I’ve become a bit obsessed with zero waste blogs. I’ve been reading about zero waste practices for quite a while (and really enjoyed watching the War On Waste on ABC) and the idea of it fits nicely from a values perspective with the slow living changes I’ve been making. Sustainability, waste reduction, simplicity, and minimalism are definitely areas I’ve become increasingly interested in. Not for the aesthetic (although a simplified, decluttered home does appeal to me) but for the values they represent and a way of reducing my ‘mental clutter’.
I’m not at the stage of committing to going fully zero waste (although I have just signed up for Plastic Free July, more on that soon) but I’ve been introducing some small swaps into my everyday life to reduce the amount of waste I’m creating.
When you first start looking into zero waste it can all seem really overwhelming, especially when you see the bloggers with a tiny jar of rubbish for a whole year. But you have to remember that those people didn’t get there overnight, it took time and incremental changes. So you can start with small steps and that’s a completely valid (and sustainable) way to go about big lifestyle changes like this.
These are just a few things that I’ve introduced into my habits to reduce my waste a bit. I still have a loooong way to go but I feel good that I’ve been making some progress compared to where I was even a year ago. (And this is by no way a judgement on anyone who doesn’t do these things, these are just the things that I do).
Reusable coffee cup/tea flask
Coffee cups are up there as one of the most wasteful single-use products around right now (along with plastic bags). They can’t be recycled due to the plastic lining of the cup and due to our cafe culture, almost 1 billion disposable coffee cups end up in landfill every year. If you sit in a cafe for any amount of time you will see lots of disposable coffee cups and very few (if any) reusable cups.
I have two reusable glass coffee cups to be able to use when I get a takeaway drink. I prefer glass to plastic because I don’t like the idea of the chemicals in plastic leaching into hot drinks and hot drinks just don’t taste right in plastic.
I have this JOCO cup that lives at my desk at work and this KeepCup that lives in my handbag. I also have this tea flask for when I want to take my tea on the go. I don’t drink coffee at the moment (I explain why here) but it’s great to have the option available to me when I want to get a chai latte or a tea when I’m out and about. I’ve implemented a rule for myself now that I won’t use disposable cups. If I don’t have my reusable cup for some reason I need to sit in and drink whatever I was planning on ordering out of a real cup/glass and take the time to sit and enjoy it, or I just don’t get it. You can browse a full range of reusable cups here.
Plastic bags are a huge problem. Plastic is a material that is designed to last for a long time but these plastic bags are designed to be single use. Over 10 million plastic bags are used in Australia every single day! That seems like a crazy amount. Soft plastic can be recycled but not in your household recycling, you have to take it to specific plastic bag recycling bins at the supermarket.
I have a reusable bag that lives in my handbag (this one) so if I’m ducking to the shops I can use it instead of having to use plastic bags. If you live in the ACT then there is a plastic bag ban and you have to pay for thicker plastic bags but if you live in NSW then plastic bags are still the default (being on the border means I sometimes shop in both). TAS, SA and NT also have plastic bag bans and QLD have one coming into effect next year.
I have sturdy jute totes that I use when I go to the Farmers Market to hold all my produce as well as reusable produce bags (these ones) so I don’t have to use plastic bags for my loose fruit and vegetables. This is one of the easiest changes to make and has a huge impact. You can browse a full range of reusable bags here.
Meal plan and shop at the Farmers Market and bulk store
This is one of the biggest factors in reducing food waste. Over $3500 worth of food is thrown out by the average household every year due to over-purchasing and/or not using products up before they go off. By meal planning, I make sure I’m only buying what I need rather than ‘aspirational’ food shopping where you buy food you think you’ll eat or cook with but then never use it.
Purchasing food (even snacks like fruit) with intention and having a plan for when you will eat it means you’ll actually use it up and won’t end up tipping your uneaten fruit from your fruit bowl into the garbage bin to make room for the new fruit you’ve just bought (that will also probably end up in the bin).
Shopping at the Farmers Market means I’m eating seasonal and fresh produce and supporting local growers, which fits with my values and ideals for how I want to minimise my impact on the environment. Supermarkets have made produce available to us year round which has taken us away from seasonal eating habits and increases the travel these products have to go through to get to us.
My local Farmers Market (I go to the Capital Region Farmers Market) has pretty strict guidelines for stallholders and almost all the products there come from within 300 kilometres of Canberra which reduces the ‘food miles’ and carbon footprint of the products.
I’ve also just started shopping at the bulk food store in Canberra (Naked Foods) which goes a step further in reducing the amount of packaging I’m bringing into the house. It’s actually really great being able to buy the amount that I need instead of a whole 500g of something that will sit in the cupboard in a plastic package for months.
Zero-waste personal products
About five months ago (after I had exhausted my stash of tampons) I invested in a menstrual cup for my periods instead of using pads or tampons which are full of chemicals and create a lot of waste. There are a lot of options out there, I personally have the Juju cup, another popular option is the Diva Cup. It’s a little odd to get used to at first (and makes you feel like you’ve got no idea what you’re doing to start with) but persevere with it and you’ll adjust pretty quickly. It’s made of medical grade silicon and isn’t absorbent like tampons so the menstrual cup doesn’t interfere with the natural ‘environment’ down there. I now can’t imagine switching back to tampons or pads.
The other zero waste change I made to my ‘time of the month’ was investing in some Modibodi underwear. You might have heard of ‘period underwear’ before and they are basically undies with inbuilt absorbent pads that you can just wash like normal underwear but act like pads or panty liners. I wouldn’t use them without my menstrual cup when I’ve got my period (except on really light days) but they just give me a little peace of mind when it comes to leaks etc. I’ve been wearing them for a few months now and haven’t had a single leak. They’re amazingly comfortable and I actually wear them as my go-to underwear on a daily basis. I have the light absorption ones and they are great for daily use (these ones are my favourites).
Beeswax wraps for cling wrap
Cling wrap can be a hard plastic habit to break and I was initially quite sceptical of how well beeswax wraps would actually be as a replacement but it actually is really great. You can get a variety of sizes for different uses and it’s an easy way to reduce the amount of plastic you’re using. I have been using the Honeybee beeswax wraps (and mentioned my love of them in my May Favourites post!) and they’re great.
They are really easy to use and care for. I also keep once in my handbag for the occasions that I’m out and have leftovers of anything, I can just wrap it up and keep it in my handbag until I get home. It’s great for when I’m out with Grace and I order her some food as she usually can’t finish it so I can wrap it up for her to finish at home.
Another wrap alternative I’m waiting on to arrive is Agreena 3-in-1 wrap which is a stretchy eco-wrap made from food-grade silicon which can be used in place of cling wrap, foil and baking paper. I recently backed it on Kickstarter and it should be arriving shortly! I can’t wait to see how it goes, it will be nice to be able to eliminate foil and baking paper as well as cling wrap.
I still have a really long way to go in reducing my waste and there are a lot of things I want to start incorporating into my life but I’m taking baby steps and making incremental and achievable changes so that I can make this a lifestyle change and not just a fad. I’m really glad that I’ve taken these first steps and I’m looking forward to sharing some more about the changes I’m making in my life. Let me know if you would like to know more about any of these changes that I’ve made!
Make sure you also check out this post by Biome Eco Store for more tips on zero waste swaps to make in your home.
My favourite zero waste/sustainable living blogs:
- Treading My Own Path
- The Rogue Ginger
- Gippsland Unwrapped
- Eco Warrior Princess
- Zero Waste Home
- The Green Hub
- Zero Waste Chef
- Zero Waste Memoirs
- Sustainability in Style
- Sustainably Chic
Have you made any ‘zero waste’ swaps in your life? Do you know of any other good zero waste blogs?
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