Could a Zero Waste Lifestyle be the ultimate Resolution?
According to data pulled from Google by iQuanti, last year’s most popular resolutions were: get healthy, get organized, live life to the fullest, learn new hobbies, spend less/save more and read more!
What if I told you, by simply adopting a zero waste lifestyle, I was able to do all of those things? Sounds crazy and a little smug… I know. But, it’s true!
Let’s break it down.
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Ever tried to buy zero waste junk food? It’s tricky! Which is a good thing! No packaging = no plastic sent to landfill (and ultimately our oceans) AND fewer processed foods as they almost always come heavily packaged in plastic. Most are usually food-like-products, often containing synthetic or questionable ingredients. So all round, no plastic packaging is better for the environment + better for my health!
Since the foods I buy are unpackaged, I tend to eat more REAL, wholefoods, which means I gotta get cookin’. And I’ve ventured into trying new, more unusual ingredients too. Tongue tacos anyone? (offal is my new thang!)
Knowing what is in my food allows me to have more control over my own health! Thankfully I can still find cake and cookies unpackaged! Phew!
Choosing only unpackaged, seasonal and organic food is also likely to be more nutritious too, since it has travelled fewer miles since harvest. Bagged salad? Yeah that could have been picked weeks ago, packaged in single use plastic, filled with gas to keep it looking “perky” and once opened in your fridge at home, lasts no more than a day or two once opened. In fact, we Brits throw away 40% of the bagged salad we buy, creating huge amounts of extra waste. Compare that to a couple of heads of lettuce from your local farm shop… no competition!
I also, ALWAYS buy organic which has been shown to contain more key nutrients than non-organic produce as well as containing fewer pesticides = better for my health (not to mention the huge environmental benefits!). Whilst some people argue that organic is more expense (and it is at the moment!), I actually think a Zero Waste Lifestyle compliments choosing organic as over-all, the cost of living (no more disposables, reusing, buying second hand etc) is lower.
Government testing of UK food recently found that “33 of the samples contained residues above the legal Maximum Residue Level (the maximum permitted levels by law)”. These results are in the surveys of beans with pods, cheese, kale, limes, poultry, processed poultry, prepared fresh fruit, rice, speciality dried beans and speciality fruit”.
In many cases, foods carry residues from more than one pesticide. I’m not ok with eating that toxic cocktail everyday, three times a day.
And there is now evidence that links exposure to chemicals found in plastic packaging to type 2 diabetes… have I given you enough reasons to go loose yet? 😉
I also quit toxic synthetic chemical-laden products with known health issues attached. But fear not, our flat (although sometime messy – my bad!) is still clean thanks to natural products, such as vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and organic certified refills (by Greenscents!) to clean with… oh and a cleaner… She gets real credit for this one (and yes, she uses bicarb and vinegar too!)
Isn’t it crazy that so many of us focus on what we eat, how much we sleep and getting regular exercise but then slather a chemical cocktail on to our body’s largest organ every morning? Antiperspirants, toothpastes, lotions, shampoos, body washes…
Beauty and personal care products can contain a slew of toxic synthetic chemicals, some now linked to serious health concerns (even the Breast Cancer UK website advises to avoid many conventional beauty products with their #DitchTheJunk campaign).
Since switching to 100% natural, unpackaged products or refills that use a lot of organic ingredients, means I’m not adding further chemical burden to my body on the daily. (Read my post on my current Zero Waste Makeup Kit here)
I am a firm believer that our own health is strongly connected with the health of our environment (I highly recommend reading ToxIN ToxOUT * and Slow Death By Rubber Duck * to go deeper on this). Polluted waters, air and land = unhealthy peeps! So the less I add to the pollution problem, the better! With plastics now shown to be present in our food chain, tap water and oceans, the essentials we rely on for our very existence are being polluted with chemicals that are persistent in the environment and known to cause many health issues. By not wearing and washing synthetic fibres (the largest known source of ocean plastic btw!) for example, I am helping to lessen the burden of plastic pollution in our seas, our food chain and our tap water.
Finally, I love walking – hunting down new places to shop from bulk or find a refill has had me trotting all over this city. The Zero Waste Lifestyle has certainly encouraged me to explore new areas of London, ones I may not have bothered to visit in the past. And if I can walk there, reusable bags in tow, then I will!
SPEND LESS/SAVE MORE
Think about it… with disposable items, I was essentially throwing my money into the bin! Reusables may seem costly at first, as they require an upfront investment, but this has usually paid for itself after a few months. Drinks are on me!
I no longer spend money on cheap, plastic products designed for short term, single use and have quit buying disposables such as tin foil, cling film, kitchen roll, tampons, bottled water, wet wipes and expensive plastic razor heads to name just a few. Switching to either a reusable alternative or simply realising I no longer need an item has saved a lot of money!
I also don’t go clothes shopping as often as I used to (like, every Saturday afternoon!), preferring to shop seasonally instead of weekly. And when I do need to purchase something, I choose either secondhand (which costs waaaaaay less) or new from a sustainable brand, opting for pieces I can wear a lot, that are versatile and I’m likely to still love in several years time. Investing with thought behind each new purchase and happy to pay a little extra but less often, means my pockets are a little heavier.
For beauty products, I have minimised what I use and how often. I no longer wear makeup everyday and have opted for multipurpose products as much as possible. Same goes for personal care products! I wash my hair less often, alternating between a shampoo bar (I have finally found a couple that actually work! It’s a miracle!) and a refill from my local salon that sells an organic shampoo. I simply email ahead (pun intended!) to let them know I’ll be popping by.
Affordable kitchen items bought from bulk work as alternatives too; olive oil is used as a moisturiser and a makeup remover and cocoa powder bought from bulk makes an effective bronzer and costs next to nothing.
When it comes to grocery shopping, as I mention above, I’m spending less in so many other areas that overall, I feel happy buying excellent quality, organic food (loose!) that supports my health and is better for the environment. If food is cheap, it’s probably for a reason…
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I ain’t no natural planner! So taking on a Zero Waste Lifestyle has certainly helped me hone my “thinking ahead” skills.
A Zero Waste Lifestyle means I have to remember to bring my reusables if I want to buy groceries without packaging, or remember my reusable coffee cup* if I fancy a coffee on the go. It doesn’t mean I’m carrying my reusables around with me all day every day. That’s where the planning part comes in. Taking a few moments to think “will I be buying any groceries today or maybe I’ll grab a takeaway coffee?” means I’ll only carry what I need for that day. Although, I never leave the house without a couple of small reusable cloth bags shoved in my pocket. Ya just never know…
Remembering to add “no straw/plastic please” every time I order a drink, or pre-empting almost any request with a line stating “I’m trying to avoid plastic, so could you…. INSERT REQUEST HERE… please?” takes some practise but 4 years in, I’ve got that down! Remembering to request “no coriander” on the other hand still need some work…
LEARN NEW HOBBIES
I got skills! They’re multiplying… since going zero waste, that is! Whether it’s making flour tortillas and pasta from scratch or rustling up a batch homemade ginger beer, kombucha or even DIY dishwasher powder, a Zero Waste Lifestyle generally gets me thinking outside of the (reusable!) box and working out how to do something myself. It feeds my natural curiosity and is strangely empowering. Although making your own or learning a new skill may seem tedious at first, more often than not, it’s waaaaaaay easier than expected!
I used to find reading a chore – apart from The Hunger Games trilogy, nothing had really grabbed me in a while…until…..I discovered I love learning and reading around topics I’m interested in – (see my latest reading list here) – Now I know I love books about our food systems (Michael Pollan!), our consumer society and the waste it causes (The Story of Stuff!) and useful tools for living in alignment with my values and embracing our true selves (Better Than Before!). I have even found some super informative recipe books (post to come on those very soon!). These are some of the books I have thoroughly enjoyed!
LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST
Whilst I still feel like I spend too much time in front of the computer (who doesn’t these days?!), I certainly feel more fulfilled as I no longer have to compromise on my values. As a result, I have grown in confidence enormously and enjoyed using my sense of humour to navigate potentially weird or awkward situations (I recently asked the butcher to put 6 sausages in my reusable coffee cup as I’d forgotten to bring a container – weird – but, oh how we laughed!). I have enjoyed meeting some truly inspirational people (Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer to name a couple) and love talking to anyone and everyone about zero waste!
I’m also learning to embrace healthy debate in a civilised way (I used to shy away from confrontation of any kind!) with people who are generally skeptical when it comes to topics I am passionate about, such as plastic pollution, choosing organic and why veganism actually isn’t the most sustainable way to eat (you can read My Food-losophy here btw). Thanks to those who I’ve sat next to at recent weddings, or cornered at drinks parties… Good talking with ya!
Sure, I’d love to travel more, spend more time with my loved ones and keep growing as a person but at this very moment in time, I feel far more “filled up” than before I embarked on my Zero Waste Lifestyle… I have found my True North in terms of values and as someone who came up as a “values-driven person” on the Myers-Briggs test, that kinda means a lot!
Could a Zero Waste Lifestyle be the most fulfilling resolution ever?
I like to think so…