Growing up, I’ve always taken issue with waste and recycling. It’s strange, but it was just one of those things that bothered me as a child. Back then – some 20 years ago, there used to be landfill in the suburb we lived in next to the local shopping centre. It eventually was buried and turned into a park. People forgot about it, like as if it was never there in the first place. I was always a bit confused. If we’re dumping rubbish like that, what happens when we run out of space?
The issue of landfills still perplexes me. I understand that I haven’t got a better solution as to where to put the rubbish, but at the same time, I know the solution we have now is such a short term solution to an ongoing situation. Recycling & re-purposing has always been something I’ve done, however since moving into my own home and being able to have the freedom to choose how we run our household, I’ve decided to learn more and do more, to conserve our beautiful planet we often take for granted.
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with ways to minimise our waste, doing things like driving to special waste transfer stations to recycle polystyrene, purchasing my produce without plastic bags, collecting soft plastic for recycling and just trying our best despite living busy lives. About a month or two ago, I started introducing zero-waste products into our lives, further trying to minimise our impact in some of the biggest waste producing categories of living.
When talking about reducing waste, I feel like the main concern for people when adopting zero waste habits is ‘all the trouble’ they need to go through to save a plastic bag from going to waste. It’s hard to put in more effort when the alternative option is not only free to consumers but also so convenient. But if you understand the situation and think about how every single plastic bag or plastic item you will ever use in your lifetime will never, ever break down – you have a troubling situation for this planet and the visualisation of this helped me personally to realise the extent of the issue. When it comes to adopting zero waste habits, doing a little is better than doing nothing at all.
So if you’ve ever wanted to do something about this, then I want to inspire you to try the below suggestions and new habits. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do something perfectly. It’s okay if you forget your shopping bag every now and then. Just remember, any plastic you don’t use still makes a difference in the end.
1. REUSEABLE PRODUCE BAGS
If you already refuse plastic bags when shopping for groceries, then this I think is a really simple next step to implement. Instead of pulling off a plastic bag to put your apples or beans in, try using no bags or a reusable produce bag instead. I love these ones by Onya because they’re made so that up to 8 produce bags can fit in the provided pouch, making it really simple and lightweight to carry around. I’d recommend keeping this attached to your reuseable shopping bags, or just leaving it at the entryway where you can see it so that every time you go out with the intention to buy groceries, you can make sure you have them with you. Lastly a personal concern proven wrong – no funny stares given when using in public! In fact, even the local asian grocery store shop lady was very impressed by these bags!
Featured: ONYA Reusable produce bags – each bag only weighs 10 grams & can hold up to 2 kg worth of produce. They come with a carry pouch so you can store and carry these easy. Plus it’s washable and recyclable – in fact, it was made from recycled plastic bottles.
2. REUSEABLE BREAD BAGS
This is hard if you buy bread from the supermarket that is already pre-packaged in plastic however if you do buy bread from the local bakery or pick up those baguettes from the large supermarkets where you have to put in a plastic bread bag yourself, then a really good alternative is using a reusable bread bag. I know, another added bag to carry, but generally bread is one of those items you go to the shops with the intention of buying. So if you have bread on the shopping list, then just pack your bread bag! It’s super beautiful too for leaving on the kitchen bench.
Featured: ONYA Reusable bread bag: this bag makes it easy to save plastic when buying fresh bread from the bakery. It’s freezer safe and has a simple self-closing opening which doubles as a handle. Again, the coolest part is that they’re made from 100% recycled drink bottles and is totally recyclable as well.
3. STEEL STRAWS
Straws are another one of those single-use plastic items that are everywhere in landfill. In fact, I had a dream the other week that I was collecting rubbish on the beach and ended up with a huge pile of straws! If you love using straws at home, then try replacing them with a set of steel straws and a straw cleaner. Whilst they’re a little more expensive than a pack of plastic straws, they can be easily washed with a straw cleaner and very quickly will make up for its cost with its long usage life.
Featured: Rose gold steel straws and straw cleaner: Super cute and only cost a few dollars. A straw cleaner is a must if you’re using steel straws – it makes it so much easier to clean, encouraging you to take up the habit!
4. BEESWAX WRAP
For those of you who use cling wrap regularly to cover your food in the fridge, a good eco-friendly alternative is beeswax wrap. I first heard about these when I was running my @connieandlunastudio stall at Finders Keepers Market – one of our neighbours was actually Honeybee Wraps and it was so inspiring to see their product. Since then, I’ve considered the idea of beeswax wraps. Whilst they’re a little more fiddly than cling wrap which you don’t have to wash and just throw out, thinking about the impact cling wrap has on our earth makes it feel like using beeswax wrap is worth the effort. With really good care and washing in cold soapy water, I’ve heard these should last a year. Think about just how much cling wrap you can save – before beeswax wraps, we used an entire roll of cling wrap in just 4 months – so that’s a lot of plastic already!
If you don’t like the sound of beeswax wraps, an alternative is putting your food in containers with lids.
Featured: HoneyBee Wraps – They’re made out of organic cotton and are non toxic to use. They’re great for storing leftovers, lunch, cut fruit, cheeses in the fridge etc., but don’t use on raw meat or in heated appliances.
5. REUSEABLE SHOPPING BAGS
For me, my most common reason for using plastic shopping bags is that 1) I’ve forgotten them or 2) The shop assistant has already put my stuff into a bag before I even saw it happen and I’m too scared to make a scene to refuse it. With the first situation, when I started shopping at Aldi for my groceries, I realised that every time I forgot my bag things were gonna get difficult. Going to a supermarket like Aldi who doesn’t give out free plastic bags made it a lot easier and quicker to get it into my brain that I needed to bring my own bags. These days, I almost never forget and I always have half a dozen of bags in rotation. I keep them in my car most of the time, so that if I am ever caught out, at least there’s spare ones floating around in my car. With reusable shopping bags – you can go for two options – sturdy totes which you can double as your handbag or small foldable bags which are really handy to keep at the bottom of your bag, just in case.
6. ECO-FRIENDLY DISHWASHING SUPPLIES
I’m really new to this but since moving out, I’ve noticed how many sponges we go through and I always feel sad that they just go into the bin and aren’t compostable. Until I realised there are more eco-friendly options out there. I’m currently loving using this dish brush and love the fact that the coconut scourers are literally made from natural components (coconut..!).
7. REUSEABLE COFFEE CUPS
For those who get a morning coffee (or tea), I’d super recommend owning a reusable coffee cup. A couple of popular brands out there are KeepCup and Frank Green, both of which produce super cute and stylish vessels for carrying your liquids! They also sell spare parts and accessories, so that if you do damage any part of it, you can always buy a replacement part instead of throwing the whole thing out in the bin. Both products are recyclable at the end of their life as well.
8. REUSABLE WATER BOTTLES
A reusable water bottle is another one of those simple things that you can do to reduce your plastic waste. Instead of buying plastic bottles that crinkle in your hands and are thrown out soon after, invest in a reusable water bottle. You can even have a few in different styles/sizes to suit different occasions (e.g. a larger one for going to the gym & a day at work, and a smaller one for errands running or going out for a meal) if you find it necessary in helping you get into the habit. Even if you end up owning 10 reusable water bottles and actually use them all, it’s still better than wasting hundreds of plastic bottles a year.
Featured: Cheeki Stainless steel water bottle (Frank Green also does an amazing one pictured above)
9. REUSEABLE CUTLERY
I remember recently lamenting to Tom whilst eating at a food court about all the plastic waste that comes with buying takeaway food or eating out. Plastic cutlery is often used for just 15 minutes however their lifespan lasts more than hundreds of years. The idea of disposable plastic cutlery is misleading because plastic isn’t ‘disposable’ at all. You dispose it but the world doesn’t. So whenever you’re heading out, pack a little cutlery set with you just in case. It’s ok if you forget every now and then – at times I’ve been caught without because I didn’t expect to be eating out. Every time you do remember, you’re still making a difference.
Featured: ToGoWare reusable bamboo utensil set – it’s dishwasher safe and comes with a sleeve that was made from a water bottle! The cutlery set is made of bamboo as it’s durable, renewable and doesn’t absorb flavours or stain.
10. SOFT PLASTIC RECYCLING
Bonus! Since watching the documentary ‘War On Waste’, I’ve been introduced to soft plastic recycling – that is, any plastic that when you scrunch, doesn’t pop back into shape. You can actually ‘recycle’ these at REDCYCLE bins which are outside many Coles stores around the world – check online to see which Coles stores have these bins. Whilst the documentary kind of implied the plastic doesn’t actually get turned into more soft plastic, but rather into benches which they weren’t sure whether or not were that useful given the amount of soft plastic the world consumes.. it’s still better than throwing these in the bin, in the meantime.
Guys, I hope you found this post inspiring and let me know below if you already adopt some of these habits or plan to give any of these a go. Would love to hear your pledges in looking after our planet :)