A few weeks ago, a friend of mine who was visiting New York for the first time sent me a photo of a plastic-wrapped apple from her hotel and shared her first impressions of the country. “I see waste everywhere,” she declared. Outside, trash and boxes pile up on top of snow mounds. People walk around with single-use coffee cups like it’s an extension of their outfits.
Takeout places dispense plastic cutlery, napkins and condiment packets automatically, without even asking whether the customer wants them. The city truly feels awash with trash and the subway rats are probably the only ones benefiting from it.
Goal #2: Transition to low-waste, and eventually become zero-waste
In my first post of the year, I listed out my New Year resolutions and gave you some tips on how to be a more mindful and sustainable shopper. Now I’m tackling the second goal on my list: transitioning to low-waste so that by the end of 2018, I should be on my way to be zero-waste. Everyone’s definition of low-waste will no doubt differ from one another. For me, my goal is to be as realistic as possible and cut back on the number of items that I cannot recycle. I’m mason-jar ready, but I know I’m not quite there yet. To quote Going Zero Waste’s motto: “it’s not about perfection; it’s about making better choices.”
So without further ado, let me share with you my tips.
Vow to be the crazy jar lady. This year, I vow to be the crazy jar lady. Or even better, the crazy glass container lady. Once upon a time, any used jars that went through my household ended up in the recycling bin. This is fine, of course. But the appeal of jars opened up to me as soon as I decided to embark on this low-waste journey. Small jars, big jars, glass bottles – I save them all, and I’ll be reusing them for everything, from my bulk-buy purchases, to my lunch container and even storing other household items. The possibilities of jars (and other glass containers) are endless!
Look for plastic alternatives and say no to single-use items. A quick look at my trash shows the usual culprits: cotton wool rounds, floss and food packaging that I can’t include in our recycling bins. We have a number of alternatives to disposable products on BuyMeOnce to combat this: a KeepCup to take to the local cafe, a Klean Kanteen instead of a plastic water bottle, reusable straws and beeswax food wraps instead of cling wrap to name a few. Toiletries such as reusable cotton wipes instead of disposable cotton balls, refillable floss made out of biodegradable silk and even household necessities such as bamboo towels are on my shopping list as soon as I consume what I already have.
Start DIY-ing a lot more. Ah, the power of white vinegar, Castile soap and baking soda! This trifecta can clean anything for a fraction of the price of store-bought products. And knowing what I’m using is also a big plus. Instead of bleach and other nasty chemicals, I’ll be making my own household cleaning products.
Plan ahead, research and be part of a community. The bulk of my waste comes from food packaging. A weekly shop at the grocery store results in a cornucopia of food packets in my recycling bin. This year, I vow to cut back on this and really invest in buying grocery in bulk with my jars and to visit farmers’ markets. I’m also saying hello to weekly meal preps and recipes, and saying goodbye to food delivery services and takeouts.
If you’re interested in more zero-waste tips, we have articles on how to minimise waste from the bedroom to the office and also how to tackle it when you’re out and about. There’s a myriad of communities combating all kinds of waste as well. For instance in the UK, there are community fridges run by volunteers. Even a number of bars are now championing zero-waste, churning out zero-waste cocktails all over the world! Curiously Conscious has curated an extensive list of ethical bloggers to follow and read up on, and we simply cannot wait for the release of our founder Tara’s book this February!
I’m heartened by the number of thriving and growing communities and spokespeople talking about how we can combat waste. If we all collectively make better choices, we can definitely make an impact. I’d love to hear you tips on being more low-waste and your suggestions in the comments below!