As a 70’s child I feel like I grew up in more sustainable times – we fixed things at least when they broke, and had a rather more limited range of clothes, and definitely NEVER wasted food! But the writing was of course already on the wall, and as I grew I really did wonder how on earth we dealt with the waste that we, the human race, produced, and what happened to it all when the bin men took it away… After all, no other species creates the kind of waste we do! I naively thought that surely someone knew what they were doing, that someone in charge, in the know, well, knew what to do with it! But fast forward a few years and by the time I had my first child it was apparent that no, on the contrary, we were winging it. We had no idea what we were doing. And we were faster than ever creating one hell of a problem. But at that stage not many people I knew seemed to notice, much less care.
So within a week of having my first baby, horrified as I was by the amount of waste we were creating using disposable nappies, I started researching (no, not Googling, not in 1998, but buying baby magazines for the adverts in the back!) reusable nappies. I quickly became a convert, and, like in all the best mumpreneur stories (minus the inspirational music), start a business selling them. My dream was to one day have them in all the high street stores so that parents and carers knew about them, could see them, understand them, and didn’t feel like they had to be crazy eco-warriers to use them (yes people did in those days think I was crazy).
Fast forward again a couple of decades or so, and I love the fact that there is so much focus on the environment, although sad that it took us so long to get there. I love the fact that refill stores are popping up all over the country, that we are going back to less packaging yet doing it in clever new ways. I love the fact that we can make our nappies from recycled plastic bottles (though people please STOP buying plastic drinks bottles, we have enough to keep us going forever I’m sure of it!). I love the fact that people don’t think I’m completely crazy anymore when I brandish my bamboo toothbrush, or say I don’t really want to buy a little plastic pot every week containing hummus so I’m going to make my own thank you very much (I have a great easy recipe for a quick lentil based hummus if anyone’s interested…😉). And I love that fact that we have a whole month now every year devoted to saying goodbye to just a little bit more of that waste.
So, this Plastic Free July, what can you do in your life? Well, if you have a baby there is SO much you can do! Pop-in reusable nappies made from recycled plastic bottles, reusable wipes, sustainable bibs also made from recycled plastic bottles, reusable breast pads if you are breastfeeding… the list goes on. And I also love the fact that when you stop using some of these products for baby you can repurpose them in your life. I obviously don’t have babies any more but I’m using reusable wipes as make-up removers instead of cotton wool, I’ve used my change mat for so many purposes during lock down in particular, using it as a seat cover when I was sitting on wet benches for a coffee with a friend in the rain (yep, the things we did in lockdown hey?!), to using it to stand on to get changed on a riverbank to swim in the river (and the mud washes off so well, it comes out looking perfect!), and I’m using the stuff sack to put my wet cossie in when I get out of the river… who would have thought by making reusable baby things I would also still be using baby things 20 years later for outdoor swimming!
I know as a company there is more that we can do to improve sustainability and I’m keen to do more and to keep learning what it is we don’t know yet about better ways to work with the environment rather than against it (anyone else tormented by the impossible choices of which product is better for the environment… local, ‘natural’, organic, recycled etc etc??) But at the same time I’m concentrating on the little things that I can do personally, the small swaps I can make every week.
This week, finally, having not been able to persuade my husband or sons to switch to using soap instead of shower gel (which I did years ago but yes they are slow to come on board despite living with an eco-crazy lady…) the aforesaid much-welcomed refill shop has opened up close by and has shower gel which smells acceptably like ‘men’s shower gel’ and so at last that’s another plastic bottle I can stop buying. It might sound like a small win, but in our house that’s a big one, and let’s face it, the small changes one by one add up to a much bigger change when we all try. I won’t claim to be plastic free, life is hard enough and busy enough to make completely plastic free unrealistic for many. But this July I’m going to really scrutinise every choice I make, and work out my next permanent plastic-free swap.