The other day, I went looking on Pinterest for some inspiration.
I love writing here, I really do, but sometimes I feel a bit like I’m repeating myself – that I’m not providing any new information. At some point in the later half of 2020, I began to grow self-conscious about what I was writing and it led to me slowing down in terms of posts.
I imagined people reading my work, getting bored of hearing about my garden, or the books that I’ve read, or the swaps that I’ve made.
Other people have done it all before and they’ve absolutely done so in a much prettier way.
And that’s when it really struck me – I wasn’t posting things which I thought were useful because they weren’t also pretty.
There’s a very specific…. aesthetic to low-waste/zero-waste living. Bright, minimalist spaces, glinting mason jars, soft brushed linens….
That just isn’t my reality, and I’m sure it’s not the reality for most people trying to reduce their impact on the planet. We all take baggage – literal and figurative – when we leave home. For my part, I took an entire Saab 9-5 full of stuff with me to university all those years ago, along with a severe lack of practical cooking skills which led me to far too many ready-meals.
Over the years, I consumed without thinking, and it was only in 2011 – after reading Lucy Siegal’s To Die For – that I began to consider the impact of the objects in my life.
As a result, there are multiple relics from my personal ‘before times’ in my life. They’re not pretty – they don’t fit with the ‘zero waste aesthetic’, but they do fit with the spirit of the thing, and so I thought I’d share them with you here. Hopefully they can help reassure you that just because you don’t have beautiful stainless steel lunch boxes, that you’re still doing a great job.
First up, my box full of ugly plastic bags…
This is exactly what it looks like. I keep a small box full of plastic food bags. I have diligently washed and dried each of these and here they sit, awaiting use! I employ them in my freezer, or – more pertinently at the moment – when giving my children snacks for school. Pre-covid, I used to bake them little cupcakes and back them in decades-old tupperware, but the fewer things which go to/from school just now the better. And that being the case, having these free bags as ‘disposable’ packaging for home bakes is excellent. Generally speaking, I try to get a few uses of the bags at home before I send them off with my kids, but given that typically these would have been tossed out instantly after unpacking the food within, even one extra use is a huge bonus.
And aside from anything else, I find it bizarre that we’re willing to spend money on a roll of freezer bags, whilst simultaneously throwing perfectly functional plastic bags out…
Next up – my ‘compost bin’…
This is an old yogurt pot from back when I used to buy yogurt regularly (I think I discussed yogurt before and decided that this is one of the ‘basic’ things that should be a real treat).
It sits on the side in the kitchen and gets filled with compostable food scraps. It’s ugly – especially now it’s so sun-faded – but it’s the perfect size to collect things in. It fills up quickly enough that we remember to empty it before it starts stinking.
I also have a load of these tubs which I use to freeze food in too – no need to buy special containers when I could just repurpose something that was free. It’s not as pretty as its custom glass/metal counterpart, but it’s keeping something out of the waste management system and that’s important.
Next up, my packaging supplies…
Yup. That’s where it all lives – in front of my dining room fireplace. We don’t light this fire because we haven’t had the chimney swept in actual years so try not to worry about the safety hazard all that paper near a flame presents.
Here’s a close up…
All that folded brown paper in the basket on the left is ‘padding’ from deliveries we’ve been sent, so I save it for gift wrapping. Either the children draw on it, or we use stamps to decorate it, and we reuse it that way. Also visible are some gift bags and some printed wrapping paper (which I rescued from the skip when we cleared out my inlaws’ house). I literally haven’t bought gift-wrap in years, but as a result, we do have to live around this… sculpture…
None of these things are attractive to look at. You’re not going to find them on Pinterest. But I think it’s important that we talk about the instantly accessible ways in which we can reduce our waste. I hope that this mini-selection of the literal (but useful!) junk that I keep around my house has given you some ideas.
I would love to hear some of the uglier things you manage to keep out of landfill. At some point, I plan to do a post about ‘random things which we’ve found and attached to our walls as art’ but this seems like a good place to start!
6 Replies to “The Ugly truth”
Hooray for honesty and common sense! I have to admit one of the reasons I ditched my Pinterest account was being fed up with everything being so perfect, and the whole ‘throw away your tupperware and buy steel lunch boxes/ mason jars intstead’ is ridiculous. It always makes me smile how many ladies waving their plastic-free’trash jars’ are so immaculately made up and coiffered, I’m sure there’s an irony there somewhere! Image and aesthetics are far too predominant in society, it’s time that practicality and functionality were more important so thank you for such an honest post – and you are never boring, so please keep writing! 😉
Yes! The idea that we should ditch perfectly functional Tupperware in favour of something that’s super-resource intensive to make (like the pretty stainless steel boxes) drives me mad!
Plastic is such a common resource for a reason – it’s versatile, it’s light, and it’s cheap. If we treasure it as something precious and useful, then it’ll serve us well. I feel like it’s the disposable mindset we need to do away with, not the material. But I suppose the same could be said about glass jars – people buy fancy, pretty jars, even though they send perfectly functional ones (which came with their jam in, for example) to the recycling…
Also, thank you for your kind words!
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Hi Farn, it’s nice to read from you again. First of all, I enjoyed your garden posts so much, so please don’t knock it off. Also, most of what we write about has been said better a million times by somebody, but it should not stop us from saying the same things our own way. All I am saying is that your writing is who you are and much appreciated.
I love reading your blog. I used to feel I was making all these little adjustments to my life in isolation but reading yours and other blogs I now feel part of a little community of people trying to make a difference. I don’t think it matters that we are all talking about the same sort of things because sustainable living is different for me than for you and I guess that is the message – sustainable doesn’t mean buy a keep cup and a string bag and your doing it right no matter what the Influencers would have us all think! It looks like reusing and mending and borrowing and growing and not all of that is clean or pretty!! Keep it up – everyone will be doing it one day!
It’s such a powerful thing, knowing that you’re not alone in what you’re doing. It can all feel a little insignificant when you see things in isolation, or when the things you’re doing don’t look like the pretty Instagram pictures. But what all those tiny actions absolutely matter, and it’s a fun, creative community to be part of!