Taking our Family Closer to Zero Waste

I’ve recently been really inspired by some amazing classy women who have founded what is now known as the ‘zero waste movement’. Bea Johnson from Zero Waste Home and Lauren Singer from Trash is for Tossers live a lifestyle where the total amount of waste they produce in a year or so that would end up in landfill only fills a mason jar. Everything else is reduced, reused and recycled (in that order).

Most people, our family included produce ridiculous amounts of waste. A lot of it comes from food packaging, at least that is where most of ours comes from. Even if waste is recyclable then so often it still ends up in landfill if the total amount in the waste truck gets overly contaminated by your neighbours rubbish and recycling also uses quite a lot of water and energy to do. In addition in Australia in particular, most towns and cities are moving to methods of waste disposal which involves shipping the waste both recyclable and that destined for landfill quite far distances on trucks to centralised facilities. I completely disagree with this particular practice. The Australian EPA decided that all landfill facilities needed special liners costing millions of dollars. The idea is that these liners reduce leaching into the environment. The problem is this is a blanket rule, and doesn’t take into account the local geomorphology of a particular waste facility. The one in our town was built on a very solid, reliable layer of clay that would never have caused contamination of groundwater. This kind of environment is so safe that it had often been suggested that  it would be suitable for  a nuclear waste dump facility (not going to get into debating nuclear, i’m just trying to demonstrate what kind of environment it was and t was in the desert). However because the community we lived in was small, it couldn’t afford the expensive landfill liner which meant there was not choice but to ship all the waste in trucks at least 6hr away. Think about all that unnecessary burnt fossil fuels!!!! It just shows that sometimes a decision that might seem like the more environmental option, isn’t… especially if it is blindly applied.

So anyway my family and I are currently in the early stages of developing a permaculture food forest with the goal of being mostly self-sufficient. I think even if we didn’t do anything intentionally we would gradually become close to zero waste just because we would be not buying in very much food. However i don’t want to wait the years that this will take so am now going to purposely challenge ourselves to significantly reduce our waste.

Now already we did a number of things that reduced the amount of waste we could have created. We use cloth nappies (diapers), cloth wipes and make our own baby food. So basically we already had a zero waste baby! We also cook a lot of things from scratch, rarely get take away and use reusable shopping bags at the grocery store (since we were living in South Australia where plastic bags are banned so were well used to this, now we are in Victoria we find it really odd the same rule doesn’t exist here),  i already made a lot of our own personal products and cleaning products and we have always composted.

But there is so much more we can still do! So far since taking on this challenge i have:

  • Started baking our own bread. The flour does come in a paper bag which is at least compostable
  • Got some stainless steel straws. I like straws for drinking smoothies and they allow me to share my drink with my 11 month old son. So now we won’t be buying the disposable ones anymore.
  • Got some reusable ziplock bags. The ones i got are made of heavy weight bpa free plastic. I wanted some that were 100% water proof and while i like the idea of not having plastic ones, nothing made of any other material is completely leak free.
  • Got some reusable mesh produce bags. We had been using the plastic ones in the store previously.
  • Joined our local food coop. I’m a bit disappointed in the range they have. It isn’t enough that we won’t still have to shop elsewhere but it will make a difference as it is completely package free. Unfortunately there isn’t a bulk store anywhere near us.
  • Got some smaller reusable shopping bags made of silk. I’ll now keep these in my handbag. They will also be useful at the coop if i buy something that would fall out of the mesh bags like flour or smaller seeds.
  • Got a bunch of big jars from an Op shop to store our dried beans and whatnot. I also reuse the smaller ones we get things like honey and tomato paste in. I have always done that though.
  • Found a recipe i like for homemade deodorant. I have a previous blog post on this. I refill a spray bottle i have when i need. In the future i may even be able to grow the witch hazel that it uses myself which will save me buying bottles of it. At least it comes in a recyclable container though.
  • And i’m currently trialling making my own toothpaste. And i got a compostable bamboo toothbrush. The toothpaste is just coconut oil and bicarb soda. I’m slightly concerned about the lack of fluoride though and if i suddenly get a lot of cavities i’ll be switching back to standard toothpaste

Ok that it for now. I’ll be doing future blog posts (and videos on my channel) and other changes we make as we go!

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