Thursday, 4 July 2013

Reducing by re-using

Back in May I wrote some posts about reducing ‘stuff’, all the items that we purchase and accumulate in our lives that are often very energy and resource intensive. I kept a photo-log for a month of everything that we bought or were given and it really added up to quite a long list. So I am trying to cut back on the stuff that we accumulate, and particularly making sure that the things we spend money on are really necessary.

A brilliant way to reduce stuff is to re-use items that you already have or that other people no longer want and even turn them into something useful. The photo is of Stripes, a local hand-crafted teddy made from a sock. I wish I could say that I had made him, but we found him on a stall at the school fair, made by one of the creative mums. There are countless other examples, like the Morsbag group, who teach people how to turn leftover material into a useful and re-usable cloth shopping bag, using the old hand-cranked sewing machines. Let me know if there are any other good examples you know about?

Plastic packaging tubs from takeaways, ice cream, ready meals or drinks, were something I would always keep as they are useful for storing food or small toys, for packed lunches and as plant pots. Having read Jo’s post on All the Blue Day and the links, explaining more about the damage that plastic does to our health and the environment, I want to reduce the amount of plastic we use. I was gobsmacked to see how much of our food arrives and is stored in plastic. Removing plastic completely seems such a tough task.

Up to that point I loved my re-used, plastic storage tubs. They are lightweight and stackable, they look very smart in my cupboards and as they are clear you can see at a glance if you are running low on something. Alongside the plastic tubs I have some re-used small nutella jars, which have plastic lids. They aren’t quite so bad because the food is not in contact with the plastic, though the lid will still be off-gassing chemicals.

What I really didn’t want to do was to buy new stuff, made with lots of energy and resources, to replace my re-used plastic tubs. I mean it feels bad enough that I will be throwing perfectly useful plastic containers into the recycle bin (and do I really trust that it will all be recycled?). I raided my collection of jars saved for storing homemade produce, and found these small pasta sauce jars, which work well for storing small amounts of food and have a metal lid.

These empty passata jars are ok for fine-grained items like oatbran, that can be poured out. The almond flakes would be better in a wider mouthed jar though. 

I also bought a couple of Kilner jars to try. At £2 each it seemed a bit of a waste to just use them for storage rather than preserving, but they really look good and hold more.

This is how they look in place. As the jars were larger, there wasn’t as much space, so I had to take out 4 tubs of food and find another home for them. The smaller jars don’t seem as safe being stacked because they are heavier and the metal lids are slippery. At least this gave me a good idea of what I needed to look for as a replacement. So on Sunday morning I headed to the large local carboot sale to see what I could find. It is basically a large field where people park up with a boot full of unwanted stuff that they can sell. It is a good place to find a bargain as many people just want to get rid of their junk and will sell for a few pennies.
The first Sunday the weather wasn’t good, so there weren’t many people selling. This was the best I could find on the container front after searching through every stall. I spent a grand total of £1.50 . I wanted more small tins for tea caddies, but I will have to keep looking. You may be wondering what the white egg shaped thing is for....I am still wondering too. It just caught my eye and was an impulse buy at 20 pence!

I also spent a whole £2 on this Pullman blanket, which is very large and warm and will make an ideal additional camping blanket, to keep us warm when there is frost J

The following Sunday was warm and sunny and the field was completely packed with carbooters. I was selling too this time, but still got to have a scout around and was far more successful. I spent a grand total of £3 for this lot, with the enamel casserole tin being the expensive impulse buy for 80p. I just thought it looks really nice when Jamie Oliver serves food in enamelware. The bargain was the pretty jug for 10p. The cliptop jars are a lot thicker, bigger and heavier than the other jars I am using, so they don’t really fit with the rest. As they look so nice I will keep them out on a shelf with nuts or healthy snacks in. This kind of secondhand shopping really doesn’t work if you like everything to match though L

Next I went shopping in town and started by buying these lovely bottles in M&S. The shop opposite was selling the same Kilner bottles empty for £4.75 each, but with the drinks inside it was £5 for all three in M&S. It is new stuff that I am only buying for the bottles, but at least it will be re-used over and over again.

M&S also had some rather lovely jars for spices. They were very simple and lightweight, using a lot less glass than my Schwartz spice jars, plus they have a metal lid, rather than plastic. The wide opening means you can get a teaspoon in, and will make them easier to refill too. I will slowly get more of these. I also found some candles for only 59p each in a bargain shop, which are inside a small Mason jar. They smell lovely and the ‘emergency preparedness’ side of me can never get enough candles. It may take a while before I get to use the jars though. 

So I have made a start to exchange the plastic in my home for alternative materials. I will continue searching for tea caddies for my tea bags and I am planning to call in at the fish and chip shop to see if I can get some larger glass jars. I would also like to learn how to do wickerwork baskets, which may be an alternative to plastic storage tubs for shoes and toys. If you have any good storage ideas or have found an innovative way to re-use your packaging then I would love to hear about it.

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