Last month I decided to embark on a 7 month experiment changing my lifestyle into one aspiring for zero waste, making small changes on a month by month basis, until I have completely changed my habits. I am using the ‘We Hate To Waste’ 7 steps to create a no waste mindset. Month one was reduce, reuse and refill. So how did I get on?
Actually I feel like I did quite well! I’ve definitely noticed a change, even if I need to continue working on some elements. The main thing I found was that when I was at home in my normal routine, it was much easier. When I was travelling with work things became more difficult and I needed to be a bit more organized to make that as effective, but I still made a change.
I have listed below how I got on against the areas I had committed to change:
- Stop drinking out of plastic bottles.
I was drinking one or two bottles of water a day to try and help with my habit of drinking more water, so this was a big change for me. Where I was really successful was in an average day at work. We have glasses in the kitchen and a cold water machine, so rather than bringing bottles to work, I ensured I had at least 2 big glasses of water a day. This is a no brainer as it also saves me buying water. Where I found it more challenging was when I was travelling for work, sometimes I couldn’t find an alternative to buying a bottle of water when I was out and about. Overall though I really cut down on my overall consumption.
The other thing I did in this area is stopped buying cordial in plastic bottles. Instead I made my own cordial. I bought raspberries from my local market and made a homemade raspberry cordial which is delicious, so that has allowed me to reduce my plastic bottle consumption further still.
- Stop using plastic cutlery
I have fully succeeded on this. I have a knife and fork in my desk draw now which I use and then wash every day rather than using plastic cutlery and throwing it away. I haven’t used a single plastic knife and fork since I started the experiment.
- Bring my own shopping bag
This is another area I have had great success with. I bought a small black shopping bag from H&M and I formed a habit of popping it into my handbag every day. This has meant that I haven’t used a single carrier bag in the whole month. This is a massive change as I was shopping about 3 times a week and would take a plastic bag each time. One time I forgot my shopping bag, but I didn’t want to cheat, so I just carried the few items home with no bag!
- Bring my own lunch
I have not managed to bring my own lunch to work many times, mainly as I am still settling into a new city and getting used to my routine, but I have changed my habits when using our work canteen. Now, rather than using the takeaway plastic containers each day, I take my own tuperware and use the same one each day. This has significantly reduced the amount of plastic boxes I was using. One day I forgot to bring my own, so I used the plastic container from the canteen, washed it, brought it home and I now use it to store my spices rather than buying a new container to house them.
- Mindful purchases
I did keep in the forefront of my mind when shopping whether I really needed my purchase. It was good timing for this as I have just moved into a new house and could previously have been tempted to go and buy lots of lovey things that I really didn’t need! As it stands the only things I bought, were actually to help me with this experiment such as a reusable shopping bag. I have also been more mindful with food shopping. I have looked to use up all leftover food by making stirfrys and also make a mixed scrambled egg breakfast, both of which allow you to use everything that is left over in your fridge to give you left food waste.
The final area I reduced plastic bottles is shower gel and hand soap. I was the sort of person that had so many plastic bottles of different products. What I have done is starting using all of them up one by one and not buying anything else until all the old bottles are completely empty. I have also replaced all shower gel and hand gel for soap, so when I finish these bottles, I will not rebuy them, I will use soap instead, further cutting down on the amount of plastic bottles I use.
To really hit home on the difference one person can make on small changes I have produced a table to show my progress and the approximate amount of savings just one person can make:
|Previous volumes||Saving this month||Saving over a year|
|Plastic Cutlery||A knife and fork every day in the week for lunch||22 sets||264 sets|
|Carrier bags||Approx 3 a week||13 carrier bags||156 carrier bags|
|Takeaway containers||I was having takeaway every day for lunch||22 plastic boxes||264 plastic boxes|
|Drinking bottles||I had at least 1, sometimes 2 small bottles a day||35 plastic bottles||420 plastic bottles|
I am going to continue with these habits and this month also focus on the next topic of ‘Share rather than own’
There is a new trend called the Sharing economy. It’s great to own stuff, but sometimes you don’t actually need to own it, you just need access to it and you can let someone else deal with the maintenance and the storage. There are so many things that you own that don’t get used day to day, week to week, or even year to year. Others could use them when you’re not and vice versa. The sharing economy is facilitated by the internet, making it easier for people to connect and easily share their possessions.
Ideas you can carry out under this topic are:
Share your ride
Rather than using your car alone, you can car share. Depending on where you live there are different schemes you can use, or quite simply just make an arrangement with friends on how to travel together.
Share a cab
Rather than getting a taxi on your own, see if anyone in the taxi queue is heading in the same direction and whether they want to share.
Share possessions with your friends in your building
Turn your apartment building into a real community by promoting socializing, sharing, and other forms of cooperation. Share the leftovers. Create a Leave a Book, Take a book set up in the shared space
Share your extra space
Make money for underutilized resources. Rent out space in your driveway. You can use an internet based service such as ParkAtMyHouse.com or just a simple advert in your local shop. You can rent out your spare bedroom using AirBnB.com. or gumtree.com or whatever the local equivalent in your area is.
Why own when you can share books and keep them moving so others can also enjoy them? You can start a free library at your home or in the breakroom at work, and encourage neighbors and co-workers to do the same.
Host A Clothing Swap
When we were students, lots of us realized that sharing clothing with your friends is the way to go when you’re on a budget or you don’t have time to shop. But who says you have to stop clothes swapping when you graduate? This is a great way to get rid of your unwanted clothes and give them to someone who will wear them and for you to get some new outfits from your friends.
Rent Fancy Clothes
If you are going to a formal event where you need a fancy outfit, rather than splashing out and buying something that you might only wear once, you can rent an outfit. Depending on your country, there are many companies that offer this service. The alternative is that you borrow it from a friend who already has the perfect outfit for you in their wardrobe gathering dust!
Openly re-gift items to friends and family in the name of resourcefulness and frugality.
Sell Things Directly
Make some extra cash on eBay by selling your old or unwanted stuff to someone who might really love it. If you don’t need it or don’t use it, give to someone who will!
Pass Things Along
Give your old possessions to others directly or indirectly, by taking things to the a charity shop, or on Freecycle.
Change the Way You Think of ‘New’
The next time you get the urge to buy something new, satisfy it by thinking ‘new to me’ instead of ‘newly bought’— and save a lot of money in the process.
Out of all these ideas, these are the 5 things I am committing to do this month:
1) Only buy second hand
This is a massive thing for me, as someone who is constantly buying new clothes. This month, I am going to consider everything I buy and where possible only purchase second hand items. Let’s see if I can get through an entire month where my only purchases are used goods.
2) Have a clear out of my clothes and take them to a charity shop
I have lots of clothes that I don’t wear any more and I am going to have a big sort out and take all the old ones that I no longer need to a charity shop.
3) Don’t give any material gifts
I started a tradition for Christmas a few years back that I would not buy gifts for my friends and family, but rather experiences. I am going to continue that and extend it to birthdays for everyone I buy for, meaning that I don’t have to buy actual presents, but can still give a gift. The only time I will give a material present is if it is regifted.
4) Share books
I have recently read a lot of books that have really inspired me, so will set up a free library at work to share those books with everyone in the office.
5) Share a ride
I am going to look for opportunities to share a ride with others rather than travelling on my own.
If anyone has any hints and tips on other ideas I could adopt in these 2 areas, please share them in the comments below.