Refuse, reduce, reuse. What you need to know before buying new stuff

Zero waste: Instagram vs Real Life

Let’s admit it: we all love them. Bright background, lights on, flower petals all around (who doesn’t cook/clean/watch tv surrounded by rose petals?) and a series of perfectly lined up glass jars full of beans, oatmeal, rice, wholemeal flour and other super healthy products.

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I love your pantry pictures, I really do. And I love your cute bamboo bowl and bamboo cutlery, toiletries, dishes, brushes, your whatever-it-is-as-long-as-its-made-of-bamboo. Not to mention all the stylish eco-friendly organic cotton clothes: a gift from heaven.

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I’m being ironic, of course, but I really do enjoy your beautiful Instagram zero waste pictures. I admire you all for putting so much effort into the sustainable path and I know most of you have bought all these new items consciously and  responsibly, but I want to point out a few things about swapping from plastic to sustainable stuff.

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Step by step

It’s not as easy as it seems. The zero waste journey is a long a process, and I think its slowness is what makes it so special. Moving towards a sustainable lifestyle doesn’t and shouldn’t happen over night. It’s a reflective and meditative process, something to keep up with every day of our lives. It’s an endless journey: there is no final result, there are no winners, no losers, no awards, no final destinations. It’s something we learn day by day, by researching, studying and mostly sharing with others. The more, the merrier.

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So, you can’t just wake up one day and decide to go zero waste. I mean, actually, you can, but it doesn’t work this way. You can’t just get rid of all your plastic products all at once and replace them with bamboo, wooden, cotton or other natural things. By throwing away your old plastic bits, you’re still producing waste. A lot of waste. Going again the real meaning of the zero waste philosophy: reduce the amount of waste.

The importance of time

Also, in order to understand concepts such as environmental concerns, plastic pollution and sustainability, you need to give yourself time.

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There is nothing more precious than time. That’s all we’ve got, until the very end. Something we can always give ourselves, even if we always seem to forget how to do it. Take your time to think about your current lifestyle. What are the changes you want to make? What sacrifices are you willing to make? What do you want to do differently?

Zero Waste Rules

Then, it’s time to start from the first Zero Waste Rules, my favourite ones: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse.

Refuse

When we start a zero waste journey, we all still have lots of plastic items we start to be so embarrassed of (Oh, yes, I know the feeling and I still struggle with it now and then: plastic becomes our enemy and we can’t accept it anymore). For example, I still have lots of makeup. And when I say lots, I mean looooots: my best friend is a makeup artist but I’m not into makeup, so I don’t use it very often. Therefore, I still have some very old products I’ve been keeping for years. Do I like them? Not anymore, but I’m going to finish them up before buying new sustainable plastic-free foundation, mascara, pressed powder and so on.

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Besides that, I’m all in for banning single use plastic from my life, but I am not going to throw away anything I own that is made of plastic. I know there are different eco-friendly websites that sell things such as bamboo soap bar holder, wooden toothbrush older, you name it. One of the main characteristics of plastic is its durability (same reason why the ocean is currently full of it), which means that it lasts for a very long time. It can last forever. I refuse single use plastic items, but I also choose to refuse the bamboo items I don’t need. Being zero waste also means being a bit more minimalist, which means buying less. Do I need a fancy bamboo knives set? No, thanks.

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Reduce

I wouldn’t define myself as a minimalist, but I try to buy the most responsible way I can. Whenever we purchase something, we become part of the economy (that’s a complex topic we should definetely discuss another time). As part of the local/global economy, we are choosing which type of business we want to support. Each time we pay for our clothes, bags, sunglasses, shoes, furniture, food, cleansers, cosmetics, snacks, makeup, hair products, jewlery, computers, mobile phones, we are getting the world economy moving. But what kind of economy are we supporting? There would be so much to say, but I shall talk about this in a different post (anyway, if you haven’t done it yet, please watch The True Cost documentary).

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Back to zero waste, now: how to reduce plastic pollution? By reducing the amount of plastic we purchase, of course! Leaving plastic aside for a moment, let’s just think about our daily life purchases: from food to drinks, from bus tickets to toilet paper, it’s almost impossiblt not to buy anything at all. And that’s the reason why we should take time to think and reflect on our choices before making any payments: Do I really need another pair of shoes? Do I know where they come from? Who made them? Do I like the company/person/factory’s principles? Same thing with food: Who produced these apples I am buying? How did they grow? Do they come from sustainable agriculture?

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Ask yourself questions. Ask farmers/shop assistants/shop owners/greengrocers questions. And then, once you’ve got the answers, question them, too. Be curious, be informed, be critical.

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Reuse

Then, my all time favourite rule. Reuse. I swapped to natural paraben free cosmetics almost 3 years ago. I’ve always loved my skincare routine and I have a very delicate skin, so I decided to choose the best products for me. Back then, I wasn’t really aware of the marine pollution concerns and I didn’t know anything about the plastic catastrophe, so I was buying good eco-friendly products that were still wrapped in plastic. Too bad. But as I got more into natural cosmetics, I started to make my own at home, by using all the old containers I had.

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It’s been almost 3 years now and I still have my old body lotion jar, face cream container, lip balm tin and so on: I sterlize each container every time and then use it for my homemade cosmetics. Reuse, reuse as much as you can: that’s key word for me.

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Of course, I am not saying you shouldn’t buy anything new. I started my zero waste journey by making little changes day by day (my first purchase was a bamboo toothbrush I immediately fell in love with) and I am still learning how to live in a more sustainable way. But I am taking my time to learn, change, make different choices. I will buy new items, soon, but only when my current ones are over.

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Take your time, slow down, breath. There is not other way to truly enjoy your journey.

Olivia 

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