What is Zero Waste and how do I achieve it?

Zero Waste literally means ‘no rubbish’. Basically I’m trying to not put anything into landfill, which means that everything I use in my personal life and in my home should be long-lasting, reusable, recyclable, compostable and mendable. This means that everything I buy or bring into my home cannot comprise any items that do not or cannot have a second, third, fourth or even continual life.

What set me off on this is that my rubbish bin is mostly filled with the plastic wrappers from the fruit and veg surrounding my weekly shop at Sainsbury’s, along with the other plastic packaging that dry goods and frozen items come in. I have taken my ire out on Sainsbury’s, particularly over their packaging of cobs of corn. These come in their own protective covering – leaves – that can be composted. However, Sainsbury’s remove these and replace them with a plastic wrap. Why, because their customers prefer it this way – according to the PR who responded to my complaining on Facebook. (Obviously I was not buying the corn in February, this was last summer!).

Ecover bulk buying

My 5L boxes of Ecover washing-up liquid, clothes cleaner and fabric conditioner

Before I decided to go zero waste, I had already made purchasing choices that take me beyond the norm. For example, (nearly) all my cleaning products are environmentally friendly mostly from Ecover, and I buy in bulk where possible. So my washing up liquid bottle gets refilled from a 5L carton stored in my downstairs loo. I also have 5L cartons up laundry liquid, as well as toilet cleaner, clothes softener and hand wash. They all perform extremely well, especially the washing-up liquid, and the Ecover hand wash has a particularly lovely fragrance. Buying in bulk reduces the amount of packaging an item requires upfront, and the packaging is all recyclable.

I order these items from Natural Collection, and their own protective packaging is paper rather than bubble wrap (although not for my last order which I must complain about), that I reuse to line my compost/recycling bins with or as wrapping paper for gifts and packages. Oh yes, and Natural Collection are part of the KidStart scheme as well, so my kids get 7% cashback on all my purchases straight in my bank account.

But how to stop the rubbish coming into my home, the plastic film and bags that can’t be recycled? Well, for my fruit and veg I have stopped buying it from Sainsbury’s and I use my local greengrocers, Ham Fruiterers, instead. They sell most, but not all of their produce, loose, and rather than taking the plastic bags they offer (although I will accept the paper ones) I use Trolley Dolly mesh bags. The first time I pulled them out the lady behind the counter complimented me on them and, since then, they ’round down’ my purchases as a reward for using my own bags.

What’s not to love – saving the planet and a few pennies, too!

PS When I bought my Christmas Tree from Ham Fruiterers they tied the branches up with string, rather than one of those hideous mesh contrivances that can only go into landfill! My cat loves playing with the string.

My new year’s resolution – cutting out waste

My new year’s resolution – cutting out waste

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. Often they seem to be guilt-infused declarations of denial brought on by a month of binge eating, drinking and shopping. Any decision made while feeling overweight, hungover or in a house bursting at the seams with festive detritus is never going to be anything more than a pointless exercise in the ultimate failure of will power.

For me, fundamental promises of change comes about after a proper period of reflection, often after a summer holiday when a few weeks of rest, change and – hopefully – sun have given me a proper chance to reconsider where my life is going. Hence, the autumn is more generally when I find myself trying to do things differently or starting new challenges. September 2012 is when I joined the Green Party and a month later I wrote the first post in my blog Action Against Apathy, both of which came about because I realised how fed up I was – and still am – with the political status quo, what the Tories are doing to society and state under the guise of austerity and the lack of response from the people to it. September 2014 was when I became vegetarian, a result of months spent reading about and considering the harm the industrialised production of meat causes to our planet.

September has always seemed a more natural time of renewal given that is when the academic year starts, and I spent nearly 20 years of my life starting a new school year that month and adapting to the change that wrought. Furthermore, since joining Kingston Liberal Synagogue two-and-a-half years ago to prepare our sons for their Bar Mitzvahs, I have learnt that the Jewish New Year (Rosh HaShanah) which occurs in autumn (the exact time is dependent on the moon) is a time of reflection and renewal, because this is when Jews get to the end of the Torah and start reading it again from the beginning.

However, this 1st January 2015 I have decided to break with my own tradition and I am making a New Year’s resolution and it will indeed be a declaration of denial. So for 2015 and forever onwards I will be denying myself waste, as in the production of rubbish, whether it goes into landfill or recycling, and in particular plastic packaging. This has come about because the amount of reading I’ve done into the plastic waste in our seas, the fact that a 22-carriage train leaves west London four days a week laden with landfill and from a book by Bea Johnson called Zero Waste Home. I have only dipped into it, but one of her strongest messages is about not bringing waste in to your home that you then have to dispose of somehow. So instead of gettting my fruit and veg from Sainsbury’s, too much of which I am forced to buy pre-packed, I will be going to my local greengrocers with my own mesh bags to put my provisions in, rather than taking the small plastic ones they offer.

A small step maybe, and seemingly insignificant, but this is how I’ve been trying to live my life since the autumn of 2012 – as outlined in my blog – by doing one small thing every day, in the hope that if we will all do something that is better than nothing.