A Minimalist/Zero Waste Perspective of Pokemon Go and Ingress

So I have only just found out about this Pokemon Go thing. And it was my mother of all people that told me about it. When she described it to me i thought “that just sounds like Ingress?”. I’ve you read one of my previous blog posts you’ll see that quite be accident I discovered and fell in love with the AR game Ingress around a month ago after looking for something to help motivate me exercise. Of course Pokemon Go has a lot in common with Ingress precisely because it is made by the same company and has used many of the Ingress features to build the Pokemon Go platform.

Since hearing about it i’ve now added Pokemon Go to my phone just to mix things up. Sometimes i’ll play ingress on my walks, sometimes Pokemon Go. And this has been particularly good right now while the entire city of Brisbane where i’m currently visiting has been ‘greened’ out by my own team which is a good thing for our team – but not so good for allowing me to really do things of interest in the game and level up.

It is interesting that something that i’ve been doing myself now for over month now- going out for walks with my phone, playing a virtual game has gone mainstream. Suddenly i’m seeing dozens of people out and about doing exactly the same thing. I’ve also seen online what a positive thing this is. That is why i wanted to write this post to celebrate what a wonderful thing i think this new trend is and how it really is extremely compatible with a zero waste and minimalist lifestyle.

It is obviously zero waste because it is entirely virtual. Most people already own a mobile phone and the game is free. You don’t even seem to need a more expensive, fancy phone as it does just fine on my $120 Huawei Y5 which is about the cheapest smart phone there is in Australia. In terms of minimalism, it doesn’t clutter people’s homes and emphases lots of aspects that are often provide really good value in people’s lives. Namely get out and getting healthy through exercise and social interaction with friends, family and strangers. While i am yet to physically meet another Ingress player i’ve had a few conversations with Pokemon Go players (all adults) i’ve just met on my walks, and this is actually really nice. There also are so many stories online of how the game has motivated them to exercise after never even going out for walks before and even how it has improved their mental health. There really is very little to criticise about these things and the benefits they’ve provided for people’s lives. Other stories i’ve hear are of parents going out with their younger kids to catch pokemon. Some of them might be playing pokemon go themselves or there are a number of family’s where the adults play ingress and the kids pokemon and because the portals/pokestops are in the same location it can work really well together like that.

So i just wanted to take this time to reflect on how nice that something so positive for people can be provided so freely and widely. While it might not be for everyone, it certainly does appeal to many people in their teens, 20s and 30s that might otherwise be focused on far less positive activities like shopping as entertainment, drinking or even just sedentary gaming on a couch.

May you catch them all x

My Zero Waste Fails

I never want anyone to think that i’m ‘perfect’ or that I always choose the zero waste option every single time. Sometimes other life pressures take over and I feel that it is in my best mental health interest that I do something that might not always be the most environmental choice. What I think is important is what you do overall and that choices are always intentional and mindful. With that said i wanted to share some of my recent zero waste ‘fails’. These are things or occasions where i haven’t been able to live up to the zero waste ideal for one reason or another.

  1. Cloth Diapers/Nappies While Travelling
    I’ve always been pretty open about this one on my channel i think if you watch enough of my videos. I’m a huge advocate for cloth diapers and wipes. I love them. But I have also had several trips interstate the last year and half where i’m flying and away for much more than  week. I would take cloth diapers if it were only a few days, but when it is a long trip if I were to cloth diaper i’d have to pack an entire extra suitcase of them which could be prohibitively expensive when flying. Also I generally don’t want to spend my trip washing and drying diapers. So i use disposables on these trips. Also whenever my son gets a really bad diaper rash which is occasional and does help it clear up faster. Others have suggested to me i should be buying compostable diapers on these trips. They are extremely expensive and not all that available where I am. I need to be able to pick up whatever at a regular supermarket the minute I arrive somewhere on a trip. Also where i’m staying they don’t have a compost system where i could put dirty diapers. Putting them in landfill is not a whole lot better than plastic diapers as they don’t compost correctly. So given these constraints i go for standard plastic disposables, ones that i know work well with my son. Nobody wants to risk leaking diapers on a 3hr flight either…
  2. Bamboo Hairbrush and Toothbrush
    This is a very new fail for us. I was a huge fan of my bamboo toothbrush and hairbrush. I thought the hairbrush did a really nice job. Sadly we got a really bad black mould problem in our bathroom and it spread to the toothbrushes and hairbrush. They could not be saved and i can’t risk consuming and propagating mould which is clearly an issue in our bathroom. Thus i’ve decided the risk just isn’t worth it for us and we’ve gone back to plastic. I figure a hairbrush is a very long term item so i’ll be sure to look after it. As far as plastic toothbrushes go i’ll use our electric again so i’m just replacing the head which really isn’t all that much extra plastic than the bamboo ones were anyway as even they have plastic bristles.
  3. Shampoo
    For some random reason I got dandruff for the first time in my life. I don’t think my regular shampoo bar caused it as i’ve been using it for many months now with no issue. Maybe it has something to do with the mould in my bathroom, or visiting a different climate? It occurred while i was on an intensive study trip and don’t have time to mess around with DIY treatments, especially as i’m not staying in my own home right now. So I bought a bottle of anti-dandruff shampoo. It worked, and once i run out i’ll go back to my shampoo bar. I’m scoping out a dandruff shampoo bar as we speak that is apparently available from a local eco-store in this city but it isn’t something i could pick up quickly and easily, it will require a special trip.
  4. Dental Floss
    I am getting low now on my natural silk biodegradable dental floss that i’d ordered from iherb which was shipped to me from the US to Australia. I’ve realised that it is ridiculous to get something transported from overseas as it negates any benefit from the biodegradable floss. So until they make the same product available in a store i can walk into and buy off the shelf, i’ll be going back to regular floss.
  5. Deodorant
    I have developed what is now a really rather good diy deodorant for my very sensitive skin that can’t handle bicarb soda. It works great in my temperate climate. It does not work so well in the humid tropics though where my family live. So I have a standard roll on deodorant i use just when i’m visiting them. It is obviously lasting me an extremely long time as it is not what i’m usually using. I’ve got an idea to tweak my DIY recipe even further  though so am hopeful i’ll be able to improve it to function in this kind of climate. I’m hoping to release it in the future on an etsy store but will only do so if i know it does work in all sorts of climates so in a way these trips act as product testing!
  6. When i’m Sick/Exhausted/Stressed
    Finally in general i’ve made some non-zero waste choices when i’m feeling very overwhelmed with other areas of my life. I’m been quite sick for several weeks lately, i have my phd thesis due in just a few months all this on top of normal family pressures means sometimes i just don’t want to think about zero waste. At these times some non-zero waste things do tend to creep in.

    These experiences definitely make me relate to and understand why some people feel like it is just too much to handle in their busy lives. I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone with multiple very young kids and a full time job for instance. The zero waste lifestyle is often portrayed as an all or nothing very extreme kind of lifestyle and it is lived that way by some people which is very admirable. Obviously not everyone is going to be able to or to choose to live this way assuming they even have the capacity and resources to do so. This doesn’t mean though we should give up, especially when we do have occasional ‘fails’. Every time we make a zero waste choice we are removing a potential item from landfill or a turtle from strangling on a piece of rubbish. That makes a difference. Also we are voting with our dollar for the zero waste option and hopefully companies take notice and change their products in more sustainable ways. Already it is getting more and more easy to make zero waste choices compared to what it was like a few years ago. Eco is very trendy and this is a good thing. It starts with more expensive niche brands and overtime is and will spread to more accessible products for people that might not even prioritise zero waste but will make the choice because it is right there in front of them. I am optimistic this is worth it.

 

No Poo after 1 Year

So I thought it was about time that i did a no poo update since it is now around about 1 year since i started this journey and i’m certainly in very happy place with this right now. In case you don’t already know no poo is a natural form of haircare, yes you still wash it but not with regular shampoo. In particular sulphates in shampoo are avoided (so there some what are called ‘low poo’ sulphate free shampoos out there that are also a decent option) and silicones in conditioners. The idea being that sulphates are harmful for our health and the environment and silicones are bad for the environment (like plastic they never go away!) as well as well as coating your hair in a product that would then require you to use a sulphate containing shampoo to remove or you get nasty buildup.

There are a number of different methods of cleaning your hair that are considered ‘no poo’. The benefit of many are also that they are mostly quite compatible with a zero waste lifestyle and are usually very frugal too. The best resource i ever found on no poo was the r/nopoo on Reddit.

So to summarise my journey:

  1. Initially i tried the most common method of hair washing which is bicarb soda and then apple cider vinegar. I HATED this. My skin reacts badly to the high phd of bicarb soda in anything (including deodorant) and the vinegar really smelt badly to me. It ruined my enjoyment of having a shower completely. Also i then discovered the no poo community on reddit who are very against this method as many people who have used this long term (particularly with longer hair as buzz cuts on men cut for example cut  off the damage before they ever see it) experienced terrible hair damage and the denaturation of the proteins in their hair causing it to break and fall out. I certainly won’t be trying this again.
  2. The next method i tried and used for a long was a soapnut shampoo i made myself. I’ve posted the recipe before, but basically it’s soapnuts that i’ve boiled in water then removed the soapnuts just keeping the liquid. Then i thickened it with some zanthanum gum, added a little citric acid for preservation and essential oils for fragrance. This worked excellent while i had soft water (desalinated water living in Central Australia). It stopped working for me however once I moved to a place with harder water.
  3. Egg yolk wash. These you can only do many once or twice a month because they can overload your hair with protein causing it to become too brittle but this is a method i used initially once i moved to my house with hard water to counteract the buildup the soapnut shampoo was still leaving in my hair. Definitely worked great, but as i couldn’t use it often enough for the amount of greasiness my hair was experienced i needed to find another method.Now what i’m finally doing and happy with:
  4. Shampoo bars. These are still considered no poo as they don’t contain sulphates – unless you buy lush brand which do so AVOID and get another brand. Mine come from a local health store and are locally made 100% free of packaging so i don’t even know what brand they are because there is nothing written on them! Initially when i started despite about 6 months of no poo under my belt, i did get dry hair and had to use some kind of oil or silicone free conditioner to make my hair feel good. After a couple of weeks of using it though the oil in my hair balanced out and now now it feels just fine using just the shampoo bar. I wash my hair maybe 1 to 2x a week with it.

Brushes

A discussion on no poo is not complete without a talk on brushes as well. Most people practicing no poo use boar bristle brushes. I’m ashamed to say that i did try one of these initially. I felt terribly guilty as a vegetarian with a pig product on my brush and it also had a plastic handle so despite all information saying that nothing else was really suitable on the no poo lifestyle i ditched the boar bristle brush and got a bamboo pin brush (this was all before i considered going zero waste too so mainly i just didn’t like the ethics of my brush and probably throwing it away wasn’t exactly ‘zero waste’). In my opinion though the bamboo brush works just as well and not only is it more ethical it is more environmental being made of bamboo. It is a pain to clean though – harder than the boar brush was but i’m ok with that.

So the take home message i think from this experience is that you probably need to try multiple things to work out what works best for your type of hair and the hardness of your water. I do not recommend trying bicarb soda and vinegar for reasons listed above, but there are all number of sulphate free shampoos, castile soaps, shampoo bars, conditioner-only washes and aloevera rinses you can try – on top of the method that just says use water only and brush often. Check out the reddit page linked above and in particular read the FAQs and wikis on there.

These days i don’t think a lot about any of this – i just wash with my shampoo bar which takes me less time than a normal shampoo conditioner routine. So while i complained previously that doing the research and trying different things and making my own soapnut shampoo was meaning i was spending more time on my personal care than previously – now i can say i spend far less and will going forward so it was worth it. Travelling with just a shampoo bar in a soap container is also awesome compared with liquid products.

 

UPDATE (16.7.16) – On a trip to visit family in Brisbane for the first time ever i experienced dandruff. Something about the water here or tropical climate or something meant that my shampoo bar/ACV combo just wasn’t working and it was leaving a horrible residue on my scalp. After a few uses of a normal antidandruff shampoo which fixed that problem i decided i needed a better long term solution. To be honest i had felt that the shampoo bar i’d been using was leaving a bit more residue on my scalp area that i really wanted and my hair wasn’t quite the best it could be. I have decided that zero waste is my priority when it comes to my hair rather than necessarily being officially ‘no poo’ and avoiding SLSs. I agree SLSs are bad but right now i think i’ve spent quite enough time and energy trying to avoid them. Hence i have switched to using a LUSH brand shampoo bar and conditioner bar. These do contain quite a lot of chemicals including SLSs so are not accepted as a no poo method by the no poo community. They function exactly the same way as a standard commercial liquid shampoo – the difference being they come in zero packaging. So they are quite compatible wiht a zero waste lifestyle, and i’ve decided that is good enough for me for now. Hence officially this is the end of my no poo journey and probably the last post i’ll do on this topic.  Everyone’s hair, water hardness etc is different. So if you are wanting to go no poo yourself i’d encourage you to give it a go, experiment with different methods and do not take my failure as any indication you might too. It is also ultimately about what priorities are most important to you as it does take time and experimentation. X

 

What’s the Deal with Silcone?

Silicone is a frequent plastic replacement. For those people trying to live more closed loop or zero waste lifestyle then silicone things often come up as alternatives to plastic. Silicone has a lot of similar properties and feel to plastic, and actually some better properties for certain functions too. I personally have a reusable coffee cup with a silicone lid, a silicone menstral cup, silicone cupcake wrappers a lid sealer in my ‘plastic free’ glass drink bottle and some silicone covered kitchen utensils.

The thing that sets plastic apart from other recyclables like paper, metal and glass is that when it’s recycled, assuming that is even possible where you live and with the type of plastic you have, it is down-cycled. It is turned into an ever less quality product that requires more and more ‘virgin’ plastic components when created into another product. Thus so long as plastic is required, oil refineries will be required as we can’t just turn all the plastic we have already created into all the new plastic items we’ll need the future like potentially we might be able with paper, metal and glass.

The other element of plastic that sets it apart from other raw materials is that it doesn’t ever properly degrade. Paper and wood biodegrades – essentially becoming food for microbes – it was a plant to begin after all. Metal can usually rust eventually breaking back into a natural mineral for the soil and glass is essentially just quartz rock made into another form so when it breaks down and rounds off is just back to being a grain of sand like it from where it began. So all these other materials break back elemental forms in the environment. Plastic on the other hand while derived from oil which essentially an organic material (ancient plants and animals which through natural processes over geological time formed into the products like oil, gas, coal and tar) through the magic of chemistry creates a product that only really breaks into smaller and smaller plastic pieces. It’s can’t biodegrade or oxidise, it just breaks. It is a massive issue in the environment, especially in the oceans which are becoming more and more full of the stuff which never ever goes away just concentrates. There are also a lot of issues surrounding possible negative health impacts of chemicals (eg BPA) that leach out of plastic and through your skin which can mimic hormones and potentially increase the risk of diseases.

For this reason many zero-wasters and other environmentalists try to limit the amount of plastic they consume, especially single use plastic! As i’ve previously discussed however the reality of the modern world and just how all embedded and prevalent plastic is (as well as hidden from plain view within items we use all the time and don’t necessarily think of as having plastic components) it is impossible to completely avoid.

Ok so what about silicone? A fairly recent material at least in the way it has become available for household use it is often touted as the healthier alternative without the same hormone disrupting risks of plastic. It is a completely different material chemically than plastic being made of silicon and oxygen like sand or glass but processed in a way to give it rubber like qualities. Many people would argue it is not a ‘natural’ product and put it up there with regular plastic. However ‘natural’ is not a proper defining word for anything. Stainless still is not natural, glass is not natural. Really only wood is closest to ‘natural’ and certainly the only substance out of the list of things we use that you could have any chance of collecting, processing and making things of it yourself at home. The environmental credentials of a substance should not rely on the ‘naturalness’ of something. Instead what matters is if it causes any negative health effects, whether it can be recycled and how it might break down in the environment when it is discarded and how much resources like energy and water go into making it (as well as recycling it if that’s possible).

Health Report: So far there are no known health negatives reported for silicone although the reality is that as a fairly new substance available for household use more study is really required to assess this. Certainly we use silicone items under much hotter conditions often then we would plastic as plastic would melt and this potentially might release something that may be bad for our health. For this reason Scientific American states that those with chemical sensitivities should steer clear of the material until more research has been done.

Recycling Report: Technically it can be recycled, but not through normal available services like you might have at home. I personally couldn’t find ANYWHERE nearby i could take anything i owned that is make of silicone to get recycled which means i’d be forced to put it into landfill. It seems too that the techniques currently used to recycle silicone is to simply pulverise it and then make new silicone products with a virgin silicone binder. This thus is the same issue as plastic – that there will always be a need for virgin material to make new products as it can’t be simply melted down and reformed to make new, quality products.

Biodegradability: Like plastic it doesn’t. It is even more resistant to breaking down too being heat resistant. So sunlight has less of an effect in making it ‘break’ than regular plastics. On one hand this means things made of silicone should last longer. This might be a good thing for reusable items that you want to last. The scary thing will be if ever this material is used for single use items or things people might generally want to throw away after a certain amount of use.

Production: I couldn’t find information about how much energy goes into producing silicone. However as something made of essentially sand vs regular plastics that are made of oil logically the collection of the raw material components should require less resources. How much energy is involved in transforming them into the product though is unknown. Logically also mining sand would have less of an environmental impact than mining oil – especially when disaster strikes and there are oil spills in the ocean which have a horrendous effect on the oceans. Oil is also a far more limited resource of which we have quite a number of needs for, thus if we can replace some of those needs with silicone made from sand that could be of benefit.

OVERAL: I’m skeptical. Silicone could well address some of the health issues of regular plastic but it is far from a more environmentally friendly solution to plastic. In fact due to its temperature withstanding properties like other thermoset plastics such as nylon cooking utensils it could be particularly difficult to ever break down into a safe form if when the material gets to a point of no longer being of use. It really will just sit there inert in the environment too if it discard thoughtlessly and with recycling services taking silicone items few and far between i’d be avoiding this one as much as possible for now.

For cookware there really isn’t a reason to purchase silicone. Use wood or metal and grease your pans. I personally won’t be purchasing any more now that i’ve done this research. For other items like menstral cups, natural rubber is the better solution as it will biodegrade (and there is at least one company that makes these – just google it). For things that use silicone as a sealer – again natural rubber if that’s available or cork is the better option. Really an old wine bottle with a cork is about the only truly plastic and silicone free water bottle you can get if you care about that sort of thing.

For those of you like me that already own some silicone items. Use it and use it and use it until you can not longer because after that it is probably going to have to go to landfill. And we should all keep and eye out incase they find some new horrible health affect from it as a lot more research is needed over it’s long term use.

 

Why Zero Waste Enthusists Should Think More about Permaculture

It is only probably the year or so that i’ve been thinking about my actions specifically in terms of zero waste. As i discussed previously this movement is fantastic, but it’s become very narrow. There isn’t a lot of diversity in the types of people presenting their view of zero waste and but also there is the issue that reducing waste views the environmental sustainability through only a single lens and leaves open the potential to make purely zero waste choices that intern have a negative impact to another areas of the environment (such as carbon emissions and climate change) if big picture thinking isn’t also incorporated.

While my participation in the zero waste movement is new, my involvement and practicing of Permaculture is more long-term. I’ve talked about how i’m developing a 20 acre property in Australia using permaculture principles to become self-sufficient and producers for our community before. But i realise that i haven’t exactly really discussed what permaculture even is! Permaculture is very compatible with zero waste philosophies in general and most permaculture practioners reduce waste as part of their lifestyle. But thinking about the two philosophies i realised that really Permaculture has over Zero Waste the big picture thinking that i’m always talking about and thus I think many people that might only know about zero waste but not permaculture could really benefit from learning more about it. Permaculture is also more inclusive (although ironically i’ve seen it mentioned there are not enough women in education roles which is clearly the complete opposite to zero waste which is almost entirely female) and because the focus is on designing your lifestyle and environment and problem solving in this regard it is much more flexible for adapting to different individual’s and communities ‘circumstances. If i have to compare the virtues of each movement, i’d have to say that permaculture as a more developed, adaptive, inclusive and critical thinking approach has far more potential to make greater positive changes to sustainability than zero waste on its own.

Different kinds of people though seem attracted to zero waste (or hear about it over the other) vs permaculture. Zero waste appeals to urban types and the clear directive of how to do things according to the much repeated ‘model’ of how to reduce waste and what kinds of reusables to own. On the other hand permaculture primarily becomes part of people’s lives via gardening and a desire to grow food at home. If there had to be a ‘stereotypical’ permaculture they’d be either an older very environmentally conscious individual who has been gardening for years and years and is incredibly knowledgeable about ecology and other natural sciences, or a younger person who would identify more with the kind of ‘hippy’ subculture rathe than the ‘hipster’ influences of the zero-waster. My husband doesn’t fit any of these moulds but came to permaculture with enthusiasm quite independent of myself though an interest in engineering and the scientific aspects of design. He is neither hippy or hipster and doesn’t always fit with the average permaculture crowd but will happily watch hours of permaculture youtube videos and obviously was so enamoured by the idea as to join me in our lifelong project of developing 20 acres using the approach. So the group of people involved do seem a bit more diverse, but obviously there is always room to improve for any movement.

While the majority of permaculturists are interested in growing some of their own food if possible (many people manage even in rentals or apartments or take part in community gardens), because it is a philosophy focused on the community scale, rather than the individual (like zero waste is), this really isn’t a requirement. Thus what i’m hoping with this post is to introduce the idea to people that might not have even heard of the concept or realised it could apply too to their urban lifestyles.

The ethics that underpin permaculture are:

  1. People Care (Community, health etc.)
  2. Earth Care (The environment)
  3. Fair Share

Within this ethical framework lifestyles and the habitat (home and garden, community etc) we create are designed so as to best serve these 3 ethics. Also a feature is looking to natural systems for inspiration in our design. For example diversity rather than monoculture is very important as it is what is present in a healthy ecosystem.

Now how could this apply to someone living in a city apartment say in NY who cannot or is unable to be involved in growing food?

  1. Permaculture lifestyle designs will generally favour buying local. This not only creates less stress on the environment caused by long transportation distances (earth care), but as far as food goes it will be more nutritious  as it is fresher (people care) and gives back and supports the local community with your dollar (fair share).
  2. Permaculture lifestyle designs place a great importance on being part of the community, though participation, helping out where you can but also having community structures there to support you too in times of need. Volunteering, joining community organisations or even just getting to know your neighbours and creating a social network and supports achieves this. One thing i’ve definitely noticed within permaculture communities is sharing excess. If someone has more of something than they really need they let everyone know it’s available if they want it. This means less waste! This community aspect is definitely something the zero waste movement, which is primarily individual focused should learn from and also makes achieving less waste more affordable and achievable for more people as it is then not just up to the individual but a community effort.
  3. Since earth care is the ethic then all sorts of practices would be implemented by someone living in their apartment in NY. This includes zero waste, but also bigger picture thinking so other more sustainable practices too. For example using more sustainable forms of transportation (eg bikes, walking or public transport), installing more energy efficient lightbulbs or solar, eating a more plant-based diet or investing in ethical mutual funds.

Ok that is just some examples and obviously like zero waste, you do what they can, and other aspects such as finances and life circumstances will also place limitations on what is possible. But as you can see it is definitely bigger picture, more community based thinking than just zero waste, yet incorporates a zero waste philosophy so far as it is beneficial to the wider goals.

I hope that if you are someone that has come to zero waste and are passionate about environmental sustainability you look further into the permaculture philosophy. Probably zero waste has a greater likelihood to go mainstream at least within the middle class of western societies than permaculture as it is very easily positioned within a consumer based practices and thus can be used and promoted by companies making zero waste things for people to buy.  Thus zero waste will always get more press than permaculture that doesn’t really ‘sell’ anything except maybe books and courses of which you need neither to learn and impliment. But as i’ve said previously i think bigger picture thinking is needed to make a significant impact on the environment overall (since we as humans really have screwed it up throughly and i forsee in the next few hundred years if nothing really changes a significant cultural disruption in line with what has happened to other historical cultures such as the Easter Islanders or the Mayans. See Jared Diamond’s book and TED talk Collapse for more info if you are interested in this).

Interested in learning more about permaculture? One of my favourite resources is Geoff Lawton. Yes he is going to talk more about garden design than anything but he makes just some very fabulous videos that have really inspired us.

For inspiration on living a permaculture lifestyle that looks beyond just gardening check out this blog. I’m sure there are many others out there too.

x

 

 

Why we Need More Diversity in the Zero Waste Movement

We need more diversity in the Zero Waste movement. I must say never before of any of the social movements i’ve witnessed or identified with on some level, have i seen such a homogenous view presented. This is not criticism of anyone, or anyone that fits within what i perceive as the stereotype (I too live some of the aspects i’ll talk about). The issue is that if new additional examples are not soon added to the mix of what it means to be a ‘zero waster’ or live a zero waste lifestyle, the risk is alienation of people who don’t fit the mould or can’t live certain aspects of lifestyle in the same way. I do think that probably lots of different types of people are living low waste lifestyles, but not demonstrating them on social media. I realise not everyone wants to be a part of what might be perceived by some, a very narcissistic thing: depicting your life publicly. However people talking about positive lifestyle changes and more environmentally sustainable living is actually a very good thing. It is what is needed to make zero waste more mainstream and thus implemented in more people’s lives which is required if it is to make any real impact on the environment as a whole. Take this therefore as encouragement if you don’t fit the mould but are making positive environmental steps to create a blog, an instagram account or youtube! The world needs to hear from you.

So what do i perceive as the stereotype:

The ultimate archetype of a zero-waster at the moment is a middle-class Caucasian, heterosexual attractive female in their twenties or thirties, who cares a lot about their appearance and thus implements the lifestyle by making a lot of beauty products from scratch, eats a vegan diet and has a fabulous very flattering minimalist wardrobe – probably featuring a black blazer and some really nice boots. They rent, living in an apartment in a city within walking or biking distance to lots of fabulous vegan restaurants and farmers markets and can fit all their trash in a mason jar. They own a clean kanteen, a stainless steel lunchbox, a keep cup, bamboo toothbrush and beautiful Instagram account and lots and lots of mason jars.

Please take that description in the way it is intended: a critical commentary trying to look at the movement from the perspective of an outsider- not a criticism of anyone enacting any of those attributes of which I myself incorporate some parts.

Missing from this picture almost entirely are men, people from more diverse racial backgrounds, the lgbti community, home-owners, older people, families, people living rurally and people of lower socio-economic means. Eg most people. Thus it would be very easy for someone say with not a lot of money to think that they can’t produce less waste because they can’t afford a kleen kanteen and therefore write off the whole movement. Likewise what is becoming the symbols or iconography of the zero waste moment (the ‘kit’ everyone seems to own) as being associated with whiteness or femaleness and therefore not something those not being either white or female want to be associated with. How many men for example would own up to their mates that they now make their own deodorant.

I actually now see it as a problem that certain more luxury brands have now become such dominant trends within the movement. Kleen Kanteen, Keepcup and Ball Mason jars for example. These are lovely, but expensive and out of the reach of many. Frankly i find it strange these brand trends have occurred as there are many other options out there that fullfill the same functions. And mason  jars in particular are not even well adapted to what people are using them for (keeping dry pantry goods and salads in) due to their 2 part lid that is designed for canning and preserving food, not to be taken on and off like a general storage container. As far as Kleen Kanteen and Keepcup is concerned I think it must be clever social media marketing that has aligned them to the zero waste movement over their competitors. Owning these items has become  like a status symbol of zero-waste and how people identify themselves as being part of the group in the same way a biker jacket or tattoo signifies someone’s allegiance to a particular biker gang. Zero waste has become a subculture.

The reality too is the presented ideal is out of reach of many even if they would like to do and be all that. So much of the availability of package free items for example is dictated by where you live. If you aren’t living in a major city in a predominantly white middle class area then chances are you don’t have a bulk store or even farmers market nearby. You might not be able to justify buying organic in your tight grocery budget (which is not even a requirement of a zero waste lifestyle but heavily promoted amongst the limited view presented). You might be able to make all your own beauty products, but to do so would involve buying 6 different items in their own packaging on the internet, then posted to you in further packaging all to save yourself the waste of one item in one container.

I feel like my channel is one of the few that talks about growing my own food to reduce waste (beyond a few herbs) and this is probably because it seems most ‘zero-wasters’ rent in city apartments rather than the rural lifestyle i intentionally chose. Rural zero waste is entirely different to city zero waste. Rural living is probably far from bulk stores (luckily i’m actually not but was when i lived more remotely) but has other advantages like a garden. Home ownership is also entirely different from renting. As an owner of a 20+ year old home, maintaining it requires me to produce waste that a renter doesn’t even see (but whose lifestyles still produce-  it’s just  only witnessed by the landlord or the contractors they employ to fix up their homes).

Ultimately we need to diversify the commentary and the examples put forth in order to be more inclusive, more accessible and identifiable to a broader number of people. Zero waste shouldn’t be some exclusive club that only certain types of people can join. We also need to be more accepting of others that have other types of values that might not align in the same way to produce the same cookie cutter image – because it seems once you identify as a zero waster it is almost assumed you also practice ethical shopping, veganism,  minimalism and buying only organic (probably local too). I certainly have been personally criticised if my ‘zero waste’ thing wasn’t also all of these, and lets not even start talking about the fact i have have my pet (and egg laying) chickens or that i personally don’t choose organic unless it is the same cost as conventional (both of these choices relate to bigger picture things that are worth a separate post but ultimately my choices which might appear contradictory result in me producing less impact to the environment overall in the long term).

So please, especially if you are a man, a person of colour, or someone older than about 50 and are living a lower waste or more environmentally conscious lifestyle please share your example with others (especially on social media). In fact if you already have an account on some social media platform and I just haven’t seen it, please share a link with me. I’d love to promote it in the future on my youtube channel to increase awareness of more diverse examples. I personally have a few aspects of my life that set me apart from the stereotype but ultimately as a white, middle class female there is only so much i can do to add diversity myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No I Will Never be Plastic Free

I recently received criticism on my video about my minimalist/zero waste personal care routine. In particular the fact that my shampoo bar was in a reusable travel plastic soap container with the response that i should “get rid of it” and that there is no such thing as zero waste while keeping plastic in my life.

You would think that since i’m on the internet as such i’d be used to these types of comments, but the reality is for one reason or another the little community that has formed around My Minimalist Baby really has been entirely reasonable, sensible and kind to date. I feel the need to write this post as i feel it is important to address this particular issue and that moving towards a zero waste lifestyle (and i have never claimed to ‘be there’ yet) is not the same as attempting to go completely plastic free. Firstly I do think that it is better to use other materials where possible due to issues in recyclability and to create less demand on possibly finite petrochemical resources (well they obviously are finite but these days it looks like we will move away from these resources before they run out, at least i hope so. Also there is exciting developing technology which can even turn plastic landfill back into oil!). However in the current day and age with all that is around us I truly believe living a completely plastic free lifestyle is fairly impossible.

I know there are people that have done plastic free as a challenge and blogged about it but as far as i’m aware their rule was simply to introduce no new plastic into their lives. That is an extremely different thing too than throwing away every plastic object in your home to replace it with something else. Firstly throwing away plastic items is about as wasteful as you can get. Talk about the extreme opposite end of the spectrum of zero waste! Fair enough if it is something for say food or drink and you are concerned about potential toxins in that plastic and then maybe donate those objects. However I am sure as hell not going to be replacing my plastic containers I store my camping gear, my plastic folding table that I use as a desk or for that matter my plastic travel soap container I keep my shampoo bar in. There are many things we use plastic for that it is unlikely we will be absorbing a lot of toxins from.  I did swap my plastic food containers recently for glass ones but I kept the plastic containers to use for things such as keeping chicken food and saving seed for my garden.

Secondly It is completely naive  to think that we can remove all plastic from our modern lives. Plastic lurks in almost EVERYTHING and in unavoidable and essential parts of our day to day lives and technology. There is plastic in computers – even if you get a pretty metal macbook, in mobile phones, in cameras, in cars, buses, bikes, synthetic clothing (and good luck finding anything that doesn’t at least have a plastic button, zip, tag, thread or elastic), flooring, most modern cloth diapers, window handles…. etc etc etc. You get the idea. Start looking for it around your home and you’ll realise plastic is EVERYWHERE!

While you probably theoretically can live a completely plastic free life if you go build your own log cabin in the woods, modern life is going to come into contact with plastic. It can be argued that even if you just use plastic items you are participating in a plastic world you don’t just have to own them. So every time you take the bus or train there is plastic in your life. Hell even the receipts you get at cash-registers have plastic in them (i know this one from when i pregnant as it is advised not to touch them as they have high levels of BPA toxin!).

For someone to tell someone they aren’t ‘zero waste’ enough because they have some actually recyclable plastic items in their life (my soap container is recyclable however I will be keeping it for many years to come!) is also very damaging to the idea that a zero waste lifestyle is achievable by everyday people. Yes of course a soap container is one of the easier things to find a non plastic alternative which i might do WHEN IT BREAKS (which isn’t anytime soon being made of sturdy plastic and i have had it for years already). But to criticise anyone’s choice of reusable items smacks of a purity complex, elitism and creates an overall feeling that regardless what you do it will never be good enough – because where does it end since plastic is so impossible to avoid entirely.

The reality is plastic is cheap and many people like myself might have long ago, before necessarily going zero waste invested in a set of various reusable plastic items. I am personally lucky enough to be able to afford glass ones now (although the lids are still plastic) and mason jars. You might think mason jars are cheap but actually they aren’t, at least not in Australia – mine are reserved only for proper canning! BTW they aren’t plastic free either – there is a plastic layer in the lid for the seal – most water bottles too have this even if they are stainless steel or glass. And before you tell me to just reuse jam jars or whatever (which i do) they too contain plastic in the lid for sealing purposes. So to suggest that people need to live a plastic free life if they truly care about the environment is setting people up to fail.

Frankly i don’t have the time to sniff out every plastic item in my life. Most people with children, jobs, hobbies… aka lives do not either, at least to the extent of finding a alternative for every single plastic item in their homes (and good luck with that!). However we can still make a difference and live sustainable lives doing the best we can, buy choosing reusable items regardless of the materials they are made (try to make it recyclable though).

Do the best you can people and don’t let zero waste turn into something like the vegan community where it becomes divided into a million little parts of people following different versions (eg high fat, low fat, fruitarian, no salt… etc) and barraging those from other groups. I have a feeling it is gaining momentum and is becoming the next ‘big thing’ so lets keep it friendly, supportive and kind.