Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Pick your battles - and why Zero Waste is mine

I have not always been as concerned about the environment as I am now. In fact, I never used to recycle anything and drank from a new plastic bottle most days. Once even wrapped my towels when I was moving house in cling film as I run out of plastic bags. Yep, true story. Then something shifted in my mindset and I started to be aware of my decisions and what impact my actions have on the environment that I love. Somewhere along the line, I have become an environmental activist. I never used to see myself as an activist. I haven't attended protests against governmental decisions on the environment (yet) or against big companies or anything like that. Instead I chose to do something radical- take responsibility for my own actions when it comes to trash.

                        The outdoors gives me so much- it is only fair that I give something back 

It is so easy to blame corporations for the state of the environment. Yes, it is often the big companies who are the biggest polluters but they only exist because there is demand by us for the product that they offer. The fashion industry is the second biggest industrial polluter in terms of carbon emissions but it is no use blaming fast fashion retailers if we buy the clothes that they sell. When I talk to people, I often hear the argument that we can't do anything as an individual against large-scale establishments like that. I think the opposite is true. We have so much more power than we think in order to change things. Firstly, we can change ourselves. That is often the only thing that we can control- so instead of trying to control the uncontrollables, like decisions of a big company- control the controllables, which in this case can be you refusing to buy anything from them. Because if everyone did it, we would have a revolution.  

Shopping second hand is one way to make a stand against fast fashion- even better when you can DIY old clothes into something that you love wearing. 

This is called taking responsibility for your own actions. And it is contagious! You can’t change the word? Bullshit. Look at Bea Johnson who is the founder of the modern-day Zero Waste. Through her efforts, she has inspired millions of people to start Zero Waste and there are package free shops opening up everywhere. How about this for changing the world?

                      No trash is necessary in order for me to enjoy this croissant and a cup of tea 

There are so many things that you can choose to make a stand against. I chose trash. Trash is something that I think is the easiest and yet the hardest thing to eradicate. The reason why it is the easiest is that I don't think that I need trash in order to have a fulfilling life. It is literally as it says in the name - wasteful and unnecessary. It does nothing but add work for people, first to create it, then to get it to the shops and once used (often for seconds) we take it out of our homes and put it into incinerator/landfills. There is even more work involved in trying to clear it from the environment afterwards. Imagine what we could do with that time, collectively as a humanity - have picnics, go for walks, cuddle our pets, find solutions for antibiotics resistance etc etc. Not to mention the damage that that trash is causing to the environment that we love. Polluted seas and rivers, animal suffocating on plastic and microplastics finding its way onto our plate through fish. The list goes on. Blue Planet II and documenteries like Plastic Ocean highlight the issue which seems to be growing in concerns by the day. 

 For me, there wasn’t a single defining moment when I realized that I want to start a Zero Waste journey. It was a combination of things. I think I was looking for a way to simplify my life and as I started to spend more time outside, I understood the importance of preserving the environment that gives me so much joy, in order for future generations to enjoy it just as much. The outdoors has changed my life on more than one levels and I became passionate about wanting to facilitate this experience for other people.  When I started learning about Zero Waste, I didn't quite foresee where this would lead. I started to be more aware of how many possessions I own and what makes me truly happy - experience rather than things which are the foundations of minimalism. It also made me question what I put into my body as I started to learn about pesticides, synthetic materials and plastic leaching into my food. 

       Minimalism- Experience over things - here cycle touring with a trad climbing rack 

For a while, a lot of these thoughts were just ideas. I wanted to make the change but for some reason, I didn't. Lack of time, being too busy, habit and relying on convenience were just some of the reasons. I knew that my actions didn't match my thoughts and aspirations though. I knew that plastic bags were bad for the environment and disposable SUPs even worse but for some reason or another I didn't do anything about it. This was creating a divide inside me and it made me feel uncomfortable and guilty. What is the point of guilt? It is such a strange emotion. We are only feeling guilty when we think that we have done something wrong. So I knew deep down that my actions were wrong, not because of other people's views but because that is what I was thinking.  But thinking isn't doing. Lauren Singer who is a Zero Waste advocate and one hell of an inspiring environmentalist talks about aligning your beliefs with your actions, which is a really powerful message. This resonated with me. No more feeling guilty. I will either do something about it or accept that I don't live my values.  And so one day, I jumped in. I didn't know whether it was possible and whether I was going to fail miserably but I made that first step. Because that is an adventure isn't it? 

       My local butchers who sources a lot of local meat and is happy for me to shop package free
You may be surprised, but I am not a vegan or a vegetarian. I eat animal products and use leather and a toothbrush made from pig hair.  It is so easy to get overwhelmed with the state of things and the choices that we have to make and balance them against each other. Should I use a toothbrush made from pig hair or plastic fibres? The first one is fully compostable and the second one will leave microplastics in the environment but on the other hand, you have to consider the effect of farming on the planet.  Or should I buy organic carrots grown in New Zealand package free or local organic carrots wrapped in plastic? If you are a vegan the solution is clear. But what if you are a vegan and also want to go Zero Waste? Should you buy vegan sausages wrapped in plastic or are you better off eating local meat sausages from the butchers? 

    Vegetables - where do you draw the line as to what is the best solution? For me, it is Zero Waste which is the deciding factor at the moment. 

My answer to this is – pick your battles. For me, the most important thing right now is the plastic reduction. ( My vegan friends would disagree but that is okay as those are their choices). I will choose to avoid plastic at the expense of other things. But this is not to say that I will disregard everything else. I am slowly learning more and more about issues that other people are passionate about (like eating less meat) and making changes for the better. But this does not happen overnight. Our lives are riddled with these dilemmas. I have met many people who have simply given up because they see all of these issues and get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing at all. Don’t let it get to you. Start somewhere, educate yourself constantly, and take small steps. Somehow things will become easier as you get used to them. And when you tackle that most important thing and you are pretty proficient at it, you can tackle another big thing. And the next thing you know, your impact on the environment has reduced dramatically. 

                              Small changes and simple swaps can amount to big gains 

Just like with fad diets which don’t work, you need to look for sustainable life changes. So make sustainability sustainable, otherwise, it will be overwhelming and it will not work. This is exactly how I have approached my journey to Zero Waste. One thing at the time. This way you get a positive boost every time you come up with a Zero Waste alternative and when you manage to save something from the landfill, it feels like a small victory.  It never feels like a chore because the change is gradual and you can learn new things and skills in the process. I have come on leaps and bounds since I started in terms of my rubbish reduction but there are still things which are on my ''to tackle list'', one by one.  I have failed, do fail and will fail at times as rubbish can find its way into my life even with best efforts. Even Bea Johnson has some trash. Very, very little compared to most but you can see that it happens to the best.  And that is okay because doing your best is enough. 

                                                        Learning to make Sloe Gin

 I think global Zero Waste is absolutely possible. And the way to do it is by taking responsibility for our actions. For me it means that I am responsible for my personal choices like shopping zero waste, composting, buying second hand and reusing what I have. If you are a shop owner and you have bulk bins where people like me can stock up, your responsibility will be to deal with suppliers and to push for change so that they don’t send the bulk produce in plastic but at least paper/reusable bags. If you are a CEO of a large company, it will be up to you to filter changes through your business. This way everyone is responsible for their own bit and somehow the change will be on all levels.

   Both I and the shop owners can do our bit- I can buy it waste-free and they can persuade the supplier to deliver it in reusable containers  
The most important thing in this day and age is to make a stand.  This can be anything that you think will help the environment. Because otherwise it will be people like Trump who will shout the loudest and who will be heard instead.  I have recently learned that merely disagreeing with something is not enough. For example, we all agree that plastic pollution is not good. But just disagreeing with it doesn't make a change happen. We need to be proactive. Whether you choose to take a reusable cup to work tomorrow, start a swap shop within your friendship group, or share a meaningful article on facebook instead of just another dog meme, do something, which aligns your actions with your thoughts. Because once you start, you will not look back. I never thought that I was the activist type.  Now I see that everyone has an activist inside themselves, it is just whether you choose to let it out. 



  1. Hi Dom, I've just discovered your blog and am loving it. Very inspirational. Well done. Anna

  2. Hi Anna thank you for your encouragement :) hope you enjoy it and that it inspires you :) x