Monday, 29 February 2016

Taking steps to Zero Waste

I had never heard of "Zero Waste" before November 2015. Then my (then) 8 year old daughter told me this on a regular day after school. 

"Today we saw this picture of a dead bird at school mummy, it was so gross and disgusting!"

My response was "Oh okay. You get grossed out really easily, tell me what you saw."

My more level headed 10 year old explained that there was a presentation at school today on pollution and plastic in the ocean and that the picture was of a decayed bird carcass and inside its stomach was a whole bunch of plastic and rubbish. I had to see this for myself.

Pictures are worth a thousand words.

This one picture just changed it all for me.

 I Googled "dead bird plastic" and I found it, and I could not unsee what I saw.

It looked too unreal. This had to be staged. Someone must have done this. And someone did do this. 

We all did this.

This image is part of a series by Chris Jordan and is well worth taking a deeper look at.

We all use plastic items in our everyday lives and even though we try our hardest not to litter, to recycle as much as we can, somehow this albatross was eating and ingesting our trash.

My kids went onto say how sad it was that things like this happen. And I agreed, completely. So my kids asked me, "what can we do so this stops happening?" I quickly turned back to Google and came across phrases such as;

"Say no to plastic"
"Micro beads"
"The Gyre"
"Zero waste"

There was A LOT of information to digest.

"Zero waste? What does that mean mummy?"

I had no idea.

So I typed that phrase into YouTube and was introduced to Zero Waste royalty, Bea Johnson from Zero Waste Home who is a wife and mother with 2 sons & Lauren Singer from Trash is for Tossers.

These ladies broke it down with some quick and easy changes that everyone could make that would reduce our waste quickly. Some of the changes I've made aren't for everyone, but there are some really basic steps that EVERYONE can take.

Stop using/accepting plastic bags. 

I always carry a small tote in my handbag for anything that I buy. I leave tote bags in the car and hanging off the pram, so I'm rarely without a tote bag. "I don't need a bag" just rolls off my tongue when I see the sales assistant put my purchase in a plastic bag. I even stopped putting my produce in plastic bags and bought some reusable mesh produce bags for loose fruits and vegetables such as grapes and green beans. Most of the time I just throw all the produce into a tote bag so they can get well acquainted.

Stop buying plastic water bottles and get a refillable water bottle. 

More water goes into making a disposable water bottle than what is actually in the water bottle. It might take some effort to remember to do this every time you head out but after a while, grabbing a water bottle on your way out almost becomes habit, like grabbing your phone, keys and wallet/purse.

Those have to be the easiest steps that everyone can take to reduce our unnecessary and excessive use of plastic. My children and I were ready to go a little more hardcore with this zero waste stuff. I mean, how could I forget about those poor little birdies.

A quick look in my trashcan shows that most of my rubbing is food scraps and packaging. So composting and avoiding composting were clearly the next steps we had to take. Composting alone, reduced our waste by 60-70%. I had to look hard and fast for a small space/no yard composting solution, but I was ecstatic when I found one. If dealing with food scraps or worms isn't for you, see if your local council has a public compost bin.

Avoiding packaging is still a struggle for us sometimes.We are lucky enough to have a bulk store near by where we buy our dry goods like flour, quinoa, cereal, salt and pasta and they have a great snack section which the kids love to choose from. We get our nut butter freshly ground straight into the jar and they have honey on tap too. They even have bulk shampoo and dish washing liquid which I can't wait to try. The kids LOVE going there. They fight over who gets to fill which jar with what and say its a more fun way to shop. The biggest struggle has been giving up... potato chips. As a family we all love potato chips. I'm not going to pretend I'm prefect, because, yes, we still give into temptation sometimes but I will say we went from consuming about 8 big family sized bags of potato chips per month, down to 1-2 bags a month.

We stopped buying a lot of single use products like tissues and paper towels and we use napkins, handkerchiefs, microfiber cloths and tea towels. I switched out throw away cotton rounds for reusable organic cotton rounds. Don't worry we still buy toilet paper, it's just not wrapped in plastic and is made from recycled paper.

We switched out plastic items for more sustainable options like the kitchen sponge for a wooden scrubber, our toothbrushes and hair brushes are now bamboo and even our pegs are now wooden and bamboo. I even bought a menstrual cup

I started making our own cleaning products and toothpaste as well.

It sounds like a bit of effort and sometimes it is. It sounds like it can get expensive and initially you do need to invest in a few things. It can sound a bit exhausting and limiting, as though I am missing out on certain things. A bit of trial and error forced me to leave a "zero waste kit" in the car because, we you just never know.

I think the effort is so important though. I think the world we are leaving behind for our children, and their children is so important. I want my children to have clean air and a climate that isn't so extreme and temperamental. I want my children to have clean beaches to enjoy in the summer time. I want my children and their children to have access to healthy food which hasn't been treated with chemicals or has traveled from the other side of the world or costs them an arm and a leg.

Zero waste has really changed the way I see things. I see supermarkets full of packaging and I can't unsee it now that I am consciously aware of it. I can't comfortably buy caged eggs or chicken that is not free range. I try to cook as vegetarian/vegan as possible during the weekdays, reducing our consumption of animals products greatly. I see consumerism is rampant and I can't comfortably participate and support fast fashion the way I used to.

It's really just a lot of small changes for the good of a greater cause. I always thought recycling as much as I could was enough, but it's not. My family used to fill 10 grocery bags with trash every week and now we only fill 3. 2 bags on a better week. Once I switch over to cloth nappies/toilet training, who knows how little trash we will make each week.

Hopefully I've got you thinking about your use of plastic and how you can help the environment, even just a bit. Let me know what small (or big) steps you could take.

Step 94,

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