Kamilla Rycroft, the creator of Earthkind, is here to show you how to replace your plastics and disposables with better and more enjoyable alternatives.
As the owner of a reusable and plastic free brand, I love spreading awareness of alternatives for single use and plastic ‘throwaway’ items. I’d also love to point out that a change in mind-set is key to making positive changes. Whilst the products I make and suggest are super for reducing waste, there are many ways you can reduce waste on a low budget with things you already have and own around the home!
Starting with my own swaps
First off, I’d like to bring up my personal journey on becoming ‘zero waste’. I was completely oblivious (like most of us are at the start) about the damage plastic was causing to our planet. But then I watched the beloved David Attenborough’s Blue Planet… and wow, I was horrified! Why hadn’t I thought of this before?! It seems completely obvious to me now it’s been pointed out that plastic lingers around reaping havoc for hundreds of years! Thus thrusting me into my plastic conscious, product swaps.
At first, I took a look at my own home habits and identified areas of waste I wanted to tackle. Note: it is important to make changes in steps or it can become a tad overwhelming. I began with tackling lunches and lunchboxes. I calculated that my daughter and I were using on average six plastic food bags every weekday between us, amounting up to a whopping 1,560 single use food bags binned every year! It shows how quickly it adds up.
I decided to be proactive about it. I got out my sewing machine and replaced those plastic food bags with reusable ones. It was such an easy swap to make. All I had to do was turn them inside out to wipe them clean and to reuse. I can even pop them in the washing machine on low heat if the outer fabric gets a little grubby. The ones I make have a Velcro fastening, making them really easy for kids to use. They come in sandwich size or snack size, which can fit anything and everything into.
My next swap was reusable sanitary pads. Now, I know this swap isn’t for everyone, and some people grimace at the thought of them, but in all honesty, these are one of my favourite swaps. I’ll never return to disposables. Why? Because reusable pads (also called CSP’s – cotton sanitary pads) are so much more comfortable on your body and they breathe better because they are not made of 100% plastic.
Here are some of the main questions I get about the reusable pads:
- How do I wash them? Washing the pads takes a little getting used to as it’s a change of routine, but it’s not particularly difficult. After use simply rinse the pads in cold water to help stop staining, this can be done in an old bucket. You can rinse your pads in a sink before leaving in the bucket of cold water, or what I do is rinse the pads in cold water and throw into the washing machine ready for my next wash load. You do not NEED to wash them on a hot wash, or on their own. I wash mine with my normal wash. A tip; I advise people not to use fabric conditioner when washing the pads as this can hinder absorbency.
- How do they stop leaks? Most pads have a waterproof lining in them which stops the wetness going through to the bottom layer of the pad. There are some out there which are completely plastic free for those of you who wish to go that way, but I assume they would need to be changed a lot more often.
- Do they smell? Occasionally (and I’m being mindful of tmi here) when I’ve left them on longer than I usually would (we all get busy at times) I’ve noticed a smell when I‘m sitting on the toilet with my pants down. I have NEVER noticed it other than that! You have to remember that plastic pads contain chemicals that add the fragrances most people are used to.
Over to hair care
I use apple cider vinegar rinse (in replacement of conditioner) every other time I wash my hair (I was super sceptical about this for a while before I gave it a whirl) and to my amazement it actually helped make my hair smoother, less frizzy and more hydrated. I simply mix a capful of apple cider vinegar into a measuring jug (which now lives in the bathroom) with 200ml of water. I dunk my hair into the jug a few times, squeeze the mixture back in and then gently pour back over my whole head (avoiding eyes of course because…vinegar)! The smell of the vinegar is strong at first but it DOES go after rinsing. I promise.
Another great swap for the home is reusable kitchen roll and washable kitchen sponges. Kitchen roll seems such a waste of trees when you can simply wash the ones you have to reuse! Just put them in the washing machine after use on a standard wash, dry and reuse. Mine come with a multitude of fastenings including; Velcro, plastic snaps, metal snaps or fastening free. The ones with fastenings are superb for wrapping around your existing kitchen roll holder, whereas the fastening free ones look cute on the side, or in a basket! They are usually topped with a patterned cotton fabric and backed with cotton or bamboo towelling.
Unsponges are a great fabric alternative to plastic kitchen sponges. I don’t know about you but I have always hated the disintegrating texture of those yellow and green sponges (that’s all the microplastics floating down your sink)! Like with all the other products, there are many types of plastic free sponges available, from loofah scourers, coconut coir sponges, recycled fabric scrap filled ones, hessian made, the list goes on.
My three favourite sponges are:
- Loofah sponge: hard option (for scouring). As you guess, these are made from natural loofah plants and whilst having a good abrasive texture, they are still kind to coated surfaces like Teflon etc. These can be composted at the end of their lives.
- Coconut/hessian sponge: For use with semi stuck on foods. This is great because the coconut filling is quick drying and is a by-product of coconuts!
- Classic unsponge: for use with lightly soiled dishes / cleaning sides. These are filled with off-cuts from other projects which are otherwise too small to use, making them the perfect zero waste item. With one side made from towelling and the other cotton scrim.
Join the refill revolution
Get yourself a reusable water bottle! I LOVE mine. I picked it up from TK Maxx a few years back, but now everywhere sells them. There’s no reason not to try one! Likewise with reusable coffee mugs / insulated cups. There are certain places you can get discounts on your hot drinks for bringing your reusable with you (however do check due to COVID-19 restrictions). There’s even an app called ‘Refill’ which can show you to the nearest water refill point or café which will allow water bottle refills.
Easy plastic-free living
Once you start looking at plastic alternatives, you’ll find an abundance of amazing reusable products. The key is choosing what is right for you. My best bit of advice is to tackle one thing at a time. It doesn’t matter that it takes you a year, or two, or three, to have made a plethora of changes to your garbage habits (pardon the pun). What matters is that you realise you are making steps in the right direction. Yes, sometimes you feel guilty when you forget your reusable cutlery on a day out or your pre-made lunch. We’re only human after all and we all make errors now and then. Don’t let this undermine all the good changes you HAVE done.
Living zero-waste for FREE!
I understand that not everyone can afford new items like this (even though they pay for themselves after a while), which is where being thrifty comes into play. You can upcycle, re-purpose and reuse any items you have currently at home to create your own. After all, isn't that what being zero waste is all about?