Updated: May 31, 2022
“It’s pretty amazing that our society has reached a point where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, truck it to a store, buy it and bring it home, is considered less effort than what it takes to just wash the spoon when you’re done with it” – Anonymous
This post comes at a very fitting time, given that this month some noble people rise to the challenge of Plastic Free July. I am trying to adopt a plastic free and/or zero waste lifestyle, but for those familiar with stages of change models, I am currently in the preparation stage. Something that has dawned on me this year is that I’ve always been very good at refusing convenience take away items and recycling whatever I can but I’m less good at reducing, reusing, re-purposing and reinventing. And as I’ve been preparing for to go zero waste, I’ve found a lot of resources I’d like to share with you.
Food Waste – Get creative, think of things to make with what you already have in your fridge and pantry - I love the challenge of trying to empty the fridge! I have started composting and worm farming.
Plastic Kitchen Wrap – For most of us, in the kitchen lives a bin, in which we dispose of used food and a looooooot of packaging, all of which ends up sitting in landfill. This year, I took an honest inside my bin. With my kitchen scraps and paper waste going into my compost bin, most of what I found I was binning was cling wrap and soft plastics from packaged foods e.g. Oreo wrappers (guilty as charged). I asked my green girl Katie, how the heck could I cut down this cling wrap usage, I just couldn’t seem to find another solution that didn’t also involve plastic (such as plastic containers). She said she used beeswax wraps. I’ve recently purchased my first pack from an Australian woman who sells cotton fabric infused with beeswax to make it stick to surfaces and keep air tight. The woman I made the purchase from goes by the name Bee Wrapped Naturally, I think Katie purchases from Apiwraps. The hypocrisy of a vegan blogger purchasing a beeswax product is not lost on me. And after the purchase I learnt of a vegan cling wrap alternative – shower caps. On your next hotel stay be sure to flog the humble, overlooked shower cap. What a great example of reinventing a product. Alternatively, you can purchase Reusable Bowl Covers Sets online for roughly the cost of a roll of cling wrap (apparently that’s what they used before cling wrap in the ‘50’s!) I’m also going to buy glass Tupperware and am I praying for a soy-wax wrap invention.
Pantry Storage – Since I’ve lived out of home I’ve always kept the staple foods in my pantry in glass jars, it keep food fresher and people always used to comment how good the kitchenette in my apartment looked. The soft plastic within my bin, aside from Oreo wrappers, is often the packaging from pasta, nuts and seeds etc. Evidently, I’m not a very abstract thinker, I asked Green Katie, how do I also get around this plastic problem?! She said, take your glass jars down to Geelong Whole Foods. Not only is it cheaper to buy in bulk, more ethical to buy Australian products from a local grocer but this relatively easy change dowsed a significant portion of soft plastic waste!
Eliminating Aluminium – Now obviously, the rest of my kitchen waste, the cardboard’s and aluminium cans can be recycled, I’ve been doing that for years.
But one day I saw this:
Sure, if you recycle something it’s turned into another product right, but what if, for whatever reason, my aluminium can doesn’t make it through the process? The recycling was contaminated or for some other reason and the recycling ended up in landfill. I couldn’t cope with the guilt. Especially when the things I buy in aluminium cans are various beans of which I can by in bulk at Geelong Whole Foods, put directly in my own glass jar and cook myself. The other canned product I depend upon is chopped tomatoes which I use as passata but I can also make myself, or buy in a glass jar. If anyone know of an alternative to coconut milk and cream in cans I’d be very interested to hear about it!
Kitchen Appliances – I’m sad to report the share house I’m currently living in scores low on appliance efficiency, with the old gas stove and non-existent dish-washer. Inductive heat stoves are by far the most efficient cooking appliance, if you can afford it. As a psych grad, I believe dishwashers preserve relationships. The great news is, there’s plenty of research to prove they are more water efficient (and hygienic) than running sinks of water at a time to wash dishes by hand.
Water – The most obvious way to preserve mother earth in your bathroom is by being conscious of your water usage, but you know this. Again, living in an older house, our toilet is one of the illegal one-flush systems. At our housewarming people even commented on how heavy the flush on that thing is! This made me sad and my girl Claire and I agreed on a ‘If it’s yellow let it mellow’ policy. Lucky she’s also pretty green and super accommodating. I’m soon to take a crash course in plumbing on the internet and insert a brick to fill some of the space in the flushing system.
Everyday Bathroom Products – I’ve been on the bamboo toothbrush wagon for a while, which is compostable when you’re due for a new one. Something that I’ve started this year is making my own bathroom and toilet products. I make my own dry shampoo (tapioca and carob powder combined at a 3:1 ratio), body scrubs and infusers. I’ve tried making my own toothpaste which was a disaster, but am hoping to find a good recipe soon as even my ethical, New Zealand made Red Seal toothpaste has packaging that ends up in landfill once finished. Once I have used up my current deodorant, I hope to make my own deodorant too. Of course there is an alternative, drink enough water throughout the day to ensure you don’t get body odour! I purchased the Natural Harry recipe book last year which has simple recipes for making all of these products. Harry’s are all beautiful and I recommend the book but there are also plenty of other recipes on the internet. Being a regular at the health food shops around Geelong I already had most of the ingredients for these products in my pantry and purchased essential oils online.
Personal Care Products for Women – I absolutely love Tom Organic products, a St Kilda based company using organic cotton in their personal care pads and tampons. Cotton is up there with corn and soy as one of the most commonly genetically modified products, hence, the importance of buying organic. However, much the same as my ethical toothpaste, once the product has been used, it will be disposed of, in this case either in landfill or down the toilet (another issue in itself!) So I am about to make the switch to the JuJu cup (sorry, not sorry), the only Australian made and owned menstrual cup. Made from high quality medical grade silicone, and designed in consultation with ergonomists and gynaecologists.
Make Up – For around six month now I’ve been using Arbonne, their botanically sourced products are nontoxic, certified vegan and packaged responsibly, not to mention incredible to wear. Face wipes can easily be avoided with flannels.
EDIT: For all my zero waste make up recipes, see my Food as Make Up blog here
Cleaning Products – The ecostore brand was founded by New Zealanders Malcom and Melanie Rands, when they became fed up of with the chemical exposure associated with commercial cleaning and body care products. Their unique focus on health created a loyal customer following and over the years customers would write in saying their eczema, dermatitis, asthma and other allergies had improved or disappeared altogether from using ecostore products. These products, which are available in health food stores but also supermarkets, are my go-to brand for cleaning products that I can’t make myself. I use their washing power, toilet cleaner and dish-washing liquid and scrubbing brushes. I’ve tried the shampoo and conditioner, but unfortunately if doesn’t agree with my hair. Ecostore products are not tested on animals and carry the PETA logo. If you’re trying zero waste living, you can fill up your existing cleaning product bottles with dish-washing liquid, washing machine liquid, kitchen sprays and more at Geelong Whole Foods. I tried this with their shampoo and conditioner – I recommend getting a small sample to start with for these products, as I soon learnt that citrus scented shampoo is extremely dying on my hair.
Cleaning Clothes – I give my clothes the old sniff n’ stain check and if it checks out, throw it back in my wardrobe. This is the simplest way to conserve water when it makes to cleaning clothes but it has the added bonus of giving your clothes a longer life. When you do wash, washing your clothes in cold water and drying them outside saves 400kg of carbon dioxide per person, per year. The washing machine I currently use has the option to select water level and duration of cycle, even with both at minimal I get a good result.
If I’ve forgotten anything, let me know!
Up next – Zero Waste Living: Outside Your Home.
Thanks for reading,
References and Resources
The history of recycling: http://www.gridphilly.com/grid-magazine/2016/2/25/recycling-is-good-but-it-should-be-our-last-resort
A great example of reinventing furniture: http://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/how-turn-old-pallets-furniture-your-home/
Living eco-friendly in rentals: http://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/creating-planet-strong-home-tips-renting-sustainably/
DIY bee/soy wax wraps: http://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/diy-reusable-beeswax-wraps/
On Zero Waste living: http://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/zero-waste-life-isnt-hard-i-thought-it-would-be/
10 simple tips to make less trash each day: http://robgreenfield.tv/andrea/
Zero Waste living in pictures: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2016/apr/22/zero-waste-movement-no-trash-photos
Changing plastic habits: http://www.therogueginger.com/2016/04/tricks-change-plastic-habits.html
Carbon reducing hacks and emissions calculator: http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/real-life-hacks-to-cut-your-carbon-footprint-plus-a-personal-emissions-calculator-20160314
Download Recycle Smart app for a comprehensive guide to what recycling your local council accepts and in which bin!
To watch the girl who originally inspired me to try Zero Waste living: https://www.facebook.com/Upworthy/videos/1161010843939772/
For several more plastic kitchen wrap and plastic container alternatives ideas: http://foodmatters.tv/content/healthier-alternatives-to-plastic-tupperware
Guide to keeping fruit and vegetables without plastic: http://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/how-to-keep-fruit-and-vegetables-fresh-without-plastic/
To read more about stove efficiency: http://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/which-type-stovetop-most-energy-efficient/
Other ways to lower energy consumption: http://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/10-simple-actions-lower-your-household-energy-consumption/
To watch video about Juju Cup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIUcH2sjdtU
Deodorant recipe: http://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/diy-natural-deodorant/
DIY kitchen cleaner: https://www.facebook.com/1MillionWomen/videos/10156977024150393/
Films on the dangers of chemicals in our homes: http://www.foodmatters.com/article/top-films-that-uncover-our-chemical-world