How are our zero waste family doing?
You might remember we started working with Sian and her family to help them reduce their waste.
Six of them were producing one wheelie bin of landfill waste per fortnight and Sian wanted to reduce this as much as she could.
Just to recap, Sian and her husband are on a limited income, still have one child in nappies and Sian has health issues which means using washable nappies is not an option. They also live in a small house with little storage space and need to use a fair amount of supermarket pre packaged food to stretch their budget.
After having a good old rummage through her rubbish we suggested that Sian started separating her waste. We agreed she would keep the nappies separately and start washing all her plastic waste so that she could really see what was going into the bin each week. In addition we asked the family to be more aware of what they were throwing away because when we emptied out her wheelie bin we spotted a few things that could have been recycled or composted.
We showed Sian how to test for polythene and recommended she started recycling it and asked her to consider setting up a compost heap. Finally we asked her to keep a food diary so we could identify exactly what she was buying – with this information we could make further recommendations for how to shop zero waste style.
Two weeks after we set these challenges we visited Sian again to see how she was getting on.
We’d done a little homework for her in between visits and realised that not all supermarket pre packed fruit and vegetables were cheaper than lose. In a random check around Sainsburys we found carrots, broccoli and apples were cheaper to buy lose, whereas onions and baking potatoes were more expensive lose than prepacked! We suggested that Sian checked online before shopping to find the best deals.
Since we last saw her, Sian had indeed separated her nappies and set up a recycling area for polythene. Everything that went into the wheelie bin had to be checked by her first, so that all recyclable and compostable items could be diverted from landfill. She had ordered a compost bin from the council.
What we loved about Sian’s new lifestyle was she was finding it easy to maintain. She said “this new regime adds no stress to my daily routine; all it takes is a little more thought. Instead of automatically picking something up and putting it into the bin, I simply put it into different bins”.
Throughout our discussions, Sian kept reiterating how easy this was for her and stressed that it was simply a change of thought and an extra five minutes when washing up that made it all happen.
We couldn’t wait to get that bin on the scales. We decided from now on to keep the nappies out of the weigh in and just weigh off everything else. The nappies will be in place for another year or so and there is little that can be done about them. But Sian and her family had an astonishing 800gms of waste for the fortnight. Isn’t that amazing?
We estimated she would be able to go a good three to six months without having the bin emptied at that rate! Nappies will be put out once a fortnight for hygiene reasons, but Sian is going to keep hold of the rest of her landfill waste to see just how long she can go!
We don’t need to see her for another month in which time she will have set up her compost bin, be compacting her landfill waste, be checking online before shopping to stretch her budget and keeping a food diary so we can look at other ways to reduce packaging.
I’m sure you’ll all agree this is a fantastic achievement in just two weeks
But you know what? Since then Sian has IMd me to say she’d found some washable nappies in the loft, so who knows what surprises she’ll have in store when we next visit!