As some of you will know, I’ve been looking into how we as a household could become zero-waste and have been looking at alternatives for our everyday necessities. But what’s the truth about zero-waste? Is it relevant to you? Does it involve being a weirdo? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you need to read this.
I used to be the sort of person who forgot my bags when I went shopping. I used to throw stuff in the black bin, feel peripherally bad about it and think I had no choice. In fact, I was woefully uneducated and somewhat arrogant. Somehow, I thought the concept of zero-waste was for weirdo Americans who counted their plastic screw tops in mason jars. All of this was wrong.
The reality of being zero-waste actually starts by changing the way you think.
EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF PLASTIC MATTERS
There is a lot of media focus right now on plastic, and rightly so. Plastic is literally making our entire planet and everything that lives on it toxic. If you haven’t fully grasped this reality, watching this and learning the facts is a start. But here’s the newsflash: it’s not just about what corporations can and should be doing to move towards a circular economy, because you have power too.
Never underestimate the power of consumer choices
When it comes to plastic, your choices matter. Every time you buy something in plastic, you condone its existence. That can and should stop.
Becoming zero-waste is actually quite simple: it just means taking responsibility for the choices you make.
Each time you choose something (especially if its made of plastic), ask yourself:
- Do I need it?
- Is there an alternative that does not involve plastic?
- Can I use it again? (and how will I do this)
- Can I recycle it locally?
- Can I make it myself?
- Can I compost it?
- What will happen to it once I’ve finished with it?
- Can I repurpose it / make it useful in some other way, e.g. make an eco -brick?
If you don’t find the answer, ask Google what you can do with it. For example, ask it what you could do with used cereal bags and you might be surprised by the answers. The more you start to think about the choices you are making, the more aware you will become and inevitably, the all-important element of MOTIVATION will start to kick in, take off and fly you to zero-waste land (at which point, you will be a weirdo like me. And that, dear friends, is when you know you have truly succeeded in life!).
Zero-waste alternatives now exist for all of these common items:
- Tupperware, keep cups and general household storage
- cleaning products
- cling film and tin foil
- sink necessities e.g. sponges and brushes
- cooking and eating utensils
- chopping boards
- non-stick pans
- drinking straws
- ice trays
- Food bags
- Bin bags
- container products like yogurt, butter, cream, milk and other everyday food items
- Toothpaste, floss and toothbrushes
- toilet tissue
- make-up remover pads
- shampoo, conditioner, soap, face wash, moisturiser, hair removal products (see my Pinterest Board for ideas and recipes).
- sanitary-wear like moon cups, towels and tampons
- baby bottles
- bed protectors, changing mats, play mats
- nappies and nappy liners (you can even get ones without plastic PUL)
- baby wipes
- breast pads
You can check out Little Bunny Bear’s Zero-Waste Pinterest Board for recipes to make your own things as well as find alternatives to everyday plastic items.
If you’re lucky
You might live near some helpful places. These include:
- a greengrocers
- a market
- a zero-waste or package free shop – in Leeds we have the amazing Jar Tree
- a computer
Yes, computer! Because these days, you can find or order anything online. Just be mindful of the packing it comes in and if possible ask your retailer to use non-plastic based methods (yes, they exist.)
what else can you do?
Influence. Influence your friends, your family, your colleagues. Make better choices and tell them how you did it. Give your packaging back to the places you bought it from, at least this way you are raising awareness of your rejection of their choices. Take a Tupperware box to the meat counter and ask them to use that. The list is endless because once your mind is on the case, you will find an answer to almost every single plastic problem you create.