The concept of being zero waste in London seemed crazy to me when I first heard about it a few years ago. I couldn’t imagine how it was even possible. When I went vegan it was for the animals. Like all of us, I care about the planet, but it took me a long time to see how important it was to live green. My housemate (and best bud), Laura, went vegan for the planet and she has also been zero waste for a while now. Her good influence is finally rubbing off on me and I’m starting my journey toward zero waste. If someone had explained to me how easy it could be, I would have started a lot sooner.
Here are my 5 sneakiest tips to being (nearly) zero waste in London (and it’s more than just reusable straws and coffee cups):
Zero waste stores
This may seem like an obvious one but I had never heard of them until Laura told me. These are shops that have jars of bulk food and sometimes cleaning supplies and beauty items. There are more of them than you might think. You turn up with your containers of choice (I often just use old takeaway tubs) and load up. The shop keeper will charge you by weight and the real surprise is it’s cheaper than a normal supermarket for the most part. I was bowled over by how many cashew nuts I could buy for £2. The zero waste shop I frequent is Harmless in Wood Green which is just 10 minutes walk up the road from me and will soon be moving to a new, bigger location near Hornsey station which is even closer. Have a Google and see if there’s one near you. I recommend checking one out, even if it’s just once for the novelty.
I cannot express how much I love charity shops. They are my go to for clothes, books, kitchenware, and even furniture.
Everything is cheap, you find some really unique and unusual stuff, and all the money goes to charity. What do you have to lose?
Charity shops seem to hang out in nests, who knows why? But some areas of London will be swarming with them and some will have none. The best places in London I know for a charity shop crawl are Muswell Hill Broadway, Deptford, and Wimbledon High Street. My favourite charity shop is Crisis by Finsbury Park station. It’s huge and they have a little cafe along with some really interesting bits and bobs—it feels like a cross between a charity shop and a vintage shop.
My mum would despair of me as a kid because half the things she threw away I would pull from the bin a moment later exclaiming “that’s not rubbish” and incorporate it into some sort of art project or just hoard them under my bed until I needed them for a future art project. Well joke’s on you MOTHER because I was being green ahead of my time. I’ve kept this habit to this day; my bedroom bin is an old gherkin tin I found on the street, I have lots of little tins and broken mugs as planters, and old bottles as vases. I use old jars and takeaway tubs to store my food. This doesn’t mean your living space needs to end up looking like a junkyard. But a few choice bits and bobs can look very interesting and won’t cost you a penny.
I do not like bath bombs. I find they are usually gifted to you by people who don’t know you very well, they have loads of unnecessary packaging, and they stop you from being able to wash your hair in the bath.
For a long time I dismissed Lush as a bathbomb shop—boy was I missing out.
I am totally in love with their shampoo bars and face cleanser bars.
They have loads of other zero waste options too like soap bars, conditioner bars, and yes, bathbombs (if you are so inclined). Not only that but if you do buy something in a tub or bottle, they will reward you for bringing it back when you’re done with it.
Aside from stocking packaging free options, Lush products are free from harmful chemicals and microplastics. This means they will be kind to your skin as well as being kind to the environment when they’re washed down the drain.
One thing that stopped my shopping at Lush was price – £7 seems like a lot for a shampoo bar – but when I weighed up how little I washed my hair and how good the product was / how long it lasted I decided it was well worth it.
Make do and mend
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. That’s the slogan we all know. But the one we’ve forgotten about is make do and mend from the 1940s. The make do and mend campaign encouraged the people of Britain to manage with and repair the possessions they already had rather than buying new things during the Second World War. We may no longer be rationing for the war effort but the world is running out of resources fast, making make do and mend more relevant than ever. There are loads of enticing new zero-waste products popping up all over the place at the moment (which is great because it provides an alternative to single-use plastic) but it’s important to remember that the first rule of zero waste is to use up what you have before buying anything new. If you can make do with or mend (or even upcycle) what you’ve already got. Perhaps the best thing to do is resist the urge to buy. This attitude not only saves the planet but it saves you money.
Let’s fight back against capitalism!
Do you have tips for going zero waste in your city?
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Photo: Kitty Louise