Easing into a Waste Free Lifestyle
What is Living Waste Free?
To me living waste free (commonly known and referred to throughout the blog as zero waste), means reducing your impact on the environment by creating little to no waste. Here I define waste as any item that can’t be reused, recycled, or composted and is therefore sent to the landfill.In the last 10 years, the world has produced more plastic than it did in the whole of the last century - that’s a lot of plastic! Click To Tweet
Sadly, completely avoiding using both in daily family life is near enough impossible and it would require a number of big changes. There are a lot of different ways for a person/family to reduce plastic consumption day-to-day, with ease.
The bottom line is that zero waste isn’t a goal, it’s a lifestyle.
This is something I have to remind myself of daily, because I am not perfect. I know how easy it is to be creating no waste for months and then have one day where you go out to eat and order something thinking it will be unpackaged only to find out it’s plastic wrapped. The trick is to not see these situations as failures, but rather as experiences that can be learned from.
Changes we can make
1. Circular Mindset
We as people/consumers need to change our mindset from a linear one to a circular one. What do I mean by that, you ask?
Let’s look at what a Circular Mindset is:
The Circular Mindset is a way to rethink our daily consumer and lifestyle habits to help us reduce our trash and plastic footprint. It’s a mindset that encourages us to add value back into the things we use, the communities we live in, the food we eat, those who create the materials we consume and the resources used to make them. I’m going to take it a step further and add, rethinking how we treat Mother Nature and her “children” (plants, animals and insects, etc).
A Circular Mindset is also about bringing awareness to an ignored conversation about our material misuse, the environmental impact our throw away culture has created on the planet, and how we can simplify our wants and needs and bring value back to our communities. It’s about starting conversation, inspiring each other, and living by example in the middle of our current toss-and-go culture. Until we move our global infrastructure over to a circular-based economy, trash is going to happen. Until then, each one of us can make less waste. Do your best, start small, and voice your consumer opinion! Change won’t happen until we speak up and use our consumer power as much as we can.
By applying this mindset into everyday, we naturally reduce our trash and plastic footprint and put more value and ownership around the resources and materials we use.
There are three attributes that facilitate this mindset, that are designed not to be another thing “to do”, but another way “to be”.
Zero waste doesn’t mean producing or consuming nothing.
It’s about carefully and intentionally designing, producing, and consuming without waste as an end product and thinking of our impact on Mother Nature.
2. SAY NO TO – plastic straws, disposable napkins, plastic utensils, bottles and bags wherever possible. They are used once and then thrown away, consider buying reusable, edible or biodegradable options- to cut down on waste.
2.1 Plastic bags can take hundreds of years to degrade and they are rarely used more than once, simply because they break easily and are low quality. Instead of using different plastic bags every time you go to the grocery store or shopping mall, take a reusable bag. By buying a reusable bag you are
immediately cutting down on the amount of plastic waste.
2.2 Rather than purchasing your fresh fruit and vegetables in the plastic bags provided by the supermarket, take your own container with to put them in. Cloth bags work well for this.
2.3 Plastic bottles are used everywhere and more often than not they are disposed of when finished. Instead of opting for plastic, try and find a cardboard alternative. Household cleaning products, water and laundry supplies are all available in boxes rather than bottles.
2.4 Rather than bulk buying bottles of water, invest in a good quality reusable water bottle and refill it at home.
3. Forget about paper towels. An easy swap? Your dish rags and dish towels can double as reusable napkins or rags to wipe down messes. Have white washcloths that you used for makeup that are full of mascara? Use them for cleaning and compost them after (if they’re 100% cotton), or send them to textile recycling. Or use old t-shirts that are either too stained or ripped for reselling or donating, cut them up and use them as rags as well.
4. Coffee on the go lover? If you’re a coffee lover who often grabs a takeaway coffee on the way to work or during the school run, take your own reusable insulated coffee mug along. Most coffee shops will put the coffee into your own thermos, rather than using one of their plastic or paper containers.
5. Packed lunch. When packing a packed lunch or picnic, do so using long-lasting reusable container.
6. Rethink diapers. Though disposable diapers or nappies are convenient, they actually produce some of the most plastic waste around the world. Cloth diapers reduce waste and save money.
7. Think fresh not frozen. A lot of frozen food is packaged using plastic and even those that appear to be in a cardboard box are likely to have a plastic coating. Cut down on the amount of plastic used by buying fresh food and freezing it, or cutting down on frozen food altogether.
8. Ditch the disposable razors in favour of those with replaceable blades. Instead of throwing a plastic razor away after a few shaving sessions, you’ll be able to use a higher quality product for a longer period of time.
9. Say bye to new clothing. Buying new clothing can be incredibly wasteful and environmentally detrimental. Over 25 billion pounds of clothes go to waste every year in the U.S. alone, never mind all the other continents (imagine the amount if we tallied it all up). Using the clothing that you already have in your wardrobe, try switching around where they are in your closet, or invite a friend over to help coordinate new outfits. It’s a great way to recycle pieces you forgot you had and make them new again. Any clothing that you don’t want or don’t wear anymore can be sold at consignment stores for some extra RRR or turned into other items such as shopping bags, mini vegetable and fruit carry bags or cleaning up cloths/rags.
10. Go au naturale or simplify your beauty routine. Too many times we impulsively buy cheap makeup with plastic packaging, use it a few times, then throw it out because it’s the wrong shade. Imagine the time AND money you would save if you skipped wearing makeup a few days a week, or simply cut some items out of your daily routine. Or try sustainable, natural alternatives like using coconut oil for makeup remover, lotion and lip gloss.
11. Make your own cleaning products. You probably have very effective cleaning products in your pantry and you don’t even know it! Apple cider or distilled white vinegar, citrus and baking soda all work beautifully to clean your home, saving you a trip to the store.
12. Become one with your trash. Get to know exactly what you’re throwing away. You may find that a lot of what you throw away is compostable or recyclable. From there you can start to be mindful of the waste you can easily swap for sustainable choices.
If the thought of saying no to plastic every day sounds like too much, try out Plastic Free Tuesday. It’s a great way to ease it out of your life. Once you have mastered a couple of Tuesdays, add Wednesday to the mix, then Thursday and so on. Another way is to take on Plastic Free July. Or you could give yourself fortnightly challenges, pretending plastic bags don’t exist for two weeks.