During our recent chat with Zero Waste blogger Kate Arnell, we asked for her top tips on living a life less wasteful. Here’s what she said.
Just start! Don’t wait until you’re earning more, or have more free time, or wonder whether it’s even “do-able”. Whatever excuse you have used in the past, put to one side and make a start. It’s about creating good habits and building on those.
Begin with areas that either interest you (food, beauty, saving money, fashion) and that are easy to change. Try only one or two things at a time. Once you switch to one good habit and it feels normal, start on the next…. and then the next.
And be kind to yourself. It’s too easy to look at the negative when you’ve actually done so many positives. It can be easy to fall into a trap of wanting to be a perfectionist about it all, especially as the majority of images in the media around zero waste show pictures of extreme minimalism and jars of annual waste. These are great for starting the conversation and grabbing people’s attention but shouldn’t be the only representations for zero waste. Do it your way. What works for someone else, may not work for you. And that’s ok! There are no rules, just make positive steps towards reducing your waste output. Simply being aware of making better choices means you’re a step closer than most people to being less wasteful and more environmentally kind.
Top tips I have found really effective:
Replace disposables with reusables. Invest in a good reusable water bottle, reusable coffee cup, cloth bags and some containers for grocery shopping and general day to day. Having the tools to enable you to live and shop without packaging makes it so much easier and I get excited to use them – I now don’t leave the house without thinking “keys, phone, wallet, reusable bags, coffee cup…. go!”
Be prepared. Will I need my reusable coffee cup later today? Am I going to pick up some groceries? If so, I must remember to take containers, coffee cup and cloth bags with me! Write lists to help you plan ahead. (FYI, I used to be the most last minute, grab-and-go kind of person!).
Refuse freebies. Paper plates, plastic straws and anything else you don’t really need or want. They simply become a chore later down the line and most of the time can’t be reused or recycled.
Ask questions! Whether it’s asking a company to send something to you without plastic packaging, or asking someone in a shop if they’d be cool with you bringing in your own containers, work up the courage to kindly ask if they will help you. It almost always starts a positive conversation and I’ve had so many people admire my reusable containers or say they “like my style of grocery shopping”.
Shop second-hand. this is a great way of breathing new life into items that would otherwise end up in landfill. And there are lots of different ways to do it. If charity shops aren’t your thing, try a consignment store/dress agency or online at Vestiaire Collective for more high end pieces. I only choose natural fibres that will eventually biodegrade instead of synthetic fibres (often made of plastic!) that shed tiny plastic microfibres into our washing machines and eventually end up in the ocean, where they harbour toxins and enter the food chain. It might sound dramatic, but honestly, research has found that this actually happens!
Get creative. Whether it’s making some of my own beauty products or cooking more from scratch, knowing what I’m putting in and on my body is really empowering and as a result I produce a lot less waste and even save money!
Learn to cook from scratch. It was one of the best things EVER when it came to reducing my food waste. It means I can confidently incorporate any left overs or about-to-go-soggy ingredients into a meal. “Chicken surprise anyone?” I also buy locally sourced, seasonal, organic foods without disposable plastic packaging which means I don’t really see many sell by dates (which can often cause people to throw out perfectly edible food).
Vote with your wallet. Money talks! It’s one of the most powerful messages understood by all. We’ve been trained from an early age to find the best bargain price for items, no matter what the true environmental or human cost really is. Now I prioritise quality over quantity and consciously choose items that align with my values. Honestly, it feels so fulfilling to know I am supporting a company’s ethos that I agree with.
Read our full interview with Kate.