If you are reading these words then I’m guessing that something has woken you to the fact that the way we are living is not sustainable; that the world is literally drowning in our waste.
You’ve had one of those moments where you realised that what we accept as normal isn’t normal at all. Like our rampant use of plastic; using a material that never breaks down for an item that is made to be thrown away within minutes of use, like straws or sporks (wtf is a spork!). Maybe it was a shocking statistic that sparked you into action, like this one – every day in Australia we use 10 million plastic bags. Or did you see one of those devastating pictures of a seabird or turtle or whale that had died because it had ingested too much plastic?
Whatever it was – you’re here because you’re sick of living in a wasteful way that damages the planet. And what makes you different – and awesome – is that you’ve decided to do something about it…
Welcome to the Zero Waste lifestyle, you dang hero, you!
My personal mission is to help people live full lives with zero waste. This website is constantly being update with ways to do that but here’s a quick summary on the methods behind the magic.
What is Zero Waste?
Your mission should you choose to accept it? To create a lifestyle that reduces the amount of waste that is sent to landfill or that winds up in the environment.
Zero Waste is a movement of everyday people dedicated to reducing their impact on the planet through more mindful, creative and resourceful choices.
Zero Waste is…
- A rebellion against short-sightedness.
- About putting the value back in our belongings and the meaning back in our lives.
- Understanding that there is no “away” when we throw things away; there is just out of sight, out of mind. And the ocean.
- A kinder, more creative way to live.
- Not apologising about it. Starting conversations.
What Zero Waste isn’t…
- Something you can fail at – unless you quit.
- About perfection.
- It’s not somewhere you arrive – certainly not overnight anyway! It is more of a constant dance of striving to do what is right. No – you don’t have to have a jar that you have to keep all your rubbish in!
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
Boyd K. Packer
How to go Zero Waste
When I first fell pregnant I couldn’t believe how many pregnant women I could see everywhere. Have you ever had anything like that? A topic enters your consciousness and now everywhere you look, there it is.
I hate to break it to you but it’s the same with rubbish. Your home, your shops, your street – full of trash. It’s like Mufasa at the beginning of the Lion King “Look, Simba. Everywhere the light touches is full of rubbish”.
It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. Which is where the 5 R’s come in…
- Refuse what you don’t need
- Reduce what you do need
- Reuse by using resuables (also repair!)
- Recycle what you can’t refuse, reduce, or reuse
- Rot the rest
Only in that order!
Bea Johnson – the Queen of Zero Waste – came up with the 5 R’s as a guideline to stop waste entering your life and our landfills. It’s not surprising this process she’s invented has gone viral – it works.
A quick breakdown of the 5 R’s
Refuse what you don’t need.
Or as I like to call it “stop letting useless shit into your life that you then need to throw away shortly after acquiring it”.
This is the first step for a reason – you will be flabbergasted at how much waste this immediately prevents from entering your life.
It’s all about observation – start to look at the rubbish that enters your life and take a stand against it. Say no to it. There’s a reason that this step is sometimes referred to as precycling – he practice of seeking to reduce consumer waste by buying unpackaged, reusable, or recyclable products.
Some easy places to start:
- Single-use sources of plastics like bags, bottles, cups, cutlery + straws – assemble your zero-waste kit and say goodbye to this (see Reuse further down).
- Products that comes packaged up the hilt.
- Freebies & Swag-bags – how many badly branded biros does one need?
- Business cards – take a photo instead.
- Junk mail – get one of those signs for your postbox and cut it off at the source.
Another way to look at it is by thinking about what you want to say YES to.
What behaviours do you agree with and what companies are acting in a way that you want to encourage. What companies are supporting your vision and how could you support them? For me that includes products that are produced locally, made by hand or made by artists. They are produced responsibly, sustainably and they come with minimal packaging.
Think about the type of world you want to live in. Be part of that vision.
Reduce what you do need.
This R is all about reducing the amount of stuff you have and – thanks to the growing popularity of minimalism – is a very trendy step to take indeed.
Did you know the average American home has 300,000 items in it? And that 25% of people don’t have room in their double garages to fit their cars? We even have TV shows dedicated to Hoarders and coffee mugs emblazoned with #lovetoshop. We are literally drowning in stuff.
Decluttering, as it is often known, can be a revolutionary step in your life because it isn’t just about the physical clutter – it’s about the mental clutter it creates. Stuff complicates things. The more you have the more you have to store, clean, maintain, refill and buy. Clutter attracts clutter.
Which is why I suggest you go through your home with a fine-toothed comb and start getting real about what you “need”. Do you need 15 spare salad bowls – or are there two favorites that you use every time?
Get disruptive and think about the Share Economy. Would it make more sense to borrow or rent some of the items that you store? Can you reduce your books and increase your visits to the library?
A note on the subject of reducing: for the love of all things holy declutter responsibly. With the ethos of Zero Waste being avoiding sending things to landfill, don’t just turf your stuff willy-nilly. When done right you are freeing up resources for other people to use and honouring your items by allowing your trash to become someone’s treasure.
Some tips on decluttering responsibly:
- Start small. Choose one room, one desk or one drawer and go bit by bit. Don’t overwhelm yourself thus making landfill seem like a tempting quick-fix.
- Support the secondhand market. Divide into piles – sell, donate, gift.
- Repurpose + Upcycle. Got a million ratty towels? Cut them up and use them as cleaning cloths. Got 300 pillowcases? Make some bread bags or a cute ghost costume for your kid! Get creative. Pinterest is your friend.
- What Sparks Joy? Marie Kondo created the famous Spark Joy method of decluttering – “The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.”
- Precycle: For future purposes ask yourself if you will use the item more than once, if it has more than one purpose and if you will still need/use it a year from now.