Growing up in rural, Alabama, the notions of reducing waste, composting and even recycling were considered extremely “Green” or “Hippie”. These initiatives seemed to go hand-in-hand with other “left-wing” and democratic policies that didn’t seem relevant to my life. However, over time, I am slowly realising that “left-wing” policies that seemed so entangled together while growing up are actually separate issues with their own levels of merit.
Since moving to New Zealand and befriending amazing people who actively investigate living less wastefully, my curiosity has piqued towards the initiative. Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending The Rubbish Trip‘s zero waste roadshow in Christchurch with a friend, run by Hannah Blumhardt and Liam Prince. I was absolutely blown away with the facts, and want to share some insight into why I am taking baby steps towards reducing my household waste, and why you should too!
- Preserve our 100% Pure NZ. Kiwis produce on average 200 kg of rubbish a year per person. There is actually no such thing as throwing something “away”. Our rubbish still exists and is put into local landfills. They are dotted around our gorgeous country, contaminating the surrounding air & ground. Studies also show that New Zealand is currently one of the top most wasteful developed countries in the world. There are initiatives to start cleaning up the existing landfills, but it won’t help if we continually keep dumping rubbish back into them.
2. Save Money. That’s right, you heard me. It turns out all the branding and packaging that is used to market consumables & food comes at a premium. By shopping zero waste in bulk food centres & markets, along with consciously changing lifestyle habits to reduce repeat consumerism, which produces more rubbish, we can save big-time.
3. Live minimally. Proactively changing our lifestyle will require a shift to become stewards of our things. The market currently operates out of a drive for cash-flow, using planned obsolescence to drive our spending habits. For example, electronics & clothes are intentionally made to break after a certain period of time, in order to manipulate a consistent flow of new sales. By researching and investing more money in fewer quality items, we can reduce the amount we consume. This is an ancient philosophy that we can gain wisdom & happiness from: “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” – Marcus Aurelius
4. Stop the Reckless Consumerism.
Society has only recently turned into a rubbish-making machine. Life Magazine’s August 1955 edition featured an article entitled “Throw away living” and promoted all sorts of plastic & “throw-away” products as a way to save time for households. Since then, we have become lazy in our habits & blind to rubbish. It’s sad to see how much waste the world has produced in so short amount of time, however, that also means it won’t actually take as long as we think to change our behaviours back and start living waste-free again.
5. Plastic Free NZ. While zero waste and plastic free are not the same, they compliment each other in many ways. Studies have shown that 84% of tap water in developed countries have plastic in the water. This is mainly due to our ready-made clothes being made primarily of synthetic fibres. Reducing household waste will thankfully mean higher quality, natural materials, less plastic and healthier cities. (These choices also promote palm oil free living, a definite added bonus for the planet!)
6. Healthier Homes. Making lifestyle choices that reduce waste means less convenience junk-food that come with waste packaging. This lifestyle choice also promotes home-made cleaning products & toiletries to avoid packaging, which is then chemical free, so you enjoy the benefits of a clear conscious and less exposure to unnatural chemicals.
7. Support Local! When making steps to reduce waste, a common shift is to increase weekend market shopping, which promotes sourcing of local produce & goods. It’s not just about reducing the packaging, but supporting our local farmers & artisans for better local economies.
The overall goal is to send nothing to the landfill, reduce our abundance of recycling with it’s high carbon footprint that goes overseas to be processed, to promote councils to process recycling locally and to basically have all our waste rot in compost. This cause is definitely worthwhile, not just for the sake of the planet, but also for our wallets, lifestyles, communities & health. If you feel inspired, check our these zero waste heroes for inspiration:
Bea Johnson – Zero Waste Homes
Lauren Singer – Trash is for Tossers