Reducing plastic waste II: More ideas!

Last year I wrote a post about reducing the plastic waste we generate in our everyday lives. I listed some things I was doing, like using shampoo bars or reusable bags. If you missed that post, you can check it out here! These past days I noticed I’m doing some more things that were not included in that list so I thought about writing a follow-up post.


– Luffas 

Luffas (also spelled loofahs) are a very cool vegetable. They can be eaten (they are called 丝瓜 sigua, “silk melon” in Chinese) but when they are fully ripened they become dry and what remains of them can be used as a sponge (they are hard but become quite soft when they are wet). We have been using a luffa as a kitchen sponge and they are actually very easy to find in China. The plants grow randomly (there’s one in my compound!) and if you happen to find one, you can just get the luffas from it! If not, they are available on Taobao. Kitchen sponges are normally made of plastic so this is a more natural option.



– Cloth diapers

I had not thought about using cloth diapers for my baby when I was pregnant. I didn’t even know they still existed! But, I don’t remember how, I was added to a cloth diapers group on WeChat and started learning a lot about them. I was still hesitant to use them because the idea of cleaning a diaper full of liquid poo from an exclusively breastfed baby didn’t seem very appealing. But I wanted to try, so I bought a set of 4 pocket diapers with inserts from a brand called Happy Flute that is available on Taobao and not expensive at all. My first tries were a bit of a mess and pee leaked out, maybe because my baby had very skinny legs. I gave up for the moment because it was the middle of winter and a leak meant changing and washing 3 layers of clothes (remember we don’t have heating here). I started trying again when it was warmer, was satisfied with the results and got a full stash. We are now using cloth diapers almost full time (we only use disposables at night or if we are going to be outside for long and I feel the baby will want to poo during that time). I love the cloth diapers because they are very pretty and also because not having a bin full of dirty disposable diapers every day feels very rewarding.



– Cloth menstrual pads

If I use cloth diapers for my baby, why not use cloth pads for myself? That’s what I thought so I bought a set of pads in different sizes from Taobao. I imagined using cloth pads would be uncomfortable, that I would feel wet and icky and that they would move around and make a mess out of my underwear. But I still wanted to sacrifice myself and use them, or at least try. And I’m glad I did, because they were a very pleasant surprise! They feel so much more comfortable than disposable pads, which I normally didn’t even use in the summer because they felt hot and disgusting. There’s no feeling of wetness either. And, surprisingly, they move around less than disposables, it’s like the cotton surface has more friction with the underwear and they stay in place even when I’m sleeping. I also don’t mind about cleaning them (it feels strangely satisfiying to rinse them after use) and I don’t think my own blood is gross or anything. I am now a big fan of cloth pads! And I will have to make a part 3 of this post when I finally get to try the menstrual cup!


– Second hand things

Buying second hand things or accepting giveaways from other people is a great way to reduce waste. When I gave birth, many Chinese friends gave me a lot of clothes for the baby, most of them second hand. I even got some things from fancy brands, like Ralph Lauren shirts or a Tommy Hilfiger jacket, which I would never have bought myself for the baby. I gladly accepted everything (except the split pants, haha) and I’ve had to buy very few new clothing items for Baby A. so far (I have several boxes of clothes until size 5 years!!). I’m also in a Suzhou mums group in WeChat where I’ve bought second hand baby clothes when I was missing some item. I also got a second hand crib, bedding, towels, lots of toys… Most of the things were in great condition and quite cheap. When buying second hand, you’re not only reusing the item itself, but also avoiding the environmental costs of manufacturing and transporting a new product and all the packaging that would come with it.

Baby A. with one of his second hand tshirts (and his cloth diapers).



Have you tried any of these? Any other easy tips to reduce the amount of waste we generate at home?