Our relationship with the environment in the world is complex, and as such, eco-friendly, crunchy, hippies, whatever you want to call them, can come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the one thing that most of them have in common is that they are frowned upon by many other people, and quite often labelled obsessive. One could talk about hunters, vegans, people interested in aquaponics or organic farming, anti-GMO campaigners, wildlife conservationists, no-plastic people, recycling enthusiasts or people who try to live a zero-waste lifestyle, amongst others. Perhaps the best understood people are the recyclers, as kerbside recycling containers and now the norm in many countries worldwide. However, the fact that we don’t know what to put in the containers, that not everything we try to recycle is actually recyclable, and that everything today is vastly overpackaged makes certain people who delve into the world of recycling go a bit over the top in the eyes of many people.
There are many inspiring zero-waste blogs out there, which are hopefully encouraging other people to go greener, if not waste-free altogether.
Here are some so-easy-to-do-you’ve-got-no-excuse-not-to things you can do to generate less waste:
-Carry your own reusable bags instead of buying plastic bags.
-Use a reusable water bottle. If you’re worried about the quality of your water, you can buy a filtering jug or some charcoal.
-Buy larger containers when possible.
As you see, these things are really easy to do. Then there are other things that you can do which do take a bit of extra effort, and involve a fair bit of DIY or maybe extra washing, but which I imagine are well worth it (not the voice of experience, sorry!):
-Make your own cleaning stuff (Check out David Suzuki’s Queen of Green’s Cleaning Recipes and her playlist on the David Suzuki Youtube channel). Or just use soapnuts. This way you can also make sure you know what you’re breathing in.
-Use cloth. I talked about People Towels, but you can also have cloth toilet paper, kitchen unpaper towels, even just use cloth serviettes, cloth handkerchiefs, cloth nappies. Some of this sounds a bit extreme, but many people swear by the softness of family cloth (instead of toilet paper).
-Most toiletries have eco-friendlier versions: you can get compostable ear sticks made out of paper and cotton, as well as reusable cloth make-up rounds to use instead of cotton rounds), bamboo toothbrushes and some stranger alternatives such as chew sticks, natural or even homemade toothpaste, unpackaged alum sticks to use as deodorant – if you need it, that is. If you’re blessed with Aunt Flow’s monthly visit you can also get organic or reusable menstrual products.
Last but not least, there’s the issue of the food, which is almost certainly the hardest to tackle. In some places, for example, supermarkets won’t let you take a single vegetable or fruit without putting it in a plastic bag for ‘health and safety reasons’. And of course you have to use a disposable plastic glove to choose what you’re going to take. I wonder if that means we can eat them without washing them… Anyway, I’m guessing if you go to a traditional grocer’s they’ll let you take your own bag. Great for vegetarians, but it’s even harder for meat-eaters, with all this meat packaged in polystyrene trays. If they let you, you have the option of waxed paper (with real wax, as opposed to the plastic-lined paper which you can get, even if some kinds allow you to peel off the plastic and recycle the paper!), or maybe a lunch box. Never tried this myself though.
What’s really making it hard for us, though, are the businesses. And this is where I wonder if it’s actually taking off. With zero-waste shops either existing or opening in Berlin, Vic, Capannori, Vienna, London (assuming it will actually make a comeback), Nantes, Austin or Denver there is still hope.