The zero waste lifestyle is still considered as something different and audacious, even though every day I see more and more people participating in the movement or starting their journeys.
I feel people’s curious eyes when I take my straw out of my bag, for instance. There are a lot of questions in people’s minds, most don’t ask, just observe. But some do ask, strangers or friends, doesn’t matter.
Today I want to share a few answers for questions that were made to me, from the simple ones to the most complicated or embarrassing.
How do you deal with flour, sugar, salt, rice, beans, pasta, etc?
The ideal is to buy it all in bulk in your reusable bags or jar, I know in many places like in the US, Germany and Australia there are shops offering these items in bulk, but sadly not in Amsterdam, there used to be two stores in the Netherlands, one very close by in Utrecht and one in Groningen, about 2 hours north of Amsterdam, but both opened and closed in like one year of open doors, which is very sad.
There’s one store where we find salt, rice, beans and pasta in bulk called Delicious Food, but it is not very close to our place and it doesn’t have any flours. When we are around we would get mostly spices, rice and pasta from this shop.
For beans, we buy them in bulk from the Pure Market, a farmer’s market that happens every Sunday in a different park in Amsterdam and Den Haag, there’s a stand that sells a great variety of beans and lentils.
Last, things we can’t find in bulk we buy in paper or cardboard, specially flour, sugar and spaghetti are very easy to find in paper. Then we just need to shred it and add it to our compost pile.
Do you make your own shampoo?
I don’t make my own shampoo. When I first started trying to find a solution for shampoo I thought I’d either have to make my own or join the no poo movement. I tried the no poo, I just couldn’t. I tried washing my hair with baking soda and apple vinegar once in two days and just couldn’t. I tried making my own shampoo and figured out I’d have to try for a long time to get to a nice recipe for my hair.
Then I found out about the bar shampoos, thank you, bar shampoos, for existing! I buy both my shampoo and conditioner bars from Lush Cosmetics, packaging-free.
Do you use toilet paper?
I do use toilet paper, of course. We buy ours 100% recycled from either Albert Heijn or Ekoplaza, we send the plastic package to the plastic recycling system, it is not ideal, but since I know only one store that sells toilet paper either without packaging but five times more expensive or in cardboard boxes for greater amounts, so we are sticking with the recycled ones in plastic for now.
Do you ever use band-aids?
I haven’t needed band-aids since starting to live zero waste, but when we went for hiking in the Norway mountains I bought a pack just in case we’d need it. I’m not sure what are the more sustainable options for this, a cotton compress, maybe? We have to be careful with injuries not to cause any infections, so I won’t suggest anything here just yet. When using band-aids we at least can compost or recycle the paper then.
Where do you find plastic-free medicines?
I don’t. Which is sad because I remember during my childhood we’d still find pills that came in glass, but not today. But with health we cannot play around so this is the area where we cannot avoid creating unnecessary waste if medicine is needed. The best option is to stay healthy!
Do you compost your nail clippings?
Yes, I do! Nail clippings and hair, in fact. These are biodegradable materials and can be added to the compost pile. But beware that this doesn’t apply for nail polish! If you like having your nails with nail polish I’d recommend finding the water-based and chemical free ones.
What do you do with old holey socks?
I do the same thing with holey socks, shabby panties and stretched shirts. I try finding a way to reuse it by cutting them into cleaning cloths, nose-rags or face wipes. The parts that can’t be reused go to the fabric recycling bin.
As a matter of fact, H&M is a great spot to add to your recycling list since they receive any sorts of fabrics for recycling in their stores, they donate the pieces in good state and recycle the other ones. In Amsterdam there are also neighborhood bins for fabric where they do the same, either donate or recycle.
Do you floss?
We still have some synthetic dental floss from our pre-zero waste lives, so we use those. But once they are over we plan to fill them in with cotton quilting thread so it’s natural and biodegradable and can be added to compost.
How do you store leftovers?
Just like the old times, we store leftovers in glass. Glass works great since you can put in the freezer as well.
How do you have so much time to do it all?
I don’t, and in fact I’m actually a very lazy person. Luckily I have a wonderful husband that also helps me, but honestly none of it takes that much time, and it is enjoyable. The first time you start something out of your comfort zone is always harder than what you are used to do, but once it gets in your routine it becomes as easy as making a cup of tea.
Also, as I said many times, by dedicating time to prepare and make my own stuff I feel more connected with the things I am doing and more mindful, which feels delicious 🙂
Would you not buy something you really want because of the plastic?
Yes, but that is an interesting question. By being more mindful and observant of my consumption needs I realized most things that I really want I don’t actually need, they are just futile stuff that, of course, the consumerist inside me really wants, but in reality it is ok to live without.
What is the hardest thing you had to give up?
Potato chips. I love potato chips and I love they are available everywhere to kill that instant hunger in the middle of the day. I tried making them at home but it is so messy for such a little amount and sometimes they end up not very crispy.
I found a few natural and organic shops that make them but also pack them in plastic, argh! So I beg you, local shops of greater Amsterdam, please, make potato chips available in bulk and I will be your best friend.
Do you carry all your reusable stuff all the time?
Most of it, yes. I usually have my straw, fork, spoon, cloth napkin and jar/cup with me all the time plus one or two cloth/tote bags. When we are sure we will do something more specific, such as a longer bike ride or eating noodles, I’d take my water bottle or chopsticks.
Do you order delivery?
I can’t live without pizza so sometimes we order it, luckily it comes in cardboard but we know it ends up in the landfill because pizza boxes can’t be recycled since they adhere the deliciousness of the pizza oil in them. So pleaaaase, don’t put your pizza box in the recycling bin unless it’s completely oil-free! It can actually ruin a full batch of paper recycling!
Other than that we don’t order delivery, if we want to eat at home and not cook (which rarely happens because we like cooking) we’d go to the store and ask them to put the food in our reusable containers.
If I’d offer you a candy you’d refuse it?
If it is wrapped in plastic, yes. And it feels terrible, specially when I don’t know you very much. My intentions are never to make the other feel embarrassed because they are consuming something in plastic but, when people ask me why, I have to tell them my reasons. Please, allow me to refuse and you don’t have to feel bad about it, it is ok.
Aren’t your options limited at the supermarket?
They are, and it is scary! To go to the supermarket and see all the plastic, fruits and veggies wrapped in plastic, is scary! But there is always a way out, there is always another supermarket, or even better, a local shop, where I find the things I need.
What is the most annoying part of living Zero Waste?
I don’t think anything is annoying about it, but sometimes it is hard to keep up with your beliefs. People all around you are consuming and doing a lot of things you don’t agree with and they try to convince you your lifestyle is not sustainable in the world we live in, that one person doesn’t make any difference, that we should wait for the big corps and government to take an action. Sometimes I feel I should give up. Sometimes words hurt. Sometimes looking around and seeing all the trash hurts. Sometimes I agree I’m just one grain of sand in the shore and I should just shut up and live like everyone else, when the issue is really harmful the government will act in your behalf.
But I move on, I wake up the next day with the mission in mind. Be the change you want to see in the world is my mantra.
Will you live like this forever?
I see more and more options for zero waste living popping up around the world, more and more people opening their eyes and seeing that consumerism is out of date and there’s no way we can live on like that. No, I won’t live like this forever, I will live way more sustainable in the future, that’s what I wish and believe in.
Any other questions? Please, ask it and I’d be happy to put another blogpost with more questions answered