I began taking a greater interest into our household waste when we moved into our apartment in May 2015. I felt like we had a clean slate and it was the perfect time to start taking steps to eliminating our household waste.
I started adapting to this lifestyle using the advice of the same person who I feel most people turn to when they start down the zero waste road: Bea Johnson, author of the fantastic book Zero Waste Home, and her blog of the same name. Specifically, I watched a video of a talk she made at Google in 2015, and from there I then discovered the endlessly useful blogs and YouTube channels Trash is for Tossers, run by Lauren Signer, and Eco Boost by Kate Arnell. There is a limitless amount of resources at your fingertips when it comes to picking up zero waste tips but generally, these are my most used reference points.
I will now list the things which I’ve started doing or bought in the past year or so which have helped me adapt to this lifestyle, and encouraged me to keep making further changes in order to reduce our household waste:
- Shopping at Bio C Bon – This is not the cheapest place to go grocery shopping, but it is certainly the best place to go for zero waste shopping. It is so easy to get porridge oats, lentils, couscous, quinoa, nuts etc. in bulk, and fruit and vegetables don’t have a scrap of packaging on them, so it’s very easy to get the right amount of what you want. Anything else I get from there is either in a glass jar which can be reused or in a tin can which can be recycled – Shopping zero waste would certainly be a lot harder without this store.
- Buying less meat and fish – I have written a post about this quite recently but just to emphasise, when meat and fish are not purchased from a butcher or a fishmonger (where you can bring your own containers), you can bet that it’s going to come wrapped in cellophane and some form of polystyrene, neither of which can be recycled, and as a result, I buy these two things a lot less.
- The way in which I do my grocery shop has changed considerably since moving to France, primarily because I no longer do a weekly shop. I find that it’s much easier to use the items in your fridge when there’s less to choose from. When doing a weekly shop, I would find that I’d buy some groceries without really planning what I was going to do with them, and because there was almost an overwhelming amount of produce to choose from, I didn’t plan my meals well enough, and they didn’t get used in time. Now, doing a couple of smaller shops in a smaller grocery store, the whole experience is more relaxed, and it’s much easier to use everything I purchase.
- Tote bags are the answer to most of life’s troubles, as are mason jars.
- Trash is for Tossers also provides a great recipe for toothpaste for which dentists have given the seal of approval which can be found here. I am currently testing out different deodorant recipes.
- My lunch boxes comes in the form of these pots and thermal covers from Nos Bons Plats Chez Vous, a catering company which was frequently used by the law firm where I used to work. Each meal would come with a starter, a main and a dessert, and at least one dish would come in these pots and thermal sleeves if it was a hot dish. At the end of each meeting we would clean them up and take them home. I have about twelve in total. These were all to hand for me so I swept up as many as I could, but if needs be glass pots, mason jars stainless steel lunch boxes can all be found pretty easily in all household stores.
- Lemon, vinegar, bicarbonate soda work together as a perfect cleaning agent for just about any surface: your microwave, oven, sink, bath etc.
- Replacing plastic utensils in the home with metal or wooden utensils has helped things along so much: In early 2016 I discovered Sin Plastico which is a Spanish store that only stocks objects made from biodegradable products. The delivery is quite expensive (10 euros), so when I do shop from this site, which isn’t that often as things don’t really need replacing that regularly, I tend to do a bigger haul, than buying one object at a time. From this store I’ve bought: a metal safety razor, razor blades, a wooden dish brush with a replaceable head, wooden toothbrushes, a dustpan and brush, stainless steel straws, a ‘picnic’ cutlery set, a couple of stainless steel containers, the list goes on. All items are shipped in recyclable packaging, using non-plastic tape. Again, as time goes on and zero waste is becoming a more recognised lifestyle, I’m seeing these items cropping up a lot more frequently, but if you don’t live in a big city, I’d say Sin Plastico is a great place to build your own zero waste starter pack. It’s fantastic.
- Last year I bought a pair of pyjamas from the Cornish clothing brand Seasalt, and apart from the fact that they were made from 100% organic cotton, they were delivered in recyclable packaging and a cotton drawstring bag, which is perfect for getting groceries, baguettes etc.
- The Mooncup / DivaCup / Fleurcup – I purchased this product in 2015 and I will write a separate post for it in the near future as it has truly changed my life. In the past year or so I encouraged four of my friends to try out the Mooncup and they are all as ecstatic about it as I am and have been introducing it to their friends and family which is super encouraging. I think it is one of, if not the most important products a woman can buy for herself. It cuts out a significant part of household waste, and it is unquestionably the more economic, ecological choice when it comes your time of the month, and it’s also much kinder to your body. Also, along with it’s recyclable packaging, in comes with a discreet, canvas drawstring bag which is very handy when travelling.
- Coconut oil (one of life’s saving graces) and cotton flannels together work as a perfect make-up remover.
Goals for 2017:
I have a long way to go in the world of Zero Waste. For example, I need to find out where I can take my compost, it’s piling up and I need to find out where in my area I can take it. Charity shops and vintage stores are very very few and far between in this city so shopping for organic, ethically made clothes is not as easy as if I were to be doing it in England. I take old clothes to be recycled at my nearest H&M store. I need to find a good alternative for dish soap, both of which I currently buy from l’Arbre Vert which is widely sold, but it’s quite hard to find this sort of things in bulk. I’m also looking for places to buy castile soap, olive oil, coffee and tea in bulk.
If I could give one tip for reducing your household waste it would be to plan. Thinking ahead about where you’ll be going, if you’ll need a knife or fork, a tote bag, a little pot of some sort, is such an effortless way to go about reducing any rubbish and one which truly pays off.
What I have discovered over the past year, is that while our landfill waste output is reducing all the time, the amount which we’re recycling isn’t going down as much as I’d like, and the aim of zero waste is to reduce both aspects as much as possible. However, while it’s very easy to make these changes listed above, it is a learning process which does take time. So, my aim is that over the course of this year, I’ll be able to share new discoveries I’ve made towards living in a zero waste household, and if you have any tips, I would be happy to hear from you!