Meet Aoife from Zero Waste Cardiff…

Meet Aoife from Zero Waste Cardiff…

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It’s #plasticfree July and maybe you have taken the plunge and are trying to reduce the plastic in your life. Now we know this can be tough and sometimes a little overwhelming so we have asked Aoife from Zero Waste Cardiff to share her story and give us some basic tips to live by when striving to waste less…

Hello budding zero wasters (and any of you old pros out there).

I’m Aoife and I started Zero Waste Cardiff last year in order to record my journey into a waste less world. I started zero wasting soon after the birth of my first son. I’m now a zero waste consultant and producer of zero waste homeware products, including beeswax food wraps and reusable dish cloths, to help people live a plastic free life.


I always thought I was green enough. I recycled everything, used the right bins, reused the bottles of water I bought until the bottle was too wrecked to keep going and then recycled that. I always used my own bag at the supermarket and tried to buy clothes from second-hand shops but honestly, I was a big fan of the normal high street shops and I’ve had my fair share of take away coffees in single-use cups. I didn’t really know any better and thought I was doing my bit.

Then came baby and a mountain of dirty single-use nappies. Our waste went from two black bin bags every two weeks to at least six. I was so shocked by it all that I decided to make a change. We started using reusable nappies and wipes part-time and saw an immediate decrease in our waste output. It made me think, what would it be like if we used the cloth nappies and wipes full time but also, what would it be like if we found reusable alternatives FOR EVERYTHING! Could we actually eliminate single-use plastic and needless waste from our lives? Not only would it be good for our environment, it would also be good for our wallets but was it even possible?

Enter, the Zero Waste World! Zero waste living was an idea that came from Bea Johnson, a french woman who realised she could cut down her family’s waste by following 5 simple steps, The 5 Rs:

Refuse: don’t accept anything that’s single-use or throw away. That goes for packaging, receipts, even business cards

Reduce: cut down on the things you can’t refuse, lower your consumption

Reuse: once something is finished see if you can find another use for the packaging or upcycle it into something entirely new

Recycle: recycling should be seen as a last resort, not the answer to our pollution problems.

Rot: this goes for everything from food waste to, paper, cardboard and even hair and nail clippings!

By following the 5Rs you’ll definitely get closer to your zero waste goals, but how do we do that here in the UK? It’s taken a while to find the right balance for our family, and believe me we’ve gone to extremes to cut out plastic from our lives (conkers as laundry soap!) but we’ve managed to do as much as is possible and it feels so good.


So, how can you do it too? Here are my top 5 tips for starting a zero waste, single-use plastic free life:

Ditch the disposables: do you like your coffee on the way to work? Are you a sucker for a smoothie? Can’t get enough of your favourite take-away food? All of those tasty take-away options tend to come in single-use packaging, whether it’s eco-friendly paper, a plastic cup and straw or the dreaded polystyrene tray, it’s all single-use and a whole pile of natural resources (water, trees, oil) have been used to make something that will only be used for about 15 minutes. Always choose to reuse. Bring your own travel mug, containers and reusable cutlery, including a reusable straw and napkin, with you when you’re out and about and you’ll never have to worry about using single-use packaging ever again. Some places even offer discounts for people using their own mugs! You’ll be saving more than the planet by using your own reusable things.

Keep it loose: When you go shopping (with your stack of reusable tote/shopping bags of course) try to only buy things that are packaging free. This might seem impossible at times but you’ll often be surprised at what you can find loose even in the super market. If the supermarket can’t meet your plastic free needs then hit the high street and visit your local green grocers. They usually have a great range of plastic free seasonal options for a really great price. It’s better value and better for the environment. You can bring your own containers to the butchers too, just don’t forget to ask them to weigh your container first. You want to pay for the food not your container!

Bulk is beautiful: if you can’t buy it plastic free, buy it in bulk. This goes for everything from shampoo to pasta. Right now in Cardiff we have not one but two zero waste shops in the works! Soon we’ll have access to all the things we need in bulk and packaging free. This is an amazing step forward but for those of us who don’t live that close to town or don’t have the time to go in and shop like this buying the biggest possible bag we can find is a good option, along with buying whatever loose produce you can find. Morrisons have recently started allowing customers to bring their own containers for meat and fish. I even managed to get some bread there packaging free (I just asked the baker nicely, she thought I was odd but gave it to me without the wrapping anyway :D). Things are starting to change in our shops and it’s going to be better for everyone and everything.

Soap swap: I used to be addicted to the 3 for 2 deals in the usual high street shops. I’d always come home with packs of face wipes and plastic bottles of shower gel that seemed like a good deal even though I didn’t really need them. I’ve made the swap to soap bars for hands and body and I’m so glad I did. They come wrapped in paper or card and tend to be made with lovely natural ingredients too that you know are just right for your skin. If you shop in Lush you can bring your own containers to buy everything you need loose. I’ve tried shampoo bars and haven’t had much luck so I still use plastic bottled shampoo but I buy the biggest bottle I can find to reduce the amount of times I need to buy more.

Don’t panic: once you open your eyes to the plastic pollution problem things can get a bit overwhelming. You’ll want to throw all of your plastic things out and buy new reusable everything. This in itself is wasteful. Plastic boxes are great! You can use them for storage, they rarely break, they last forever and we already have them. Keep using what you have until it breaks or wears out and then replace it with a sustainable alternative. Look for second-hand items when you can. They’ll be cheaper as well as perfectly good to use. Take things slow and make the simple changes that are right for your life and be proud of yourself for being aware enough to make those changes. That right there is something to celebrate!

If you would like to learn lots more practical tips from Aoife then join us at our Wasteless Home workshop on Weds 3rd October at Little Man Coffee and look out for more new Wasteless workshops coming soon!

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