Zero waste is having a moment right now, and we can all agree that is a Very Good Thing indeed. With our oceans overwhelmed with plastic, a national recycling crisis in progress and turtles with straws stuck up their noses, this movement to reduce our waste couldn’t have come at a better time. Well, perhaps thirty years ago – but who’s counting?
Nowadays, everyone seems to be toting their reusable bags, sipping on stainless steel straws and perfecting Instagram snaps of their reusable coffee cups. The groundswell is heartening, but the war on waste is far from over. So after we’ve picked this low hanging (plastic-wrapped) fruit, it’s time to take the next few steps in our zero waste practice. Let’s look at some sneaky ways that waste is still entering your life and some new habits you can adopt to break the cycle.
BAN THE (TEA) BAG
Put down those sharpened teaspoons! I would never suggest you stop drinking tea – just that you make a slight adjustment to the way you brew it. Though they look like fabric, many teabags are actually made of a finely woven plastic mesh – yes, even those pretty silk pyramids! Not only is this upsetting for planetary health, but also for human health, as we know that when plastic is heated, chemicals leach out of it. You can research to see which brands are plastic free – however, the far-safer bet would be to opt for loose leaf varieties and slurp it up the way nature intended it.
PLASTIC-FREE YOUR PENS (KIND OF)
As a creative person, I almost resigned myself to the fact that plastic was an unavoidable obstacle in my art. However, as always, a little digging provided some environmentally friendly solutions. I kicked my felt-tip and marker habit by finding refillable alcohol ink pens. Copic Markers require an initial investment of money and plastic, but the cartridges are refillable and the nibs replaceable. Similarly, you can make like your grandparents and swap the endless biros for a good quality fountain pen for a signature signature. Instead of chunky fluoros, choose highlighter pencils. Opt for pencils over pens wherever possible, and investigate companies that have a container return system.
CLEAN UP YOUR CLOTHES
It was recently – terrifyingly – discovered that the biggest quotient of waste we find in and around the ocean is made up of microfibres. Every time we wash synthetic clothing it sheds hundreds of thousands of tiny threads of plastic that enter our waterways and then the food chain. The older the clothing, the more it sheds. While the obvious option is to avoid purchasing new, synthetic clothing, what about the clothes we already own or those bargains you find at the op shop? Firstly, wash them less. When you can’t avoid it any longer, only put through a full load, which will reduce the friction between the clothing, thus reducing the amount of fibres released. Last but not least, fight plastic with plastic. Inspired by the filtering properties of coral, the Cora Ball is a recycled plastic ball you add to your wash loads that catches up to 35% of the microfibres from every wash. And when we’re talking about trillions of microfibres, a 35% reduction is not to be sniffed at.
Trust the Swedes to come up with an efficient way of fusing exercise with environmentalism! Plogging is the new Nordic fitness fad that combines jogging with picking up trash in order to cut short its inevitable pilgrimage to the sea. Not only does this immediately better your local community, but it’s also been proven to burn more calories than your standard morning jog. I believe the official term for that is ‘win-win’.
DITCH THE GUM
I’m about to make you regret every chunk of chewing gum you’ve ever thoughtlessly swallowed! While our gum used to be made of a natural tree sap called chicle, post-World War II we shifted to a synthetic blend of polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate (which, of course, is just a fancy way of saying plastic). Instead, keep a container of cardamom pods on you – these punchy pods are a natural breath freshener and also act as a natural digestive aid. If their aromatic and acquired taste is too much for you, keep an eye out for natural gums and avoid any that list ‘gum base’ as an ingredient.