So not to finish the first month of the year without posting here, I’ll tell you a little bit about how my zero-waste journey has been like since a year has already passed.
There have been (and continue to be) many learnings, and I think it is nice to document it and understand that it is not easy and not one hundred percent perfect all the time, as many believe. Also, here in Holland is not easier than in Brazil (or anywhere else!), and I do not posses stronger environmental awareness than anyone else, as I’ve been told many times. Everyone starts somewhere, and the journey comes full of learnings, mistakes and achievements, like everything else in life.
I’d like to share some things that are already in the automatic mode to me, part of my routine that doesn’t require overthinking and planning, and further on in another post I will tell you about the things that need improvement and replacements. Shall we start?
Zero Waste things that are already in automatic mode
Taking reusable bags to the supermarket
If we don’t have our cloth bags at hand, we won’t even think of going to the supermarket because it does not make sense.
One thing we learned is that if there’s someone serving you (to get some bread, for example), you have to tell it at the time while handing them the bag: “I would like 5 loaves in this bag, please”, otherwise you might end up with a plastic bag or, even worse, they will use the plastic bag just for a sec and trash it once you show the cloth bag.
Another tip, in the cashier and when weighing the products it also facilitates if you have noted the tare of your bags and the name of the products in it so that the person doesn’t feel impatient or confused about how to charge you.
Having my Zero Waste kit always with me
The kit consists of: A reusable water bottle, a cloth napkin, a coffee jar (since it’s glass, it works for beer too ;-), a metal straw, a fork and a wooden spoon and a cloth bag (for occasional snacks), all fitting inside a tote bag.
I have this kit always with me at work and some spare parts to go other places and while traveling.
Making my own toothpaste
The taste of the regular toothpastes does not please me at all these days (I tried it when I had visitors), it’s way too sweet. I love the saltiness of the backing soda
An almost completely zero waste bathroom
In addition to the toothpaste, I haven’t seen a container of shampoo or conditioner in my bathroom for a long time (except when visitors bring it) since we use moved to buying these items as solid bars and without any packaging.
We also no longer use disposable razors and it kinda feels like I’m back in time using the classic reusable ones (I bought it second hand at an eBay style store from the Netherlands).
Reusing and reinventing food
We don’t peel fruits and veggies unless it is extremely necessary (like onions, for instance). Potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, lemons, apples, pears … we cook and eat them all with the peeling, that way we get more vitamins and waste less food.
We also try to make broths and teas with the parts we don’t use for meals, like broccoli stems and pumpkin peel, then we store the broth and we can use it for cooking instead of buying ready-made broths (like Knorr stock).
Separating the organic waste for compost
All the remaining organic waste gets stored in a drawer of our freezer for, on average, 3 weeks (until filling), that way it doesn’t rot and smell until it’s time for composting.
The secret of our composting? We dig a fairly deep hole in the backyard soil, place a part of the organics in it, poke with the tip of the shovel so it breaks into smaller pieces and mixes up with the soil, cover it up with some soil, add more organics and so on until all the waste is layered and covered up with soil. Simple, fast and efficient, you don’t need earthworms (even though we spot a lot of them naturally in our land!) nor plastic crates.
Completely ignore all plastic wrapped products in the supermarket
Bread? We take it straight from the bakery in our own cloth bags.
Cheese? We take a whole piece, without packaging.
Chocolate? We take the one wrapped in paper.
Butter?We take the one wrapped in paper.
Juice? We take the one in glass.
Stuffed cookies? It’s bad for your health, why buy it? (And it comes in plastic!)
A vacuum packed cucumber in plastic? OMG why. We do not buy it, we wait for the farmers’ market day to arrive.
Refuse freebies, candy and any other treat wrapped in plastic
“Would you like some candies?” No, thank you.
“You had the highest score at this random quiz in our event, here’s a pen with our brand in it!” No, thank you.
“Thank you for dining at our Thai restaurant, have a fortune cookie.” No, thank you.
“I brought these sweets from the US, get one.” No, thank you.
“I brought these sweets from India, would you like some?” *Observe attentively* Yes, please! (No plastic, yay!).
The more I refuse, the more people stop offering. It’s interesting and opens up space for conversations about viable alternatives.
That’s all I can remember for now. In the end, the most important thing is to always keep the 5Rs in mind: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot, and not to forget that everything has to start somewhere, not perfect, not easy, it’s a journey and it comes with many learnings.