Zero waste aims to send nothing to a landfill. This involves, reducing what we need, reusing as much as we can, sending to be recycled, and composting what we cannot. We live in a disposable society and landfills are toxic, they’re responsible for a large percentage of methane emissions that aren’t aerated for proper decomposition of natural materials. Some waste doesn’t even make it to landfill, instead its abandoned or found in our oceans. Plastic is especially dangerous to marine life, and our health. It doesn’t biodegrade, it only gets smaller and smaller, called micro-plastics.
For me, my zero waste journey began on a selfish note. I was sick of taking out the bins every day (on Monday’s it was twice). My family of five created eight bin bags of rubbish per week and I was getting frustrated with having bags wrapped in bags, wrapped in more bags! So I did a bin survey. It highlighted areas that I needed to address and where I could make improvements. Changing your perspective doesn’t mean knowing all the answers, or doing all the things though and it’s a big learning curve.
My first major change and probably the best which was switching to reusable nappies, I did a blog post about this previously. That changed the amount of waste we were creating by half (as Hamish is still in disposables)! The next big area that needed change was our food shop. From my findings, basically anything from a supermarket is wrapped in plastic! What’s more annoying to me is children’s snacks, they’re wrapped individually and then again in another plastic film to contain each pack! So I slowly transitioned (and very much still are) our eating habits to be able to buy fresh produce (meat, fruit and veg), use the milk man delivery service, buy bread and cheese from the local bakery where I can request how it’s wrapped. Everything else I try to buy in glass or tins. There’s still a lot of room for improvement believe me! I then went on to look at bathroom and cleaning products. There were a lot of mistakes, in the early days. Packets with sneaky plastic, forgetfulness, little awareness around labelling and claims like ‘eco-friendly’ on products. But the more I learned, the better at refusing I got.
Since reading about other factors that are impacted by my waste, I purchased a composter for all our food and paper waste! I also focus a lot on my recycling too, making a conscious effort to read packaging and make sure I am doing my bit for our world. One problem that I have encountered is people who are into zero waste living (or striving towards) are usually vegans too and that can cause a lot of negativity my way, being a meat eater. It’s like they go hand in hand, now yes I can see how this could be portrayed but i am a firm believer in getting a varied diet and I choose to be an omnivore that wants to create less of an impact in her bin. I’ve had to be very selective in who I follow and take advice from on social media for this reason.
Now zero waste can cover other areas than just what goes in your bin. Such as power, clothing, environment, health etc. Waste is about much more than glass jars or plastic bags. For example, buying food packaged without plastic that then goes bad in the fridge (because the plastic is what helps keep it fresh) is just creating a different kind of waste – this for me is strawberries. Or buying a new, ethically made and ‘sustainably sourced’ product from overseas but has a huge carbon footprint. You can become overwhelmed by it all. So for me, I’m just trying to focus on my own bin and it’s contents for now.
It’s super easy to fall off the band wagon and I do have to remind myself why I’m doing this on a regular basis. I even have inner arguments with myself, especially around recycling! You see, recycling isn’t a perfect solution. While it plays into the solution, we have to lessen our dependence on being able to do it.
I have however, fully enjoyed doing my research into everything and finding what works for me and my family, there’s certainly been a lot of downfalls but going back to the drawing board often brought out different ideas! Navigating waste is often complicated, and there tends to be trade-offs, one way or another. I wanted to share this because I really don’t think there’s one way to tackle waste. It can feel like a minefield because there are so many choices and so much conflicting advice. My advice is: Just do your best.
Zero waste isn’t a quick change, it’s going to take many years to get where I want to be (using up what I have and then phasing in more sustainable products). Going zero waste is not conducive to that attitude. It takes time and patience. It’s about the effort. It’s knowing that you want to change; It’s knowing you’re trying.
Check out my Instagram highlights for all the items I have tested and changed already. Hopefully you will see how passionate I am about making a difference to our gentle way of life and will get you thinking about your footprint too.