Is Zero-Waste achievable?

Lucy O'Brien

Zero Waste is setting a new goal for how we live in the world — one that aims to reduce what we trash in landfills and incinerators to zero — to rebuild our local economies in support of community health, sustainability, and justice (GAIA).

I’ve been asking myself for the past year whether zero-waste on an individual level is actually achievable. I remember reading a story about a girl who could fit all of her rubbish from one year in a jar, and I couldn’t really wrap my head around how she did it. So I started researching and making small changes.

His eyes say it all…

How did I start my journey towards zero-waste? To be quite honest, I was pretty tired of seeing hundreds of videos and photos like this one. Photos of rubbish in our oceans and waterways, ultimately killing animals and making humans sick.

Basically, we are using too many resources and creating too much rubbish.

According to Zero-Waste World:

“As pollution overwhelms many of our cities and natural resources become scarce. We cannot continue to throw our rubbish “away.” Simply put, “away” does not exist. When we bury our waste, the landfills that we create hurt communities; they generate toxic leachates and emit methane gas which contributes to climate change. Aiming for zero waste is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective strategies available for combatting climate change”.

I realised that change must start with me. It must start with thinking about where I spend my money, what I buy and what I refuse to support. After almost a year of learning new ways, I wanted to share with you a list of things I have done to move towards zero-waste. My hope is that you can take on these small changes in your life too, and together we can make a difference!

The first thing I did was change my mindset from thinking recycling is enough, to thinking first about REDUCING and REUSING.

So number 1 on my list?

1 I got into the mindset that I must Reduce and Reuse before Recycling

2 I started looking at packaging and counted the number of pieces of rubbish I would accumulate if I purchased that item (if it’s more than one or two, I leave it on the shelf)

3I refuse plastic shopping bags and take my reusable shopping bags with me (If I forget, I simply say “I don’t need a bag” and just use my arms or trolley to carry things out of the shop…this includes every shop I go to, not just supermarkets)

4I limit my use of soft plastics (packets, bread bags and those awful plastic fruit and vegetable bags…I get livid when I see people putting bananas that already have a peel in plastic bags…I just put all of my fruit and vegetables straight into my reusable bags or trolley!)

5I use paper bags instead of plastic when buying certain fresh produce items, bread and when packing lunches (e.g. I put items like green beans and loose salad leaves in a paper bag from the mushroom section, and I try to buy bread fresh from the bakery instead of the supermarket)

6I shop at places with bulk bins and use my own jars and containers (It is so much fun shopping this way, I save jars and get things like oats, nuts, seeds, flour, sugar, rice etc from my bulk food shop — I assure you if you do a little research, you will find one near you)

Our almost waste free grocery shop

7I have stopped buying new items, especially clothes, and I buy second-hand or borrow from friends instead (Op shops are great, and I have saved so much money doing this!)

8I no longer use cling wrap and baking paper (I usually cover my leftovers with a plate on top in the fridge or store in tupperware, but you can also use food wraps, and I have purchased reusable silicone baking sheets for cooking)

Reusable baking sheets are so cool!

9I try and say no to straws when I remember (You can buy reusable bamboo or stainless steel ones, but I just go without)

10I eat in or I take my own coffee cup, cutlery and containers if I am likely to eat out (Mostly, I choose to eat in or go without if I don’t have any reusables)

Zero-waste takeaway sushi — just ask and you will receive…

11I compost all food scraps and green waste

12 I make my own products (sauces, foods like hummus and soy milk, cleaning products, soap — this also saves money!)

13 I recycle my unavoidable soft plastics at supermarket collection bins (google Redcycle)

For all those soft plastics I can’t yet avoid, they get turned into plastic pellets used for furniture and decking!

14 I recycle odd items (such as batteries, light bulbs, e-waste, printer cartridges, empty toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes, empty make up containers, old pens and so many other types of waste, at speciality collection points at the refuse/tip or I send them away for free through Terracycle)

The end result?

By making these relatively easy changes to my life, I have cut out an enormous percentage of household waste. My landfill waste every week would now fit in a small container. Everything else is recycled or composted. I truly believe if we tried it, we would get away with putting out our kerbside bin once every 6 months.

So while I’m not totally at the “one jar a year” stage, I now believe going zero-waste is not only achievable, but it is easier than you think!

This is your push to get better, wherever you are on your journey. If you do even one of these things, thank you ❤

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