Waste Free

Biggest Zero Waste Mistakes to Avoid

I hope by now you are beginning to get excited about the idea of living a more sustainable lifestyle. If this is the case today’s post is going to be a must read! Here are some common mistakes people make which you should avoid.

DIY-ing everything

Please, please, I beg you please don’t do this! I appreciate that as someone who talks a lot about using up what you have and not spending money, this would seem like the logical option. But, seriously don’t. Why? Because it will be unnecessarily time consuming and actually can be pretty bad for you.

One of the things I get a bit touchy about is people making their own toothpaste. My personal opinion is that this can be risky because homemade toothpastes often don’t contain fluoride. Some people don’t agree with fluoride additives in toothpastes but I am not one of those people. Dentists recommend fluoride toothpaste because it strengthens your enamel and protects you against cavities. Personally, that’s something I am not willing to sacrifice and I would never recommend to anyone. There are some really good brands out there such as this one, which are designed by dentists, contain fluoride and are plastic free. This is a much better option than a DIY version, in my opinion. More about oral hygiene to come in the next few weeks.

While I think DIY-ing things can be great as I mentioned yesterday, sometimes it’s simply unnecessary. There are some amazing companies that produce products that will be much better for you and will often save you time, money and a lot of mess in the kitchen. Just think carefully about what things you want to DIY and what you don’t. It is personal preference at the end of the day, since we all have different amounts of free-time, enthusiasm and money.

Buying things you don’t really need

As I have said before it can be really tempting to want to try all of the ethical products you see in adverts. Again, don’t. I mentioned in the debunking sustainability post, it can actually just be more wasteful to replace the items you already have with ones you think you ‘should’ own.

For instance, a big craze that has been going around has been straw alternatives. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for a metal or glass straw but only if you need one. If you have 250 plastic straws already in the cupboard, you don’t need one. If you don’t ever reach for a straw, you don’t need one. Same goes for other items like bamboo cutlery. Consider taking cutlery you already have at home with you instead. Of course, if it is right for you, I am not here to judge but do think about what you need vs what you want. There are lots of companies that make ‘sustainable’ products look really appealing when they aren’t actually necessary, so just be careful.

Thinking Refill Stores are the Only Option

This might be odd to read since I gushed about refill stores in Wednesday’s blog post. I am not going back on that, I wholeheartedly LOVE THEM. But, and this is one of those big buts, they aren’t the only option in the world.

Some refill shops can actually be really expensive and some people can’t afford to shop in them. That’s totally fine. If this is you then don’t panic. There are so many great alternatives in the supermarkets you already shop in. For instance, I shopped in Lidl this week. I bought flour which came in a paper bag and porridge oats that came in a paper bag. I also did an order from Wilko. Why? Because they have bicarbonate of soda and citric acid that I use for cleaning the house, both packaged in cardboard! The reason I am happy to purchase them is because the packaging can be composted.

Another decent option if you can’t afford to shop in refill stores is buying in bulk. This can often be cheaper at places like Grape Tree. As much as I would love to, I am currently not in the position financially to shop in the refill store nearest to me so when I need things such as sesame seeds for my hummus recipe I will order the 1kg bag. This reduces plastic compared to if I were to buy the 140g bags from other shops and also works out cheaper per kg.

I would always recommend shopping in a refill store if you can because they are run by people who have taken time and effort to research the products they sell you. This means that you can be sure of the ethical standards of the companies they are stocking and also it is great to support your local businesses. However, if you can’t afford to, don’t let this stop you from reducing your waste. Or even worse, don’t shop there and break the bank over it because part of being sustainable is ensuring you are sustainable with your money too.

Expecting everything to be aesthetically pleasing

While I secretly enjoy the jar of black sludge that I keep on the top of my cupboard (AKA banana skin fertiliser), if I am being honest it looks a bit grim. There are so many images you can access online of the “perfect” pantry with matching containers and all neatly labelled but this isn’t most zero-wasters reality.

Personally, I love saving the jars from just about anything (even picking up a few on Olio) and re-purposing them. This means that I have jars on my baking shelves that have plenty of pictures of olives on the top! Let’s be honest, does it matter? No. Sure it would be lovely if they all matched, had pretty lids and didn’t have sharpie scribbles on them but for me it’s more important that I am reusing what I already have and know what white powder I am tipping into my cakes. Yesterday, we were making cupcakes and my boyfriend picked up a jar of breadcrumbs mistaking them for brown sugar. Thank goodness they were labelled or that would have been an interesting batch of cakes!

One day, I would love to paint my jar lids so they are all uniform and create nice looking labels for them, but for now I am quite content with my jars looking full of character. My point is zero-waste is one of those classic “expectation verses reality” situations and it won’t look like what you think it might. If you get disheartened because things look a bit ugly, remember, that you are doing a great thing by taking steps to live sustainably and you can make just about anything pretty with a bit of creativity.

Comparing yourselves to others

This leads on really well from my last point. Not only is it important to not compare ourselves to strangers online, it is also important to not compare ourselves to others in our less virtual lives (although life is all a bit virtual right now!).

If you have a friend who has more time than you, more money or has been doing this a lot longer then of course they might be able to make changes quicker than you can but don’t be disheartened. We all need to do things at our own pace. In the same way, if people seem to be making less progress than you show compassion and not judgement. You don’t know their personal situations and they might be doing the best they can right now. We are all doing our best and that’s what really matters.

Thank you for sticking with me through a whole five days of blog posts! Only two more days to go of launch week. I hope you have enjoyed reading it and let me know if there are any other mistakes you made when thinking about your sustainability. Catch up with you again tomorrow.

Lottie xx

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