Step 2. Reduce the size (Continued- part 2)

What took longer to eliminate

  1. Bread

So I clearly remember, it was late 2014 and by this point we were buying bread from our local bakery where shall be remain nameless. It was going well as it was package free and a relatively ok quality. Until one day we found a piece of spinach in the baguette that we bough that day. It would have been fine if my hubby didn’t mention that the baker had a piece of spinach in his teeth that day as well. ARGHHHHHHH!!!

So you know what happened we didn’t go back. Went and bough ourselves a piece of machine called bread maker, this is the one and I cannot recommend it high enough:

That changed our lives. As this trusty bread maker comes with a handy recipe book that has more than 30 types of bread, cake, jam and dough that made our lives easier, tastier and richer. We bake for people and give them when we visit them or when they come over and they seem not to get enough of our bread. We can make any type of bread, pastry, and dough including pizza, pasta, pastry and the list goes on.

The cost is not comparable with the store bough bread, no matter how fancy you go on material it won’t be more than a dollar for a freshly backed fancy fruit loaf or mixed nuts and grain sour dough. I told you there is no limit but your imagination. Go buy a bread machine and you won’t regret it. I recommend this one too if you are gluten intolerance:

This purchase pay itself off after a month of bread making and not buying. I would say this was one of the best decisions in my life and I stand by it forever. Easy, cheap and tasty, waking up to a fresh baked bread smell in the house and so much option at your fingertips, this is what I call perfect replacement.

 

  1. Sauces

So you probably remember that one of the early steps, was to reduce the amount of shopping and do most things at home, for instance cook your food at home. So we were using some premade sauces to do the cooking, namely Asian sauces and Pizza sauce. They were packaged and premade so brought in preservatives, bunch of ingredients that we couldn’t even pronounce and of course packaging, lots of it. to our house. So we set to eliminate them, the Asian ones were easy as we just replace them with a trusty combination of soy sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce. The Pizza sauce was also easy for me to make but my hubby wasn’t a believer, so it took couple of try and errors to turn him as well. Just used a good portion of tomato paste, warm water, pepper and salt and if handy some dried herbs mainly oregano, thyme, coriander and parsley. After that we didn’t buy these and saved tons as each pack was roughly a dollar or two on special. Probably as you notice, we are making our own Pizza and this is beneficial from two aspects, first we save tons of money and second we know exactly what goes into our Pizza, have to confess having the bread maker for making the dough is a huge help. The dough still has to be kneaded and that is when my helpful hubby come into play.

Have to admit having invested in bunch of good and easy cookbooks also helped us a lot to create new foods and don’t get bored as well as eating well and nutritious food with healthy  ingredients. These are some of the books we have:

Step 2. Reduce the size (Continued)

4. Cleaning products

Being renters, we used to buy all sorts of cleaning products to make sure the place that we are renting is spotless especially when we first moved into a place or when we were leaving one. Cleaning is part of our everyday routine but deep cleaning was never my thing. However, in order to make sure I don’t have a mammoth task of cleaning at a end of our lease I always tried to keep the houses I rented in a as good as new (first moved in) condition. Hence, we used to buy window cleaners to clean the glass and mirror surfaces, oven cleaners for the obvious use, antibacterial wipes and antibacterial liquids to clean kitchen surfaces, shower and toilet cleaners and bunch of other chemicals that I just ceased to remember.

These all meant that not only we are stuffing our lungs with fumes and our bodies with super bugs (this is not clinically proven though), we were emptying our pockets from money and filling the premium space in our apartment, because as you all know apartments in the Melbourne city, especially in north Melbourne where we used to live are small and each square meter that you have free from stuff can help you breath and let the energy to flow (#Feng Shui).

This all back when I used to have a Facebook page[1], so when I was going through my Facebook page, I read a post that my friend had shared with me on uses of vinegar. I started to read the post and realised that there is more to this smelly water looking liquid that I thought before, AKA vinegar. That was an epiphany, I realised not only I can toss all the above mentioned cleaning products and replace them with white vinegar and water cocktail but also I can save tens of dollars month after month.

It took me a while to convert my husband as he was one of those sold to the idea of chemical cleans like no other. Although I have to agree nothing is strong as bleach but you have to decide whether you value your longs and skin more than spotless toilet or not. Plus if you clean surfaces regularly you will never need a strong bleaching action, believe me!

I mixed one part vinegar and five part water to clean surfaces, including but not limited to kitchen bench tops, stove, oven, bathroom surfaces, fridge, toilet and bath plus all mirrors and windows.

You might think, girl your house must reek of vinegar. My response is, HELL NO! The diluted vinegar does not have an overpowering smell and even the slight odour that might be sensed at the time of applying is not distinguishable after couple of minutes. Vinegar water is a perfect solution for almost all cleaning problems in the house. More on other usage of this miracle liquid in my future posts.

5. Microwavable popcorn

I am all up for good old popcorn with my favourite movie but please ditch the microwavable one, save money and packaging and buy a kilo of corns from a bulk store and pop them in a pot on your stove. You’ll thank me for it.

The argument for these microwavable popcorn can be the ease of use and the speed of preparation. But the difference between the price of this type of corn and the bulk one can easily turn the argument on its head.

6.Papers towels/tissues

Some paper towels can be used even multiple times but majority of them are disposed after only one use. In either case, using a simple rag can be your safe haven; you save money and the environment at one go.

You might use paper towels for other purposes, for all those you can utilise a more sustainable solution. For instance, make your own floor wipe with old clothing that are not useful anymore. Or design and sew your own cloth napkins instead of using disposable tissues.

7. Antibacterial Hand wash

Refer to the 6th thing to toss as the same reason applies here. These hand washes are defeating their purposes, causing resistant bacteria living among us and therefore using normal bar soap that can be bought in bulk to reduces packaging and waste is your way to go. In this way you eliminate bottles of hand wash, paying for expensive and often illusive products and still keeping hygienic household.

Another way to eliminate frequent shopping of bottled hand wash is to buy bulk. You can fill your liquid hand wash dispenser with a hand wash you bought in bulk to avoid packing but still have the ease of the use of liquid hand wash.

8. Body wash

I agree that we are increasingly using bunch of corporately produced and marketed chemicals and smear them all over our bodies’ everyday just to get by. These chemicals with their synthetic smells make us feel acceptable in the society and abandoning them seems too outrageous and even frowned upon in some communities. You have grown up believing these products make you clean like no other and nothing else can do the job. WRONG! Your body does not need them. Your body is meant to sweat to get rid of toxins and regulate its temperature. To keep the Body Odour (BO) at bay you only need to keep the bacteria away from your skin surface that feed on your sweat and create the BO. These bacteria are easily washed away with a simple body scrub (wool or cotton one, even the synthetic will do the job). As long as you clean your body with water on a daily basis you will not have BO problem and do not have to use chemical to clean or cover the smell of your body, i.e., with deodorants and so forth.

Take the challenge and go chemical free and give a couple of weeks to your body to adjust to its chemical free life (like a rehab period for your body), and you will save money and time and your sanity next time you shop.

We use bar of soap for as body wash if we feel the need to wash with something more than water and scrub. I also use Bicarb Soda to kill bacteria underarm to avoid BO. They work fine for both of us so far.

9. Antibacterial wipes

Antibacterial wipes can spread superbugs. Disinfectant wipes routinely used in hospitals may actually spread drug-resistant bacteria rather than kill the dangerous infections; most cases are associated with hospitals, nursing homes or other health care facilities. So if these wipes are defeating the sole purpose of their existence, it seems logical to get rid of them. Risking sound like a broken record, I suggest you use diluted vinegar spray and a simple rag to clean your surfaces. Especially surfaces in the kitchen that contact your foods are sensitive places that you don’t want to be covered in super-bugs. Water will clean most of the problems in the kitchen but to make sure all is clean acidity of diluted vinegar will do the job.

[1] I abstain from all social media, more on that in my future post

Step 2. Reduce the size

Reducing is the important part of the zero waste living, some refer to it as de-cluttering but I believe it is even more. De-cluttering is reducing your belongings but Reducing is minimising:

  • what you own
  • what you want
  • what you need both now and in the future

This step is by far the longest part of our journey as we still making changes, reducing on a daily basis what we own, what we buy, what we gather and what we think we should or should not bring to the house.

Eliminating things/stuff one by one was the approach that we decided upon, some go hand in hand with the previous step as we started making stuff in the house hence there was no need to buy them and some goes right into the fact that they were non-essential and could have been cut right out of our lives.

Here we go through each and every one of them, these eliminations might not be in order that they happened in our real life but they all happened at some point in early years of our zero waste journey:

What we eliminated with ease

  1. Bottled water

Bottled water must be one of the most over rated products on the market. In US people are now drinking more bottled water than milk or beer. Bottled water mainly contains tap water that in some cases are treated and purified but mainly is a glorified tap water, however as bottlers aren’t required to list the source of the water on the bottles there is no way to prove or disprove their advertising claims that their water come from purest spring waters on the planet. Moreover, the plastic or even the glass bottles mount to ridiculously huge amount of rubbish in the landfill or at best recycling loads that require massive amount of energy, water, time and man power to recycle.

Then there is the issue of fluoride that some bottled water companies use to lure the customers. They mention that you need fluoride for the health of your teeth. The fact is in most developed countries the fluoride is added to the tap water for some time already, for example back in 1945 fluoride was added to tap water in US. Therefore, you don’t need the bottled water to bring the all needed fluoride for the health of your teeth. Just fill your trusty water bottle

and enjoy all healthy and yummy drink that is water.

 

  1. Plastic bag

Plastic bags were made popular by a Swedish company in 1960’s. They were convenient and palatable to the 20th century men and women who were not largely as environmentally conscious as 21st century ones. Plastic bags are mostly not accepted by curb side recycling services and some stores like IKEA have banned them in their UK and US stores altogether (“IKEA to Phase Out Plastic Bags in U.S.”. GreenBiz. 2 April 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2017). There are biodegradable options for plastic bags and given that 60% of the plastic bags are reused as bin liners or for other purposes (Plastic shopping bags in Australia. Environment.gov.au (2010-06-13). Retrieved 7 May 2017), it is probably a good idea to use the biodegradable options to avoid extra methane and CO2 emissions in the landfill. But you can toss the plastic altogether by using your fold-able cloth bag.

In Australia, major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworth, do accept plastic bags and in general any crunch-able plastics, like wraps and other packaging that crunch in your hand, for recycling. They turn these plastics into outdoor furniture for Aussie primary schools and pre-schools. In 2016, customers returned more than 299 tonnes of plastic to only Coles stores to be recycled.

While you are at it, get rid of plastic bags for good and replace them with produce bags like these

or get your own reusable shopping bags:

 

  1. Takeaway coffee cups

Each of us drink at least a cuppa or two a day and these disposable coffee cups can be mount into a mountain of plastic or paper trash. The solution to this one is easy. This one is a replacement option and there are so many trendy reusable coffee mugs/cups you can enjoy instead of the disposable paper or plastic coffee cup. Get customised reusable cups and taste the caffeine in style. Or use some trendy designed cups for example on various sites.

Another part of the coffee cup that is wasteful is the coffee cup lids. They are usually made of plastic, the first of which was patented in 1967. When using a reusable cups, these lids are made of silicones or durable plastics that are washable and there is no need for tossing at least for couple of years.

On an ABC program in 2017, War on Waste, they ran a whole episode dedicated to coffee cups that are perceived to be recycling by most Australians but they are not really! As the lining inside the cup that prevent the coffee leaking out is a type of plastic that doesn’t get recycled in a paper recycling process hence has to be taken out before putting into the recycling bin. and that by itself is an onerous task that no one is willing to do. So better and easier option to toss the disposable cups and use one that just need a rinse after each use.

More in the next post….

 

Step 1. Rethink your journey

At the time I was living with my partner/husband with no children in the horizon. So I sat him down and had an honest discussion about what I believe in and how I think we should drastically but gradually change our consumptive life and led a simpler and more joyous living.

We both aspired to the path and agreed to do it in a way that will be lasting and not a short lived change.

The first changes we did were:

  1. Make a conscious decision of buying from market instead of supermarket to bring home less packaging
  2. Taking our shopping bags with us when we go for the weekend market haul
  3. Reusing plastic bags that were ending up in our house despite our best efforts
  4. Try to buy locally
  5. Religiously recycle instead of landfill
  6. Start and strive to make most of the food, bread, jam and in general our eating supplies ourselves in the house

These changes were conscious for about couple of years, when we were quite comfortable with them and they felt an essential part of our life style, more like a habit ingrained in our unconscious. However, being both immigrants-I am from Iran and my husband is from Colombia-we had visitors from overseas where consumption is unfortunately still mistaken as a sign of opulent living. So our attempt to have a simpler life was perceived as lack of economic means or outward stingy. It took me a while to change the dynamics and educate my immediate family on disadvantages of massive consumption but more on that in future posts.

My journey to zero waste living

In January 2010, I moved to Australia to pursue my PhD in Industrial Sustainability at the University of Melbourne. I am originally from Iran and it was during my research in Melbourne that my eyes were opened to the understanding of how our new industrial and consumptive life style is damaging the environment and our mother earth. Soon I joined the Climate Reality Corps led by Former US Vice President, Al Gore, to raise awareness about climate change and people power to convince politicians to act before it is too late when the climate change effects are irreversible.

I was one of 500 people from 94 countries who were selected to be trained by former US vice president Al Gore to deliver a version of the slideshow known to many as the basis of the award winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The trip was partially funded by my successful Peter McPhee Award from Melbourne University.

As a climate leader, I was committed to perform at least ten Acts of Leadership within a year of my training. These were acts such as speaking and presenting my version of the famous Al Gore slide show, and I also did a number of presentations including an end of the year showcase of my Peter McPhee and Dreamlarge grants.

After completing training with the Climate Reality Project in Istanbul in 2013, I founded Engreeneers as a new sustainable engineering group funded by a University of Melbourne’s Dreamlarge Student Engagement grant. In collaboration with the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and Australian Conservation Foundation, Engreeneers presented a series of group discussions on topics including sustainability and sustainability leadership. Each session ended with a list of ideas, recommendations or questions to be presented to the relevant expert guest in a follow up Q&A session.

Throughout all these volunteer works and studies, I realised that our current way of life is not sustainable and we cannot continue our consumptive living. Our current lifestyle is diminishing our bounded resources and filling up our landfills with trash emitting tons and tons of CO2 and methane. These emissions are the main sources of green house gas emission that is causing the climate change. Most of the problems in the world have simple reasoning behind them and reasonble solutions but the geo-political situations making those solution so out of hand that nothing is getting fixed and just deterioriate further and further. One example is the sheer number of poor and hungy people in the world that can be fed easily with the amount of food produced in the world but their number just increases each year and nothing get fixed, read more on this in Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity 1st Edition by Lester R. Brown (He actually signed my copy when I was at a conference in Columbus, Ohio, USA in 2012).

I soon decided that focusing on one aspect of action, zero waste living, and promoting it throughout communities can have more impact that just preaching change without clear and doable solutions. So I started first steps towards a zero waste household classes, seminars and workshops. These posts are written forms of those classes and goes into more details on how I started my zero waste journey and how I am still continuing to learn and make more positive changes for a less harmful impact on my mother earth.

These blog posts are to empower each and everyone of you out there to believe in the power of one and how it can grow to impact the whole world. So here I share with you step by step of my zero waste living journey. These are based on my experiences and do not count as my professional advice in any shape or form.

I want to inspire you, instigate action and make a change but also share my journey with those interested and feeling that somewhere few steps ahead or behind can provide them a different or maybe new perspective. I don’t think I even get to the end of my journey so long I live but having a record of my steps is heartwarming for me and those who care this shared cause.

Come on, hop on this journey with me and don’t be shy to leave comments and ask questions. As you see based on the dates of these posts, I am a novice in blogging and need encouragement to keep it up so I appreciate any word of advise, encouragement or constructive criticism. Just as a disclosure, your comments will be checked by me before posted on the site but I won’t be censuring any comments so long it is not insulting to anyone. Please also recommend content or posts that you find useful and relevant and I will try my best to accommodate your wishes within a time frame that will work for us both.

Ok let’s get to it!