My name is Steph from Sustainably Savvy at sustainablysavvy.com, my website shares tips on how to live more thoughtfully. I just wanted to thank Mikayla for this opportunity to write a guest post for her blog.
More and more people are taking their own cautionary steps to reduce their impact on the environment by adopting a more thoughtful way of living. This means being more conscious of the ‘who, what, when, why, where and how’ of the products you buy and activities they engage in.
The term ‘zero waste lifestyle’ has been popularised. Zero waste as defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance:
“A goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”
Sending nothing to landfill, reducing their carbon footprint and reducing any type of waste produced at all has been labelled as a zero waste lifestyle. Surely ‘zero waste’ sounds impossible but we can try our best.
Here are my top 5 tips on how to adopt a zero waste lifestyle.
1. Remember the 6 Rs, in this order.
- Refuse – Sometimes we tend to buy junk. In the consumerist society we live in, too much is produced, too much is bought and too much is thrown away. Try to refuse any avoidable waste, like single use plastic – like plastic bags, straws, Styrofoam containers, plastic containers, disposable cutlery, takeaway coffee cups.
- Reduce – When the above is not possible, cutting back on what you buy is key to living sustainably. This is a lot better than doing nothing.
- Reuse – Before throwing something away, ask yourself whether there is a way you can reuse it. For example, I use old glass jars to store things in.
- Repair– Rather than throwing something away because it is broken or it stopped working, check whether you can repair it. This applies to clothes, electronics, home décor items – anything really.
- Recycle – This may only apply to countries with a reliable recycling program in place, but please make sure you recycle as much as possible. Although, I do not encourage buying as much as your want of a product because it is recyclable. There are many potential issues that may arise, which lead to the recyclables we put in the ‘recycle’ bin, not getting recycled at all. Then again, this is better than nothing at all.
- Rot – A lot of our waste can be composted. Check online for some home composting tips.
2. Go through your trash
This gives you a good idea of what you throw away and how much of this can be avoided.
The first time I did it, I realised that packaging, food packaging in particular, was the reason behind most of my waste. So that was what I focused on finding solutions for. Everyone is different! Some people tend to go throw clothes and dispose of them quickly. After realising this, they opted to purchase second hand clothing, reduce the amount they buy or purchase from brands that align with their values.
3. Use reusable or more sustainable alternatives
Reusable bags, coffee cups, bags to weigh your fruit and veg in, bar soaps and shampoos are all more sustainable alternatives. Here is a list of my top 10 reusable swaps. For the ladies out there, consider using a menstrual cup or reusable cloth pads, rather than your typical tampons or pads. In the Caribbean, we are no strangers to ‘reusables’ – think back to your cups from carnival or any fêtes, you kept on with you and simply refilled it. This is the same thing, but we keep and use them forever. You may find some reusable bamboo straws and cutlery! That being said, before you go out in search of all of these cool, sleek looking reusable alternatives, use what you already have.
4. Think ahead and plan in advance
Make sure you keep your reusables with you – in your bag, car, desk at your office. If you know that you may need to go to the grocery, bring your reusable bag!
Every morning or night, take a look at the fruit and veg laying in your kitchen, determine how many days until it may start going bad and plan your meals around them, to avoid food waste. You can even cook in bulk and set aside meals for each day!
5. Purchase as local you can
By doing this you support your local economy and reduce your carbon footprint.
Buy locally, grown fruit and veg. In the Caribbean, getting fresh, loose fruit and vegetables is very easy, but often overlooked. You can find them at the local fruit veg marts or farmers markets. Typically they are packaged when they have had to travel, possibly from a different country, before reaching the store.
Surely you can also find some lovely handmade, package free soaps and shampoo bars as well.
6. Grow or pick your own
You probably know someone that has an avocado or mango tree in their backyard or even a herb and seasoning garden. Ask them if they’re willing to give you some of the excess produce.
If you have the room, starting a herb and/or vegetable patch would be useful! That way you know exactly how it has been grown and you only take what you need. I’ve got some chadon beni, scotch bonnet peppers and pak choi growing. This sounds difficult but after a quick youtube search, I felt like I was a seasoned gardener.
7. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to use and speak up your ‘zero waste’ alternative in public
Many are not familiar with some practices, so they may stare but this way you are leading by example.
I’ve got some odd looks when I asked the lady serving me at the huts in Store Bay to fill up my own container with food, rather than using Styrofoam containers – but I still accomplished what I needed to do.
Learning how to say ‘No thank you! I’ve got my insert item here’ took courage but it’s worth it
Hope this provokes some thought on the way you life and encourages you to take steps!
Other posts you may enjoy:
Until next time,