Fresh off of ‘Plastic Free July’ and an Instagram feed full of images and videos of our non-compostable waste destroying the planet, this summer I set out to change some of my Mass Consumer Lifestyle habits for the better. The evidence was simply too heartbreaking – the videos of waves of trash landing ashore in the Domincan Republic, the little seahorse with the Q-tip on his tail, turtles stuck in plastic nets – these sights are burned into my brain and make me think twice about adding to this crisis with my own unnecessary waste. There are times in our hectic lives when plastic use is inevitable, but surely, we can all make some simple lifestyle changes to do our part to preserve planet Earth.
The Zero-Waste initiative has gained speed in its efforts to make an impactful difference. I am talking about awesome humans that deliberately live a whole year creating only enough non-decomposable trash to fit into a mason jar to show the rest of us that reform is possible (even if it takes the rest of us a little longer to get there). For me, the most shocking revelation in this epidemic was via a study in Science Advances, which found that 91 percent of the plastic in the world does not get recycled. Soon we will be drowning in plastic. So, what can we do?
What is Zero-Waste?
Zero-Waste is a lifestyle, not simply a vow to cut down on plastic consumption. Really it means adopting a minimalistic approach to living and breaking away from the idea of “things”, but focusing instead on experiences. In practice, this is a whole lot harder than it sounds. By redefining our waste system and re-using all of our resources back into that same system, we can drastically cut down or even eliminate trash as we know it – the material that can be created only by humans and is actually destroying the planet.
Plastic – the least biodegradable material we throw away – is one of the most harmful to our environment. Rather than breaking down like a compost, plastic photdegrades, meaning it gets smaller and smaller over time (causing the horrific deaths of birds and marine animals quite literally so stuffed with tiny pieces of plastic that they are starved to death). Most of what we consume on a daily basis is packaged in plastic, so suffice to say and attempt to cut back on plastic would be a great place to start on our journey to rethinking this system.
Back in Los Angeles, you would never be served a drink with a plastic straw (and you would be shunned if you asked for one), One of my guilty pleasures, Overheard LA, said it best: “Girl takes glass straw out of purse: “I know it looks a bit like a crack pipe, but I’d much rather have people think I smoke crack than see me use a plastic straw here”. Plastic straws are an easy fix – and so even in Italy I can be just like my fellow Angelenos with my Eco Glass Straw.
But some props are in order for my adopted country, because the plastic bottle is an obstacle easily avoided in Italy. There are a ton of home delivery services that bring water to your doorstep, with numerous brands of water in glass bottles. But, if you are lucky enough to have a clean water system and can drink from the tap, travelling with your reusable bottles at all times keeps your waste low and your hydration high. S’well bottles offer not only a cute, sustainable alternative to single-use plastic bottle, but their partnership with UNICEF helps provide clean drinking water in some of the most vulnerable communities across the globe.
The trick is in investing in reusable products so that when those inevitable moments of choice arise, you are well prepared. Food storage is probably the easiest place to start. Is your pantry full of zip lock bags? Don’t fret; try washing them between use. REUSE is the word of the day. Those oh-so-cute mason jars are perfect for storing nearly anything, and I always keep a few in the pantry as backup. If you need a simple food cover, Abeego makes reusable wraps out of beeswax, and you can reuse them as much as you fancy and then toss it in with your compostable when they’ve done all they can do.
Our personal beauty routines make for a ton of useless waste, but little nips and tucks along the way can help us tighten up these loose ends. Simply Gentle Organic Cotton Wool Buds are completely biodegradable, with 100 percent organic cotton tips and paper stalks – away with those plastic stems. Don’t worry; the cotton wool is grown to Soil Association standards and hasn’t a trace of chlorine. If you haven’t jumped on the Konjac sponge bandwagon, now is the time: this completely compostable facial cleansing sponge is made of Japanese root vegetables and offers superior exfoliation, eliminating the need for single-use facial wipes.
Starting small does not lessen your commitment to the cause. We all have to start somewhere right? Bea Johnson, blogger and author of Zero Waste Home, came up with “The 5Rs” to keep in mind with your daily life: “Refuse what you do not need. Reduce what you do need. Reuse what you consume. Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse. And rot (compost) the rest.” It will not happen overnight, but every single person that makes a move towards a zero waste lifestyle will make a difference.