This week on the podcast, we talked about zero waste and I gave you my top five tips for beginners to the zero-waste movement.
By now most people are probably famillar with the zero-waste movement. Followers of the movement can often be found on Instagram proudly displaying a small mason jar containing a few scraps of plastic that comprises the total waste they have produced in the past year. I want to preface this by saying I am just starting out on my own zero-waste journey. I am nowhere near the level of those eco-warriors yet but with the increasing strain on our enviroment and waste management systems, I think it’s more important than ever to look at how we are managing our waste.
In Australia, for example, each person produces on average 540kg of houshold waste per year, which equates to more than 10kg per person a week. In the year from July 2016 – June 2017, Australians produced an estimated 67 million tonnes of waste and 40 per cent of that waste goes into landfills.
But as an Aussie who is fortunate enough to live near some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, it was the statisics about the plastics in our oceans that really hit home for me. Every minute, one garbage truck worth of plastic is dumped into the world’s oceans and experts say that if this trend continues, by 2050 there will be more plastic in our ocean than fish.
Of course, it is next to impossible to produce no waste at all, and we shouldn’t be approaching this concept in absolutes. Zero-waste living is a journey, not a destination. If you try to do everything all at once, it can become overwhelming. Instead, try to make small, incremental changes, because every little change makes a big impact over time.
There are some zero-waste tips that we all know, such as getting a reusable coffee cup, water bottle and culterly, but I wanted to give you five tips that won’t cost you anything and will help you reset your thinking.
- Start slowly. Going from your regular lifestyle to a zero-waste lifestyle is not going to happen overnight, you need to give yourself time to slowly adopt new practices. Make a list of 5-10 switches you want to make over the next 6 months and as products run out and items get used up, switch to a greener item. When your shampoo is used up, switch to a shampoo bar, when your toothbrush needs replacing get a bamboo one. It is less wasteful to use up what you have than to throw out your non-eco-friendly products before they are used up.
- Get growing. You can grow back a lot of your produce – for example, cos lettuce, potatoes, shallots and strawberries – from scraps. Here is a list of things you can grow back from kitchen scraps. Grow your own herbs, grow anything that you have room for and that you eat. The more produce you can grow for yourself, the less waste you are producing by buying, which means your food has travelled fewer carbon miles and produced less emissions.
- Remember your three Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle. That means reduce what you purchase to begin with. Really take the time to consider all the items you are bringing into your home – do you have something that can already perform that function? If you must buy a new item, buy something that is multi-purpose. Reuse – before throwing something out or re-gifting it to a friend, think about ways you can use that item a new life. Old T-shirts can be turned into groccery bags or dish rags, old jars can be reused for bulk-buying your dry goods or storing homemade food. And finally, if you can’t reuse something recycle it but do it properly. If you are going to recycle an item, you need to clean it first and remove the lid. If you are recycling a tissue box, remove the soft plastic and if you have a plastic ring from a bottle, always cut it because if it does escape during the recycling process it could harm marine life.
- Pick naked products! Look for soap bars, shampoo bars, conditioner bars and moisture bars. A naked product is any product without packaging. Purchase your produce from a farmers’ market where possible, buy what is in season and local and forgo the plastic bag and if you like to keep your produce separated, use knitted grocery bags. When purchasing products that do come in packaging, try to make sure the materials are recyclable.
- Start composting! Composting is hugely important because organic matter that is not composted causes methane gases to build up in the atmosphere. And this is green waste that could be used to create nutrient rich soil for your garden. If you live in an apartment you can still compost, simply put your scraps for composting in a jar in the freezer and visit a local community garden to compost.
So those are my top five tips that won’t cost you anything to begin your zero-waste journey, check out the podcast this week on Spotify or iTunes to learn more about it.