So how was Living Gentler in 2020?

What went well

Breadmaking – We honed our breadmaking skills, and found independent artisan sources of quality flour.

Jam making – We raided the hedgerows this year, and successfully made jams from Blackberries, Sloes, and roadside apples. We made Hawthorn syrup, and with donated chilli some chilli sauce!

Sustainable shopping – As covid crept among us we continued our move away from supermarkets for foodstuffs. We felt the smaller shops were just safer and not really that more expensive if we were selective of what we bought where.

We now source about 90% of our food from small independent retailers including village and farmshops. The journeys to these retailers are either added to work journeys or are part of family trips. We avoid some of the ‘big four’ supermarkets on ethical grounds shopping at stores whose management and ethics fit with our own.

Limiting plastic – Thanks to farm gate dairy sales we are now 100% milk in glass.

This has saved 4.9kg of plastic from entering our waste stream. Swapping out some fruit squashes has prevented a further 500g from coming home, we use the adult squashes in glass bottles where possible. We have detailed our various efforts at yogurt making and while success has been mixed around 24 large yogurt containers have not come home from the store taking another 500g of plastic out of our waste.

We have long been proponents of refill shops this year we have used 12 litres of washing up liquid which if we had bought washing up bottles would have put another 480g into recycling! We have not bought a pump action liquid soap bottle for nearly two years now, we have tried products like Splosh with mixed results, and at one point were buying the refill pouches from supermarkets. Finally we decided on using the eco washing up liquid from the refill shop for hand washing and bar soaps from the Friendly soap company for face body and shaving. We think this has saved around 250g of plastic from coming home.

On top of this we think about another 2.5kg has been saved by buying meat from our local butchers and other independent suppliers including direct from the farm rather than supermarkets. We could also include around another 500g from not buying packaged bread, fruit, vegetables, and other food stuffs. If we then add in dishwasher salt in boxes, bulk buy fabric conditioner, boxed soap powders rather than liquids or pods, plastic free tea bags, and paper wrapped toilet roll, we estimate we have saved 10kg of plastic from entering the waste stream in 2020.

If each of the 27.8 million households in the UK could manage just a 5kg reduction in plastic consumption that would mean 139,000 tonnes of plastic would go out of circulation! How great would that be for the environment?

What didn’t go so well?

Over the year certain supplies have been intermittent, for a long while we struggled with still having palm oil in soaps, now we use friendly soaps thats solved but it took us a while to get there. Big brand paper wrapped toilet roll came and went, as did the eco range from Aldi.

However while we have removed much recyclable plastic from our waste stream we have seen a rise in single use plastic wrap. The kind used to vac-pack meats. Many independent retailers where we buy meat have no dedicated butchery counter, this means pre-packaging and either clingfilm and polystyrene, of vac-pack plastic pouches. Fortunately some do still paper wrap in greaseproof or meat preserving paper. We will use these retailers more in the coming year.

The vac-pack pouches we wash and recycle through carrier bag recycling points, clingfilm, polystyrene and the flimsy white plastic bags we have no choice but to put in general waste. Where we live we know general waste goes to an energy from waste site to be burned so at least it is not going to landfill.

Our household costs have increased, we think everyones has due to the global pandemic, but we think our ethics and strategy have increased ours by a greater average amount. This concerns us and we will look at ways of stripping out some of that additional cost whilst still living gentler in 2021…

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