I didn’t used to be this way… Caring about the environment and the zero waste lifestyle…
It all started one summer afternoon, about 3 years ago, when my husband and I visited a friend’s house for a bbq. We sat down to eat, and despite a crowd of 20 people squished into her backyard our host served the meal on china plates, with stainless steel knives and forks, and offered us cloth napkins…
I thought: “That’s weird! Wouldn’t single-use items be much more convenient for a party like this?”
I took note.
Then I started noticing posts on Instagram. People coming up in my feed and search engine calling out the issue of plastics filling our oceans, leading scientists to estimate that there will be more plastic in our ocean than fish in 2050. Others noted that take-away coffee cups are not actually recyclable. Still others lamented that in the USA (where I currently reside) 11 million tons of textiles including clothing, shoes, linens, towels, coats are dumped into the landfills every single year.
I took note.
And then my siblings’ gave me Sarah Wilson’s Simplicious cook book for Christmas and as I read it I discovered that in Australia (where I hail from) we toss out up to 50% of our household groceries each week. Yes, you read it right… 50% of what we bring home from the supermarket goes straight into the garbage bin!
I took note.
The final straw came when my cousin told me about how she had started using a menstrual cup and vowed she’d never go back. My initial reaction was: “Hell NO! I will NEVER use one!!” But then I discovered that the average woman will throw away 12,000-16,000 sanitary items in her life time. All those tampons and pads filling up our landfills along with the single-use plastics, the textiles, and the food that never got eaten.
I took note.
Slowly but surely I discovered that there is a real and imminent over consumption issue in our society. We have been sold a message of “cheap and convenient” but the result comes at a cost. We are creating waste at an unsustainable rate and it is taking a toll on our earth. This sacred planet that we have been gifted with, and given the responsibility of tending to and caring for, is suffering because we are choosing convenience over sustainability. We are choosing convenience over love for our plant and all the life that it sustains.
The reality is that materialism is the air we breathe, it is the water we swim in. We are completely indoctrinated by a culture of consumerism to the point that we don’t even realise what we are doing. We’re just doing what we’ve always been told to do. So in all of this I want you to hear grace, not condemnation. Let these words be an invitation for change, rather than castigation for something you weren’t even aware you were doing. Let us awaken our souls to the cry of the earth, to the cry of the Eternal One who created it and calls us to take care of it as best we can.
It’s easy to get started. Just one step at a time. Just one choice at a time. Just one conversation at a time. It all leads toward change. So if you would like to join me in this endeavour to reduce our waste and care for our planet then here are some simple ways to get started (links included):
Compost your food scraps.
Organic material sitting in landfill actually produces toxins because there is not enough oxygen available to allow the food to breakdown naturally. Composting at home allows food scraps to breakdown as nature intended and it reduces landfill. There are plenty composting options for people of all housing situations — from farm life to apartment living. I live in a small duplex house so I use the Bokashi system.
Switch to Menstrual Cup and reusable pads.
As I mentioned us ladies go through an unimaginable number of tampons and pads over the course of our menstruating years. We don’t notice it because its just a couple of items every month, but its adds up. Switching to a menstrual cup and reusable pads not only helps us reduce our waste, but the cup is more convenient because it doesn’t need to be changed as often! I like using the Diva Cup and I purchased reusable pads through HannahPad which ships to both the US and Australia, among other places.
Ditch disposable razors for a safety razor.
Shaving is part of many of our daily grooming routines, however plastic razors are one of the most wasteful items in our bathroom with an estimated 2 billions razors being tossed into landfill each year. Switching to a safety razor allows you to maintain your grooming routine without adding to the single-use plastic epidemic (plus it is a much better shave!!). Check out the Albatross Designs Shave Shopfor getting started.
Use a Bamboo toothbrush.
Do you know that every plastic toothbrush ever made still exists? I know! Its CRAZY!! The materials that are used to make toothbrushes are not biodegradable so they clog up landfill or end up in our oceans. Using a bamboo toothbrush which can be composted or placed in your green organics bin at the end of its lifespan is a great way say NO to plastic. My hubby and I use toothbrushes made by Brush With Bamboo (and I promise there are no splinters).
Ditch single-use plastics.
Gosh its EVERYWHERE! It covers our toilet paper, our tea bags, our bread, our sugar and flour, our milk, our yoghurt, our TimTams, even our lettuce. Take-away restaurants place our food in it, adding in plastic cutlery to the plastic bag we carry it out in. It holds our water, our cold press juice, our shower gel, our shampoo, our single-use cotton make-up pads, our cleanser and toner, and our cleaning supplies. And let’s not even get started on plastic straws! When we open our eyes we realize the we are completely surrounded by single-use plastic. Easy ways to ditch the single-use plastics can be by choosing glass and paper packaging. Switching to compostable materials like wood and cloth is another easy way. You could also tap into your creative side by making instead of buying — hummus, tahini, washing powder, and moisturizing body butter are all things that can be made instead of bought.
Take a reusable coffee cup when grabbing your morning coffee.
Walking through my neighborhood I see garbage bins brimming with coffee cups. It makes me so sad. Since take-away cups are lined with a waterproof membrane they are not easily recycled so they too end up sitting in landfills. Carrying a reusable cup such as those from KeepCup or Corkcicle are great alternatives when grabbing a take-away coffee, with the added bonus that the cups are pretty and they keep your coffee warmer for longer.
Take cloth bags with you to the grocery store.
These are truly one of my favorite things.I LOVE my cloth bags! I use them for carrying fruit, veggies, nuts, sugar, flour, bread, bars of soap — basically anything I can buy package free I put in my cloth bags and transfer to a container when I get home. Ditch those flimsy plastic bags for reusable bags when you’re out at the supermarket or farmers markets. My bags are made by Simple Ecology, but there are plenty of options on Amazon.
Beeswax food wraps.
These babies are heaven sent. Ditching the plastic food wrap has never been easier since some very clever person came up with beeswax wraps. Cover your food — cut fruit, cheese, sandwiches — with beeswax wraps and say goodbye to GladWrap forever. Can I get an Amen?!
Eat More plants.
While meat and animal products are an important part of most people’s diets, the livestock sector generates a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions… like as much as all cars, trucks and automobiles combined according to Greenpeace. Eating fewer meals with meat and dairy each week can have a huge collective impact on our environment (not to mention our health). Say hello to Meatless Mondays!
There are plenty more ways to adopt the zero waste lifestyle… and to that I say RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! The internet is your friend and there is an amazing community of people on Instagram who are living the zero waste lifestyle, and showing others how to do the same.
The reality is that we live in a world where convenience wins over sustainability all the time so it is actually impossible to live a completely zero waste lifestyle, but as you can see there are steps we can take to make a difference. Each of us is at a different stage in the journey (I am certainly not doing it perfectly!), so we must have grace for ourselves and grace for each other as we make our way toward reducing waste. Ultimately though, as we do make these changes we are making a stand for our planet, for all who live on it now, and all who will come after us. Making a stand is nourishing to the soul because we discover that every choice matters for the future of our planet, and we discover that we are part of something bigger than we can ever imagine. So blessings to you as you live out a commitment to sustainable living, I am excited for you and your family as you make this change together!