slightly chipped, has a broken leg and really doesn’t suit the style of your room. Fear not, because the solution is really simple! Firstly, use wood filler to fill in any chipped areas, wait for it to dry and sand it down. Your remedy will depend on the issue with the leg, but there is no question that won’t be answered using YouTube. Clean down the dressing table with sugar soap, sand it down to remove any tough bits. Then, prime it with a furniture primer and give it two coats of paint with the colour of your choice! Remove the handles prior to painting and soak them in equal parts vinegar and ketchup to get them looking brand new.
Think how much waste would be reduced if everyone made the effort to upcycle a piece of furniture they would’ve otherwise sent to landfill. Living as a zero waste family usually involves taking some time out of your schedule to make a change. Renovating old furniture won’t take much time but will help the planet and your bank balance massively!
Cut down on vehicle use
Where possible, aim to walk or cycle to as many places as you can to reduce carbon emissions. Yet, sometimes using a vehicle isn’t avoidable, so here are a few tips for when it comes to transport.
Firstly, opt for public transport where possible. The emissions from that one vehicle may be bigger than a single-car, yet it is far more eco-friendly than having 50 extra cars on the road. If you’re using taxis, aim to use Uber to find hybrid cars which are very commonly used. For trips to sports days, tournaments, or clubs, carpool with other families. Take it in turns each week to take the kids and this will save lots of petrol money as well as halving the emissions you are responsible for.
If using a vehicle is essential in your daily life, then invest in an electric car. The upfront cost of buying the car might not be much more than a petrol or diesel car, but having the charging point fitted in your house might be. You can access them at some service stations, however, they are few and far between, so having one in your home is the best option. Although it is expensive to install, once you’ve had it fitted, you will never need to pay for petrol again, which will save you thousands and thousands of pounds over the course of your life.
Whilst you will notice that your electricity bill will go up, it will be worth it for the money you save on petrol. To be even more conscious of the environment when it comes to driving and general electricity use, have solar panels fitted to your roof in order to become mostly self-sufficient. If your solar panels produce too much energy for your usage, you can even sell it back to the grid, meaning you can make money! Becoming self-sufficient when it comes to your energy use is one of the best ways to save money and protect the environment.
Whilst some of these changes are quite significant, starting with the smaller ones will still contribute to bigger differences. Setting some time aside to save money, help the environment, and teach your children important lessons about the planet will improve your life in so many ways. Don’t put pressure on yourself to get it right the first time, just do what you can and slowly implement changes. After you’ve seen the benefits, you’ll never turn back!
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