If you think the 5p plastic bag charge was the worst thing that ever happened to Britain, this piece probably isn’t for you. If, however, you share my sentiments about the importance of living sustainably, read on. From shopping local, to opting for eco-friendly packaging and supporting unique cafes and restaurants, the benefits of a zero-waste life are myriad – as many bloggers, activists and sustainable lifestyle advocates will tell you. But what is ‘zero waste’ and who does it benefit?
In essence, a zero waste lifestyle is about reducing your potentially harmful impact on the environment. This means considering how the things you buy, use and consume affect the planet and its inhabitants and how you might minimise these damaging effects. Lauren Singer of US blog Trash Is For Tossers boasts being able to fit three year’s worth of the un-recyclable rubbish she’s produced into a single jar.
Very impressive when you consider the sheer volume of potentially harmful plastic wrapping we remove from shop-bought food every single day, but as Immi from one of our favourite UK channels Sustainably Vegan will tell you, fitting some un-recyclable crap in a jar doesn’t prove much to you or anyone else and is a bit unnecessary.
There are plenty of ways to have a go at living waste-free that can help you make a difference little by little and you can start by remembering the phrase “reduce, reuse and recycle”. Becoming a zero waster will probably be a slow process and our life won’t change overnight, but by being mindful and making more of an effort, the changes you make will become more significant over time and you’ll realise that you actually have a choice. Here are just a few ways you can start to make those little changes…
Measure and monitor
Keep track of the food and rubbish you throw away for a trial period – a week is usually long enough to notice a pattern – to understand where and why this waste arises. Then begin to think about how you might swap heavily-packaged products, from food to household and beauty, for those with bio-degradable or recyclable packaging or no wrapper at all.
Think about what and how you recycle. Can’t be bothered to rinse a can or wash a bottle out before it goes in the bin? End up throwing things that can be recycled in the normal waste for convenience? That will have to change. Don’t skip on sorting through your waste paper baskets, bedroom or bathroom bins either.
From farmer’s markets to weekend pop-ups and independent shops, there are plenty of alternatives to the big chain stores that use non-recyclable packaging or overdo it on the wrapping. Search out local shops and farms using social media and check out market listings online, too.
Use your own
Carry your own shopping bags to ensure you never have to use plastic, and avoid paying the 5p charge, too. Good quality fabric totes are easy to come by and in addition to these you can use jars, paper bags and Tupperware to bring home anything from pasta to veg and pulses when you carry your shopping home. Think about investing in a cool glass drinking bottle and coffee cup or ‘keep cup’ for your favourite brew, too – baristas in most independent spots will be happy to fill this up for you.
Grow and make your own
From window boxes and counter-top herbs to full-on allotments, growing your own is easier than you think. If you have a garden, think about introducing a fruit tree or perhaps a couple of tomato plants. If that seems like way too much work, start small with a few herbs in jazzy pots. It might also be a better idea to bake your own bread and cakes, create your own plant milks and do more with ingredients that you can buy in recyclable packaging that go along way. Recipes for this sort of thing are easy to find online and I love Laura Thomas PhD‘s especially.
Join or build a community
If you simply don’t have the space or time to grow anything, get in touch with someone who does. Whether your friends and new community members keep chickens, make their own granola or grow oranges, think about ways you can swap fresh produce for something valuable to them. Joining a Facebook group or communities on Twitter and Instagram is often a great way to find people swapping local produce.
Support low-waste restaurants
Switching up your dining out routine is a great way to reduce waste, because although you might not see any packaging or take any home with you, behind the scenes, there’s plenty being thrown away that will end up in landfill. Visit restaurants that embrace a zero-waste ethos or at least a great vegan or vegetarian one – meat is one of UK’s worst offenders when it comes to packaging and non-recyclable materials. My favourite places to head when dining out in London? Head to Redemption, Cook Daily, Tiny Leaf, Mildred’s and Nama Foods for amazing low-impact and vegan meals.
Words: Emily Beeson | @boogiemargret
Images: Lauren Caris Cooks, Cloudberry Tales, Laura Thomas PhD