In June it will be one year since I got rid of my rubbish bin. One year since I started my journey towards zero waste living. One year since I sent anything to landfill.
It requires a little forward planning, but it’s not impossible. And what an education. An education in how much waste we generate. In how unclear we’ve become about the difference between want versus need. How driven we are by consumerism.
An education in that no matter how educated we are we put convenience before the health of our planet, and in turn ourselves, our future and the future of our children.
When I first read this post to Noah he looked at me rather solemnly, gave me a hug and said, ‘Thank you for caring so much’. Bless. But really, how could I not? Michael Jackson and a whole bunch of his friends got together and sang ‘We are the world’ to me (and a few million others) when I was just 6 and let’s not forget that other upbeat tune from back then ‘Don’t kill the world’ by Boney M. It’s not like I haven’t had time to get my shit together.
It’s not like I haven’t been warned.
We have a limited number of years of landfill left. This simple truth should scare the bejesus out of anyone. I have no desire to live on a pile of waste. And even less desire to have that be the legacy I leave my son.
So this is what I’ve been doing.
I compost. It was a bit of a challenge initially as I live in a small apartment and have no garden but I did a little research and now I put my compost waste in a bucket (treat it with a little Bokashi from time to time) and when it’s full I take it to a local urban farm in exchange for an empty bucket. Before that I had discovered a group on Facebook asking for these kind of food bits for their worm farms, pet rabbits, etc, so it just requires a little digging around to find what the best solution is for your particular circumstances.
I say no to plastic. I take my own shopping bags when I buy groceries. I have a bread bag. I buy fruit & veg that hasn’t been packaged and will only buy packaged if absolutely necessary. ( You have no idea how long it’s been since I bought a cucumber. Why do they have to be wrapped??) I purchase glass before plastic. I take jars to Fruit & Veg to buy nuts and dried fruit. I’ll only purchase plastic that is not recyclable in extreme cases. And usually this is only the case when purchasing cheese. While I am vegan my son is not. He dapples in vegetarianism but that particular adventure is another blog post altogether.
No single use items. (Is it true that the guy that invented coffee pods killed himself?). No straws. I carry napkins everywhere. Jars for take away smoothies or drinks. My own containers or napkins if ordering take out. I make my own toothpaste and Noah and I both have bamboo toothbrushes. I use my leftover coffee grounds as body scrub and oil cleanse my face with products from the kitchen. I’ve replaced tampons with a mooncup.
Most of my clothes are second hand but that’s nothing new. I’ve always loved items that have already lived a story, be it clothing or furniture. Some things I buy new. Like underwear. And shoes. But then I start paying careful attention to where those items were made.
I don’t always win.
Till slips can not be recycled. The fruit and veg that I buy loose and rescue from being packed in those horrible, non-reclyable thin see-through bags never escape the savage indoctrination of those price stickers. Also not recyclable. Cling wrap. Not reclyable. The foil sachets housing the medication that I have to take for another three months – not reclyable. The baking paper from my previous ‘not zero waste’ life – not recylcable. The wax sheet that was glued to the adhesive paper that Noah had to wrap his school books in – not recyclable. My hair. Dental floss.
For these items I use empty plastic 2l bottles (the irony). I stuff as much of the above into these bottles as is humanly possible and then they get used as Eco Bricks to build educational facilities in South Africa. They said to keep the contents plastic so I’m guessing they wouldn’t be that excited about human hair and stickers in their bottles so I’ve put those things in a separate container and will be burning them at a friend’s place soon.( Along with a pizza box or two:/) I have to admit though that they may find some floss and maybe some foil in my bricks but I’m hoping they’ll let this slide.
Burning stuff is not ideal. And I recycle a lot more than I’d like. So I’ll be increasing my efforts. But I’ve sent nothing to landfill in nearly a year. And that feels good.