Low waste living - Part I
Today is Friday and on my street that means people need to get their bins out on the curb for the rubbish truck. It wasn’t that long ago since that was a weekly routine in my household too. I used to wake up to the noise of the rubbish truck, hoping my husband remembered to put it out before he left. Then something changed and today, for the 64th week in a row, there will be no rubbish to collect from our household. With the exception of a small recycling collection every few months and the rubbish we pick up from others, the good old ‘bin run’ has been replaced by better habits.
It all started a bit over a year ago. I was inspired by a number of extraordinary women, Bea Johnson in particular, to follow in their footsteps and commit to a zero waste lifestyle. My husband quietly expressed his concerns for this radical change in lifestyle and suggested we made a gradual transition. My answer was a blunt no, because for me, our old ways of doing things was no longer an option. Once I was awake, how could I possibly go back to sleep? Everyone approaches things differently but I am an all or nothing type personality, so I decided to take full responsibility of our household until my husband had acclimatised to the situation. By no means am I suggesting you do what I did. Just start from where you are and commit to learn as you go.
“We are supposed to be the future of this planet,
and here we are with our trash, messing it up.”
– Lauren Singer, Trash for Tossers
It was a natural transition for me as I have been passionately seeking answers and finding alternatives to our unsustainable ways of living for over a decade. Today, I believe changing our unsustainable habits gets easier by the minute thanks to the growing interest, awareness and creativity of everyday people like you and me.
My journey started in the kitchen, the biggest waste central in the house. I did a huge cleanout of the fridge, freezer and pantry and starting making space for what was to come. I reorganised kitchen cupboards, cleaned out all my old jars and scraped off the labels, then I started cooking up whatever food scraps I had left so I could start fresh. Curries, pies and green smoothies are great for fridge cleanouts! I removed all the junk that had been collected on top of my cupboards and replaced the clutter with a few pot plants and some fresh herbs.
Is it good for me? Is it good for the planet?
After my big cleanout, I sat down and did a meal plan for the week and wrote down what basic essentials I needed to get me started. Before I went shopping I scavenged my house for any bag that could be repurposed as a produce bag. To my surprise I had plenty! If you don’t have any, you can buy them from your local eco store, or make your own. I am very fortunate to I live close to a lot of great markets and stores that sells both fresh organic produce and every bulk item you can imagine. With a little bit of research I am sure you can find places near you too. If not, many things can be bought without packaging and you can bring your own containers and bags for things like nuts, bread, deli items, fruit and vegetables from most places. Organic supermarket produce often comes in plastic packaging though, be aware of that, leave it on the shelf and challenge your local store to remove excessive packaging.
Things that are essential to me now are my produce bags, stainless steel and glass containers, takeaway cutlery, stainless steel drink bottles and beeswax wraps. I always make sure I don’t leave my house without at least a cotton tote bag, a drink bottle and a small snack. As a parent, I always need to have some basic emergency food in my bag. If you’re a coffee drinker, get a keep cup or make a new habit to sit down and enjoy your coffee from a porcelain cup like the good old days!
"Get a keep cup or sit down and enjoy your coffee!"
My current lifestyle decisions are based on what Simon Sinek would call the ‘celery test’. When I buy something I consciously consider whether it’s good for me and whether it’s good for the planet. This may seem like a restrictive lifestyle, but for me it has never felt restrictive, quite the opposite. Not only has it made me more creative, it has ignited a passion for cooking I never had before and it has inspired a lot of people around me to rethink their consumption, waste and food habits. As a family we have become so much more creative with our food and we’re learning new things every week. Our kids have even become ambassadors for ‘nude food’ lunchboxes at school (and kindy) and received awards for encouraging their friends to help pick up any rubbish they find on and outside the school grounds. THIS is our future generation in action!
"Our kids are ‘nude FOOD' ambassadors and have encouraged school ground cleanups"
Reflecting back on my journey I am blown away by the power we all have as individuals to inspire others. I am just one person that people like Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer have inspired to reduce their waste and live a more sustainable and fulfilling life. Imagine if all committed to take more responsibility of the trash we produce everyday, we would clean up this planet in no time! Because there is no 'away' in 'throw away' and 'waste' is really just a lack of imagination.
"'waste' is really just a lack of imagination"
This is Part I of my “Low waste living” series. I hope this has inspired you to reflect of what changes you could make in your life. I would love for you to join me as I continue to share inspiring stories, explore the wisdom of those who keep challenging what’s possible and discover new ways we can create a more sustainable future together!