Source: Auckland University of Technology (AUT)
24 Jun, 2020
In 2011 the Archer family were focusing on making their business more sustainable. Through thinking about reducing the impact on the environment from their business, they started looking at living more sustainably at home too. “We started reducing waste in our home as mostly a cost saving measure. By the time we got to baby number two we were filling two rubbish bags a week. We knew it wasn’t good for the environment so we decided to try and reduce things down gradually. We started using resuable nappies in 2014 and halved our waste overnight and it ended up saving a lot of money,” says Stephen.
The family’s main focus has been to reduce landfill waste, while recycling as much as possible. They recognise going completely plastic-free is not only incredibly difficult but also not necessarily practical, especially as they now have five children. “The best thing we can do is reduce our plastic use where possible and be prepared to pay a little bit more for a reusable product. Most people try to transition all at once and this is self-defeating because it is extremely difficult. This is why we have focused on, and encourage others towards, continual improvement,” says Stephen.
Stephen says it’s also important to note it wasn’t an instant process and took many years to transition to where they are now. “We attended a Waste Free Parenting workshop in 2014 with Kate Meads which gave us some great ideas but we didn’t get really serious until 2017 when we went from one bag every two weeks to almost nothing in 2018.”
When asked about the most challenging part of this journey, Stephen says it was incredibly hard to break habits towards using waste-producing products out of convenience. “We had to be a little more prepared sorting out the children’s lunches and food on trips. We also had to get on top of our tendency to purchase cheap but poorly made products in favour of better quality, longer lasting ones. When buying something, we had to ask what will happen to it after we have used it.”
For those wanting to give it a go, Stephen encourages people to start small, “start with one thing in your rubbish that you decide will not be there next week. Repeat this every week and you will be surprised how fast this reduces your total waste and your mindset towards what you buy.”
The Archer family’s key tips for reducing plastic waste:
- Nappies. Absolutely biggest one in our house, we only use reusable fabric ones.
- Rethink kids birthday parties and gifts focusing on experience over posessions as it makes a huge difference.
- Try to buy quality whenever possible, the item will last longer and cost less in the long run than multiple replacements.
- Use soap and shampoo bars instead of bottles.
- Ask yourself do you need this item and what becomes of it and its packaging once you are done with it.
- We used beeswax wraps instead of cling film but it’s not as easy for us with so many children so we use reusable containers a lot and buy food items in bulk without packaging at supermarkets.
- Get and remember reuseable containers, bags and drink bottles and use them whenever you can.
- Purchase products with compostable packaging wherever available not only for short-term waste reductions but to encourage companies to make the use of them more widespread.