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*This post was originally published in 2015. I have an update coming soon of the areas we were able to maintain and those that became difficult to, especially during our period of unemployment last year.
We recently made the decision to pursue zero waste and these are some of the things we realised as we began the transition.
- SO MUCH IS PACKAGED and often in plastic. I mean, I kind of knew this in a vague sense but in trying to actively avoid it, I have become acutely aware of just how epidemic the wrap it in plastic culture has become and how often it seems just really unnecessary. Our family loves berries but it feels like they will need to be avoided until we can grow our own because trying to source them loose is proving complicated. Grapes? Forget it.
- But you will totally have enough food to eat. On the back of the first realisation I started to panic, it felt like we would be missing out on so much. I went into overdrive; baking and cooking and finding alternatives. I totally overcompensated and have spent the last few days eternally overfull from delicious zero waste snacking. We will be fine, most fruit and veg can be found loose and I don’t need to bake everyday.
- Zero waste is healthier (if you don’t do what I did above). Goodbye processed foods! I never considered us huge convenience food eaters but it’s all the little things that slowly add up without realising; the tomato sauce, the salad dressing, the curry pastes, the occasional chocolate that really means every single night. Goodbye added sugar and flavour enhancers and preservatives. Moving towards zero waste is a bit of a two for one; healthier for the environment and healthier for us! Although I did find loose m&m’s so you can’t be completely switched off about it ha. If you’re concerned about tap water like we were, we invested in a ceramic water filter and have not looked back!
- Zero waste is not expensive! Zero waste takes planning, for us it means traveling further from home and both of these things mean we can’t really impulse buy or wing it. We used to just decide on the day what we would eat, often meaning we didn’t always have what we need (or we thought we didn’t and doubled up). There was so much waste (physically and financially) from poor planning! Now we need to be clear about what we need and will use because we can’t just pop down to the shop for xyz and that means saved money! We’ve also find the prices at bulk loose food locations and farmer’s markets to be completely reasonable.
- Zero waste is beautiful. You never realise how constantly assaulted we are in everyday life by information. We are all aware of the pervasiveness of advertisement on our screens and lining our commutes but just check out your kitchen! Not only are our kitchen’s bursting with packaging but almost every room there are labels jumping out as us screaming remember me, notice me, buy me again! Walk into your bathroom and take proper notice of all the brands staring back at you. Moving everything into tins and jars and bottles has had such an unbelievably calming effect.
- Grocery shopping is fun. I used to avoid grocery shopping at all costs. We had our fruit and veg delivered and our meat supplied from Chris’s work so it was something we didn’t need to do all that often in reality (though one of us seemed to be there every other day). And I loathed it. Finding new locations to shop made me wary at first, I’m not a huge fan of change but I was keen for a different experience and it totally was. Moving towards these beautiful, friendly locations, I now feel a more active role in the process, like I am building relationships with people and their products again rather than just going through the motions of supporting faceless companies.
- Recreational shopping is not so fun anymore. I was never a big shopper but used to enjoy the occasional meander when we popped in for something, this no longer seems true. We visited a shopping centre as they had an eco-store where we could find things like bamboo toothbrushes and glass straws (it’s a thing) and once we had got what we needed, I just wanted to get out of there. It just felt like a storage unit for landfill.
- Companies that care about one aspect of environment don’t necessary care about others. So often I’ll find a product that ticks certain boxes but then completely ignores many others, often falling into the most impactful options within them. If you’re going to the effort of making a natural (compostable) product, don’t then package it in plastic!! We realised that while the laundry powder we had been buying was packaged in recycled materials, it didn’t specifically state it could be recycled again so we emailed them for clarification and are still awaiting their response (we will be moving to a bulk, package free alternative but we still wanted to know). Either way the experience has made us more conscious of reading EVERYTHING and not just assuming that because a company has made one environmentally friendly decision, they have made more.
- The transition has been simpler than I imagined except emotionally. Being in this between stage where we are making more mindful choices about our waste while still having to live through the motions of the not so mindful choices we have previously made is extremely difficult. It is hard to see the remaining packages of things we will be using up before replacing or doing without but to get rid of them would be wasteful and we don’t have the resources to move them all out of their packaging. Though it is hard to see, it is a powerful motivator to not return to this point again.
- It is empowering! I no longer feel resigned to passively supporting things I do not agree with. My choices have weight and I am using them more wisely. One person refusing to shop with a company littered with single use plastic could influence another. Then another and another. If enough people stop supporting the practice? We can make it economically nonviable and whilst there are companies who are not interested in targeting their environmental impact, they are definitely invested in their paychecks. We have the ability to show them what we want with each and every choice we make.
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. — Dr Suess, The Lorax