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How to Reduce Family Waste with @mamalinauk

Reducing waste and living a more sustainable lifestyle has become a hotly discussed topic over recent years. With more resources being poured into preventing climate change and rectifying the damage we have done to our planet by using more sensible alternatives, there are now many days, weeks and months dedicated to raising awareness of the need for sustainable living.

This month is Plastic Free July and, with that in mind, we reached out to sustainability-focussed mother-of-two, Emma Ross of @mamalinauk to discuss what changes we can make to reduce our waste and live more considerately, even as busy parents of young children. There are so many small substitutions we can make without much effort and, importantly, without breaking the bank. 

12 Jul 2021


My journey to sustainable parenting started back when I was pregnant with my first son in 2013 during an NCT session about nappies and baby wipes. I spent the entire hour worrying about the colossal amount of waste that our newborn baby would seemingly create. From disposing of ten nappies a day to the ‘essential’ items we were told we needed, I began to wonder if this was the way I wanted to parent.

Fast-forward eight years and I’ve learnt a huge amount. I now advocate a low waste, low plastic style of parenting to help families navigate the potentially very wasteful process of bringing up children. Most families lead busy lives - especially now lockdown restrictions in most countries are easing - and it’s easy to churn through resources and create waste without too much thought. From empty cereal packets to tubes of toothpaste, before you know it you’re taking out big black sacks of rubbish several times a week, without a second thought for where it goes.

Yet, at the same time, parenting is busy, exhausting and expensive, so changes need to be accessible and easy.

With the summer fast approaching, today I’m sharing ten tips on how to cut down on household waste to keep that bin emptier for longer and your waste as a family down to a minimum.

1. Opt for a reusable version whenever possible – and appreciate your washing machine and dishwasher on a daily basis!

From nappies to cling film and drinking straws, there’s almost always a reusable option available and in a variety of different materials to suit your needs. Simply pop your reusables in the machine (some will need a hand wash) and they’ll be good to go for the next time.

2. Shop second hand, online and offline

There are more and more online marketplaces popping up where you can get yourself some wonderful preloved items, giving them a new lease of life and potentially preventing them from ending up in landfill. And don’t forget to head to your local high street charity shops to support their causes and find some brilliant bargains in the process. Some of our most treasured possessions were sourced second hand.

3. Recycle more

We all know we should be doing it, yet the UK’s overall recycling rates of everyday waste are below the EU’s target of 50%, despite recycling collections being available at every household in the UK. So why aren’t more people using them? The answer could be that so many of us are still unclear on exactly how to recycle efficiently. Be sure to check in with your local council as well as useful websites such as WRAP, Terracycle and Recycle Now.

4. Preparation, preparation, preparation

A low waste lifestyle does require a little bit more thought, especially when heading out. Do I need to bring my own cutlery? Will there be only plastic cups available? These are all things to think about. Another area where preparation can be key is meal planning: 85% of all food waste happens in the home and, so often, this can be a result of simply bad timing and food going off. Allow yourself time to plan your meals for the week and stock your fridge up accordingly to prevent any food decaying and to avoid reaching for takeaways. Admittedly, I’m a terrible meal planner but that’s also because I think I could live on couscous, roasted veg and tofu six nights out of seven!

5. DIY, folks

Ever thought about making your own paints for the kids (if yours are anything like mine, they get through them quick) or making your own deodorant? Most household items can be made and, in doing so, will save a significant amount of packaging and waste. Despite the extra time required to make your own products, it’s such a rewarding process and can provide a fun activity to do with kids.

6. Repair – just like Grandma used to

Next time your slipper gets a small hole in it, instead of tossing it in the bin, grab a needle and thread and stitch it up yourself. Visible mending techniques such as the Japanese ‘sashiko’ are gaining popularity and it’s easy to see why – prevent waste and add some character to your garment in the process, win-win!

7. Start composting

When you dispose of food in your regular household waste bin, it ends up in landfills where it causes harmful gases like methane to escape into the atmosphere. Why not look into composting old fruit and vegetable scraps which will in turn break down to create the most wonderful natural fertiliser to feed your house plants or garden. There are several different ways you can compost from vermicomposting to bokashi – look them up and see what could work best for your home.

8. Repurpose

From citrus peels to old newspapers and empty vats of oil, so many items can be repurposed or upcycled to create something brand new. Citrus peels can be used to create a multi-purpose cleaning spray, old newspapers make wonderful wrapping paper and empty vats of oil can be transformed into the most perfect vases or growing containers.

9. Buy less but buy well

It’s time to start questioning if you really need that new outfit or set of side plates, or could you source it second-hand or even perhaps go without? You might want to consider a No Spend Challenge to try to curb any shopping habits. You can also rotate items in and out of your life – sometimes you or the kids need a break from that coat or kitchen utensil or those building blocks. Put things away and bring them out a few months later, it’s like going shopping all over again!

10. Keep your eyes peeled

Yes, you read that right. Do not underestimate the gems you can find discarded on the side of the streets…I’ve found some of my favourite furniture this way.

I do hope some of these tips help you and your family on your quest to reduce waste in your home and to live a little more consciously, relying less on disposable items and investing more in reusables to carry out small everyday tasks. It can seem daunting, but there are a few small, simple things that you can do that can make a difference for the environment and for your wallet.

Remember, this isn’t about being plastic free, it’s about thinking a little differently and creatively, and considering the alternatives in a way that can be easily adopted into our busy lives. Crucially, it can help teach our children how to protect our beautiful planet.


All images by @mamlinauk

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