Updated: Feb 7, 2019
As ambitious as it may sound, in my opinion, there are three tips that are key when pursuing a lower waste and/or plastic-free lifestyle. I can make a huge list of recommendations, ideas what to swap, and how to do it, but in the end, I always come back to these three points.
Before I share the Big Three with you though, let me start with something equally important: Shopping is not the answer!
I realise that I am running a low waste shop, so this may sound counterproductive, but I believe that reducing your waste and cutting down on plastic is a lifestyle choice, not a trend to follow. (I would also like to believe that the selection of our products further emphasises this.)
Why is shopping not the answer?
Let's think about the first three of the five Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Repair - They point to the right direction.
To produce less waste, you do not need to buy fancy kits. Don't go around, throwing everything out that works perfectly fine, just because it's made of plastic or because it doesn't look as cool as the fancy plastic-free gear that you can see everywhere. Reduce the stuff you buy and need; reuse the stuff that you already own; and repair them, if you can, so you can reuse them even more.
Binning and swapping your things to something prettier might look good on Instagram, but overall, completely defeats the purpose of why you started on this journey at the first place. (Of course, when you need something, that is a different question. Come to us, we have lots of cool stuff, and all the essentials in the shop. :))
The Big Three
1 Be Prepared
Being prepared is key, when you are going along your day, avoiding plastic, and all other waste. Whatever it is that you planned on doing, take 10 minutes to think about what you can take with you to help steer away from pointless stuff.
Fill your water bottle, pack your lunch, think of snacks, take your coffee cup, your wax wraps, your shopping kit etc. And if your day is going to be a spontaneously rolling ball of adventures, well that sounds awesome! Just bring a survival kit for all possibilities.
Not that I have an abundance of adventurous days, but here is a list of things that I'd pack:
* Bottle (also check refill points, get the app at refill.org.uk)
* Coffee cup (!!!)
* Wax wraps and container (in case I want to pick up something along the way, and also for leftovers)
* Produce bags, string bag (not just for shopping, but also for foraging, picking, generally carrying bits)
* Bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste
* Reusable tissues / wipes
* Depends on where you are, but a Turkish towel can come very handy. It’s super lightweight, packs up to a little roll, and dries very quickly.
2 Be Kind
We are navigating in a world that is filled with plastic stuff. Some of it is extremely useful, others are not so much. Most of the bits we come across during our days are purely there for convenience.
They might be convenient for us, they might be convenient for businesses, but sometimes they can be totally pointless, useless even. It's the 'why wrap a banana in a plastic bag?'-argument all over again. At some point, someone started doing it, with or without a valid reason, and by now it's so deeply embedded in our lives and surroundings that we don't even take much notice of it.
When you decide to reduce your waste, eliminate pointless plastic, that is when you start to see how much of IT is really around, and how difficult of a task is what you have chosen to do. The reality of it can be very discouraging. And that is when I'd like to say to you to 'be kind to yourself!', because what you are doing is very hard in a 'plastic world', and you are doing a fantastic job! With every little step, you are making a difference, and real progress.
This is also a message that should be given to anyone who questions your efforts, to anyone who says 'but if you are plastic-free / ZW, you shouldn't be doing or buying this*' (*insert whatever). We can get a lot further, if we start acting like a community that supports and encourages one and other, rather than strangers that try to belittle the efforts of others.
3 Slow Down
I know, there is a huge pressure on us, because the consequences of our 'plastic lives' are becoming more obvious with every passing day. We should have stopped using plastic straws, bags, toothbrushes etc. years ago. That would be perfect, but we didn't...
We are living a horrendously fast life, we need everything done ASAP and everything to happen straight away. We are in luck too, because everything around us accommodates this. Fast seem to make everyone happy. for a moment anyway, until there is something new to pursue. Long gone are the days, when we had to wait for birthdays and Christmases to be able to get something we had our eyes on. Today everything has an affordable version that you can get straight away; use; possibly break; and just throw away, because there is another one already waiting for you. It makes our linear economy flourish, but on what price?
It must have been about a decade ago, when I first came to know the the Slow Food Movement, and that must have been the first time that I truly and consciously understood the importance of "slowness'. (Read about it here.) To grow something good, to make something real takes time, and it can't be rushed.
I'm not trying to slow anyone's progress down, far from it. I believe that small, manageable and sustainable steps are key. Ones that stick with us, slowly, but for a long time. As opposed to the ones that we had done overnight, but could only keep up for a month or two.
Try it! Slow 'it all' down, and actually see what is going on around you, and how you can make a change. Be kind to yourself, if it doesn't always work out the way you wanted it, and give yourself credit for your efforts. And be prepared, wherever you go.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, experiences. Also, if you have more tips to share, please comment below.