MY ZERO WASTE JOURNEY

Whether you’re keen to set some goals for the new year around reducing your waste and single-use plastics, or you’ve been slowly plodding away towards your target for a while, it can be helpful to reflect on your current habits and journey so far. I’ve been meaning to do a stocktake for a while now, so the new year is probably an apt time to finally record my journey! Sometimes it can feel like I’m not making much progress, or that life is getting in the way of me achieving my sustainability goals, so it has been a really worthwhile experience to reflect on how far I’ve come.

 

I’m always saying on social media that the key to sustained, long-term change is to go about it slowly. I say this for good reason. In early 2016 when I decided to make some serious lifestyle changes, I was a stay-at-home-Mum with a 4 year old and a 5 month old baby who had numerous health/allergy issues. Within a few short months, I was trying to produce only a handful of trash and cook 95% of our food totally from scratch from package-free ingredients, all the while getting very little sleep, single handedly running a household, adjusting to being a Mum of 2, and trying to learn how to “do” Zero Waste with young kids (even 2 years ago, there wasn’t the wealth of information that there is now, and none of the online Zero Waste gurus I found had young children). Obviously, it was a recipe for disaster, and I had to really pull my head in and give myself a break before I had a breakdown. However, it was an extremely valuable experience and I learnt firsthand the importance of taking things slowly; there’s no point doing Zero Waste “perfectly” if you’re too miserable, exhausted and overwhelmed to enjoy it. Since then, I’ve concentrated on making 1 or 2 changes at a time, then moving onto another goal only once I felt comfortable with my new habits and how they fitted into our life. 

 

My journey will likely look very different to others, and we shouldn’t judge our own progress against someone else’s. Many complex variables come into play to determine how we live our lives: money, health, employment, transport, stress, ownership, support, education, mental health, energy, resources, and how connected we are to our community. While I’m not close to truly being “Zero Waste”, I’m incredibly happy with our consumption habits, the amount of waste we produce, and our lifestyle at this point in our lives. 

So here’s my wrap-up from the last two years: what I’ve changed so far, and when I changed it. Sometimes, some of these behaviours need to go on the back-burner for a short time (e.g. I don’t bake biscuits and crackers when my workload is extremely high - I buy them from the supermarket and recycle the plastic), but on the whole, these are the ways in which I have transformed our household and the habits I maintain.

PRE-2016 HABITS

  • Reusable coffee cup (infrequently)

  • Reusable shopping bags (frequently)

  • Cloth nappies

  • Reusable drink bottle

  • Homemade gifts

  • Vegetable gardening (infrequently)

 

2016 CHANGES

  • Reusable coffee cup (now 100% of the time)

  • Reusable shopping bags (now 100% of the time)

  • Reusable produce bags

  • Started making my own cleaning products: dishwashing detergent, liquid soap, toilet scrub, spray & wipe, dishwasher powder, floor cleaner etc.

  • Lined rubbish bins with newspaper liners instead of plastic (which is *not* recommended!)

  • Increased home-cooking from raw ingredients (e.g. sauces, dips, pizza dough, tortilla, biscuits, crackers, muesli bars, bliss balls, muffins etc.)

  • Filter coffee machine and Chemex instead of Nespresso pod coffee maker

  • Bar soap instead of body wash or commercial liquid soap

  • Wooden dish brush with replaceable head

  • Wooden vegetable brush

  • Bamboo toothbrushes

  • Homemade toothpaste (which we have since decided not to use)

  • Rubbish-free lunchboxes for the kids

  • Started washing and reusing plastic ziplock bags I already owned

  • Reusable wetbags in the nappy bag instead of single use plastic 

  • Reusable baby wipes

  • Ground coffee straight into a giant jar at a local coffee roaster

  • Beeswax wraps and reusable containers instead of glad wrap to store food

  • Homemade reusable cloths instead of paper towels

  • Secondhand/repurposed fabrics for most of my sewing projects instead of buying new

  • Keep a reusable coffee cup, cloth bag, baby flannels, shopping bag and stainless steel straw in my handbag and nappy bag so I'm always prepared

2017 CHANGES

  • Routinely shop at Bin Inn using my own cloth bags and containers 

  • Started making my own toiletries: face scrubs, dry shampoo, deodorant, facial toner, lip and cheek tint, essential oils to treat my skin  

  • Sourced raw milk in reusable glass bottles from a local farm

  • Switched to no bin liner at all

  • Menstrual cup and cloth pads

  • Saved dried eggshells and ground them for the garden (sometimes) 

  • Loose-leaf teas with a teapot or single-serve strainer instead of tea bags

  • Collected fruit/veggie scraps, coffee, tea, and eggshells for the green-waste bin

  • Froze veggie scraps in the freezer to turn into veggie stock

  • Made a butter-replacement vegan spread (infrequently)

  • Started collecting any soft plastics for recycling

  • Started saving batteries for recycling

  • Shampoo and conditioner bars instead of buying bottles from the supermarket

  • Face wash bar soap instead of packaged cleanser

  • Only purchase ready-made skincare/cosmetics in glass

  • BYO container for takeaways (infrequently)

  • BYO container for deli purchases (infrequently)

  • BYO container at the butcher (infrequently)

  • Purchase Trade Aid chocolate since the wrapper is compostable (infrequently)

  • Wooden toilet brush 

  • Fabric napkins instead of serviettes

  • Handkerchiefs instead of tissues

  • Homemade almond and cashew milk instead of Tetra-Paks

  • Attempted coconut yoghurt (it was unsuccessful x2)

  • Started saving toothpaste tubes to recycle via the TerraCycle Oral Care Recycling Program

  • Use fabric scraps, brown paper or secondhand tea towels/scarves for gift wrapping

 

GOALS FOR 2018

  • Stainless steel safety razor to replace broken plastic one 

  • Wooden comb to replace broken plastic one

  • Home-bake more bread for the adults and/or source unpackaged locally 

  • Learn how to make homemade yoghurt really well

  • Improve my dressmaking and tailoring skills

  • Lobby local council to look into a kerbside compost scheme similar to Raglan Xtreme Zero Waste

So there we have it! I hope this was a tad useful, or at the very least interesting. I'm always keen to connect with other like-minded people and share stories and info, so please stay in touch via my Facebook or Instagram!