With the start of a new decade I wanted to take steps from just a vegan lifestyle towards an even more sustainable, zero-waste life. Seeing the horrific wildfires in Australia made me realize that there is so much more we can, and should do to protect our environment.
While I have always recycled, taken my reusable bags to the grocery store and used my reusable cup, I figured that I could do a lot more and take steps towards a zero-waste life. So I started listening to podcasts, such as the Practical(ly) Zero Waste Podcast and the Zero Waste Countdown and read every article I could find. At the moment, I would not call myself zero-waste, but rather plastic-free. I still produce waste (glass bottles, paper, compost), but I have eliminated most of the plastic in my life and will work on reducing my other waste as well in the future.
Today, I want to talk about the steps I have taken so far towards a zero-waste life, the positive changes, as well as the issues I encountered on my way to a more sustainable life.
Some easy zero-waste swaps: Glass jars for storage, regular or bamboo towels instead of paper towels, permanent baking mats and storing food in boxes rather than wrapping them in cling wrap when storing them are some minor changes that I did so far. I am also using a refillable fountain pen again. I am currently changing out my bathroom items, too. Toothpaste in a glass, deodorant in a paper package or creme, reusable cotton make-up wipes, bamboo items and homemade body scrubs are among these swaps.
When I leave the house, I always have my reusable cup with me, a lunch box or reusable bags for food and potential leftovers if I go out to eat, my foldable metal straw and my foldable cutlery. My cutlery is currently made out of plastic. As long as it lasts I will still use it and then switch to other materials.
Going zero-waste can save you money. I try to not buy food wrapped in plastic anymore, which eliminates many (expensive) processed foods.
If I forget my cup I either sit down to drink my coffee inside or simply don’t buy it. The same goes for my grocery shopping. If I forget my bags I make sure I only buy as much as I can carry or come back at a later time. If I don’t make it myself I do buy nut butters or Tahini in a glass. The glass version is usually a bit more expensive, but compared to the money I save by not buying much processed food, it’s definitely worth it. If you really want to go zero-waste and skip the glass, making nut butters and Tahini from scratch is super simple, too. Check out this Easy Homemade Vegan Nut Butter.
Moreover, I buy in bulk. As I live in Israel right now it is easy to go to to the market with my bag and just fill it up with chickpeas, lentils, rice, nuts, or whatever else I need. Saves you the package and so much money.
You will cook much more. Buying all my food in bulk and only fresh, unpacked vegetables and fruits has made me try out a lot more in the kitchen. I can’t just throw a quick freezer meal into the oven, eat some pre-packaged snacks for dessert, or order take-out. If I do order take-out I make sure, they use paper, not plastic containers. Otherwise I won’t buy it. (Again, a huge money saver). I have learned to make so many different things from scratch. I love my protein bars, so now I just quickly make them myself. Not just is it easy, plastic-free, and zero-waste, it’s also much healthier.
I am making many different foods that I used to skip because I was too lazy. At first, I had to force myself to invest the time because I never was a big fan of cooking. Now, I really enjoy trying out new things and eating so much fresh, delicious meals!
It can be hard. Going zero-waste, or even just plastic-free, is difficult at times. Sometimes, I order a drink and forget to tell them I don’t want a straw. Or I eat a snack that is wrapped in plastic. So far I haven’t found Tofu or Seitan near me that is not packaged so I still buy the plastic packed one. While I am not happy about it, it’s all I can do right now unless I stop eating Tofu altogether.
Paying close attention to all the plastic also makes you realize how many things plastic is used for. Some of these make me furious at times. I have seen wrapped eggplants, bananas and oranges even though they have a natural skin. Or peeled garlic and beans that are put in a container for no apparent reason. Seeing the world around us still using plastic in unnecessary situations can be frustrating at times.
Life is a journey. So is going zero-waste. It’s nearly impossible to completely change your habits and your lifestyle from one day to the next. Especially in today’s world living a fully zero-waste life is a goal hard to obtain. Take it slow, go step by step, and don’t be to hard on yourself. It’s a process. No matter where you are in this process right now you should be proud of yourself. You are taking steps towards a zero-waste life and with that to a more sustainable future.
Also by Rebecca: Why Coming To Terms With My Sexuality Made Me A More Compassionate Vegan
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Photo: SWZL via Unsplash; Rebecca Willems