There is just so much to absorb about sustainability and zero waste living on the internet (and around us) these days. I can’t emphasise enough how easily we can make small changes to help reduce waste and create a more sustainable home and lifestyle. This doesn’t have to be daunting and there is no such thing as a guidebook to follow. I haven’t followed one myself.
Personally, I look at each year as a new challenge. 2020 was definitely something else for all of us but besides what was happening in the world — I (in general) like challenging myself more and more as the years go by.
This is ultimately for my own personal growth.
What has helped me to grow within sustainability is to understand first: why am I doing this? what am I doing this for? It is easy to follow trends and others but how much time we actually dedicate to understand the real driver behind our actions and the importance of them. Sometimes we just don’t do enough of that. So my first and most important advice is before you start making any sort of changes is to: RECAP.
What is this all about? For a long time our economy has been linear. This means that we took materials and resources from our planet to make a product and after its use the waste is thrown away.
Our aim here is to move and support a circular economy in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible and value them by extracting the maximum value from them. Circular economy is also about recovering and regenerating products helping regenerating natural systems.
My aim therefore is to eliminate waste and continually use products I already own.
In order to meet this goal, I’ve had to make a lot of changes in my life, gradually. The initial phases were hard but once you are in the habit of reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling it becomes easy. Am I perfect now? No, I’m not but this is not the point of this journey.
My goal is to replace the end-of-life product concept and mindless purchasing with recycling/refurbishing and mindful purchasing. What I’ve learnt over time is that I don’t actually have to say goodbye to my love for design and aesthetically pleasing items.
A zero waste home can look beautiful but on the flipside it can also seem like a high-standard lifestyle. Replacing everything you already own with a “zero waste” alternative is possible, but it is not the way forward. Use what you have and only replace them once you get to that stage and they genuinely need replacing. We all have to draw a line on this and I think I have drawn mine. This is a unique journey for everyone. I understand what works and what doesn’t work for me and what are those important lifestyle changes I made that have genuinely benefitted me and our planet.
And I’d like to share it with you. No matter how small they are. My tips are mainly kitchen, beauty, regular recycling and fashion related.
Invest in jars and re-fill your containers to reduce packaging waste: Some may think this is a bit of a faff but for me this has not only brought joy from a sustainability perspective but also from an organisation perspective. One day I have decided to remove all plastic packaging from the kitchen and put everything in jars. Spices, flour, pasta, whatever that can be put in a jar basically. This has not only encouraged me to buy loose products going forward but also changed the way I shop. I’m lucky enough to live in a place where I have zero waste stores nearby me, but I still had to make an effort to change my habits. Not everyone has this privilege but a lot of supermarkets are now doing re-fills and loose products. All you need to remember is take your jars with you. It will introduce such a big change in your life and you will definitely notice the positive benefits on waste.
Avoid and learn about greenwashing: Greenwashing is a term used to describe misleading marketing practices, often through campaigns, that give the impression that a brand or product is more ethical than it actually is. I have been misled many times by companies this way and so I’m a lot more cautious now not to fall into the trap of greenwashing again. It is always worth looking past the marketing and double checking company ethics and facts before making a purchase. This is specifically important when it comes to the fashion and beauty industry. Large high street fashion companies tend to use this method to attract more customers advertising “organic” and “sustainable” materials and fabrics despite their terrible business model. (fair wages, working conditions, transparency, sourcing)
Keep your old plastic bags for your shopping and use reusable fruit/vegetable bags: I have mentioned this before many times and this is something I can’t imagine my life without anymore. I have managed to put an end on buying more plastic bags just by keeping my old ones and reusing them whenever I go shopping. You don’t need to throw out all of them and replacing them with a mesh tote to look and feel sustainable. I personally have only invested in reusable fruit and vegetable bags alongside with my existing old shopping bags and the two work wonders together.
Green your laundry: Declare your independence from toxic chemicals and plastic bottles. I used to buy “eco” laundry products in a plastic bottle or box from the supermarket. Instead of continuing to further contribute to plastic waste this way, I have decided to swap and invest in one Fill Refill laundry liquid jar glass bottle which I can take to my local packaging free store whenever I need a refill. I’m currently using a highly concentrated laundry detergent which costs only £1-£3 to refill. They look so pretty and they serve an even better purpose.
Plastic free beauty: Even just replacing one item in your bathroom can make a huge difference long term. I’m no longer purchasing deodorants that are stored in a plastic container. I had been using the blue Dove deodorant since I was 15. There are some popular eco-choices out there lately (Wild, Native) but for me this cream deodorant swap worked very well from We Love the Planet. It smells amazing, has a reasonable price and it will last a long time. Some other swaps to consider:
- Plastic-free toothbrush
- Reusable cotton pads
- Reusable make up remover pad
- Plastic-free plasters
- Hand soap refills instead of plastic bottles
Recycle your waste correctly: This is one of the most direct ways you can prevent additional damage. Read about your local council’s website on what can you do to recycle accordingly, making sure the items are clean and recycled correctly. You can request and purchase recycling bags and bins too. If you are unsure just Google and take some time to understand what you can and can’t recycle. I have recently recycled my old hair curling wand. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it first but there is appropriate guidance and guidelines on the internet which will help you separate your waste the right way.
Buy pre-loved and vintage clothes: I’m still a beginner on this one but giving clothes a second chance and life is a huge lifestyle change you can make to slow down fast fashion. We all like that “new clothes” feeling and I promise you, vintage clothes can give you the same feeling. Depop, Vinted, Ebay or social media marketplaces are good places to start with but you can find some great designer pre-loved pieces on Vestiaire Collective. There are certain items I personally wouldn’t buy second hand (underwear, gym wear) but a lot of things can be purchased which means we are saving items from being wasted or thrown away earlier than they should. Instagram has great vintage stores available too where you can purchase pre-loved item by messaging the account owner.
Source your food locally: Be mindful about where you shop and where your food comes from. Support local farms and local markets. I also only buy seasonal fruits and vegetables – what you gain from this is usually a lot better value and quality.
Buy authentic, buy less, buy better: My number one priority when shopping for new things is sustainability and quality. I always research into brands before I buy anything from them, whether it’s a furniture or a piece of clothing.
Even if you only incorporate just one of the above changes and habits, you will make a big difference on the long run. Sustainable living is a slow lifestyle change that looks different for everyone. 💛