'I Tried Living Zero Waste For A Month: Here's What Happened' - Women's Health UK

&copy Instagram – mind_body_bowl

Zero waste is a rising topic on the 2018 agenda thanks to the heartbreaking scenes in Blue Planet and Theresa May’s pledge to eliminate plastic waste by 2042.

More than 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year—half of which is for single use only and 5m tonnes of which ends up in the oceans. In the UK alone, in just two hours we produce enough waste to fill the Royal Albert Hall. Last month, the UN declared it a ‘planetary crisis’.

Rise in the number of your Monday morning essential Costa Americanos has resulted in 2.5bn disposable cups being thrown away every year in the UK. Shockingly, only 1% are recycled. So what’s the problem? Well, plastic takes at least 450 years to break down and a maximum of forever. Statistics estimate that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.

Zero Waste Landfill

Image credit – @going.zero.waste

WHAT IS ZERO WASTE?

Living zero waste, in short, means trying to reduce your waste as much as possible.

That includes being mindful of any waste you produce that can’t be recycled or composted—be it the plastic your vegetables are packaged in, the straw that comes with your Thursday night G&T or the box that held your Itsu lunch. Zero waste encourages re-gifting clothes, reusing and repairing, rather than sending rubbish to landfills or incinerators.

And it’s working. Doorstep deliveries of glass milk bottles have risen 25% in two years, according to Dairy UK. Ordering from the milkman and reusing glass bottles, rather than throwing away plastic, is one way of reducing your waste. But what else can you do to do your bit?

This could include things like:

  • Using a reusable coffee cup, like a KeepCup
  • Carrying a non-plastic water bottle and refilling it so that you don’t add to the 60 million plastic water bottles that are sent to landfill every day
  • Using a canvas tote for your shopping, rather than paying for a plastic one
  • Taking your own pots and Mason jars to zero waste supermarkets to package fruit, veg and other provisions in and in turn avoiding unnecessary plastic packaging
  • Avoiding plastic straws
  • Meal prepping your lunch from home. Not only will you be saving money, you’ll be avoiding the waste that comes with packaging your food
  • Carrying a fork and spoon for your lunch to avoid plastic cutlery
  • Use solid bars of shampoo, conditioner and soap and avoid plastic bottles
  • Carrying a handkerchief to avoid wasting tissues.

Why? For many different motivations and factors, but primarily because humans are overproducing waste and do not have proper means of disposing of it. What’s more, the waste disposed at landfills is creating record high levels of greenhouse gas emissions which in turn are causing harmful climate-altering consequences.

Even if being an eco-warrior isn’t your thing, there are other motivations for reducing your waste. At Pret, you get 50p off your coffee if you take in a reusable cup. That’s half price coffee. By opting for a MoonCup and avoiding sanitary waste, you save hundreds of pounds a year on tampons and pads. And by avoiding products made or wrapped in plastic, you’ll save money all round, actually. Kathryn of blog Going Zero Waste has saved over £8,600. By stopping paying for anything that ends up in the bin, as she puts it, she’s stopped paying for rubbish.

Don’t let the concept seem baffling or, well, intimidating.

Want to find out more about what it’s actually like to live zero waste? WH spoke to Annie Clark, yoga teacher and newly converted zero waste-r, to find out.

Zero Waste Shopping

Image credit – @trashisfortossers

ANNIE’S ZERO WASTE STORY

“Over the past year or so, I’ve become increasingly conscious of my day to day waste, particularly as I live my life on the go, eating and drinking out between teaching classes.

‘I have made conscious steps to reduce my waste – I carry a Swell bottle, a coffee cup, my own cutlery and shop in local greengrocers to reduce the amount of packaging I’m responsible for – but it’s not enough.

“When it comes to the zero waste movement, I think I was intimidated by the label. What I could see was people so fully committed to the movement as a lifestyle and I felt destined to ‘fail’ if I tried the same.

“Being totally honest, I questioned whether I’d always be willing to make a zero waste choice so instead, I decided to make small, manageable changes when I could without trying to quantify anything.

MY #NOTIMETOWASTE INITIATIVE

“To keep me on track and encourage others, I launched a new year initiative called #notimetowasteinititiative. I was inspired by yoga philosophy. There’s a personal restraint in the yoga sutras, laid out by Patanjali, that translates to non-greediness. One of my teachers mentioned it before Christmas and it really struck a chord with me.

“If you really think about it, we have an abundance of ‘things’ in our lives. I have so much more than I need, whether that be yoga clothes or food in my cupboards. I started to think about how I could practice non-greediness a little more in my day-to-day life and it flowed to this.

SMALL STEPS TO ZERO WASTE

“I wanted to put my own convenience on the back burner and considering the planet before myself. So I started exploring my waste reduction. It’s really simple to start—focus on consuming consciously rather than producing waste for the sake of personal convenience. For example, carry around a water bottle rather than buying and disposing of a plastic bottle a day. That’d be 365 plastic bottles a year—you’d be shocked how quickly things can add up.

Zero Waste Annie Clark Hetu

WHAT I’VE LEARNT ABOUT ZERO WASTE SO FAR

“I’ve learned a lot about how waste works. For example, some cardboard can go in the compost, and the zero waste movement doesn’t mean that you don’t waste anything at all. It really can be as simple as forgoing a plastic coffee cup every morning or choosing non-packaged fruit and veg at the supermarket. You get 50p off your coffee at Pret and 25p off at Starbucks if you bring in your own cup.

“I’ve learnt that the focus isn’t stopping your waste entirely, but reducing it as much as you can do comfortably. The key to all of it is reduction, which feeds back to this idea of non-greediness. If we don’t consume excessively, waste is less of an issue.

“I’ve realised that no effort is ever wasted. As long as you are doing your best, you are making a difference. It isn’t about suddenly jumping into a lifestyle where you can fit 5 years of waste in a jam jar, but about step-by-step changes in consumption and attitude to help us move in the right direction

ZERO WASTE: THE GOOD AND THE BAD

“When you commit to anything, there will always be someone that tries to call you out.

“For example, I was trying to buy a composter for the garden as my local council doesn’t offer a food waste recycling programme. I tried to hunt around online for something I could buy locally but there weren’t any I didn’t need to drive to get. So I ordered one from Amazon.

“I received messages saying I shouldn’t have done that, but truthfully I was doing the best I could on the budget that I had. This for me was a good reminder that zero waste isn’t about being perfect but about doing what we can. Small changes make all the difference.

“That’s the most important thing: to share your experiences, because we can learn so much from what others find hard. It also serves as a reminder not to lose sight of the bigger picture if you can’t be perfect.

MY TOP TIP FOR ANYONE LOOKING TO REDUCE THEIR WASTE?

“Don’t worry about trying to do everything at once. Start with things that are easy, or choose a couple of ways that you can help. For example, try a MoonCup, carry your own cutlery or use a canvas bag. It’s amazing how you start to notice what zero waste can mean as you get into it.

“Don’t try to be perfect. Just do what you can and remember no effort is ever wasted.

Zero Waste Coffee Cup

Imae credit – @trashisfortossers

ZERO WASTE RESOURCES

“You can get ideas via hashtags like #notimetowastesinitiative, #zerowaste and #zerowastelifestyle online. Read blogs Trash is for Tossers, Going Zero Waste and Litterless for inspiration from people who have adopted a zero waste lifestyle years ago.

“You can be inspired by looking at these people, but it’s also easy to be overwhelmed by their efforts. The best thing is looking at your day to day lifestyles and seeing what we can change. If you want to get inspiration then have a Google. You won’t be short of things to read and listen to.

“We are heading fast to crisis levels on our planet. We all have to take responsibility for our impact on the earth. This is just one aspect, but I believe we can really make an impact.

“That’s what I am trying to do and I’m inspired by others that are doing the same.”

Zero Waste Dispensers Hetu

Image credit – @hetu

ZERO WASTE SHOPS:
WHERE TO BUY ZERO WASTE

Fancy trying it yourself? Head to one of the many zero waste supermarkets popping up up and down the country.

  • Earth, Food, Love – Totness, Devon
  • The Clean Kilo – Digbeth, Birmingham
  • Zero Green – Bedminster, Bristol
  • The Real Food Store – Exeter
  • Cariad Wholefoods – Blandford Forum, Dorset
  • The New Leaf Coop – Edinburgh, Scotland
  • U Weigh – Hythe, Kent
  • The Nutshop – Kirkgate Market, Leeds
  • Bulkmarket – Dalston, London
  • Hetu – Battersea, London

Ally Head is Junior Digital Writer at WH. Join me on Instagram – @allyyhead

Adopting a more conscious way of living? Try these organic hair products or vegan makeup brushes.