Some tips on reducing single use plastic in your home
Last year we upped our efforts to try and reduce how much single use plastic we use. The topic is pretty zeitgeist, and for that reason I’ve been reluctant to talk about it because I am no expert. But we are trying, and I do feel it’s important to try… and if this helps anyone else make some small changes then HOORAY! Also, seeing as it’s July, I thought it was a timely share – #PlasticFreeJuly is in full swing. So, here is the first of two posts on some small changes you can make to reduce sthe amount of single use plastic you use.
The impact of litter and particularly plastic waste is something that, growing up in Shetland, I’ve always been pretty aware of. The coastlines here are beautiful, but are regularly heavily congested with rubbish that gets washed up. This is in spite of the best efforts of those who regularly take bags with them on walks to pick up beach litter, and concerted community clear ups. The annual Voar Redd Up (dialect for “Spring clear up”) is a popular event and one that primary school children across the isles have been taking part in, black bags and safety gloves at the ready, since its inception in 1990.
Seeing the evidence of so much waste and pollution on an almost daily basis is a really sickening reminder of what is going on at sea, and where those straws, plastic bottles, earbuds that we throw away end up. And while much of the pollution that ends up on these northern shores can be attributed to various fishing industries, there’s plenty we can do in our homes to reduce the amount of plastic getting thrown away (whether it ends up in the sea or a landfill).
Thankfully, it’s become increasingly easy to find eco alternatives for things. Cloth nappies, for example, might have seen you on the receiving end of some raised eyebrows at toddler group not too long ago. Now, you can find them in Aldi. Madness. Lovely madness, mind you.
Cloth nappies were actually the first big change we made as a household. We’ve used them since Soren was a few weeks old and haven’t looked back. On a practical level, I find them so much better at handling those poonami explosions than disposables; they don’t have that weird smell, and they’re pretty cute, too. There are no dubious chemicals close to your babies skin and no nappies going to landfill, where they take around 200-500 years to decompose. (You read that right. Two hundred years).
It can seem like a big financial outlay initially, but actually, if you’re willing to buy second hand you can find some bargains. There are dozens of groups on Facebook selling cloth nappies, which is where I bought most of mine, and if you do buy new, or look after them well, you may be able to sell them on again afterwards and recoup some of the costs.
Washing them is super easy – you just store the used nappies in a lidded bucket and bung them in the wash every second day (depending on how many you have). Having a mesh bag helps not have to handle them (though I actually never got round to getting one).
There’s a lot of noise out there about the best powder to use/routines that work best etc, but honestly, I just wash them as normal in my machine and have never had any bad experiences. The only real “no no” is using fabric conditioner, and I’d avoid liquid laundry detergent, too, both of which can cause build up and affect the nappies’ absorbency. A pre-rinse and extra rinse at the end can help get a good wash; leaving them out overnight in the rain can help with smells, and leaving them out in daylight (it doesn’t have to be particularly sunny, though that helps) works wonders for stains.
I’m using them again with Marnie and it’s been a reminder that with cloth, every baby really is different. Brands that worked well on Soren have leaked with Marnie, and vice versa. So it can be a case of trial and error, but there are things that can help: getting a good fit is more important than with disposables, and getting the elastic right into the knicker line seems to help. You can find lots of tips online though – sites I’ve found helpful are the Nappy Lady, Fill Your Pants, The Nappy Gurus and various Facebook groups.
Reusable wipes (for hands and bums) are also brilliant and genuinely much better at the job than disposable wipes. We use Cheeky Wipes as I got them in a sale when I was pregnant with Soren, and 4 years on they’re still going strong. But again, you can easily find them second hand or even make your own, to really double down on the eco vibes.
Accessories and Other Things
Taking nappies and wipes home to wash in wet bags is really easy, and not as gross as you’d think. Reusable wet bags are also a brilliant thing to have for loads of uses – for stashing clothes after an accident, sticking muddy shoes in after a trip to the park, or any other messy situation you want to avoid using a plastic bag for.
Also on the cloth front, reusable breast pads (these are my favourite) and sanitary towels are also an easy way to make a switch. Mine are from Cheeky Mama and Fuzzibunz – I’ve only used them a few times, but they were comfortable and worked, which is surely all that matters. While I tried to use them postpartum I didn’t have enough and had to use disposables in between washes – and really, that’s the only issue I’ve had with them. I have a Mooncup too, which I only a few times before I got pregnant, but I absolutely love it. I really wish I’d found it earlier in life.
So there you go, a few small mainly baby related changes you can make to reduce the amount of single use plastic you consume. I found that with all these, once you get into the habit of using them you really wondered why you didn’t switch sooner. Also, if you try them and any of them aren’t for you – that’s ok. The most important thing, I think, is that we all try where we can. Few people will ever manage to truly live plastic free, but little changes like this do make a difference.
The second instalment of this post will be up soon! (Or, y’know, at some point).