The climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our time but don’t fret, there are plenty of things that we can do to help the situation. One of the main things that can help is following a zero-waste lifestyle. Don’t worry; no one expects you to become a ‘Level 5 Vegan’ who pocket-mulches like Jesse Grass from that episode of The Simpsons. However, we do have some tips on how you can kickstart your zero-waste lifestyle.
In the Kitchen
Let’s start in the kitchen, our favourite place in the house, and the spot where we generate the most waste.
A Little Meal Prep Never Hurt
Okay, don’t panic. We don’t mean that you have to allocate Sunday afternoons to packing bland meals into little Tupperware boxes for the rest of the week. Breathe out. By ‘meal prep,’ we simply mean planning your meals in advance. Take a couple of minutes at the beginning of the week to set out a list of your meals for the week ahead. You don’t have to stick to any particular order, but it helps to know what’s on the menu, so you don’t over-buy. Try to opt for meals that use the same ingredients to avoid veggies accumulating at the bottom of the fridge, growing more wrinkled and miserable by the day. For instance, root veggies are in season now, and they’re super healthy. You can use the same handful of ingredients to make hearty stews, mouth-watering casseroles, belly-warming soups, or a classic roast dinner. Similarly, peppers, onions, mushrooms, legumes, and greens all work well in all manner of dishes. One evening you can opt for an Asian dish; the next night, you could roast the same veggies and have them with pasta. You just have to be clever about it. The planet and your pocket will thank you! It’s also handy to have some ‘leftover’ recipes in the bank, just in case. Don’t worry; we have all had random ingredients leftover at the end of the week that we’re not sure what to do with. Instead of chucking them out or letting them wither away, you could scroll through Pinterest for recipe inspo, or you can check out this leftover recipe generator. Just pop in your random ingredients, and it’ll provide you with endless possibilities.
What About the Scraps?
When we’re cooking, we tend to generate quite a lot of waste too, but we have some super simple ways that you can cut down. When you’re finished peeling your root veggies, you can compost them. But, you can also use them to make your own stock. Pop the peels and off-cuts into a container and store in the freezer. When you have gathered a good amount, chuck them all into a large pot or slow-cooker, and boil with herbs and water for a couple of hours. Use a sieve to remove the peels, pop them in the compost bin, and pour the stock into ice-cube trays. Then, you can add one or two to your cooking whenever you need them. Composting is a wonderful way of cutting down on kitchen waste. You can compost food waste, as well as teabags, eggshells, and used kitchen rolls. Over time, your food waste will break down into a nutrient-dense fertiliser. You can then use this fertiliser to help grow your own veggies and plants in the garden. Other scraps and leftovers can be stored in stainless steel lunch boxes, glass jars, or in beeswax/vegan wax wraps to keep them fresh. The number one way to kickstart your zero-waste journey is to use whatever you already have. You don’t need to go out and buy new jars and containers if you have a drawer full of mix-matched Tupperware at home.
Picking up the Groceries
Avoiding plastic has never been easier! Many supermarkets are promising to replace plastic wrapping with paper or recyclable alternatives, but until then, you can always pop to the farmer’s market for your veggies. At local markets, most produce is loose, and you can avoid buying anything wrapped in plastic. There, you’re not only helping to support local growers, but you’re also reducing emissions. Many fruit and vegetables are grown overseas, and transporting them to your local supermarket can have detrimental effects on the environment. Grab a reusable tote bag and fill ‘er up! For pasta, rice, nuts, grains, and other dried goods, you can pay a visit to your local zero-waste store. Many of these shops are popping up all over the world, and they’re amazing. You can bring jars or containers and fill them up with whatever you need. You then pay per weight. It’s a zero-waste and cost-effective way of topping up on food cupboard essentials.
In the Bathroom
Next, let’s move on to the bathroom. So many typical hygiene products are made using single-use plastics. Luckily, reusable and eco-friendly alternatives are widely available these days.
You can swap plastic toothbrushes for bamboo, or you can opt for recyclable toothbrush heads if you’re an electric toothbrush user. Swap plastic toothpaste tubes for toothpaste tabs, plastic floss for compostable floss, and plastic interdental brushes for bamboo versions. You can even buy reusable Q-tips now. Some zero-waste bathroom swaps are far more apparent, though. Ditching liquid hand soap in favour of solid soap bars removes the need for plastic packaging, and the same can be done with shower gels. Opting for solid shampoo and conditioner bars have the same benefit, and they last much longer too. You can even swap traditional deodorants for cream or solid deodorant sticks. Disposable razors are not only a pain for us, but they’re also a pain for the planet. Instead, opt for metal safety razors with replaceable blades. They offer a much better shave, and they’re better for the environment. If you’re a shaving foam kind of person, you can replace aerosol cans with an old-school shaving brush and bowl and a shaving lotion bar. Who doesn’t like pretending they’re in a period drama, at least for a couple of minutes?
Have a Sustainable Period
If you’re a person who has a period, you might be aware of the waste generated during your time of the month. But this doesn’t have to be the case. There are tons of options that allow us to have sustainable periods. Traditional tampons can be replaced with menstrual cups, and disposable sanitary pads can be swapped for washable fabric versions. Alternatively, you can opt for ‘period underwear,’ super-absorbent undies that you can chuck in the wash and wear again and again. What a time to be alive?
Can I Be a Zero Waste Clean Freak?
If you’re a bit of a clean freak (guilty as charged), you might have a stash of cleaning products, all stored in plastic bottles. While most of these bottles are recyclable, it’s better to opt for a reusable version in the first place. Luckily, there are multiple ways to do this. You can collect some glass bottles from your local zero-waste store and use lemon juice and baking soda to make your own cleaning products. Or, you can choose eco-friendly, refillable cleaning products, which you will also be able to find in your local zero-waste store. One of our favourites is the eco-egg – a refillable laundry egg that reduces the need for laundry detergents and fabric conditioners. For the dishes, you can say goodbye to the washing-up liquid in favour of solid dish soap and swap plastic scrubbing brushes for wooden versions. You can even ditch traditional plastic sponges for scouring pads made from durable natural fibres. Coconut and hemp scouring pads are amazing!
Out and About
When we’re out and about, we are surrounded by single-use plastics. They’re convenient if you’re eating out or grabbing coffee to go. However, single-use coffee cups and plastic cutlery can be avoided with a bit of planning. We recommend making an ‘out and about’ bag to make sure you can live your best zero-waste life on the go. All you need is a small tote bag, a reusable coffee cup, a metal straw or two, a fabric napkin, and a set of bamboo cutlery. If you’re commuting to work, you can pop your lunch into a reusable sandwich bag or some metal lunchboxes. That’s it. You’re good to go! When you’re heading out the door, simply pop your ‘out and about’ bag into your regular bag, and you’re prepared for anything. When you get home, just wash everything and pack it away again.
One of the best tips for kickstarting a zero-waste lifestyle is simply using what you have available. You don’t need to go out and spend a small fortune on swanky new reusable coffee cups and glass containers. The slightly wonky Tupperware that lives in the back of your press at home will do the job just fine! We also suggest making small changes as you go along. Doing a complete lifestyle overhaul is a lot of pressure to put yourself under, and it can be pretty tricky. And chances are it won’t be sustainable. If you find it easier to make a couple of minor changes at a time, go for it. What really matters is making long-lasting changes that will help save the planet that we live on.