Ten easy ways to reduce plastic waste and save money

reduce plastic wasteI have been attempting for some time to reduce plastic waste at Shoestring Cottage. It sometimes seems an uphill struggle! However, there are simple steps we can all take to reduce plastic waste in our day to day lives. Here are my ideas.

Cut the hand wash

Until about 20 years ago, I swear we all washed our hands with bars of soap. Now you have to have hand wash. Instead of arriving wrapped in a small amount of plastic or paper, it comes in a plastic bottle with a dispenser and promises to kill 99% of all germs.

I am pretty sure that the caustic soda that is the key ingredient of solid soap also does this. So I am giving up the hand wash to reduce plastic waste. Soap is also cheaper, even the posh stuff.

Dump the shower gel

The arguments for not using shower gel are the same as for cutting out hand wash. We used to use solid soap and it worked absolutely fine. I have always preferred soap. It is easier to deal with when you are in the shower. No fiddling around trying to open a bottle for a start.

Unfortunately I cannot persuade Mr S to make the switch, so it seems we will continue to have some shower gel. I don’t use it at all.

Try a shampoo bar

I have had a few solid shampoo bars from Lush and they last absolutely ages. They are very good value and work just as well. The ones sold by Lush smell divine as well. Lush claim that each bar gives you 80-100 washes, which is economical by anyone’s standards.

There are a range of solid shampoo bars on Amazon, such as this Oatmilk and Argan Oil Shampoo one. These are cheaper than the Lush ones so may be worth a try.

Lush also sell solid conditioner bars. I didn’t enjoy the one I tried as much. It didn’t seem to coat my hair.

Choose glass

reduce plastic wasteIt can be quite hard to find your favourite products in glass bottles and jars rather than plastic. However, it’s not impossible. Even the discount supermarkets offer some of my regular purchases in glass containers now. I am not saying they are cheaper, but they are generally not hugely more expensive.

reduce plastic wasteAldi sell the most delicious farmhouse yogurt in a glass pot. At 69p a pot I would say it is a premium product but so worth the money. The pot comes with a reusable lid so you could keep your buttons or paperclips in it afterwards.

I also buy their glass bottled olive oil. It is very nice quality.

Cut the cleanser

reduce plastic wasteI bought myself and my daughters these Makeup Removing Cloths for Christmas. I wasn’t sure how they could possibly work, but they do! Just soak them in warm water and wipe off your cosmetics. I tested my skin by cleaning it again with my usual cleanser and there wasn’t a trace of dirt or make up left.

I have pretty much stopped using cleanser – mine comes in a plastic container – and now just use a face cloth. This will save me money too.

Reduce your cleaning products

I have blogged before about using bicarbonate of soda to do some of your cleaning. You can also make your own cleaning spray. I buy white vinegar in glass bottles from the supermarket and large bags of bicarbonate of soda online.

I occasionally do buy slightly stronger cleaners but not as often as I have in the past. This is reducing my plastic waste and saving the pennies.

Carry a fold up bag

I have carried a reusable bag or two in my handbag for years and years. Now that there is a 5p levy on carrier bags, it seems the rest of the country is finally catching up.

The downside is that we can rarely find a plastic bag in the house if we need one! I can live with that.

Invest in a reusable water bottle

This is so obvious it is barely worth a mention. And yet it is, as the waste caused by plastic bottles is a major problem.

It’s not just water, of course, but cola and juices that are sold in plastic bottles. I would love to go back to a time when returnable glass bottles were the norm. However, they are heavy and there are consequent transport costs. It is unlikely to happen. So I carry my reusable bottle with me and I don’t buy other drinks when I am out.

If you are tempted, then buy drinks in aluminium cans or glass bottles, then take them home and put them in the recycling.

Buy a bamboo cup

My daughter bought me this bamboo cup for Christmas. I am impressed with how long it keeps drinks hot for. I intend to stick it in my bag for when I go to town. If I splash out on a coffee I shall ask them to serve it in this.

It takes some forward planning, but if you are someone who buys a lot of coffee out it is worth getting organised. I can’t say this will save you any money but it will reduce your use of plastic lined coffee cups.

The last straw to reduce plastic waste

Another Christmas present for my daughters was a set of stainless steel straws each. Plastic straws are terrible, and end up in our oceans and water systems.

They loved their steel straws and are using them almost daily. They come with a little cleaning brush too.

I was encouraged today to read this story about how Iceland Stores are reducing their plastic waste. If others follow suit this will make it much easier for us all. Good move!

In the meantime there are many small behavioural changes you can make to reduce plastic waste. What others can you suggest?

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Eco friendly Christmas gifts

Don’t shout at me for mentioning the festive season in October – it soon creeps up! I have already started buying and have been looking at some eco friendly Christmas gifts.

Christmas has felt like a bad consumer melt down for me in the past. Too many people buying too much stuff and spending way too much money. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I enjoy all of the opportunities it offers for people to get together, the giving and receiving,  the cooking and eating  of delicious food.

However, I dislike the general excess. People spending money they can’t afford, buying mounds of food that won’t get eaten, trashy, over the top decorations and the pressure folk feel to produce the perfect experience. I am already hearing parents stressing because they cannot get this year’s most popular toy and fighting for them when they arrive in the shops. Most of all, I hate spending money on trashy presents that won’t be appreciated.

Because of this, I try to make sure the recipients of any gifts I buy really want them. If that means taking away the surprise, then so be it. I also try to buy some items that are eco friendly. Usually small things for my daughters that will replace something that causes a lot of waste. With this in mind, here are my suggestions for inexpensive eco friendly Christmas gifts. I am dreaming of a green Christmas!

I am going for a frugal Christmas, so none of the suggestions below will break the bank.

Eco friendly Christmas gifts

For their stocking fillers, I have bought my daughters some stainless steel reusable straws. Plastic straws are thrown away after one use which is incredibly wasteful. I have ordered them from Lakeland, at £5.99 for 8 straws with a cleaning brush.

I hope they don’t read this, as I have also bought them some reusable Magic Makeup Removing Cloths from Amazon. You can remove all makeup with just water. The reviews suggest they really work, so I am excited about these. I have ordered myself some too.

If you have a nature loving friend or family member, Friends of the Earth have a cute bird feeder in their shop. You can stick it to your kitchen window and watch the birds feeding as you do the washing up! Love this! At £13.99 it won’t break the bank.

I know this isn’t a glamorous gift, but I would be happy to receive these Ecoegg Re-Usable Bamboo Towels. You can wash and reuse rather than buying kitchen towels.

I have never tried these, but my lodger has one – how about a Bamboo Toothbrush? She is very happy with hers. It remains to be seen how long it will last, but you are supposed to change them every three months so it should do that.

I have various plastic lunchboxes that I take to work, but maybe a stainless steel one would be a better option. Ideally, it should be air tight so that you don’t have to use plastic wrap as well. There are lots of different options online, but some of them are horrendously expensive. One was over £80!! Not on my budget…. Many were under £10 but looked cheap with poor reviews. This one seems a decent mid priced one and has excellent reviews.

For the kids, how about some recycled colouring pencils made from rolled up newspapers? I found these on eBay. Pencils and recycled paper crafts make great eco friendly Christmas gifts.

When I was at the SHOMO Awards recently, I met Zoe from Eco Thrify Living. She had bought her own reusable coffee cup with her, which I thought was such a sensible idea. I have found a similar one from Evolution Organics that I will be putting on my Christmas wish list. I have several china ones but they aren’t really practical for carrying around with you.

Buy an experience

Regular readers will know we had a lot of experiences given to Mr Shoestring for his 50th. My favourites were the afternoon teas. Who wouldn’t enjoy a big plate of cake? Of course, there are all types of experiences you can purchase and you can find some of them at buyagift.co.uk. I think these are a good idea for people who already have too much stuff.

Buying books

I also like buying books as these will tend to be read and passed on – not just binned. Coffee table type books are pretty but I avoid them as they tend to be leafed through and forgotten. I only buy books for people I know well or where someone has requested a book they really like. If you are considering books as presents, check out the Book People first. They have collections that are so cheap and fantastic for presents. When my children were smaller, I would buy the collections of kids books and separate them up to give in a party bag rather than loads of plastic rubbish. I also buy second hand books for stocking fillers.

Gift vouchers

If you don’t know what to buy, don’t buy anything. Rather than spend on something that might not be appreciated, choose a gift voucher instead. The other advantage of gift cards is that they don’t involved loads of packaging and gift wrapping. You can buy discounted cards from Zeek, so you can save money too. If you use my promo code you will get £3 for free. I generally use my gift cards, but if you have some you know you won’t get around to spending, you can sell on Zeek too. It’s a genius idea.

Does the waste and excess at Christmas leave you cold too? Will you be exploring some eco friendly Christmas gifts instead this year?

 

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Home made eco friendly cleaning spray

I dumped the Mr Sheen years ago and I have been using a mixture of vinegar and water to clean surfaces and furniture. It is very cheap and effective. I  have also on occasion used bicarbonate of soda to scrub the bathroom. However, until now I haven’t really explored any recipes for  a home made eco friendly cleaner such as this one.

home made eco friendly cleaning spray

Home made eco friendly cleaning spray

A home made eco friendly cleaning spray

I hate the idea of living in a house filled with chemicals and the damage that they do to the environment, but I can’t afford the expensive eco-friendly cleaning products you find in the supermarket or health food shop.

Over the years a mixture of being very busy and laziness has meant that my cleaning cupboard has started to fill up with standard cleaners. I have bathroom cleaners, bleach, window cleaners, carpet cleaners, oven cleaners….what happened to my green credentials?! My cupboard is full of chemical cocktails in a sea of plastic bottles. Enough is enough!

As I run out of each cleaner I am going to experiment with a cheaper, greener home made alternative. The first has been a general purpose spray cleaner that I have so far used successfully in the kitchen and bathroom as well as the kitchen work surfaces.

This is extremely cheap and easy to make. I put it in an old spray bottle so less plastic waste too! I reckon it cost about 60p for a litre and I have loads of borax substitute left that should last ages.

Orange general household cleaner

An old spray bottle, washed out
2 heaped tsp borax substitute
4 or 5 drops of orange essential oil
100ml white vinegar
warm water

Use a large jug as this fizzes when you add the vinegar to the borax substitute. Start by mixing them together as much as you can. Add your orange oil and top up to the litre mark with warm water. Keep stirring until the borax substitute is dissolved, pour into your spray bottle and get cleaning!

I got my white vinegar from Asda for about 39p and the oil and borax substitute came from Summer Naturals.

Does anyone have some tried and tested eco friendly cleaning spray recipes they would like to share?

The amazing power of bicarbonate of soda

Yesterday it was a warm and muggy day. As I walked into the house after work I was hit with a most unpleasant pong. The bins! Both the main kitchen bin and the food waste container seemed to be fermenting in the heat. Yeeeuch!

Magic white powder

I immediately reached for the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). If I had remembered to sprinkle some of this magical powder into the bins before I put in new liners, they wouldn’t have been so smelly. I have done that now!

We always keep a big of tub of bicarbonate of soda handy as it has so many uses as a cleaner and deodoriser, as well as for making the odd muffin, of course! it is incredibly cheap for something that is so versatile.

I use wood pellets in the cat litter tray as it is better at absorbing smells, but I also sprinkle baking soda  in the bottom of the tray. It makes a huge difference.

It is good for getting rid of nasty odours in the fridge too; just leave a small bowlful at the bottom and it will help neutralise the smell.

Use bicarbonate of soda for personal care

Because of its deodorising properties, bicarbonate of soda can be used under your arms. I sometimes buy a solid deodorant from Lush that is mostly made of bicarb – and it really works! You can dab it straight onto your skin with a flannel.

It is also great for smelly feet when used in this way. Alternatively, a couple of teaspoons left overnight in stinky shoes or trainers will neutralise those nasty niffs!

I’m not a fan of this, but you can also use bicarbonate of soda to clean your teeth. Just dip your toothbrush in and brush! There are recipes online to make a more palatable minty toothpaste with it.  It can also freshen your breath if you mix a teaspoonful in a small glass of water and gargle.

Half a cup of soda in your bath will clean and soften your skin. Add a few drops of essential oil and you can abandon the bubble bath.

Gentle and effective cleaning

Bicarbonate of soda is well known as an effective and gentle household cleaner.

Use it as a scouring powder on dirt and stains pretty much anywhere in the house. Sprinkle it on a damp sponge and give surfaces a good scrub – it isn’t harsh so won’t scratch them. Tip it down the plug hole with half a cup of white vinegar to alleviate smelly drains then use it to scrub the sink!

Soak dishes with dried on food in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda before hand washing or placing in your dishwasher. This also works on tea stained mugs.

Sprinkle baking soda onto smelly sofas, rugs or carpets, leave for half an hour or so then vacuum. It is especially good at getting rid of pet smells.

If you have heavily soiled laundry, try add half a cup of soda alongside your washing powder or liquid. It will also brighten light coloured items.

I love bicarbonate of soda because I don’t like a houseful of chemicals. It keeps things simple. I also try to avoid a lot of unnecessary products and packaging.  But mostly, I love bicarbonate of soda because it is cheap!

I have just ordered a 1kg bag from Amazon for £4.74 including delivery. It works out even cheaper if you purchase a 5kg tub. Please note that if you click through via either of the images above and purchase something I will earn a small commission.