By Eleonora Cerasoli
Everything started with a YouTube video. Cinematic shots of a daily zero waste routine with ethereal music in the background, a palette of pastel colours and a wooden kitchen with plants everywhere and I was sold.
How many of us through a single video or article was inspired to change? That’s the beauty of the Internet but it comes with its limitations. Being inspired to make a great change it’s wonderful, but seeing its achievement so distant and unattainable can be counterproductive and discourage many people to try to pursue it.
Exploring the world of zero waste can be tricky, with sometimes unrealistic standards appearing so effortless. We don’t live an edited version of our life; we live the raw and truthful one, with the struggles and inconveniences that come with it. From nothing to go full zero waste, there is an ocean of possibilities, and I want to share my personal experience navigating that ocean, to share the struggles I’ve encountered trying to reduce my impact on the environment while living in big cities and on a budget.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with too much and too detailed information.
Documentary, YouTube videos, articles and conferences are part of the journey to be more environmentally conscious. But I believe that doing it all at once can be sometimes detrimental to the motivated person. Some people will read about our impact on the environment and will be inspired to change their life drastically to rapidly attain a zero-waste lifestyle. But most of us will realize that so many aspects of our lives need improvement that the overwhelming factor will crash our motivation.
The society also plays an important factor. You would think that it’s more rewarding to be fully vegan or fully zero waste because you can proudly introduce yourself to the world with those attributes. So when you feel that it’s not realistically achievable for you, you decide it’s not worth it to try.
In her latest article, our climate optimist columnist Anne Therese Gennari talks about the importance of relatability and clear action to instil change, “to change the narrative on climate change so that we can act from courage and excitement and not fear.”
So before thinking about beach clean up in Hawaii, let’s see what effective changes we can make in our daily life.
Start with the easiest change for yourself.
Depending on your lifestyle, your habits, the city you live in, your education, your budget and plenty of other factors, changing certain aspects of your life will appear harder than others. My suggestion is to start where you feel the most comfortable.
When I got interested in zero waste I inundate myself with information. I noted down everything I could change in my life to make it more environmentally friendly and did my research around it. I was going to buy everything bulk, ditch plastic all at once, do my groceries at the farmers market every week and forget about single-use plastic forever.
But I knew I didn’t have enough commitment to change that many things straight away. I was living in Paris, in a small flat on the 6th floor with no elevator, with a tiny fridge shared with my roommate. The nearest farmers market was too expensive and open only during the hours that I was usually working at university. These are not necessarily obstacles, and certainly wouldn’t be for a lot of people, but they made my plan of going zero waste a little less obvious and a bit more inconvenient.
How To ‘Zero Waste’ Your Beauty Routine
So I chose to start with something I felt very comfortable changing: my beauty routine. Because you don’t need to buy these items every day, I found it easier to dedicate the time to chose the right products and commit to the change. Contrary to what I expected, I found that building a zero-waste beauty routine was very budget-friendly and with so many new initiatives, I had plenty of easy and affordable options to choose from.
Shop the zero waste edit
My tips for Eco-friendly grocery shopping
One of the necessary and regular activities in our life that can consume an incredible amount of waste is grocery shopping.
Limiting waste (in particular plastic waste) related to food can be very difficult, especially if you live in a big city (I moved from Paris to London, just to make my zero waste dream a bit more challenging!). Supermarkets wrap in plastic virtually every food, farmers markets can be expensive and you have to plan ahead if you don’t live near one. Ordering food out is a tempting pleasure and carrying your reusable cup around is not always an instinctive choice.
I don’t always try my best but I try. For months I shopped primarily at a farmers market, I haven’t bought a plastic bottle in years, I never drink coffee from plastic cups, I limit my take out orders and I carry a reusable shopping bag with me everywhere. I failed my own goals countless times, but it’s important to keep on wanting to change.
When we shop spontaneously, we risk overbuying or buy things we don’t need and produce waste.
I made a grocery shopping list example with staple items from what I shop regularly. You can download it and have it on your phone so when you want inspiration or when you forget your own list and find yourself at the supermarket you can check it and remind yourself of some primary items.
Because I only shop for myself I found this one a good rule to avoid waste. Fruits perish very quickly and when we pick too many options we tend to forget things at the back of our fridge. For variety, you can switch the 3 fruits every week and adjust the list to your needs and your preferences (e.g. if you have a big family or like to snack on fruits).
It’s always preferable to buy local, seasonal and Eco-friendly food, so adjust your grocery list depending on the time of the year.
Single-use plastic bags cause incredible damage to our environment and are very easy items to ditch and replace with an Eco-friendly alternative.
Besides avoiding plastic and packaging waste in general, it’s good to remind ourselves to limit our food waste. Plan your meals ahead and shop accordingly, find innovative recipes online to use leftovers or the weird combination of ingredients left in your fridge.
This is the hardest for me, because of how easy shopping at my local supermarket is. But you can try to go once a month, or do a challenge and go every week for 3 months, etc. Some change is better than no change!
Set your goals and check on them
Because going zero waste is a process, setting goals is vital. We want to keep ourselves motivated and being able to follow our progress. This is a template you can download to keep track of your path:
– You can be proud of the changes you have already and successfully integrated into your life
– You can set new goals: weekly, monthly, and yearly. It doesn’t matter how small they are, set new goals regularly.
– Be particularly patient and kinder to yourself with your biggest struggles. Put these changes aside if they feel too challenging and pick new ones. You have to make choices that are good for yourself as well.
Halfway Through 2021: Take Time To Revisit Your Aims For This Year
- Checking weekly how many times you avoid ordering takeaway or grabbing coffee on the go
- Avoid plastic for a week
- Shop at the farmers market for a month
- Buy 90% of your yearly clothing items from vintage shops or sustainable brands
- Next time you run out of shampoo try out a shampoo bar
- Switch to solid soap
- Cut out single-use plastic
- Switch to reusable pads
Shop the zero waste edit
What would you change in your routine? Share your goals in our comment section below and join our newsletter to keep receiving inspiring content and maintain high the motivation for change!
Remember to share your accomplishments with friends and family. You don’t need to go fully zero waste to be an ambassador of change. Sharing your experience with positivity and excitement will inspire the people around you!
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