• Emily Westlake

Becoming More Eco-friendly: Reduce: Part 1

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

A new year is the time many people make resolutions to be a 'better person' - one of these things is to be more eco-friendly. In this blog I'm going to share some tips on how to do this.

Many online shops tell you to buy more stuff to be eco-friendly, but this isn't necessary at all. There are some new things you might want to buy, to help with this journey, but there are also a lot of things you can do for free - it's about changing the way you do things (e.g. using what you have in a different way, or making changes to regular purchases).

I wrote in my first blog post, that the usual eco-friendly motto is REDUCE - REUSE - RECYCLE. In today's blog, I will share some ideas on how to REDUCE.

Note: any companies or products I mention are ones I have used myself - you will need to make your own choices about which products work best for you and your budget.

Shopping bags/containers

One of the easiest changes to make, is to take your own bags when you go shopping (e.g. old plastic shopping bags, cloth bags, or a rucksack), so you don't need to get new bags at the shop. I usually have a couple of reusable shopping bags in my handbag, by the front door, or in my car - as it's so easy to forget to take them with me, and shop visits are not always pre-planned.

When food shopping, take your own containers (e.g. plastic containers with lids, jars, reusable plastic food bags, or cloth bags) to put loose fruit and veg in, and meat/cheese at the deli counter.

In 2019, some supermarkets started trialling 'refill' areas, where you can buy items that are not wrapped in plastic; and other supermarkets started making commitments to reduce plastic in their packaging. Here's an article from the BBC about this:

Plastic packaging: How are supermarkets doing?

Since then, Loop has been launched in the UK by Tesco, Waitrose have increased their refill station trial Unpacked to 4 stores, and other supermarkets are reducing the amount of plastic in their packaging, as well as reducing the amount of single-use packaging in general. Sadly the refill options tend to be more expensive, but hopefully as it gets more popular the prices will go down.

Packaging and gift wrapping

Another easy change is to switch from plastic sellotape to paper tape. There are many of these available at the moment. I really like Babipur's paper tape and have a few rolls with elephants on (a mixture of colours, not just brown kraft tape). You can also get plain kraft paper tape, and coloured Washi tape in many designs (this is a thinner tape mostly used for decoration, and originated in Japan) - I have these available in my online shop, along with coloured tissue paper and twine, for wrapping. When wrapping presents, avoid paper with glitter or metallic patterns, as these cannot be recycled.

Packaging and home delivery

I tend to do most of my shopping online, so I can't always control how much packaging things come in. Sometimes it surprises me how much uneccessary packaging is used!

For many years, I have bought some household products in bulk (toilet rolls, tissues, 5L containers of washing up liquid, hand soap, and laundry liquid) - over time, it usually works out cheaper. I use the 5L containers to refill the smaller bottles that are easier to use day-to-day. It reduces packaging waste, because I'm not buying small plastic bottles of liquid, or plastic wrapped toilet rolls. I also recently discovered: some handwash refill pouches at the supermarket, which use less plastic, and can be recycled through Terracycle (I'll write more about this in a future post); Iron & Velvet cleaning product sachets that can be used to refill cleaning bottles by adding water; and SMOL, which posts laundry liquid and dishwasher tablets in minimal packaging. The below photo montage shows items I get delivered to me regularly, to reduce packaging - there are many similar products available. The Ethical Consumer online have written a useful report on Eco-friendly Toilet Paper.

Occasionally, I use Milk & More, which is a way to order milk, and other fresh food and drink, delivered to your door in reusable containers (see below picture for some current examples). They also do refills for things like hand wash and washing up liquid in returnable glass bottles. Bottles can be returned for cleaning and reuse, and other items are in reduced packaging. I really like the delicate string bags they deliver fruit and veg in, which I have started upcycling, and will sell in my shop soon.

Other places, that you can visit in person, or order from online, are Refill shops - here are a couple of examples that I've used and like:

Greenwise, Fetcham, Surrey (a physical shop with local delivery available)

The Refill Pantry, St Albans, Hertfordshire (a physical shop with online orders & collection available)

There are many other Zero Waste shops around the UK, where you can refill containers and buy items with reduced/recycled packaging.

There are also many options for getting a fruit and veg box delivered to your home, usually in a cardboard box with minimal packaging - you can usually buy other food items alongside your box. These include:

Abel and Cole

Riverford Odd Box

The BBC Good Food website did a review of the best veg boxes, which can help you to know which one to try: 8 of the best veg boxes, from wonky veg to organic Also, if you have a local farm shop, you can pick up loose vegetables and fruit there, and some will do deliveries too.

Here's my 2nd blog on reducing waste:

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