My sustainable living journey began with educating myself on the significant environmental issues impacting the earth. Unfortunately, I did not preempt the opening of Pandora’s box. Climate change, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, pollution and soil degradation were only the tip of the iceberg. In my own doing, I was inundated with bleak reports, statistics and forecasts on the impending state of the earth and its creatures. I was overwhelmed, disheartened, and frustrated; I also felt I had to do something about it.
Now not all hero’s wear capes. I quickly found that many do beach cleanups, protest against big oil, or bike everywhere. I wanted to be one of these types of heroes. I wanted to feel that I was making a difference, not adding to the many problems the environment is facing. Living a zero-waste lifestyle was a commonly presented solution for individual’s, I decided to give it a go. For those who have not come across zero-waste living, it is a movement of not sending any waste to landfills.
Let me tell you right now, even though I had the best of intentions when trying to make the change, IT WAS REALLY HARD. Almost everything I purchased came in some form of packaging – especially food. You can kiss convenience, spontaneity and almost all tasty snacks goodbye when trying to find packaging-free items. Zero-waste influencers on Instagram make it look easy. In reality, accessibility to this lifestyle is determined by your proximity to bulk food stores, package-free stores and farmers markets. Unfortunately, London is not a city conducive to zero waste living – we love wrapping everything in plastic, and bulk food and zero waste shops are scarce.
I will be honest, I gave up after 2 months. I don’t like quitting, especially when the stakes feel so high nevertheless, living a zero-waste lifestyle was unrealistic to maintain due to inaccessibility. Travelling all over London to do a weekly shop was not feasible for me. Although I couldn’t commit to a perfect zero-waste lifestyle, I continued to reduce my waste through substitutions such as:
- Choosing fruit and vegetables not wrapped in plastic;
- Swapping paper towels for reusable cloth towels;
- Swapping cotton make-up pads for reusable fabric pads;
- Taking a reusable water bottle everywhere to avoid buying bottled water;
- Buying cleaning products that can be refilled;
- Thrifting instead of buying new;
- Incorporating minimalism;
- Using reusable shopping bags;
- Swapping bottled shampoo and soap for bars.
This experience definitely made me conscious of how much waste we are creating as a species. In the UK alone we produced 221.0 million tonnes of total waste in 2016, 2018 the US produced 292.4 million tons of waste. I think it is safe to say we definitely have a waste problem. In an ideal world, we would all live a zero-waste lifestyle however, in the interim, living a reduced waste lifestyle is the next best option. As Anne-Marie Bonneau once said:
Do you have any tips on reducing waste? Or are you currently living a zero-waste lifestyle and can share your wisdom? Please share your comments below, I would love to hear them!