Waste not, want not: How one family is living a rubbish-free life

How many times do you empty the bins in your home? Daily? Imagine being able to live an almost waste-free life while raising a family. Apparently, it can be done, and this Aussie mum is revealing just how she does it!

Mum-of-two Tammy Logan and her family are on a mission to reduce the amount of waste and packaging in their lives. And they haven’t wasted any time doing just that – after just a few months, they’ve already reduced the amount of rubbish they send to landfill to about a handful each week.

Tammy, who lives with husband Shannon and children Alby, 6, and Ainsley, 4, on a dairy farm about 115km southeast of Melbourne, says their quest started with the Plastic-Free July challenge (which they started a month early).

The aim was to refuse all single-use plastic for one month. By the time the challenge finished, they didn’t want to stop. “It seemed ridiculous to go back to our old ways so now we focus on making improvements in other areas like reducing our recyclable packaging and food waste,” she tells Babyology.

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They now shop using their own containers and reusable bags, and team up with other like-minded locals to bulk-buy produce or swap small items such as plants, preserves and other useful things. They grow some food and have become really creative recyclers.

Tammy, who writes about her family’s lifestyle on her Gippsland Unwrapped blog, says she was inspired to change her family’s habits after becoming frustrated at her own lack of action on environmental issues. “I read some behaviour parenting advice that said, ‘Are you being the person you want your children to be?’, and I realised that if I wanted my children to have respect for nature, then I needed to show them how much I care about it too,” she says.

But giving up waste was initially difficult. “Originally we thought it would be a matter of getting the same products that we use in packaging that wasn’t single-use plastic, like paper, foil, or steel. We soon discovered virtually everything in a supermarket is covered in single-use plastic,” she says.

“I had to find new places to shop, new products to purchase, learn to make things from scratch, and improve my knowledge of products. After the initial hard work it does get easier. The butcher, baker, and grocer now know me and are supportive, I have new recipes up my sleeve and there are many more benefits.”

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Tammy says Alby and Ainsley enjoyed the challenge at first, but occasionally have some difficulty adjusting to their new lifestyle. “It can be tough for kids because they are constantly marketed at and people are constantly giving them treats, especially at this time of year,” she says.

“I’ve had to accept that I can’t control everything in their world and remind myself that I am trying to raise individuals who can make their own good decisions – and that comes from giving them the freedom to make decisions.” Her kids get weekly pocket money, which they can spend however they like, even if it comes in a packet.

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Tammy says organisation is the key to success, especially as she doesn’t have easy access to shops or bulk-food stores. She keeps a shopping list to avoid overspending, food waste and excess packaging. She takes containers and reusable bags to shops to collect food and household needs. She keeps reusable bags anywhere she might need them, and always tries to have snacks and drink bottles at hand to reduce the temptation to buy her kids a packaged snack.

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Tammy says families who want to reduce waste should start slowly. “Always start with what you have already. This means not throwing away a usable product in your haste to rid your home of single-use plastic or other packaging – this just adds to the waste problem,” she says.

“Instead when you run out of something like washing powder, think about how you will replace it with a better, less wasteful choice. It doesn’t mean you have to get it right the first time you change, but if you keep trying to make better choices each time you purchase something you’ll find yourself with a healthy home for the family and the environment in no time.

“You could also focus on changing one product every couple of weeks and by the end of the year you will have made 26 significant changes.”

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