Earlier this year I stumbled across the zero waste living movement which has a growing global following and some totally amazing individuals, groups, companies and even whole cities walking this path. Seattle USA is perhaps leading the pack when it comes to whole city solutions. I found this topic a bit like heading down a rabbit hole, one article, blog or website lead to another and it was all inspiring but also a little overwhelming and intimidating. How did one go about moving from a normal existence to one of zero waste. I’m not sure I have what it takes to go all the way down this path, but I’m determined to make a start. I’ve decided on a couple of small steps to begin with and then we’ll see what comes next….
1. The first step and one of the easiest is plastic bags. They are such insidious things, given out and taken without thought, sapping the earth of resources for such an unnecessary item and one that takes decades (or longer) to break down. And please don’t be fooled by bags that claim they are biodegradable or compostable, this only works if they are disposed of in absolute ideal conditions… which landfill definitely is not. And those that don’t end up in landfill, find their way into our water ways, clogging them up and causing danger to sea creatures like turtles. So we are now a plastic bag free house almost entirely…. and that almost annoys me still. Mr Good forgets occasionally and some wind up in the house from others bringing them. I always carry a small cloth bag in my handbag (Thanks Mel) and have others in the boot. I keep the shopping bags (including some brown paper bags for mushrooms, snow peas, spinach leaves etc which you can’t put straight into the trolley) in the kitchen and pull them out when I get the shopping list ready the night before so I don’t forget them. So far it’s been working and if I ever do leave them at home, I turn around, go back and pick them up. That’s annoying enough for me not to do it too often!
2. No Junk Mail! I meant to get a sign for our letterbox in Melbourne for the whole time we were there and never did. I bought one for this house after about five or six days and receiving great piles of catalogs and other junk mail items in that time. I’ve even gone so far as to send back unsolicited junk mail that gets delivered as pseudo real mail with a comment about how wasteful it is.
3. I write to companies that seem to use lots of unnecessary packaging – lots of craft kits, toys etc for kids come with staggering amounts of wasteful, usually plastic packaging – and switch to an alternative product.
4. I’ve started composting…. sort of. But at least none of my vegetable kitchen scraps are going to landfill now.
5. I’ve started the swap from plastic to glass. I now freeze things like stock and soup in glass jars instead of plastic ziplock bags. I’ve also started buying products in glass jars instead of plastic wherever I can (ie honey). I intend to start writing to companies that only offer plastic to switch to glass. Did you know even if you recycle plastic it can only be recycled once, glass can be recycled over and over again. And glass has a longer life span if you intend to reuse it at home (unless of course you drop it).
6. Stop or restrict the use of cling film and paper towel. I still have both for a few things I haven’t managed to find an alternative for (though I can’t think of the last time I used the cling film so maybe I can eliminate that one). I like paper towel to pat dry meat, like whole chickens etc before I roast them.
This is all a good start, but I’m frustrated about a couple of things that I don’t really know how to solve.
1. Bread, we eat a lot of it and at the moment I’m not baking much (if any) of it. That means that it’s a couple of loaves a week from the bakery or Aussie Farmer’s each in a bread bag and with a bread tag. Neither of these things are recyclable. Also we don’t use the crusts much so some of these go to landfill too. I do make bread crumbs and freeze them, but we don’t use that many of them. Solutions?
2. Meat scraps. Anything without bones (or with raw bones if I’m not making stock) go to the dog. Chicken and beef bones get used to make stock. But even then they bones need to be disposed of. What do you do with these besides chucking them in the bin?
3. Buying in bulk. This seems to be one of the most important elements for going zero waste. Taking your own containers and bags and purchasing dried goods, liquids, cleaning products etc from bulk stores would cut out a huge amount of waste. But such stores do not exist in Ballarat. This really is something I should have taken greater advantage of in Melbourne.
One of the other key elements is to buy second hand and in turn give away unused items to op-shops or the like so others can take advantage of them. I’ve done some major decluttering lately and have a pile of things in the spare room waiting to be given away or sold on. I’ve even severed my ties with my books and are keeping only the ones I think I’ll read again or have significance to me. I am looking forward to discovering the second hand delights of Ballarat (I desperately need some new clothes and some glassware as we’ve had quite a spate of breakages lately).
So readers, what tips have you got for waste reduction, especially ones that just slot easily into life without thought or too much effort (after all these are the easiest ones to start with)? And what are your just-can’t-find-a-workable-solution-to waste issues? Or do you not think about this stuff nearly as much as I seem to…. I know Mr Good certainly doesn’t!