Zero waste is a big buzz word right now, and I’m the first to advocate that we all need to start making big changes. But let’s be realistic for a minute. Can anyone really be truly zero waste? Becoming hardcore vegan, selling your car and not having children is probably the gold standard, and I salute those who are! But then I’m over here, feeding my family meat, driving pretty much everywhere and I have two kids. So now what? Did I curl up in a guilt-induced ball for a while and hate myself for making some ignorant choices (before you ask, my kids weren’t one of them)? Oh yes! I did some serious self-loathing and guilt tripping which only lead to apathy and an oh-what’s-the-point approach for a while.
As much as I admire the 1% of the population who are making huge drastic changes, it dawned on me that it’s still only 1% of the population. The other 99% probably feel just like me. They know something needs to be done, they know they need to make changes like yesterday, but they have no clue where to start or even if it will make that much of a difference.
So I got up off the floor, put my big girl panties on and decided I’m going to try my best. Because trying a little bit and doing it everyday is still better than trying to be perfect and it only lasts a week. So I will just accept I won’t be perfect, it won’t always happen every time, I will slip up, and that’s OK. As long as I keep going little by little. As long as I start today. As long as I’m trying my best.
Here’s what I’m doing right now, every day:
1 – I’ve stopped flushing the toilet
Yes I can see your facial expression, and no don’t worry I do still flush, but only when necessary. Growing up in South Africa and going to school in some drought-affected areas there was a saying: “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down”. So I still live by that all-important code. How many times do we flush the loo out of habit? So now even when I’m at someone’s house or a public toilet, then I don’t flush if it’s just a #1… Well, I’m sorry in advance (not sorry). It’s only urine, a sterile by-product of the water we consume. Fun fact: There are less bacteria in urine than in tap water. But drinking tap water is (generally) safe because it contains no toxic substances. So let’s get over ourselves a little. We all pee, it’s OK.
2 – I eat one less meaty meal a week
This has been an interesting change in our household. My Huberoo is basically Fred Flinstone, a HUGE carnivore! But I realised it’s not because he needs meat, it’s just become habit to eat meat with every meal. So to combat his insatiable urge I still feed him meat, but I’ve basically halved the quantity and bulked the dishes out with more veggie-dense ingredients. Does he notice? Nope, he hasn’t got a clue. Unless he’s reading this, then surprise honey!
3 – I only eat when I’m actually hungry
Do you know how much mindless eating we do in a day!? That bag of chips, that chocolate bar, that quick bottle of water… So much unnecessary packaging! OK, I’m not suggesting you stop drinking water of course. Just think ahead. You know by this point in your life that you’re going to drink something at some point in the day (I’m trying to teach this to my 3 year old when he argues over packing a sippy cup for school). Keep a reusable bottle (preferably glass) in your car/bag/desk and a big 5L of drinking water that you’ve brought from home. You’ll save a fortune if you stop buying bottled water! Also, do you mindlessly reach for a snack at 4pm? Yup, me too! So now I ask yourself: “Am I actually hungry?” Or am I just bored/stressed/tired or insert any other emotion other than hunger that usually entices us to slow down in the aisle of temptation in Woolies.
4 – I buy and sell second-hand
I used to turn my nose up at hand-me-downs. Now my kids basically live in other kids clothing. Partly because we live on a farm and they’re mostly covered in mud/poo/dust/food for the majority of the day. But also because we have such a throw-away society especially when it comes to clothes that are still perfectly wearable.
*** Business idea for stay-at-home moms*** Start up a local buy and sell second-hand baby and kids clothing and toy shop from home in your area and promote it on Facebook. I know of a few mom’s in my area that do this and they make a full-time living from the commission they make off each item that gets sold.
5 – I’ve stopped using cling film, tin foil and plastic bags
This took me a while, as it was such a habit to just reach for a piece of cling wrap when packing away left overs. Take the extra 30 seconds (and let’s face it, is it any quicker actually wrestling with a piece of cling film that seems to have separation anxiety with your wrist?) and pack leftovers away in reusable containers instead. I also cook in cast iron casseroles that have a lid so I don’t have to cover anything in tin foil either. When I freeze things I normally would put in a plastic freezer bag, I invested in a freezer-safe glass food storage system and use those instead. Upside to these is they double up as glass containers for leftovers as well, and can go straight in the oven too. No more wobbly tin foil freezer meal containers spilling all over the floor. Whoop! Whoop! I’m a stay-at-home mom, small things excite me…
6 – I shower less
Yes, I saw your face again. Hubberoo hasn’t complained yet, so I don’t think it’s made a massive difference to my personal hygiene. Showering every day was just out of habit, and so was washing my hair daily. Now I only shower every second day at the most and wash my hair about 3 times a week. Which is as often as it gets actually dirty. So the daily showering was just an overkill really. The upside: no more dry skin and my hair has never looked better!
7 – I keep reusable shopping bags under the seat of my car
Who else has a huge stash of beautifully pristine reusable shopping bags by their front door that are more a part of the decor than they’re actually used for their purpose? I was guilty of that! I was always forgetting my bags at home, and then silently loathing myself at checkout while the plastic bags rustled at me condescendingly. Keep them in your car, and don’t be too lazy to walk back to the car when you realise you left them behind in the car as well. What is wrong with us!?!
8 – I keep reusable cutlery in my cubby hole
I have always had a hatred for plastic takeaway cutlery anyway. And don’t even get me started on plastic straws, I’ll tell you the story another day about the time I sucked up a dead cockroach that had laid himself to rest inside the straw. So it suits me to have beautiful eco-alternatives I keep in my glove compartment (does anyone else actually keep their gloves in there too? Or am I just from Africa so I don’t get it?) Just don’t forget to wash them and then actually put them back in the car again. Rooky mistake, getting take-away just to get to my car and realise I hadn’t put them back and had to eat thai curry with my hands.
9 – I’ve stopped using produce bags
The guy at the weighing scale knows me by name now! I’m that strange lady that arrives with a trolley full of loose veggies and insists on weighing them naked. The veggies, not me. Then I have to insist again at the till when they think they’re being helpful pulling out a little turtle choker for one butternut. I don’t know if weighing scale guy (his name is Sid by the way) then eyeballs me the whole way through the veggie aisle because he thinks I’m from the loony bin or because he thinks I might try and swipe some extra freebie sweet potatoes. I live for the day this becomes normal.
10 – I use mostly cloth nappies
I say mostly because lets face it, travelling with two kids is enough of a schlep I don’t need to still be washing nappies. But with all the money I save doing cloth the rest of the time I can afford the odd biodegradable disposable nappy. I sleep better at night knowing my grand kids won’t be tripping over all those pooey disposable nappies in 200 years time.
What little things are you doing that are making a BIG difference?