The good news is: You don’t have to buy new items to be zero waste.
I hear more and more about how to reduce waste and your carbon footprint, but do I do enough? How many of us would be able to fit our rubbish inside a mason jar? I reckon not many. The amount of flights I take in a year won’t help me either on reducing my score. I travel a lot more than the average but I am doing the best I can to reduce my carbon footprint in general. I cycle, I eat plant-based food and I am not having decision fatigue over my purchases anymore because I buy and own less. It is important to remember that reducing our dependence on non-reusable items are not the most impactful things to do for the environment. There is a lot more to it, including your diet, what you eat and avoiding unnecessary consumption. I’ve started this journey by reducing my waste rather than going zero waste.
Living with the aim to send nothing to landfill sounds comforting and it is something I wholeheartedly support with my lifestyle and habits I’ve formed over time, but the bad news is: it can only be achieved slowly. Let’s be realistic. Either way, at the end of it you will make a difference not only to your own life but for the planet’s. Our driver behind this lifestyle change should never be the guilt we feel – around how much trash we are responsible for or what we are doing wrong, but the aim to change for the better.
Your journey of going zero waste won’t happen overnight but you can already start forming habits that would help you getting there. When I say now, I mean right now. Eco-fashion and eco products are rising in popularity and sometimes they are tempting to buy. I have some beeswax wraps in my kitchen cupboard which I bought in Paris alongside with multiple string bags but these are nice-to-haves, not necessities.
Waste will happen inevitably, you should have fun and lessen the waste you produce by incorporating small steps and goals along the way instead of aiming for the perfection and doing it for others. Do it for yourself. Do it slowly.
1. Look at your habits
A couple of years ago I was making a lot of unnecessary purchases when it comes to beauty and skincare and I still do occasionally. I used to buy cotton pads, plastic toothbrushes, face wipes, wet wipes, several bottles of shower gel and shampoo at once, It wasn’t hard to become part of the throwaway culture but it is much harder to come out of it. I’ve decided to put more emphasis on my every day habits and buying decisions which resulted in saying no to things that are harmful for the planet and do not serve a purpose.
2. Educate yourself and do some research
At the beginning I simply started looking for reusable, recyclable and environmentally friendly options which was fairly easy because there is a lot of educational pieces out there which are helping you to find the right alternatives in your home and educate you on the next steps. I have completely changed the way I look at the beauty industry and I have dedicated a lot of time to understand what could work for me by changing some of my shopping habits and eliminating single use items first. Easy swaps. You don’t need to throw things out immediately, just use up what you have first and then move on.
Things that worked for me:
Recycle daily: This sounds very easy, but it is one of the most difficult ones to get into. Here in the UK you can order free recycling bins from the council for free with home delivery which could help you moving away from bin liners and you can start handling your waste differently.
Buy loose vegetables and fruits: Reduce the amount of plastic packaging you are bringing home. Pick the loose potatoes and onions instead of buying them in a plastic bag.
Repurpose: I love repurposing old items like juice glasses and use them as a vase or soap dispenser.
Donate your unwanted items: I own less, therefore the number of unwanted items in my home is probably less than 5. Every item I own serves a purpose and I am strongly against clutter because it feels suffocating. If you have unwanted items there is no reason for them to all end up in the bin. Donate your clothes, shoes, accessories and small items if you can – there is someone out there who would need them more than you do if you decide to let go of them. I have donated half of my wardrobe and it was absolutely liberating!
Reusable cotton pads: These are my beauty regime staples since I’ve ditched single use cotton pads. They also come packaged in lovely washable bags which you can keep forever. I purchased mine from Amazon as a kit including some other items which I use regularly. Cons: Difficult cleaning process. In my case they only work for skincare products like applying micellar water or a toner. Sadly I don’t recommend using them for removing mascara or foundation because they remain fairly grey and almost unusable even after multiple washes.
Discover the shops near you: Zero waste stores are not as common as I’d like them to be and realistically you won’t drive an extra 100 miles just to get to one, but there might be places near you which you can visit instead of going to the regular supermarkets. Support local and small businesses, build relationships, enjoy the carefully grown and produced products they deliver.
Reusable beauty items: Use reusable exfoliating mats instead of buying them in a plastic bottle from the drugstore packed with non-skin friendly ingredients. Quick, handy, environmentally friendly and does the job. I religiously use this once a week instead of buying multiple products with non-recyclable packaging.
- Dry brushing: Dry brushing has wonderful energizing qualities and I just simply can’t live without it. It is boosting the radiance of my skin and improving the turnover rate of new cells. It is a perfect swap if you are looking to replace single use body scrubs.
String bags: I love my string bags as well as my reusable fruit and vegetable bags! I don’t remember when was the last time when I purchased a bag or used a plastic bag since we have these alternatives.
The rule of 5 – only buy what you need: I only purchase a limited number of products based on my needs. No more, no less, no bulk buying.
Growing your own herbs: I grow my own herbs indoors (basil) and it is a very simple and easy process with amazing and quick results.
Homemade masks: You can make low-impact face masks at home knowing that by eliminating prepackaged skincare items that come wrapped in single-use plastic, you are significantly cutting down on your footprint. (Turmeric + honey, tea tree mask, chamomile tea mask, apple cider vinegar mask)
Packaging: Look out for the labels as they will tell you exactly whether the packaging is likely to be collected for recycling or not.
Water bottle: I have recently gotten into the habit of carrying my water bottle everywhere with me, even in the house. I use it during exercise, at work and I have it on my bedside table during the night too as it keeps the water nice and cold. Mine is from Chilly’s Bottles. https://www.chillysbottles.com/uk
Eco-friendly workout equipment: I have a beautiful blue sticky yoga mat from Yogamatters. They have biodegradable, non-toxic mats for every practice made from cork and natural materials. No PVC, EVA or synthetics. https://www.yogamatters.com/
Things that didn’t work for me:
Bamboo toothbrush: Using a bamboo toothbrush just did not work for me. The bristles were way too harsh for my taste and they worn out very quickly.
Shampoo and conditioner bars: I love the idea of this but transitioning to using a shampoo bar is not easy. The products I used made my hair dry and sticky without giving them any volume, however I am keen to discover and experiment a bit more with them in the future, but in all honesty I found this somewhat of a difficult process.
Waste diary: I just simply don’t like the idea of writing a journal and analysing my waste – and that probably means that I have a lot more waste than I should.
Beeswax food wrap: I am in a bit of a limbo with this product. The idea of these wraps sound much better than the reality of using them. They have a strange smell and a very sticky texture but I’ve decided to give them another go so I’ve kept them in my kitchen cupboard.
Coconut Oil: It is a very popular oil with high saturated fat content and multipurpose use, but for me sadly it just doesn’t cut it. It can be used for cooking, for baking, for hair and for our skin – as a skin and hair care product it has never worked for me therefore it is not a staple in my household. If your hair is dry or brittle then it’s best to stay away from coconut oil because it can cause significant protein build up which will dry out your thin and fine locks even more.
I get excited when it comes to new eco-fashion and ecofriendly products on the market but I try and not to base my journey on buying trendy products just for the sake of it. Buying is easier than change, but in a way it is conflicting with what I am trying to achieve. I am primarily focusing on the basics and perfecting my everyday activities by paying attention to recycling at all times and thinking twice when it comes to the consumer treadmill.
I hope my tips and tricks have helped you to get inspired and encouraged you to start taking smaller steps towards a cleaner, healthier and more conscious lifestyle.
I am aiming for minimal waste and I think I am on the right track without being overwhelmed by it. My message for you is to recycle regularly, swap disposables for reusables but most importantly: enjoy and be proud, because you are doing something good and impactful for our beautiful planet. 🌿