I really enjoyed writing this for the Guardian and was very inspired by my conversations with Cate Cody, Ander Zabala and Claudi Williams. They’ve inspired me to implement some simple changes in my life to reduce my waste.
When I searched online for people aspiring to live ‘zero waste’ I found Instagram and YouTube ‘influencers’ monetising their content by promoting different products. I was uncomfortable with the commercialisation of low-impact living. It perpetuates a consumer mindset and suggests that you can buy your way into a more ethical life. It also looks very middle-class. Whereas, fundamentally, striving to live with less waste is really about buying less of everything and making do with what you have.
I wanted to know how on earth Cate hasn’t put her bin out in over 3 years and how Ander managed to create 99% less waste than the average household last year – and the resounding answer was that they just don’t buy stuff in non-recyclable packaging. Claudi told me that she hasn’t bought a box of cereal for over four years and makes her own muesli instead. They generally don’t buy biscuits or crisps or chocolate bars with wrappers that would end up in the trash. This discipline has become their way of life.
Avoiding packaging brings other benefits. I noticed that the ‘naughtiest’ aisles in the supermarkets are most full of packaging. If you avoid packaging, you’ll eat less processed food and probably eat more healthily. It also pushes you towards local and seasonal food, as that tends to be more available unpackaged.
I’m already lucky to shop largely package-free at my local farm shop. I get all my fresh fruit and veg loose, and can stock up on frozen treats with reusable bags too. I buy milk in returnable glass bottles. The outstanding waste repeat-offenders in my bin are biscuit and chocolate wrappers and cereal bags. It would do us good to reduce our biscuit consumption anyway and this week I made some delicious vegan cookies. The mixture only took a couple of minutes to put together and under 15 minutes in the oven, so perhaps if I really want biscuits, I should just make my own. Reducing waste means making more stuff from scratch but it’s also empowering to master new skills and I appreciate home-cooked food more.
I’ve now swapped my sponge for a loofah and it’s a joy to wash up with. I often felt guilty about all the old sponges I was chucking in the bin for landfill so am delighted to find a compostable option. I’ve started using the wild mint growing in the garden for herbal tea and it’s delicious, so no need to buy expensive herbal tea at this time of year.
I must confess that I haven’t yet mastered making my own oat milk. I had a go and enjoyed the sensation of squeezing it through the muslin cloth (oats make your hands feel so soft), but it tasted pretty disgusting on my cereal. It was slimy and miserably austere and needed sweetening for my taste. I might need to try making a blend with rice in too. I’ll persevere and have another go.