Zero waste is a movement that is gaining traction around the globe. Bloggers, activists, suburban housewives and trendy New Yorkers are actively excited about reducing their environmental footprint by producing no waste.
I know, zero waste, what does that even mean?
These zero wasters are creating just one jar full of waste over a year or even two. Amazing right? The small amount of waste that they do produce is made up of items which cannot be reused, recycled or composted. Bandaids, medicine syringes and interesting tidbits we don’t even give a second thought to popping in the bin.
Zero wasters generally live by the principle articulated by Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home, to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot. Which is to be applied in that order. This means you don’t just buy all your items in boxes, cans or plastic containers which can be recycled. Of course recycling still plays a part, but it shouldn’t be the sole crutch of reduction. Refusing and reducing is the primary goal.
Is a zero waste way of life achievable in suburban Sydney, with a family?
Bea has a family, sure, but how about one like mine, a schooler, pre-schooler and a toddler in nappies?
Yes. I truly believe it is.
Nowadays, even in suburban Sydney, there are so many options. Bulk buy shops, delicious fresh produce markets direct from farmers, fabulous butchers, bakers, fish mongers and food providores, all open to having a chat about how you can buy their produce, without packaging.
There are online and bricks and mortar shops where you can buy reusable utensils, straws, lunchboxes, produce bags, takeaway cups, bamboo toothbrushes, eco toothpaste, shampoo, detergent. The list goes on.
All of these wellness and plastic free cloth bags, glass jarring, bi carb soda-ring, does come with a cost. If you buy specific zero waste paraphernalia it will be a cost of money and time. But you can also do it on the cheap, it doesn’t have to be mason jars all the way. Recycled Leggos jars work just fine. And by focusing on reducing your waste footprint, you subsequently purchase less, so save money unknowingly.
Of course, my belief is not always the same as others.The busyness of life with young children does make it tricker for the general population to maintain the momentum for zero waste shopping. It isn’t impossible. It just takes time.
How about my family?
We have ventured on this challenge of reducing our waste. To be honest, I don’t think we will ever be zero waste. Nappies for instance, I just can’t do reusable. The gagging of a number two regular nappy is enough for me.
But we have made serious steps in the right direction. So much so we have had to buy a new rubbish bin, because, wait for it, we were getting maggots because the bin wasn’t going out regularly enough. Gross I know, but amazing that we have reduced our rubbish by that much.
How to start living a zero waste lifestyle
We firstly did a little waste audit. Sounds professional, but it literally is combing through your rubbish and recycling and seeing where you can make changes. What can you go without buying? What swaps can be made? What can you recycle? What can you compost?
Then you pick some low lying fruit for some easy wins. Like for us, the easiest win was water. Stop buying it out and bring drink bottles with you everywhere, every time. I even leave one in the car.
Bringing your own bag is another easy win. It isn’t revolutionary, but once the habit is implanted, the reduction in plastic bags you use is significant. I now have shopping and produce bags and per week I save around 20 plastic bags. A year, that is 1,040. This doesn’t include the bags I save from other purchases as well.
Compost. Gloriously easy if you live in a house, but we don’t. So I pack it up and drop it off at our kindy. Did you know in many parts around the world, and only recently in Byron, the council actually collects compost? In fact I was told by one lady that in Germany, the council has been collecting their compost for over 20 years. It begs the question why in such a small country like our own, that we do not collect it. This alone has reduced our rubbish footprint by about 30 per cent.
Shop locally. Of course you can use local bulk stores which are incredible but can be pricier. But if you only shop locally, like ze French, and go to your individual providores, you strike up a relationship and can speak up and start conversations about your intentions. Bringing your own containers too. In fact the conversations and community I have created, even after only three months, is staggering.
If you are after instant results, zero waste isn’t for you. But you can definitely reduce you waste significantly with a few tweaks to your routine. If the momentum keeps going, zero waste may definitely be in your sites!
Give it a go. Dig into your rubbish and see what you can change, swap or reduce. It is fun and you will get the feel good buzz, I promise.