Am I Zero waste? Why I hesitated to answer my own question

The definition of Zero Waste according to Wikipedia is a “philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. The goal is for no trash to be sent to landfills or incinerators.” Pretty simple really, the concept is to reduce the amount of waste we produce, ideally to ‘zero’.  This can be achieved by reusing, composting and depending on how you look at it, by recycling.

I have sat down to write this post on a few occasions, a post to self-discovery maybe, to answer my own question, am I zero waste and what does this mean for me?

To me zero waste is a pretty scary statement, mainly because if I told you I was zero waste I would feel like I was lying because let’s face it, I’m not. We still produce waste, though I try very hard not to. We still recycle and have managed to cut out approximately 95% of the plastic in our life, and we don’t compost, even though it’s something I really want to do, instead, our food scraps go in the waste disposal. Packageless zero waste pantry new zealand

Our pantry - unedited. It would be the same should you walk through my door right now. As you can see it is mainly made up of reused jars, some packaged items, some plastic, our plastic jar of shame and bowl of tin foil and bottle caps

Nowadays we produce very little waste in our house, maybe a small bucket’s worth each month. Ideally, we would get to a point where nothing goes to landfill, but in reality, this is a lot easier said than done. There are people out there achieving a zero waste lifestyle and they are a great inspiration for us all, but depending on circumstances I know that not all of us have the time, the means or facilities to do so. Especially when the world we live in is built on consumerism and making our lives convenient. This is what the zero waste is fundamentally about - we need to change how we consume, and this will only happen if consumers and companies alike change their ways.

Compost! Food waste is an issue I think we have, something that I want to resolve this year. At the moment we are freezing vegetable off-cuts to make vegetable stock and lemons to make our own cleaning products. Living in an apartment right in the city centre with no outside area means the rest of our food waste sadly it goes in the waste disposal. This is something I plan on finding a better solution for this year (there will be a celebratory blog post once I have succeeded!).  

 

recycling new zealand zero waste nz

Recycling from the past few weeks (we have had family staying with us during this time), plus the soft plastic collection mainly from our pre-zero waste days.

With respect to recycling, I think we are pretty good. We ensure that all our glass (if not reused), tin, paper or card, and any plastics that have slipped into our daily purchases are recycled, and we try and separate at source as much as possible. We do unfortunately have a huge pile of soft plastics, a lot are from our pre-zero waste days, but some have been a result of unavoidable packaging and the odd slip-up or indulgence. We are planning to take it to the soft plastics recycling bin at the local supermarket, and while this is better than landfill, we do have concerns about how much of it is actually recycled and how far it has to travel to get there. 

So, this doesn’t seem very ‘zero waste’ does it!? That is why I struggled to write this. But the idea behind zero waste is not necessarily as black and white as is sounds – for me it is a goal, something to work towards with the recognition that as things change and as we learn we will become better, and that every little bit we do does make a difference. Zero waste is about building the fundamental philosophy into all parts of your lifestyle, making a difference where you can, but continually striving to do better.  

Zero Waste Kit Plastic free New Zealand NZ The Eco Society

My zero waste essentials, which help me reduce my waste. A selection of jars, drink bottles and bags, Rethink produce bags, reusable Joco coffee up, Meals in Steal reusable containers, beeswax wraps either from Honeywrap or homemade by me, Cailwood reusable straws and bamboo chopsticks in my homemade carry pouch.

One of the great things I love about the zero waste community is that they are non-judgmental, they are understanding and welcoming. They encourage and support each other and are about celebrating what you achieved today rather than what you didn’t. 

When I first started writing this post I had in my mind that I wasn’t zero waste, but now that I’ve finished it I’ve changed my mind – while I might not have achieved "zero waste", but I live a zero waste lifestyle. So my message to you?  Living a sustainable or zero waste lifestyle doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. As I said in one of my first blogs, make small changes to start with, let it stick and move on from there. Set goals for yourself, do what holds value to you and don’t be too hard on yourself when you forget – celebrate what you did, not what you didn’t.

 

 

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