Sewing projects for a zero-waste life | Sewing vs Single Use Big 4s

Sewing projects for a zero-waste life | Sewing vs Single Use Big 4s

Between 3-7th Sept this year, people all over the world are taking part in Zero-Waste Week. This is an annual event that’s been going on for 10 years! You can find out more (and how to get involved) on their website.

I don’t know if I am living in an echo chamber, surrounded by people who think like me, but it’s amazing how the tide seems to be turning against plastics and waste in general. I hope it’s not news to any of my readers that I  feel very passionately about leading a less impactful life. This links mostly to my wardrobe and my sewing, but in today’s post, I’d like to talk about another aspect of sustainability I feel really strongly about – waste.

I’m so glad that the sewing community is also starting to become aware and interested in sustainability and there are a lot of conversations going on on social media and on blogs.

This got me thinking about how could we sewers put our skills to good use towards a more environmentally friendly life, having fun, using our fabric scraps and helping reduce plastic at the same time. So looking at the biggest culprits for waste, I gathered some ideas and projects to inspire you to give it a go too and tackle them through sewing.

This is the first instalment on this topic (only because it got really big and I had to break it up over several posts), where I am tackling the Single-use plastic Big 4 – plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, plastic straws and plastic bags. And I’m throwing in the coffee cups for good measure too.

Sewing vs plastic bottles

Did you know that the average London adult buys more than three plastic water bottles every week – a startling 175 bottles every year per person? In total, some 7.7 billion plastic bottles are bought across the UK each year.

Sewing projects for a zero-waste life | Sewing vs Single Use Big 4s

I do hope you are already using a reusable water canteen. If not, have you seen the awesome Liberty print ones from S’Well? Swoon! I have a simpler one that I got from Polar Tek. I like that it has markings on it to spur me on drinking throughout the day and it also has a detachable straw that I use to stir drinks when I’m out and about. I also have a smaller one (330ml) from Gobi I got for free at an event for my handbag, but I can’t seem to find them for sale in the UK to give you the link. I found another 330ml one below.

Reusable Water Bottles

Huyuri reusable water bottle
Huyuri reusable water bottle
Polar Gear water bottle
Polar Gear water bottle
Sports water bottle with straw and time markings
Sports water bottle with straw and time markings
S’Well Primula
S’Well Primula
S’Well Liberty Betsy Ann
S’Well Liberty Betsy Ann
S’Well Liberty Katie and Millie
S’Well Liberty Katie and Millie
S’well Liberty Whiltshire
S’well Liberty Whiltshire
Huyuri reusable water bottle
Huyuri reusable water bottle
Polar Gear water bottle
Polar Gear water bottle
Sports water bottle with straw and time markings
Sports water bottle with straw and time markings
S’Well Primula
S’Well Primula
S’Well Liberty Betsy Ann
S’Well Liberty Betsy Ann
S’Well Liberty Katie and Millie
S’Well Liberty Katie and Millie
S’well Liberty Whiltshire
S’well Liberty Whiltshire

I have noticed that sometimes it’s quite difficult to carry it around in your hand, even if it does have a handy carry loop (both mines do). So of course, someone has thought that they could sew some sort of pouch or harness to help with that. Here are a few ideas and a really good way to use those fabric scraps.

Sewing vs disposable coffee cups

In the UK, we use 2.5 billion coffee cups every year. And although they are made of cardboard, which in theory is recyclable, because of the plastic lining that makes them waterproof, there are very few places that can actually recycle them in practice. Not to mention the plastic lid and the cardboard clutch.

Sewing projects for a zero-waste life | Sewing vs Single Use Big 4s

Watch this quick video from the Independent with more details. And here’s an article from the BBC on the same topic.

Again, I’m hoping you already have your reusable cup. I really like the glass and cork one from Keep Cup (and KeepCup ones in general). When I was doing research on them, I came across collapsible ones for when you don’t have a lot of room in your bag and I thought they are awesome. I ended up getting an eCoffee Cup made out of bamboo and I like it a lot. I made a selection for your below to see how cool the designs are. I have Stockholm. Though I am quite tempted by the collapsible one as a spare…

Reusable Coffee Cups

eCoffee William Morris Blue
eCoffee William Morris Blue
eCoffee cup
eCoffee cup
eCoffee William Morris
eCoffee William Morris
eCoffee Basketcase
eCoffee Basketcase
eCoffee Stockholm
eCoffee Stockholm
Collapsible coffee cup
Collapsible coffee cup
Collapsible Coffee Cup
Collapsible Coffee Cup
KeepCup Glass and Cork
KeepCup Glass and Cork
Keep cup glass and cork
Keep cup glass and cork
Keep Cup Glass and Silicone Tidal
Keep Cup Glass and Silicone Tidal
Keep Cup Glass and Cork
Keep Cup Glass and Cork
eCoffee William Morris Blue
eCoffee William Morris Blue
eCoffee cup
eCoffee cup
eCoffee William Morris
eCoffee William Morris
eCoffee Basketcase
eCoffee Basketcase
eCoffee Stockholm
eCoffee Stockholm
Collapsible coffee cup
Collapsible coffee cup
Collapsible Coffee Cup
Collapsible Coffee Cup
KeepCup Glass and Cork
KeepCup Glass and Cork
Keep cup glass and cork
Keep cup glass and cork
Keep Cup Glass and Silicone Tidal
Keep Cup Glass and Silicone Tidal
Keep Cup Glass and Cork
Keep Cup Glass and Cork

However, if you do have to use a coffee cup on the go, you can at least save the cardboard clutch with these quilted coffee cosies. Great for quick gifts too (along with a coffee shop voucher). And they can also work to keep coffee warm in your favourite mug at home or at work.

Sewing vs disposable cutlery & straws

It’s hard to say how many single-use pieces of cutlery we throw away every year, but a report in 2017 revealed that adults in the UK eat 22 million takeaway meals every week, that’s 1.1 billion/year. Even if just half of those came with single-use cutlery, imagine the impact of all that plastic on the environment.

Disposable cutlery and straws are my biggest pet peeves. Even if they offer wooden ones, the single-use cutlery is meant to go in the bin as soon as you finished your lunch. We moved office recently and we had a dishwasher installed for our reusable coffee cups. Still, disposables are on offer instead of metal cutlery which can go in the dishwasher.

Sewing projects for a zero-waste life | Sewing vs Single Use Big 4s

I am very happy to see that sets of reusable cutlery are starting to appear on the market, with loads of options like bamboo ones, wooden ones, metal ones, fabric wrapped wooden ones, neoprene case ones, or full sets including straws. this one that also includes metal straws and brushes.

Reusable cutlery sets

Reusable cutlery set with straws
Reusable cutlery set with straws
Steel cutlery set with neoprene case
Steel cutlery set with neoprene case
Wooden Reusable Cutlery set
Wooden Reusable Cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Reusable cutlery set with straws
Reusable cutlery set with straws
Steel cutlery set with neoprene case
Steel cutlery set with neoprene case
Wooden Reusable Cutlery set
Wooden Reusable Cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Reusable cutlery set with straws
Reusable cutlery set with straws
Steel cutlery set with neoprene case
Steel cutlery set with neoprene case
Wooden Reusable Cutlery set
Wooden Reusable Cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set
Bamboo reusable cutlery set

But it’s not hard to sew your own and just take some metal cutlery from home with you. And you can also add a metal stainless steel straw to the mix. Here are a few tutorials, but I’m sure you can get inspiration from what’s out there and even come up with your own ideas.

 

Sewing vs plastic bags

A person uses a plastic carrier bag on average for only 12 minutes. On average we only recycle one plastic bag in every 200 we use. Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. (source)

The Carrier Bag Levy has dramatically reduced the use of plastic bags, yey! However, there is still a long way to go on completely eliminating them. I’m sure most sewers have made a tote bag at some point in their sewing careers. I went through a massive tote bag making phase in my early sewing days, so every one of my friends and family got some. In case you haven’t made one yet, a few tutorials for you below.

 


 

Yes, I know, living a sustainable life is hard, guys! But I’m already feeling a tiny bit better knowing that I can use my one and only superpower – SEWING – to make even the smallest contribution towards a zero-waste life and tackle my pet hate, single-use all sorts! I’ll come back soon with all the ideas that I could not fit into this post!

SAVE FOR LATER ON PINTEREST

Sewing projects for a zero-waste life | Sewing vs Single Use Big 4s

 

SO WHAT DO YOU GUYS THINK ABOUT ZERO WASTE? ACHIEVABLE OR A BRIDGE TOO FAR FOR MOST PEOPLE? PLEASE LET ME KNOW ANY IDEAS FOR SEWING PROJECTS THAT CAN HELP FIGHT PLASTICS AND DISPOSABLES. I WOULD LOVE TO UPDATE THIS WITH MORE. 

 

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13 Comments

  1. 6 September 2018 / 2:01 PM

    Alex, you keep saying what I think, but you say it better than I could and produce such well-thought out pieces. Hats off to you! I love sustainability and zero waste. It warms my heart to read your words and I also see the tide turning. I can no longer walk into the kind of fast fashion shops I used to love (forgive me, I didn’t know the harm!) – they sicken me now. I went into Zara the other day and I felt sad, too many clothes, not good quality. But you have cheered me up with this post. thank you!

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      6 September 2018 / 9:41 PM

      Thank you so much for commenting! I’m really glad you find it useful. I am sometimes worried that because many people follow me for the sewing, they might not be interested in the sustainability posts. I’m really glad to see that like-minded people visit my site and enjoy this new content.

  2. 6 September 2018 / 2:17 PM

    We, too are horrified by the waste we have produced, and try hard to shop thoughtfully, carry reusable bags, water bottles, and shop at places where we have access to products with less packaging. But, we know it isn’t enough. I just sent to the charity shop, 30 pounds of clothing that didn’t fit me, hadn’t used or found the textiles unlikeable. My fabric shopping has diminished as I use up what I have already bought, and I am passing on to others the fabrics that I realize I do not find comfortable on me. My purchases of fabric will be for specific projects, and will not be based on impulse but thoughtfulness. I am sharing this link with friends and family. Thank you for your research in this area, Alex. I do need to know what to do with the numerous muslins I have made, and will use some of the ideas you have given.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      6 September 2018 / 9:44 PM

      I am also trying really hard not to buy fabric and shop my stash, but sometimes that just doesn’t work out. But planning really carefully when you do buy new fabric is the best thing you can do and I definitely applaud that.
      Re muslins, I try to reuse them if I can, for example, use the skirt part of something for the bodice of something else. That’s why I really hate making muslins, as I feel so guilty for the waste. I do a lot of tissue fitting (unfortunately doesn’t work for knits) and I do half muslins if I can (for example, shorts instead of trousers to fit the top part). I also found this Seamwork helpful: https://www.seamwork.com/issues/2017/01/zero-waste-fit

  3. Rachel
    6 September 2018 / 6:05 PM

    I actually keep the plastic utensils from take out places, and use them for work. I bring them home after using them and put them in the dishwasher. I got teased by a co-worker one time when I opened my lunch box and had a handful of forks. But guess where everyone goes to borrow a fork!

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      6 September 2018 / 9:47 PM

      I use a set of cutlery from a KLM flight I took to Cuba in December. They were plastic, but really great quality and look really nice, so I save them all (4 sets in total) and we now use them as picnic cutlery and I have a set for work. Great idea to do that, as it really breaks my heart to see people using disposables where they really should not!

  4. 7 September 2018 / 8:54 AM

    I was watching the movie Spotlight (based 2001/2002 Boston) and I was also viewing it looking at the lifestyle changes (big mobiles, less web based) – and I also was looking to see how many people were carrying coffee (hardly any)
    I know for me take out coffee was a treat then and most people I know would have had one a few times a week (where it now seems to be a few times a day) Perrier water in the 80s was the exception as the notion of buying water is hilarious (which I find even stranger now as the water is the same if not better from the tap).

    Consumers have been duped into a lifestyle full of unnecessary purchases and now we are being asked to buy bottles for water and cups for coffee as its assumed we all want to have this stuff ‘on the go’, thus having more to carry around.

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      7 September 2018 / 6:51 PM

      That is a very good point! I agree with the prevalence of the consumer culture spreading out in all areas. As an aside, we now buy 10 times more clothes/year than we did in the 90s and I’m sure there are so many areas where that is also true.

      I don’t really buy coffee on the go, but I keep my coffee cup handy for events or other situations where I would have to use a disposable cup. But the water bottle is actually very handy to keep me hydrated and I do drink more water than I used to before. Plus, by trying to avoid plastic bottles, I am drinking less juice and soda which also come in plastic bottles. I tend to go for glass or cans.

      Also, Spotlight is awesome, it was my movie of the year last year!

  5. 7 September 2018 / 9:15 AM

    What a great post 👍 inspiring realistic goals 👍🙏👏

    • sewrendipityalex
      Author
      7 September 2018 / 6:51 PM

      Thank you, Andrew! Glad you found it useful.

  6. Deborah
    8 September 2018 / 6:56 AM

    I’m pretty good at taking fabric bags to put all of my shopping in at the end of a shop, but less good in the vegetable and fruit aisle when I put fruit etc in a bag to weigh it… I really need to make some drawstring bags similar to these ones: https://www.attainable-sustainable.net/fabric-bags/ and give some to hubby too. Plastic wrap is the other single use plastic which really gets me down… I’ve sworn we won’t buy any more and will come up with alternatives for wrapping sandwiches, covering bowls in the fridge etc: it can’t be that hard if we think a little.

    • Alex
      Author
      8 September 2018 / 2:16 PM

      I am planning a follow-up posts on other things we can sew to help with waste, and produce bags are definitely on the list. Watch this space! Thank you for commenting.

  7. 12 September 2018 / 6:50 PM

    I too have the keep cup – I hope I did not appear sharp, but lately I seem to be hyper-aware of take out coffee and lunch as I am working in an office where there is a lot of both. I think I am more shocked as there is a gaggia machine on each floor of this office and yet people will walk in with a take out in a disposable! (financially it makes not sense to me either as the office coffee is good quality so there is no compromise) one of these days my eyes will strain from eye-rolling!!!!

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