But in September last year I opened Facebook and my heart sank. Hurricane Maria had ripped through my home country of Puerto Rico.
Watching the devastation on my screen, I saw beautiful areas turned to landfill as plastic blew all over the country.
Tearing back the two layers of plastic from my rice cakes I stopped.
‘How do you feel about never taking the rubbish out again?’ I asked Luke.
Feeling responsible for the plastic pollution, I didn’t just want to cut down, I wanted to produce none! So I researched how our family could stop creating waste.
Standing in the aisle of the grocery store I could tell people were staring at me.
Picking up boxes of cereal, I gently shook, peered and squeezed each one to see if the contents were zipped in plastic.
They probably think I’m crazy, I thought.
‘What are you doing, Mummy?’ Sienna asked.
‘Plastic can fly into the ocean and hurt the animals,’ I said to my inquisitive girl. ‘So I’m not going to buy ones that use plastic anymore.’
It was important that both my kids understood our journey – after all we were all in this together. But standing in the checkout line, I froze.
I forgot my reusable bags, I scolded myself, feeling like I’d failed at the first hurdle.
Grabbing the bottom of my baggy tee, I stretched it out like a hammock, placing my produce on top, with a grin from ear to ear.
I was determined to do my bit for the environment. With more research I realised there were even more things we could do. So, once we’d used up our packaged foods, I started replenishing the cupboards with packet-free food.
Cleaning out old jars, I labelled each one. Then I put the empty jars in my reusable bag and headed to the bulk food store.
With varied sizes to minimise food waste, we had big jars for things like rice and small jars for items we didn’t use as regularly, like tea. It felt great to be doing our bit.
But during a morning walk around the neighbourhood, I was horrified by all the discarded bottles and wrappers sitting in the grass. I collected what I could see.
Back at home, I spread the rubbish on the floor.
‘That’s plastic and it’s yucky,’ Sienna said.
Looking down at my little girl, a warmth filled me as she stared angrily at the garbage.
I’m educating her at least, I thought.
Next I started using cloth nappies on Jay and replacing paper towels with reusable cloths.
I even planted some herbs and vegies.
‘It’s an edible garden,’ I explained to Sienna, as she helped out with her little watering can.
Kicking our journey into the next gear I decided it was time for me to bake – from scratch! Having been a frozen meal mum for so long I had no idea where to start.
Following a recipe, I tried a pasta sauce. Squashing and chopping, I made such a mess. But when I managed to make enough for 10 dinners I realised I’d saved at least $20! And once I found more easy meals, the savings rolled in.
It wasn’t just food I cooked up, though. Starting to experiment with bathroom products, I whipped up my own lip balm from jojoba oil and foot scrub using shredded coconut and salt.
With my own baby powder costing just 50 cents, to toothpaste amounting to a quarter of the price in the shops, I was glued to the wooden spoon!
‘We’re saving hundreds!’ I said to Luke.
Using the last of the powder, Sienna jumped up.
‘Let’s make more!’ she said.
So, mixing two cups of arrowroot, a pinch of lavender with one sprig of chamomile, she gave it a shake. Easy!
I loved seeing her understand that things are made and not just bought from the shop.
Living a ‘nose-to-tail’ lifestyle, we make sure that we use every last crumb of anything that enters the house.
We even freeze vegie scraps for stock.
Anything I can’t use in a meal, we put on a compost heap. For a bin, we use a glass jar.
Almost a year into a zero-waste lifestyle, we’ve drastically reduced our plastic use to almost nothing. And every month, we’re knocking more off our grocery bill.
Since we started our journey, we’ve saved hundreds. It’s crazy to think how many items are single use, and how much money you can save by replacing those with reusable ones.
We started this journey to try and save the environment but we have saved our wallets too!