The ideal situation is not to consume.
“That’s the fundamental answer, don’t buy this stuff to begin with. But if you chose to buy, as many do, the best thing is to buy things that you can reuse.”
This article is a great synopsis of my zero waste inspiration.
I first became aware of the problems of consumption and waste when I did a Living Smart course. Of the 8-week course what really cemented itself in my mind was the short video we watched on the first day – The Story of Stuff. I really do think those 20 minutes marked a big change in my life, or at least the way I thought about it.
My great awakening was in 2012 when I discovered Plastic Free July. My supermarket visits changed completely. All of a sudden I saw myself in a sea of plastic, surrounded by ‘trapped’ and inaccessible food. I was overjoyed when, a couple of years later, I found a growers market that sold LOOSE cherry tomatoes!
After Plastic Free July came Buy Nothing New Month (October), but I was unprepared and shopped up a storm. At the start of 2013 I was pondering my new year’s resolutions when the guilt of having shopped through October came back to haunt me. I decided to embark on a delayed Buy Nothing New Month. But I’m the kind of person who tends to get carried away with new projects, and soon it became ‘Buy Nothing New Year‘, from February to February.
Buy Nothing New Year was surprisingly easy, but probably because I allowed myself the exception of buying new things for my wedding that year. And when I visited Brisbane, Queensland and found an amazing dress – the last one, and just my size! – I instantly created a new exception: the postcode rule. So with wedding and travel purchases allowed, I made it through Buy Nothing New Year with a changed attitude toward consumption and a new addiction to buying secondhand.
In late 2013 I made my first career change and got a job in waste management. Now, getting people to waste less and recycle more is my full-time job. Ironically, the demands of the job all-too-often push me to sacrifice my values for convenience, especially when it comes to plastic-wrapped, palm-oil laden frozen pizza… but some change is better than no change, right? As I learn to reduce my consumption and waste I also learn to forgive my transgressions.
Now, I’m most of the way through Buy Nothing (at all) Year. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the inspirational Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home at a conference. I’m proud to consider myself a loyal shopper at the Wasteless Pantry in the hills of Perth, Western Australia. I never leave home without a reusable shopping bag, fruit and veg bags, a travel cutlery kit, a bamboo straw, a reusable water bottle and usually a reusable coffee cup too (which sometimes doubles as a doggy bag!). I’ve discovered minimalism. I question every purchase and usually decide to go without or borrow instead. I’m on a massive decluttering spree. And I’m considering my options for how I may work less so I might waste less (bye bye frozen pizza!) and live a life closer aligned with my values.
I’m on a journey. It’s such a cliche, but it really is a journey. It takes time to find new inspiration, switch to different products, change your habits and learn new ways of thinking and doing things.
I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever reach the end of this journey. Probably not… but that doesn’t matter, because I’m proud of how far I’ve come and I’m excited about how far I still have to go.PS:
That dress I bought in Brisbane during Buy Nothing New Year survived my massive wardrobe declutter and proudly hangs in my minimalist wardrobe with a dozen other dresses. I love it.