Hello! We’re the Birchenoughs; Laura, James and baby Timothy and since September, we’ve been trying to live zero waste. Living zero waste does not mean producing absolutely no rubbish at all, that isn’t really possible! Instead, for us, it’s about eliminating any waste that’s sent to landfill and trying to reduce the rest.
If you’d met either of us five years ago, you’d have never pegged us for eco-warrior types! It’s come about really slowly and naturally for us; first, it was just trying to recycle more, then we cut down on the fizzy drinks we were buying in plastic bottles. But after Timothy was born, we became even more sure that caring about the environment was something we should be doing. We began to think about the kind of world we wanted Timothy to grow up in, and it’s not one where there’s going to be more plastic than fish in the sea by the time he’s 33. We definitely feel that this is something that’s on God’s heart too; he created us a beautiful place to live and we have been charged to look after it, not just for ourselves but for all the people he’s put in it! Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.”
The zero-waste mantra goes something like this: (in this order)
- Refuse (say no to excess stuff)
- Reuse (buy reusable or use what you have already)
- Reduce (buy or use less of anything you can’t refuse or reuse)
- Recycle and Rot (recycle or compost everything else)
So here’s what this looks like for us. On a weekly basis, we buy our food from a farm shop where we can get fruit, veg, bakery items and meat all without packaging. We discovered that food packaging was filling our bin and we realised that those thin plastic packets won’t decompose when sent to landfill and will still be around on this earth for years to come! This does mean cooking a lot more from scratch, which has made us a lot healthier — James now snacks on fruit instead of biscuits! We’ve also given up beef and decided not to buy a second car. We use solid shampoo bars and bamboo toothbrushes. We’ve been trying to buy more from charity shops and when we buy anything new, we try for as ethical and eco-friendly as possible. We’re also getting an allotment and having our first go at composting!
We’re not amazing at this, and we certainly haven’t reached zero yet! But we’re trying to do everything we can to leave the best possible world for our son! So how can you get involved? Here’s five quick and easy things you could try:
- Refuse a plastic straw in restaurants
- Get a reusable water bottle and/or coffee cup (and bring it to church on a Sunday!)
- Wash kitchen cloths instead of using kitchen roll
- Take bags with you to the shops (why not store them in the car or by the door so you don’t forget them!)
- Buy loose fruit and veg
We’re not suggesting that this lifestyle is for everyone but even small changes make a big difference. For us, zero waste has also been about living more simply and with less stuff, about making more room and more time for people and for Jesus in our lives.