Confessions of a Zero Wastrell (part 1)

Since I started writing this blog a few slightly unnerving things happened.

Firstly people – mostly my mates -started reading it, like really reading it. From start to finish with all the boring bits in between! I was strangely unnerved by that. This is people I know… who know me… reading about my life… which I figured they already knew about. Plus I’ve pretty much forgotten what I wrote back in November. Believe it or not I’ve got a modicom of quality control these days. Who knows what kind of custard I was writing a whole 8 months ago!

But the really scary thing was that my mates seemed to really believe in me.  Asking about waste and commenting on ideas i tried and even asking for advice like I might actually know something.  Terrifying!  This blog came about largely because I didn’t believe in me. I wanted to slim down my rubbish bin but over time I’ve found myself slipping back into bad habits. This blog was a challenge to myself to keep going forward not back.

With all my friend’s positive vibes I started to feel a bit guilty

Far from being the Zero Waste guru they all assumed I’d turned into overnight I felt like a massive fraud.  My rubbish bin may be teeny-tiny and found on the street but it’s overflowing. (I obviously also need to work on my housework skills!)   It’s time for some home truths from the Jamiechin household.  In an attempt to get me back on track I’m going to take a deep breath and publically facing up to some of my rubbish failings and hopefully making a few positive changes at the same time.

So a few weeks ago I did a mini waste audit.  Yep that is totally how rock and roll my life is.  It wasn’t the greatest audit – I may even have been a bit drunk at the time but I came up with 4 items on my shopping list that were contributing to my landfill mountain of shame and which I could realistically imagine changing in some way.

1) Chocolate – plastic foil laminate wrappers = big fat waste own goal

2) Tea – paper box fine… plastic/foil laminate pouch inside less cheerful

3)  Cheese.  plastic wrapped and not so green

4) Crisps Another composite plastic landfill sin

I started with the easy one.  

Chocolate – I love chocolate so much I sometimes scare myself.  I’m not proud and I have the flab to prove it.  Luckily my easy solution to this is to only buy chocolate wrapped in paper and foil.  It’s not completely zero waste but it beats composite plastic since it is much easier for these materials to be reused or recycled.  Even better  – paper wrapped chocolate usually tends to be fairly traded which is always good news.  On a negative note it is often more expensive however it does usually (not always) tastes nicer.   Lastly it’s often in bigger bars.  Now I’m not sure if this is good or bad.  one the one hand I tend to eat more 😦 but on the other hand I tend to eat more 🙂 .  Due to the expense I probably do buy it less which is good for my belly and also means I enjoy it more when I do buy it.  Over the past 3 weeks this has been a full on success.  No plastic Cadbury’s wrappers have appeared in our bin.  Whoop Whoop

Tea.  Now I may love chocolate but I ask you, What is the point of chocolate without a cup of tea with which to wash it down? I hear that some people drink coffee.  These people are wrong.  enough said. Life without tea is a life not worth living.  No really, tea is important.  I have been initially embarrassed and then inspired by reading Jo’s blog detailing how she is properly slimming down her waste.  Unlike me Jo is doing this properly and she even has to deal with sprogs to put a spoke in her wheels being all fussy etc.  Me I’d been happy to turn a blind eye to the plastic wrapping that appeared on my paper tea packets.  Not Jo tho!  She got off her butt and found a tea shop that let her fill her own container.  Inspired I searched high and low and trudged the streets of London to find someone to sell me tea packaging free.  Oh Ok.  I confess I bothered to go to the gorgeous market round the corner and plucked up courage to ask the tea seller to fill my caddy.  That’s right people.  I live round the corner from the saturday market with a tea seller and I am still using plastic wrapped tea bags.  The shame.

Tea from the Good and Proper Tea company

Tea from the Good and Proper Tea company


Basically it was the embarrassment of proffering my own containers (which I thought I had already faced up to) that was stopping me.  So I got over myself and took my prettiest pot along to  Good and Proper Tea at Brockley Market.  To say the seller was excited was an understatement.  She gave me a zero waste discount and told me that she had been toying with the idea of taking her own containers shopping for a while but had been too embarrassed.  Sister I feel your pain!  phew!  Her tea is so tasty I can’t believe I’ve been using tea bags all these years.  We’ve just run out so this Saturday I’ll be back with my tea caddy for more.  

On to cheese.  Cheese was also easily catered by the market.  All I had to do was chat to the lovely man and buy the cheese naked.  As in the cheese was naked – not me.   The only issue here is the expense.  It’s at least double the price of the supermarket rubbish I usually buy.   But seriously, how good does the stuff from the market taste?  So good!   My work sandwiches are totally yum!  At the moment I’m half and half.  I’m using cheap  supermarket stuff for cooking – sprinkling on top of pasta, melting in an omelette etc but my daily sarnies are naked market fayre.  

Cheery Cheese Merchant

Cheery Cheese Merchant

I figure if I bought a sandwich at work it would cost more than the cheese I use in two weeks so it’s totally worth it.  I think I need to think a bit harder about our daily kitchen cheese.  Ideally it make sense to support small producers and I guess I need to make that work for me financially but it will probably take me a while to take the plunge and go 100% market cheese.  Mainly I need to prove I can balance our family books and still buy yummy more ethical cheese.   I’ve realised I have no idea what the name of this cheese company is but they always seem to be at the market and their cheese is well worth checking out.  

Crisps.  Another easy one in a way.   I have no fancy pants alternatives to packets of crisps.  All crisps come in metallic crisp packets and as far as I know all metallic crisp packets end up in landfill.  So my solution is… I don’t buy crisps.  My hips thank me.  Chris doesn’t.  He loves crisps.  He still buys crisps but I don’t (I do occasionally nick one… or two from his packet) It’s a compromise that ensures our marriage survives.  As a result we’ve had a lot less packets in our bin since Chris has cut his consumption in sympathy.  Actually,  while writing this I did a bit of investigation and according to the “Recycle Now” website Lewisham council do accept crisp packets in recycling so any crisp packets will go in our recycle bin from now on.   Even so I’m still a bit doubtful about the amount of energy that must be needed to both create and recycle this composite material so I’m still going to avoid crisps as much as possible.  It can only be a good thing for my figure.

So what is in your bin that you could avoid buying?  What changes could you make to slim down your bin?  And would these changes mean you can’t enjoy something you love or find yourself paying more than you feel comfortable with?  I’d love to know.


4 thoughts on “Confessions of a Zero Wastrell (part 1)

  1. Libi, I LOVE the tea bus at your market! That is the most wonderful way to buy tea I have ever seen!
    I feel terrible and must confess though – I am really not loving tea in the tea pot. I am having dreadful difficulties getting the perfect cup. How did all the grannies do it? How do you do it? It is either too strong, or too weak. So, confessions, I discovered Twinings 100 bag cartons are cardboard, with paper bags inside – no plastic to be seen. And they are part of an ethical tea scheme, which is good. So I am cheating and rationing tea bags for when I need that ‘perfect’ cuppa. So not an eco-warrior here either! But I am determined to persevere with the loose tea, because I can buy it from a local tea shop, and benefit them and the growers, not a giant grocery conglomerate. And it is cheaper.
    Finding the same issues as you as well – expensive yummy cheese from market compared with 1kg family block, generic brand from supermarket. Chips – I stopped buying them because I don’t eat them, so husband and son duck out to buy them when I’m not looking!
    Chocolate, yes, fair trade, so much more expensive!
    And for my family – muesli bars. Still haven’t worked out a reliable substitute for the food that sustains my kids and is so portable to get them through afterschool activities. A muesli bar and an apple can see them through two hours of ballet or hockey after school, and is so easy to slip into the lunchbox in the morning. But all that packaging! Aaargh!

    • Isn’t it beautiful? And the tea really is tasty. They also sell crumpets!! But since I’ve usually just got out of bed I’ve never felt it was the right time to partake in that particular treat.

      Hmmm Teapot misery isn’t something I’ve ever really struggled with. I always used to make a pot even with tea bags. My Dad was very definite that – longer than 5 minutes and your tea was stewed so it’s a good idea to pour out after 5 mins brewing time. I usually have a nice first cup and then a stewed second cup but since it’s seconds I don’t mind the stewing. As to how much you put in I think it really depends on personal taste and the type of tea. I have my lovely <a href="; title="proper tea"goodandpropertea which is very delicate because this is what they suggested for me and some super strong stuff I found at the back of my Mum’s cupboard. I use totally different amount of both. If you always used to put bags in a cup then you probably like it pretty strong but it takes a bit of experimentation. Once you know what you like then stick to that and always remember just how far up you fill the pot. Also I notice a massive different if I forget to stir the pot before I pour it – very watery 😦 . No idea if any of that is helpful.

      Oh and obviously use fresh water that is properly boiling but that goes without saying – although I’m very naughty and sometimes use the water left in the bottom of the kettle if I misjudged last time.

      Phew muesli bars and kids sound like a tough nut to crack. I know it’s possible to make your own granola bars but honestly, who has the time for that??!

  2. Libi, you are brilliant – stir the pot! Nobody ever told me that! Massively useful piece of information. Thankyou, thankyou – now I can make the perfect cup of tea!

    • Really? It was that simple. Have you tried it and its actually solved your teapot woes?! I’m so happy if that’s the case. Although I have to wonder, why has no one else mentioned it. Do all your friends make bad tea or are they keeping it a secret from you! 😉
      Hope its goes well with your daughter’s UFO cakes.

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