I admit that it can sometimes be a rather frustrating process. Take today for instance, watching a man come out of a supermarket carrying a multi-pack of small plastic bottles of water, shrink wrapped in another layer of plastic. And then, deciding to order a lovely teapot so that I can use loose leaf tea instead of bags, and it arriving in thick polystyrene armour. So yes, it’s frustrating, but I’ve also encountered so many positives along this road so far, that I feel the need to share!
You can save money!
I did say you CAN save money, not that you definitely will, but we are finding that, despite spending a little more on individual items, we are clearly buying less as our weekly grocery bill seems to have gone down. Ok, so we are buying things like toilet rolls in bulk from Who Gives a Crap, and our veg box and milk payments come out of the credit card rather than our weekly groceries pot. But even taking this into account, we seem to be spending less.
Yes, it can cost a bit to start replacing some of your less environmentally friendly items and getting set up with things like produce bags, beeswax wraps and cloth kitchen towels. Fortunately we already had quite a stash of glass jars in the garage as well as plenty of spare fabric, so getting started just required a bit of washing up and a few minutes on Pinterest to find some sewing instructions. If you don’t have these things already, charity shops are a a great starting point. You can find jars and pots, towels that could be cut up for kitchen wipes and plenty of cotton bedding which would be perfect for produce bags. If you don’t sew or haven’t got access to a sewing machine you can buy them pretty reasonably online.
I also think that not going to the supermarket much any more means that we are not tempted to spend money on things that we really don’t need. My husband does the shopping for the most part, and he’s always been really good at writing a list and sticking to it. But with the whole zero-waste lifestyle, that is taken to another level and he has to be even more organised, clearly planning what we need and then deciding where we are going to buy it.
It makes you healthier!
Well, as before, I guess it might make you healthier. I can’t promise anything, especially if, like me, you have developed a slight addiction to homemade bread! But there are plenty of reasons why I think a zero-waste lifestyle is a healthier one.
First of all, it takes a bit more effort to visit a few different shops than it does to hop in the car and drive to the supermarket. In a town like mine, which is pretty hilly, the health benefits are even greater. And walking home with your jute bags bursting with lovely zero-waste goodies is great for those arm muscles! All joking aside, a slow meander in the fresh air around a few local shops and market stalls where you can strike up a conversation and get to know the local traders, is surely better for you, both physically and psychologically, than a drive to a big soulless supermarket where you battle your way through the crowds and see a different cashier every time you visit.
And then there is the obvious health benefit of going zero-waste: no more convenience food! Sounds awful doesn’t it? No more sliced bread, crisps, chocolate bars, ice cream, ready meals, fresh stuffed pasta etc etc! Well yes, at first, I had no idea how to get round some of these things, but most can be made fairly easily at home. And those that can’t? Well, we just don’t buy them any more! But making stuff at home means you know exactly what’s in it. You can control your salt, sugar and fat intake and you know that your food doesn’t contain any weird chemicals which are apparently essential in processed convenience food – stabilisers, preservatives etc. Surely that’s got to be healthier for you?
You can get creative!
I’ve rustled up produce bags, beeswax wraps, kitchen wipes, anti-bac spray and washing-up liquid so far. Some have been more successful than others (washing up liquid not a great success), but they have all involved a bit of thought and creativity.
You also get more creative in the way you think about normal everyday things. We’ve started making gifts and giving them in cardboard boxes or brown paper bags which we have collected. We have made cards from card which happened to be lying around the house and fabric scraps. We then give them without an envelope. We have started to think more creatively about our belongings and the way we use them, getting rid of things like the toaster and the microwave which we can really do without.
Something about this way of living makes you look at the world around you in a different way and ask yourself “could that be done better?”. It’s liberating and exciting to break out of the “normal”, the “conventional” and the “expected”.
Enjoying the simple things in life.
Last Sunday, I did three things that I would not have done had I not embarked on this journey. Firstly, I took my little girl strawberry picking. I hadn’t been to a PYO farm since I was a kid myself, and it was truly wonderful. It was a beautiful morning and the farm was on a hill overlooking a local lake. What a glorious way to start a Sunday! We came home with 2kg of beautiful, ripe and fragrant strawberries ready to start the second task: making jam.
There is something so satisfying about making jam. So comforting. So reassuring. To take a box of freshly picked fruit and, with just a bit of sugar, pectin and heat, to turn it into that jar of unctuous, sweet, sticky loveliness, which can be brought out of storage in the depths of winter as a reminder of warmer days past and those yet to come. To me it’s nothing short of alchemy.
And then we used one of the small jars of jam to fill a Victoria Sandwich – made with eggs from a music teacher at work. Well, his hens to be precise!
Seriously. Does life get much better than that?
So many simple things that I am loving since starting to strive for zero-waste:
- Watching the small crops of fruit and veg grow in our tiny garden – the excitement of my daughter when she picks a strawberry and pops it straight into her mouth, still warm from the sun, or she spots a pea pod which is fattening and swelling.
- The satisfaction of finding a bargain in a charity shop or at the school fair jumble stall.
- Regular trips to the library to take out books for all of us, and my little girl’s joy when the next one in the series is ready for collection.
- Seeing the rubbish in the bin and recycling boxes dwindle.
- Decluttering and enjoying a much simpler home where I can easily find everything.
- The joy of cupboards filled with glass jars – it’s so easy to find stuff and they just look so pretty!
- A real sense of achievement and purpose every time I finish a plastic container of something for the last time before making the swap.
- Being a conversation starter with my produce bags at the farm shop or my silicon bags at the butchers. People are interested and want to talk about it.
- Meeting like-minded people both online and in person.
- My new locally made natural face soap has made my skin look and feel a million times better than any commercial face wash.
- Exploring and trying out new zero-waste alternatives, and enjoying supporting the small business owners who believe so much in this that they have put their neck on the line to make it available to everyone.
- Visiting zero-waste shops for the same reason.
I could go on, but I won’t.
Everyone reading this will have their own reasons why going zero-waste is making them happy – what are yours?