My Zero Waste Journey

jar of waste

I’ve been trying to move towards Zero Waste for about a year now and I’ve learned a lot on my journey. Even though it’s taken quite a lot of research to find alternative products in no / compostable / recyclable packaging the changes haven’t been as hard as I thought. This is partly down to the fantastic members of the Zero Waste Ireland Facebook group.  The group has grown from 100 members in 2015 to over 3,500 today and I’d be completely lost without this wonderful bunch of people guiding me.

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The group has also made me aware that everyone’s journey to Zero Waste is different, because it’s all down to individual choice. Some prioritise local, others organic, others plastic free. There’s no right or wrong, it’s simply whatever works for you at this point in your life. The choices I’ve made have been governed by the following few simple principles / choices

  • buy ‘naked’ or refillable products whenever possible
  • buy products in the largest container available to reduce the amount of packaging used
  • making your own stuff is the best way to reduce packaging, avoid unwanted chemicals and palm oil
  • growing your own stuff is the best & cheapest way to reduce food miles and increase the nutritional value of your food
  • if something can’t be grown in Europe i just don’t buy it (except for bananas)
  • if a non-essential item is only available in non-recyclable packaging, i.e. crisps, whole chickens
  • do without, you’ll be surprised at how much you don’t need
  • make do, you’ll be equally surprised at your ingenuity!
  • be brave, embrace your ‘strangeness’. Pioneers always stand out!

There are still a few regularly purchased items that I’ve haven’t managed to find an affordable zero-waste option for including; coffee, kids breakfast cereal and cheddar cheese, but we replaced most of consumable with items in no / compostable / recyclable packaging. So far our house has implemented the following steps in an effort to reduce the waste we produce;

  1. only buy unwrapped bread & breadrolls, which I put in cotton bags that i bought
  2. only buy unpackaged fruit & veg
  3. only buy unpackaged eggs, which i put in a cardboard eggbox that i reuse
  4. only buy unpackaged meat, which i put into Pyrex containers
  5. buy unwrapped cheese in own container
  6. get own bottle refilled with olive oil
  7. make own tortillas
  8. make own pizza bases
  9. make own mozzarella
  10. make own crackers
  11. make own yoghurt
  12. make own biscuits / cakes
  13. switched to products in compostable or recyclable packaging where unpackaged options aren’t available, including medicines
  14. get own bottles refilled with washing-up liquid
  15. use vinegar rinse instead of hair conditioner
  16. use a shampoo bar, which comes in a paper bag, instead of shampoo
  17. use soap, which comes in paper, instead of shower gel
  18. make own liquid soap from ‘naked’ bars of soap
  19. make own moisturiser with ‘naked’ / bulk ingredients
  20. make own mascara
  21. use no cleaning products other than, vinegar, water, bicarbonate of soda and elbow grease
  22. use compostable dishbrushes and nailbrushes
  23. use loofah’s instead of scrubbers
  24. use plates over food stored in the fridge instead of clingfilm
  25. grease and flour baking tins instead of using greaseproof / baking paper
  26. avoid using aluminium foil wherever possible
  27. use cloths / rags instead of kitchen paper
  28. bring recyclable waste that is not recycled by my bin collection company to my local recycling centre, which can recycle it
  29. make our own compost with kitchen & garden waste
  30. compost all cooked food waste, which is very little in our house actually
  31. dine in restaurants with proper cutlery and crockery
  32. avoid take-outs
  33. use reusable cups / bottles / cutlery / cups when eating out
  34. move towards clothing made from natural fibres in ethically run factories
  35. reuse gift bags instead of buying wrapping paper
  36. make my own birthday cards from old ones
  37. buy essential items second-hand whenever possible

You may have noticed that a few Zero Wasters keep their non-recyclable packaging in a jar. I haven’t started to do this because our family still produces way more non-recyclable waste than I like and i think seeing it would dishearten me! So instead of storing my ‘bad’ waste in a jar I’m going to take inspiration from The Rogue Ginger and not post it! She argues that sometimes it’s really hard to avoid waste and instead of us, the consumer, bearing the burden of it we should pass it on to where it rightfully belongs, the producer. This has spurred me on to do two things. Firstly i emailed the companies / stores that I’ve had to say goodbye to and asked them to consider switching to no /compostable / recyclable packaging so that I can become a customer again. Secondly I’ve started my jar of waste,  but instead of becoming shrine to my Zero Waste efforts it’s going to become a repository for items to post onto producers once I’ve amassed enough to make postage worthwhile!


Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy

2 thoughts on “My Zero Waste Journey

  1. I suppose I’ve always tried to live sustainably so some of the things we do have been long standing, like avoiding branded cleaning products. Other things like growing our own food, baking, crafting have always been my hobbies. I think I was strongly influenced by the TV program ‘The Good Life’. It’s really the avoidance of packaging that I’ve been working on over the past year.

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