What A Load of Rubbish
Sixteen months ago my family made a pact to slash the weekly grocery bill to less than $100 a week. Amongst the many joys that we have discovered within our changed shopping habits is a massive reduction in our household waste. Saving cash was the original sole motivation behind the ‘$100 a week grocery budget’, but we have also become much more environmentally responsible by default.
Our determination to spend no more that $100 a week on groceries has forced us to chose alterative solutions to common household problems including making our own cleaning products and cosmetics. As a result we are no longer purchasing such pre-packaged items as spray cleaner, tampons, toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner and laundry powder. Instead we are purchasing a narrow range of ingredients which includes bi-carbonate soda (baking soda), sodium carbonate (washing soda), salt and citric acid. These can be purchased cheaply at a bulk store (ie: Bin Inn) and we are able to recycle our own containers for this.
By making products quickly and simply at home we are not only saving thousands of dollars in cash but we are significantly reducing the pile of rubbish generated by our day to day activities. Another spin off is that we have reduced the range of chemicals going down our drain via cleaning products from an unknown chemical cocktail to just 7 known substances, 5 of which you would bake with and one of them is water. That makes me feel good.
Amongst the containers we no longer have to dispose of annually are 26 laundry powder cartons which include 26 little plastic scoops. 12 toothpaste containers, 12 deodorant bottles, 24 plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles and 12 spray cleaner bottles. Some of the chemicals we are no longer putting into the environment via the drain include sodium monoflourophosphate, solvents, sodium laurel sulphate, ammonium chloride, bleach, aluminum chlorohydrate and tricalcium phosphate to name just a few out of hundreds. In itself the environmental impact of our changed, lifestyle are minute but if those benefits were multiplied by every household in Taranaki/New Zealand, the positive impact would be immense.
I am not green enough to believe that all households would voluntarily make the changes necessary to make an impact but as a living example of how easy it actually is to implement positive changes around the home certainly want to promote the concept. We are mostly caught up in a rat race, striving to make some headway in a rapidly changing modern world. We might be trying to climb the corporate ladder, trying to juggle a family and cling on to a career or trying to get on top of the mortgage as well as the massive pile of bills that accompanies modern lifestyles. We might be rushing around the supermarket before picking the kids up from school and thoughtlessly filling our trolleys with all sorts of packaged food and overpriced cleaning products that are supposed to save us time, handing over in exchange a sizeable chunk of the wages from the job that ate up all the time in the first place. Take a moment to reassess the situation –there is a better way.
Putting a cap on the grocery spend was what enabled my family to see the light. Now our supermarket shopping is limited by the monetary resources we are prepared to put into it. We have been forced to trim off all the fat and only purchase the bare necessities. Once the initial shock wore off we were pleasantly surprised that we can still fill ourselves up quite nicely thank you very much by buying more generic products and avoiding value added, heavily advertised, pre-packaged items. Surprisingly we are now eating more healthily than before. If a grocery item has packaging, I would even go as far as to say don’t buy it, you could probably make it from ingredients, find a cheaper healthier alternative or do without. Why would we buy veges with packaging. I’m not sure why bananas sometimes come wrapped in plastic, they already come with natures wrapping. I have been guilty, in the past, of buying lettuce leaves in plastic bags, why I don’t know. They cost more and you throw the plastic bag away – it makes no sense of you think about it. Pre-packaged fruit and veges are off my shopping list. I prefer my fresh stuff to come au naturel. Better still grow your own… make the time or get the kids to do it.
So if pre-packaged items are off the list, what have we been doing without? Here is an idea of what my family has been doing without for the last 14months. We are not missing; packets of biscuits, cakes, boxed breakfast cereal, muesli bars, drinks in cans, cartons, glass and plastic bottles, yogurt, fancy cheeses, processed meat (luncheon, salami, bacon etc), fancy breads, dips, spreads, sauces, pre-grated cheese, washed potatoes, fruit strings, pies, fancy desserts… I have actually forgotten many of the products we used to love buying, which says it all. (I am actually appalled at the way I used to shop and at the unhealthy sugar laden treats we used to indulge ourselves in.)
Of course the supermarkets are set up to encourage us to splurge unwittingly on strategically placed specials and unnecessary treats. It is up to us whether we want to give our hard earned cash away to them. Nutritionally speaking many of the things we no longer buy were major threats to our long term health anyway, being sugar, salt and preservative laden, better to make your own treats – at least you can use healthy ingredients.
New Zealanders put at least 3.156 million tonnes of waste into landfills annually. This is not sustainable. I have stumbled across a positive solution to minimise my family’s contribution to this waste and it’s something we could all do if we cared.