Step 2. Still reducing

As I first mentioned when started this step (i.e. Step 2), it never really finishes. Throughout years we have collected quite a number of items under the umbrella of “necessities” in our lives and getting rid of all these artificial convenience take time and dedication. In some cases it also take lots of patience and perseverance to stick with it and do not get dithered by criticism or hardships.

Other things that we are in the process of reducing are:

1. Shampoos

Shampoos are “necessities” of daily life, aren’t they? Well you do not need to wash your hair every day and in some cases every week. It obviously depend on the type of your hair and there are so many people out there that agree with this. I am in the process of reducing my washes throughout the week. Every week I try to add another day or half day to my non-wash period.

But also you don’t have to use conventional shampoo to get the job done. The way we are all conditioned to using fragrant shampoos with all these exotic aromas and empty promises of growth and smoothness and so on just shows how marketing is a powerful tool that can be misused. There is no way by using a shampoo (that last couple of minutes on your hair at best) you get the silky shine or regrowth that they entail. But we still fall for them.

Anyway, my point being look into alternatives. I can tell you about what I have experienced.:

Soap Nuts are type of berries that contain saponin, a natural detergent. The shell absorbs water and releases the saponins which circulate as a natural surfactant in the wash water, freeing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing. I tried them a while ago and they are quite cost effective. A kilo can give you up to 35 litre of liquid (boil them in water) that can be used as shampoo (you can add essential oil to add the aroma you like), detergent, hand wash and body wash. They don’t make as much foam you are use to with conventional shampoos but do the job


If you want to get best idea about essential oils there is this free e-book that you can enjoy:

 

2. Dry shampoo

I use dry shampoo to longer my non-wash period. Now I make my own but there are lot of options out there many of them organic:

The key to using dry shampoo is to brush your hair few times a day to distribute the oil in the root of your hair to the whole length and then use the dry shampoo powder and brush again to allow the powder absorb the oil in every corner of your head. This is really useful as you don’t fee like you have greasy hair but you still haven’t wash it. So you can go about your life like you normally would.

3. All cleaning agents

I talked about these products in another post, and even though we don’t use whole lot of these kinds of products we still use detergent specially if I am washing reusable nappies as they are quite fussy and I don’t want to ruin their waterproof layer with soap nut detergent or homemade detergents. Also we use dish washer soap as distinguishing is mainly my hubby’s chore and he refuses to use anything that doesn’t foam enough in his opinion (i.e. soap nut liquid). Hence we are in the process of reducing, or convincing at this stage 🙂

4. Toothpaste

So I had problems with conventional toothpaste that have SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) not because they are carcinogen or anything (there is no proof or disproof on this). It’s just they make my mouth really dry, like seriously dry, so I changed to SLS free toothpaste and bought a few of this brand:


My plan is to make my own but before that I will give a go at the tooth cleaning powder that I heard so much about and will let you know how it goes. The reason I am changing from this toothpaste is not that I don’t love it because I do. It is fantastic but it lasts me only a month or month and a half if I really be careful with the amount I put on my brush. Disclaimer, I brush at least twice a day.
So the powder that I am going with is this one, happy to get suggestions if you out there are using something totally amazing:


5. New stuff in general

I am one of those people that can’t wear second hand clothing if I don’t know where it comes from but I have no problem buying new clothing or new stuff in general off of people who do not want them. So I became an avid second hand shopper (gumtreer). In the past year, we haven’t bought anything for the house, mainly kitchenware, that was from store. All came from people that own them, either bought them or receive them as gifts. This guarantees to get what I want as I research them and purposefully look for those items. Hence no sales person can impact my decision. Also I don’t pay the premium in-store price as these items are in the second hand category I can pay a fraction of the price and get a lot of discount if I haggle and the person I am buying from is also good recipient of haggling 😉

I also started making a lot of my own clothing also made couple of dresses for my daughter. This saves a lot of money and I get the material and design that I want. I never pay for the design (or pattern in this case), either make my own quirky pattern or search for free ones on the web.

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

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!