Zero Waste. These two words put a lot of pressure on people nowadays, and especially for people who are new to the topic, it can be very overwhelming. Everything seems to be forbidden. No “Coffee to Go”, spending more time and effort at the supermarket and thinking about your daily consumption over and over again. Daily life seems to become more complicated than before. But does it really?
In this post, I want to present to you five easy steps on how to make your life more sustainable. Always keep in mind that no one is perfect, and you don’t have to stress yourself out about becoming a perfectly sustainable person at once. Even the small changes you take in life count, and help the environment.
Take away the pressure from your shoulders. It is more than okay to not go in 100 % right away. Nobody expects you to become a zero-waste professional overnight. Start with small steps and try to improve it day by day, shopping by shopping, thought by thought. There is no shame when you buy a coffee on the go every once in a while, or when you cannot avoid buying those tomatoes wrapped in plastic. Nobody is perfect!
Observe your trash. It sounds a bit weird at first, but before you can change anything you have to take a look at the roots of the problem. Where do you produce the majority of your waste? Maybe it’s the plastic, maybe just paper waste. Take this challenge: collect all of your waste for one week, and at the end of the week take a look at your trash bin and observe what you have collected. Think about: what was necessary and what could I change? Are there any substitutes for certain things? Yogurt containers, milk cartons or cereal packaging, those things can be easily swapped by glass containers, for example.
Invest once, keep for longer. Reusable cups and water bottles are not only in trend right now, but they also help to reduce your plastic waste. Always carry your water bottle with you, since most shops also fill up your bottle for free nowadays. That doesn’t only help the environment, but also saves money! However, keep in mind that you don’t always have to invest in new things. It is better to invest in one nice and good quality cup or bottle that you enjoy using, instead of buying a new “zero waste” supply every other month.
Also, think about investing in a lunchbox or food container to carry everywhere you go. That makes it easy to carry your sandwich or leftover lunch.
Veggies in Plastic – pre-cut veggies? No thanks! I know, it’s convenient and easy to buy things that are already prepared and ready to use, but you have to think about all the energy that has been put in for the preparation of those goods. Not only have they been touched various times and probably been through many different machines before packaging, but they also produce a hell lot of waste. And this waste is probably the easiest to avoid. It’s just those five extra minutes that you have to invest to wash the ingredients while cooking your meal.
Don’t only reduce, also reuse and recycle! One of the most important steps on your journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle, is probably that you don’t always have to buy new stuff. Think about what you already have. When you buy soup or pureed tomatoes that come in a glass container, reuse it! It is great for carrying your breakfast in the morning or to store your leftover food in the fridge. Of course, you could also buy new, fancy jars, but keep in mind that even glass has to be used for several YEARS until it is 100% sustainable and recycled.
Written by Juliane Baxmann. Juliane is an exchange student from Germany who I met at one of my markets. Her optimism and passion for the planet make her the ultimate ecowarrior with a flawless pen.