Zero Waste Living – A Beginner’s Journey

Hi, welcome to this post where I try to be a better person for the planet!

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to use less plastic, and ultimately become of those well-adjusted zero waste millennials that buy from Farmers Markets and live in a minimalistic flat and for some reason look super cute in maxi boho dresses. However, it’s November now, and I’m still not that person. My recycling skills and plastic avoidance have increased, though, so that’s good.

Back in January, when I was still blissfully unaware of what 2020 had in store for us, I started reading beginner guides to Zero Waste Living and found some tips for cutting down plastic. And I wrote down a plan that I tried to follow as much as possible.

How to create less waste

These are the simple steps I started following in January to reduce my use of plastic:

  1. Pay attention to what you’re throwing away in a week or a month and write down the most common items
  2. Of those items, choose the ones that you want/can stop using and look for eco-friendly or zero waste alternatives
  3. Look at your lifestyle, are there any activities that are creating plastic waste that you could avoid?

With these questions in mind, I started 2020 with the expectation that by the end of it, I’d be a Zero Waste expert like Lauren from Trash is for Tossers, but turns out avoiding plastic is actually very hard!

Like most decent people in their 20s, I already own a reusable water bottle, and I grew up with the idea that recycling is just common sense. But I wanted to do more, I needed to feel that I was successfully cutting a big chunk of plastic out of my life.

Zero Waste alternatives

After taking note of my primary sources of single-use plastic, I decided which items I’d try to avoid and how to do it. I focused on two types of items, the ones I use constantly and others that last longer, but that could easily be replaced by zero waste options. 

These are the alternatives I’ve found during this year:

Bulk-buying dry food products

There’s a Zero Waste supermarket in my town that sells products in bulk like pasta, rice, lentils and cereals, and it made this transition so much easier. All I had to do was buy some glass jars for the big stuff and reuse old jars to store the smaller bits.

zero waste jars

Change to reusable fabric pads

Having a period is not only annoying and painful, but it’s also really bad for the environment if you use plastic pads and tampons. National Geographic estimates women use around 5 and 15 thousand period products in a lifetime, made of plastic that are rarely recycled.
I tried using a diva cap, arguably the best zero waste solution for periods, but it wasn’t for me. Instead, I found there’s a whole world of reusable fabric pads on Etsy, and bought a pack from here.

Change to soap bars instead of plastic bottles

I’m now that annoying girl that uses a shampoo bar instead of a liquid one, and won’t shut up about it.
I was reluctant to switch all of my shower products to bars because I thought they wouldn’t work as well, but they do. A bottle of shampoo will last me around two months, but a shampoo bar lasts ages!

soap bars

Right now, all of my products are from Lush, but I’ve also used Alternative by Suma, and Dr.Botanicals.

Zero waste lifestyle changes

I’ve seen influencers dramatically change their lifestyle to become zero waste. They stop buying anything that comes with packaging and lead pretty minimalistic lives. While I wanted to reduce the amount of plastic I use, I didn’t want to change my life completely. So far, these are the things I’ve changed:

Avoid buying online

I hate it when I buy something online, and it comes with unnecessary packaging. I used to rely a lot on Amazon and Asos, but now I try to find what I need in local shops or order from Etsy vendors that don’t use packaging.

Cancel the subscriptions that have packaging

During the first lockdown, I decided to try HelloFresh, a weekly subscription box that sends you three recipes with all the ingredients you’ll need to make those dishes. It sounded like something fun to try out, but they used a lot of plastic and unnecessary packaging to deliver the ingredients every week. I ended up cancelling my subscription after three weeks.

I was also a subscriber of Birchbox, a beauty box that delivers five different skincare and makeup products every month. I liked discovering new brands and products, but after just a few months, my bathroom was full of tiny plastic bottles that I hated having around.

The only subscription I have at the moment is Craftpod because their packaging is as minimal as possible and completely recyclable.

A future without plastic?

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

I was born in the 90s, in a time when people started to see the importance of recycling and that climate change was real after all. But I also grew up in a “disposable” society where 50% of the world’s plastic is single-use. I got used to using plastic straws or getting a plastic bag in the supermarket for free, things that now, seem unthinkable and wrong.

I believe that the new generations will see single-use plastic as the stupid concept it is, and I hope that manufacturers will find eco-friendly solutions for their packaging. But as I’m writing this, 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the oceans every year, destroying our planet and wildlife. I know that me avoiding plastic won’t make a difference, but if younger people are taught to look for zero-waste alternatives, it will.