I have always been pretty conscious of environmental issues. Once I became vegan in 2013 it was a slippery slope into zero waste living. I was really inspired by Zero Waste bloggers in 2016, Lauren Singer (New Yorker) to Erin Rhoads (Victorian) and spent much of the year changing my lifestyle to be even more sustainable – focusing on the behaviours outside of my already low-carbon vegan “diet”.
I started growing vegetables in containers in January and then purchased a compost bin, then later a worm farm. I found a free compost bin on the side of the road and took it to my workplace. I bought wax wraps to avoid cling wrap, but wasn’t really a fan. I sewed produce bags out of dishcloths to fill with loose produce or snacks available in bulk. I bought glass containers to avoid BPA leeching and upgraded my four year old plastic Keep Cups to a new glass and cork one. I started shopping regularly at the local farmers market, then later at the local bulk foods when I started salvaging produce donated to my not-for-profit workplace (greens aren’t popular in my client cohort). I experimented with various toothpaste recipes – and failed miserably. I found chocolate that has a compostable wrapper (important). I did a workshop to learn how to ferment my own food so I didn’t have to purchase products with incredible probiotic properties. I bought a bamboo straw. I recently started making my own make-up and have pledged to not buy any new clothes, only those from an op-shops. I learnt about the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen in produce and have pledged to grow my own organic vegetables who have membership in the dirty dozen (or purchase them from my local organic produce store). I have started storing food differently, including placing plate’s upside-down on bowls or plates of food in the fridge instead of wrapping with plastic wrap, on putting in containers. Yesterday I bought a second hand bright magenta table cloth of which I will sow dishcloths and makeup remover pads. Tomorrow I’m going to gift the things I have that will generate waste, weird things, like cotton bud ear cleaners with plastic and replace them with bamboo ones that could be composted. I’m going to be putting a green bag of containers in my car so that when I’m purchasing take-away or getting things doggy bagged, I can re-use my own containers. And one of the only things I purchase from the supermarket now is vegemite and alternative meat and cheese products – all of which I have recipes to make my own at home now which I will be making time to do (which in turn will also be more fresh and healthy!) I’m going to use up the remaining tea bags I have (compost them) then buy loose leaf tea in bulk and store in a glass jar.
It’s been a big year. My New Year’s Revolution is to go Zero Waste. So what is Zero Waste Living?
Zero Waste Living is a philosophy in which one actively diverts 90% of your rubbish from landfill, whilst the remaining 10% cannot be reused or recycled (think, toilet paper).
Sounds interesting, where could you start?
- Buy jars (or containers) of your choice and refill at a bulk food store. I used to buy food at the supermarket and store it in glass jars as a fashion statement but now I refill them at the bulk foods store – this is my number one way of avoiding plastic.
- Refuse single use items, the Big Four of Single Use Items are: plastic straws, plastic bags, bottled water and coffee cups. Instead of these single use items you can invest in re-usable items, such as a bamboo straw, green bags, a metal or glass water bottle and a Keep Cup. In fact, if you do nothing else on a Zero Waste journey, this should probably be it. Carry these around with you in a handbag or glovebox. If you’re female you may also like to invest into a menstrual cup or washable pads as single use sanitary items also end up in landfill.
- As I’m vegan I compost A LOT of green food waste. You can also distribute this into a worm farm. I have also been contributing my paper waste into my compost of late to. You can compost other household items such as bamboo toothbrushes or products packaged in paper instead of plastic.
- Seek plastic free alternatives. This is a biggie. What happens to your toothpaste tube when you’re finished with it? In my experience, the primary way to overcome this is my make your own – particularly bathroom products. Most bathroom and laundry items can be made from items likely sitting in your pantry right now – for a fraction of the cost.
- Buy second hand or scavenge for items to upcycle. There are so many good things you can buy second hand, outside of just clothing – yesterday I got a bread-maker for $10 which I plan on making not only breads but my own pasta and vegan butter in. Fabrics from tablecloths and tea towels are good to upcycle even for things like wrapping gifts in and then the recipient of the gift can upcycle to.
I’m going to write about Vegetable and Herb Gardening, Composting and Worm Farming, Food as Make Up and Fermenting Food and Drinks over the next few weeks if you’d like to learn more. They’ll be available under Life Skills tab on the Thoughtful Vegan homepage. I’ve listed links below that really helped me if you’re interested in getting started too. If you’ve got any questions be sure to comment below!
Thanks for reading,
References and Resources
The Rogue Gingers (Erin Rhoads) blog: http://www.therogueginger.com/
Trash is for Tossers (Lauren Singers) blog: http://www.trashisfortossers.com/p/about.html
1 Million Women blog: http://www.1millionwomen.com.au/
Why I Live Zero Waste – Lauren Singer TED Talk: http://www.trashisfortossers.com/p/ted-talk.html
I Tried Living Trash-Free for 30 Days: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtTTnEEPeAQ