The idea of going Zero waste can seem incredibly intimidating. Using plastic is a socially ingrained and majoritively accepted/unconscious habit (like drinking?!). Like any other habit, going cold turkey is very difficult and unlikely to succeed.
However, here at Fig Drop we believe that it is possible to make a big difference with smaller, incremental alterations.
Without further ado, here are our realistic 10 steps to start your zero waste journey today!
The prolific use of plastic stems from the attitudes of our society. Through marketing we are taught that we can earn and buy what we want, at our own convenience. We are told that keeping up with the latest trends means that we are successful. However, the conveyor belt of trends and an economy based upon convenience results in a society that creates an exorbitant amount of waste.
In order to remove unnecessary (primarily plastic) waste from your life, you will firstly need to become aware of the extent to which waste is in your life.
Look around and begin to notice all of the plastic in your life.
Think about the food you have bought – is it packaged in plastic?
Analyse your daily routine – do you use a plastic toothbrush, mouthwash?
What about your skin care? Beauty products?
Not all examples of plastic around you will be immediately noticeable, for instance dental floss.
In addition, observe all of the items that you will only use once – e.g. cotton face pads, baby wipes etc. Even though these items are unlikely to be made from plastic, they create waste that is unnecessary.
Ok, so we can’t really have a list of steps to zero waste living without mentioning the initial guidelines that the concept has built upon –
The 5 Rs – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse/Repurpose, Recycle, Rot.
The second step on our list involves refusing the things that you do not need, or alternatively swapping it for a lower/zero waste alternative.
A few examples:
- Gone shopping for some nibbles after work/school? A plastic bag is not necessary – you can just put it in your normal bag.
- Buying food to eat in the office? – do you need that plastic cutlery and paper/plastic bag to carry the food? Or could you carry the food container and use reusable cutlery in the office?
- Ordering in? – ask for no plastic cutlery (why do they offer plastic cutlery, you’re literally eating at home?). Additionally, be conscious of food containers. For example, my local Thai (which is delicious) has compostable containers and they also offer bamboo cutlery.
If buying things from the supermarket you could opt for items in more sustainable packaging – for instance opting for quorn products that are packaged in cardboard rather than plastic.
Try and make a list of particular things that you can’t/won’t get in a more eco friendly form. By allowing yourself to purchase things off this list as a luxury, you will be more likely to succeed at reducing waste in your life as you will feel less restricted.
- Hair bleach (at hairdressers)
- Frozen berries
- Ice cream
- Quorn products
- Rosacea products
After you have made your list, think about whether your truly need an item before purchasing. Do you really need those ‘hot right now’ cycling shorts?
4. Reuse/Re-purpose items you already have
There is no point in buying something new if you can use something you already have!
Used jars can be used as food or beauty product containers.
You could repurpose alcohol bottles to be vases.
Or why not get creative with some DIY-ing?!
I have been re-purposing my mesh laundry delicates bags as produce bags whilst out shopping, I also use them as a mini laundry bag to store my used makeup pads and put them straight in the wash.
Remember that moving towards a lower waste lifestyle is about environmental impact – it is not an aesthetic!
5. Start Simple
Think about the your daily life, what do you consumer the most? Unless you are a major shopaholic, the answer to this is most likely eating/drinking. Food and drink are the two things that we buy most regularly, as we require sustenance. Therefore this would be a great place to start. Developing a more zero waste grocery game is not going to require any expensive purchases.
Upgrading your food buying game starts with exploring further horizon than your local chain supermarket. Chain supermarkets not only monopolise the industry, they pack the majority of their food items in plastic.
They are a number of alternatives.
- Your local mini-market – with open fruit/veg stands. Most UK cities have an abundance of these mini-markets/groceries, however the majority of us stick to chain supermarkets. The Turkish mini-markets in London are fantastic! I shop in my local Turkish mini-market where the majority of fruit/veg is unpackaged & they sell delicious freshly baked quilted loaves (wrapped in paper) for only 50p! They also have an open deli counter for olives etc.
- A local farmer’s market – Support local farms, grab some wonderful food items and help to reduce waste by opting for items not in plastic.
To find a local farmer’s market or shop, follow the links below:
Rest of the UK: https://www.farminguk.com/farm-shops-map
- Another option is farm-ordering initiatives eg. Riverford and Abel & Cole. These are particularly great as they focus on seasonal veg.
- The final alternative is bulk food shops. These little gems are the most rare locations on our list but luckily more and more are popping up. Bulk food shops are particularly great for stocking up on store cupboard essentials that are almost impossible to find plastic free at any other food selling location. The process of weighing your containers, filling and then buying can take a little while to get used to but is definitely worth it to bring home some wonders AND to do your bit to reduce waste.
I personally would recommend a combination of the options above.
For instance, although bulk food shops are fantastic for store cupboard items, they usually do not stock many fresh fruit & veg (and if they do it can often be at a significantly higher price than most places) so it would make sense to buy store cupboard items at the bulk shop and fresh fruit and veg from a mini or farmer’s market.
Combining a few options enables you to be exposed to a wide variety of options as well as keeping costs down
6. Don’t Rush into buying
Rushing to the shops (or online) to purchase the newest chic eco products and throwing out items you already own (that are in perfectly usable condition) entirely defeats the object of reducing unnecessary waste.
Of course it is a fantastic idea to purchase eco friendly/ zero waste products BUT purchase for need before desire.
For instance, use your plastic toothbrush or razor until you can use it no more. Then, replace the item with a more sustainable/ eco friendly alternative.
7. Make changes incrementally
To begin your zero waste journey, start with the things that would benefit you the most (so items you use the most) and buy items chronologically.
Remember that these new items will not just help reduce waste, they will most likely help you in your daily life as well. If you have a reusable water bottle to hand you are more likely to drink enough water than if you had to buy bottled water every time you were out and wanted water. Moreover, if you have a reusable lunch box you are less likely to buy lunch everyday as you have a container to bring with you that you could fill with yummy food, saving money (and possibly your health).
8. Create an ‘on-the-go’ kit
Ok, so this tip goes hand in hand with the previous step. If you make an ‘on-the-go’ kit one of the first areas that you revamp, it will benefit you greatly.
This is because building an on-the-go kit ensures that you are never caught out when out and about. Much like if you are trying to eat healthily, it is always more convenient to keep something to hand that fits in with your guidelines. Furthermore, you are far more likely to encounter single us plastic if you are out than if you were in your own house.
9. Shop consciously
small and artisan – more expensive but better, longer lasting products and help small business owners rather than contributing to the dominion of monopoly companies.
10. Develop the zero waste bug
Continue learning. Education and attempt to eliminate all rubbish plastic from your life. Congratulate yourself for starting this positive conscious journey.
Note: These steps are baseline steps to pursuing a lower waste lifestyle.