St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and we have the best tips on going green this week to celebrate!
Hi there! I am Nika, a passionate ambassador of the zero waste lifestyle and co-founder of Zwoice.com, Europe’s first zero waste online marketplace, but above all a proud and loving mom, who believes that “we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
And precisely the future wellbeing of our little ones is why I am bringing you a few easy to implement tips on how to reduce waste in your everyday life, along with a detailed explanation of why these are a better choice for you, them, us and our planet.
When we hear the word zero waste, we tend to think only of the packaging a product we grab on the supermarket shelf or order online comes in.
The truth is that product packaging is just a tiny piece of a large puzzle and there is definitely much more to zero waste than just avoiding that unnecessary plastic wrap.
This easy to picture term does not only stand for waste in its physical sense, on the contrary, it also comprises all those invisible damages, such as air, soil and water pollution and their impact on people’s, animal’s and our ecosystem’s health, as a result. Zero waste thus represents a whole new way of seeing everything around you. It’s a lifestyle!
Here is how it works. We take plenty of small decisions every day and they all impact our environment. Do I take the elevator or the stairs? Shall I use my car, hop on a bus or ride my bike today? Did I shut down my computer before I left work? Will I cook tonight or just order a takeaway? Shall I go for the product made in China or the one made in Germany? Do I really need to grab that cheap and ugly promotional plastic pen from the smiley lady giving them away?
Well, contrary to what you might have had in mind at first, the goal of the zero waste movement is not to shoot for the stars and compete about who has an emptier waste bin, but to simply stop for a moment, ask ourselves questions, give them a thought and choose the answers in a way that reduces the environmental impact of the decisions we take to a minimum in each given situation. Because every single one of us can make an impact, anywhere we are!
Here is how!
Always keep a reusable tote in your handbag and for those planned grocery shopping trips, make a list of what you need to buy and take a couple of reusable shopping bags, along with a dozen produce bags as well as a few stainless steel containers with you. This way, you will only buy what you need, saving time strolling between the isles thinking of what you might have forgotten, eventually buying things you will end up not eating or using and directly tossing into your bin.
Additionally, you will shop into recipients you already have and avoid taking, storing or throwing away all those little bags, be it plastic or paper; you don’t really know how to re-use. And the best part is that you might occasionally even get a free croissant at the bakery for your green efforts.
Buy local and organic
Many people argue that organic and even local products are often more expensive compared to the rest of the offering and that additionally they are not even so much better for our health. Well, at first sight, it might look like this is all so true, but there are plenty of hidden facts in this statement.
When you buy local, you not only support your local economy, but also contribute to a cleaner air we all breathe, as the products you purchase travel a much smaller distance before getting into your hands. When you buy organic, you not only get a healthier product for yourself, a fruit you do not need to peel for example, but you also support businesses which do not pollute the air, soil and waters by using pesticides and herbicides and which put an effort into keeping their workers safe and our planet sound for future generations.
This is important, because all of these invisible forms of pollution have a hidden cost, that lead you, us and our governments spending more on healthcare and climate change related natural disasters, the consequences of which we all bear as taxpayers.
Choose unpackaged vs. wrapped up, or introduce a no plastic rule
This might be the hardest of the tasks, as brands love to use packaging to pass on all kinds of colorful marketing messages to us. It might also feel like your choices are very limited, but in the long term you will be relieved by not needing to ponder about which product to go for. You simply take the only unpackaged or paper-wrapped option and you will appreciate how your endless and tiring shopping sessions become so much faster to get through.
Additionally, by reducing unnecessary packaging, you will also save a ton of time on needles unpacking when you arrive home, not even mentioning by naturally reducing the content of your waste bins.
Get a compost bin
Did you know that even compostable waste does not compost so easily in a landfill? This is because, being surrounded by non-degradable materials, the natural forces, such as air and water, which take care of the process of degrading, cannot reach it there.
By directly composting what is compostable in your household, you will immediately reduce your household waste by at least 50% and you will contribute to keeping our fields and public spaces more healthy, flowery and fruitful, as they will be taken care of with organic rather than synthetic fertilizers.
Favor natural materials
Every product you use in the kitchen will eventually end up in your plate: parts of the plastic sponge and fragranced liquid you clean your dishes with, of the bleached and synthetically dyed cotton cloth you dry them with, of the plastic spoon you stir your hot food with, as well as the aluminum from your frying pan. So the more natural you go, introducing as much glass, wood, linen, organic cotton and reusables in your kitchen, the better for your health.
You do not need to spend hours in a shop carefully studying all the ingredients on your favorite beauty products. But when it comes to cosmetics, it does not hurt to be on the watch, simply because they get in touch with the most permeable organ of our body, our skin, and eventually end up in our bloodstream.
It might therefore be a good idea to watch out for at least a few of the bad guys, the so called hormone disruptors, know to be potentially carcinogenic as well as favor fully natural, organic and unscented options, especially when it comes to pregnant women and children.
Keep it simple
Next, do we really need a separate cream for our face, our body, our hands and our feet and do we really need them to smell differently every day of the week or is it just that companies want us to spend more and more on having our bathrooms cluttered with products, which keep bringing them profits?
I personally have a single soap bar, one refill shampoo, one handmade conditioner, one homemade deodorant and one pot of unscented coconut oil to hydrate all my body parts on my bathroom shelf, all of them natural and organic, and I just love how practical it is to keep only what I need and how pretty this minimalist setup looks.
You might need more than just these few items and that is perfectly fine too. In any case, my bathroom waste reduction advice to you is to use up all those duplicates and triplicates you have and try not to replace anything except those very essentials of your bathroom routine, always remembering that “A smile is the best makeup any girl can wear.” Trust me, it will become such a fun challenge, especially when aiming to upgrade from all those plastic pots cosmetics come in nowadays!
Avoid synthetic materials
Yes, clothes can also pollute. A lot! Conventional cotton, cultivated using pesticides and herbicides to be then dyed with synthetically created colors loaded with chemicals is one of the crops that due to its high demand in the fast fashion industry nowadays cause the most harm to the environment. But unfortunately, there is even worse when it comes to getting dressed mindfully.
Garments containing even small percentages of synthetic materials, such as elastane, acrylic, polyester, etc. harm the environment when being manufactured, as the sourcing, production and transportation of synthetics is greenhouse gas heavy. But not only! They actually do so all along their lifetime, by releasing tiny microfibers into the air when wearing them and entering our waterways when washing them.
This is of course also true for the nowadays booming and so fashionable “green”-labelled recycled synthetic materials, because even though their manufacturing process preserves plenty of resources through recycling and upcycling, their wear and care process, detailed above, is not at all eco-friendly. Needless to say how harmful all of these invisible particles are for our ecosystems.
Wear what you or others already have
Using what you own or what others have and don’t want or need, is the very base of a low impact way of thinking. Keeping the above synthetics-free rule in mind, this non-consumer approach of re-inventing your wardrobe, exchanging clothes with friends or buying them second hand will turn you into a true waste-free warrior.
Watch out for greenwashing
However, sometimes we simply prefer and feel more comfortable buying something new, especially when it comes to intimate pieces of clothing or gifts and presents. When choosing though, do your research thoroughly and only purchase from brands that are transparent and make a true effort in preserving our planet, keeping in mind that if there are other options, purchasing even recycled synthetic materials might not be the most sustainable choice, because of the consequences of their wear and care process, as well as the fact that by recycling harmful materials we indirectly also support their continuous production.
The options might become very limited, but if you want to be truly green, please opt for clothes made 100% of pure, natural and when looking at the big picture low impact materials, such as: organic cotton, wool, linen, hemp and cork, whenever you can.
Start with an e-clean-up
Yes, unfortunately, in most cases, every time you open, send or keep an email, browse a website or stream a video, you are polluting the environment. This is because most websites are hosted on servers, which are not powered by renewable energies. But again, a few small gestures from your side can make a big difference!
Delete all emails you no longer need, and empty the bin afterwards to make sure that they are really gone. Install an anti-spam program to avoid receiving unwanted emails. Unsubscribe from newsletters you never read. Avoid unnecessary attachments, such as images or shiny signatures when sending or forwarding emails.
Green up your digital world
Favor websites and search engines and switch to email and cloud services providers powered 100% by renewable energy. Many of them even plant a tree for every e-move you make, rather than releasing huge amounts of CO2 every time you click somewhere. Put the websites you use regularly into your favorites, in order to avoid going through search engines.
Use less energy
Unplug chargers and devices as soon as the battery is fully charged. Shut down your computer at the end of the day. Use your smartphone rather than a laptop, because it consumes far less energy. Avoid opening multiple navigating windows. Extend your smartphone’s life to four or more years.
There are always opportunities to green up
Well, as you probably noticed, I could go on an on for hours, simply because what started as a wide-eyed zero waste journey turned into a fun challenging game for our family, as this new way of seeing the world around us keeps on bringing plenty of fresh ideas about opportunities to green up everything that crosses our path. ☺
So if you are hungry for more, just curious or have some questions, please visit our website, zwoice.com to find more tips and DIY product recipes in our blog, inspiration through the brands and products we feature and zero waste present ideas to help you plant that little green seed in your closed ones minds.