I’m sure we’re all guilty of having started a sentence with, “I could never…”. How many times have you said this and later had to eat your words? If we want to live a life that embraces new experiences I think this phrase should be eliminated from our vocabulary. Although, even as I was typing that last sentence I felt like a hypocrite because there are plenty of ways I could end that phrase and be totally convinced that I will go to my grave having never done **insert appropriate activity here**. 😂😂😂
The past 5 years of my life have been incredible. I’ve travelled to over 50 countries (I know this isn’t environmentally sustainable but you can read more about more thoughts on this here), made friends from different corners of the globe, learnt a new language and lived in another country. But the most personally rewarding (and surprising) shift in my life has been moving to a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle and discovering “zero waste”.
As most of you already know, there are loads of habits we can adopt to reduce our waste. In the realm of zero-waste living in a society that loves disposables the possibilities are almost endless. Here are the top 7 changes I’ve made that my 25-year-old self (and yep, that’s her above with the horrified face and the plastic water bottle in hand) would’ve said, “I could never…”:
Carry around my own cutlery, metal straw and chopsticks
Yes, I do this and it has meant hundreds of (dare I guess that maybe even more than a thousand?) disposable cutlery, straws and chopsticks have been diverted from landfill. I have a cute clutch that I store it all in and it’s a staple in my handbag. It took a little while but it’s now habit to empty out the dirty utensils, wash them and make sure the clutch is restocked before I head out into the big bad world of disposables again. 😜
2. Use a menstrual cup
I’ll be honest – it took a long time for me to work up the courage to face this zero waste move. The thought of it was icky to me and the upfront cost a little pricey (a menstrual cup costs about $60 AUD). But it has been so worth it! It’s incredible to get through that time of the month without putting a single piece of trash in the bin.
The video below is a quick summary on the varied benefits – for you, the environment and your wallet – of using a menstrual cup. (JuJu haven’t sponsored this post, I just think this is a really handy videographic).
I am planning on writing a post all about my menstrual cup experience – but I will give you some advice now – don’t be disheartened if it takes a little getting used to! It probably wasn’t until my third cycle that I felt completely comfortable using it. **BOYS JUMP TO THE NEXT HABIT HERE** Pro tip: be seated on the bathroom when removing the cup, makes it sooooo much easier to get out (at least for me)! 😥
3. Brush my teeth with bicarb soda
This is a habit I picked up early on my zero-waste journey and I haven’t looked back! At first I was worried that it wouldn’t freshen my breath properly or remove odour but that hasn’t been an issue (and trust me, my poor mum has had to smell my breath loads of times to ensure that it really is OK 🙈). In the beginning I did used to alternate between toothpaste and bicarb soda (with a drop or two of water to make it a paste) but now I feel that my teeth are much cleaner with just the bicarbonate soda paste.
By using bicarbonate soda instead of conventional toothpaste you avoid the waste of the toothpaste tube, the microbeads that are found in most conventional toothpaste brands (that are damaging to the marine ecosystem once) and the other toxins included in conventional toothpaste. Win, win, win.
If you want to give it a try yourself, you may like to add peppermint oil – many zero wasters like to have the minty flavour and it helps the transition from conventional toothpaste.
Also just an FYI – since starting to brush my teeth with bicarbonate soda almost three years ago now, I have been to the dentist for a checkup three times and everything’s right as rain.
4. Avoid food in single-use plastic packaging
This has been a huge transition for me! I LOVED my chocolate – Cadbury’s in particular or M&Ms. In fact, it’s embarrassing to admit now but it was once my aim to visit all the M&M Worlds across the globe. Yep, really.
Cutting single-use plastic out of your life can be a big change for most, depending where you’re starting from. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve managed it completely – definitely not. But I have reduced single-use packaging probably by about 95% from what my 25-year-old self would’ve used (and she wouldn’t have given it a second thought either) and I’m really proud of that.
Another previous pleasure that had to be abandoned was take-away – how I would love to order in Indian and veg out in front of the TV. But most takeaway comes in plastic containers. This took a while to get used to too and did feel like a real sacrifice for a while; but it just means thinking ahead a little and not submitting to every craving that comes to mind at dinner time. Now, I don’t even think twice about it. 😉
Depending on where you are in the world avoiding single-use plastic packaging can be easier or more difficult to achieve. I’m in Mexico as I write this and bulk options are minimal which makes things a little more challenging. Back home in Sydney, I’m still partial to using tofu every so often too and haven’t been able to source that in bulk yet. The reason I mention these things is because it’s not about perfection but progress.
I’m sure you can already guess but an inevitable benefit of embracing this habit has meant eating much more wholesome foods, fruits and vegetables. Or, when I really can’t say no to my Indian food cravings, I enjoy the meal out at a restaurant with family, friends or a good book.
5. Bring my own containers to food retailers
It took me a long time to build up the courage to adopt this habit – I hate asking awkward questions or drawing attention to myself and this habit can potentially do both! However, I have found that with a smile and acting as though your request is completely normal, many food retailers are very accommodating. If they’re not for any reason, I tend to order the food in and then transfer to my containers myself and voila! Zero waste takeaway.
6. Use a safety razor
I’ve only very recently purchased a safety razor and started using it, despite my Instagram feed being inundated with the beauty of the safety razor (and its zero waste benefits). It always seemed far too daunting for me! But then I watched this YouTube video and I decided to take the plunge. To start with, the razor itself is aesthetically beautiful (or at least to me it is!) and it brings me a great deal of contentment knowing that I’m going to own this little device for the rest of my life. I also take really good care of it as a result. I find it does a much better job than my previous disposable razors too. One thing though, I do need to make sure that I’m not rushed when I shave as you can nick yourself much more easily with the safety razor.
7. Use a handkerchief
This is brand new for me. Like the menstrual cup, it’s always held that ick-factor that I couldn’t get past. But then earlier this year I had the flu and I used sooooo many tissues and as a consequence I was putting so much in my normally almost-empty bin. That gave me the impetus; along with a dear work friend suggesting we bring back the handkerchief and make it trendy again; to source some beautiful vintage hankies. So far I’ve only had to use mine a few times and I know it will take a little getting used to but I’m very happy to bring my lifestyle one step closer to zero waste.
So there you have it. 25-year-old Georgia – can you believe it?! While I still have more habits I’d like to adopt or do away with on my zero waste journey, I fully expect to achieve them at some point, because never say never, right?
What are some zero waste habits your former self couldn’t believe you do? Or do you have any zero waste tips you could recommend? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below – Georgia xxx