Quitting the disposable products is the backbone of a zero waste lifestyle. Zero waste alternatives are not hard to find, but years of partaking in the throw-away culture of convenience have formed habits that can be harder to break than one might imagine. Here are some tips I gathered after I successfully tackled the basics.
I. Get your equipment right
Have good reusable items at hand. Sounds obvious, but it is where I failed first. I figured, I just decided to be more sustainable and the first thing I will do is to run off and buy all sort of zero waste stuff that I am supposed to have? Not me! But, guess what, I did need all of them, and the things I found around the house (like a pillowcase and an old-school cookie box) couldn’t handle their new jobs. So invest into some nice zero waste equipment, which you won’t be ashamed of using. It will give you the sense of quality rather than deprivation and it is the only way to avoid waste after all.
II. Have plenty of alternatives too
A similar point, but an important one nonetheless. Have all sorts of extra jars, bottles, lunch boxes, towels, soaps and cotton bags at hand. You will need them anyways and you will be better prepared for a crisis, instead of falling off the waggon immediately, when something unexpected comes by. People visiting and you need to stock up on food but do not have enough jars? A spilling accident and you run out of kitchen towels? Caught the flu and you don’t have any handkerchiefs left after half an hour? It doesn’t make you a hoarder if you have some extras at hand.
III. Patience and practice
Although it seems like you should be ready in no time to quit those paper towels and nasty plastic bags, it is precisely the use of the disposable products that’s the hardest to change. So take the time to form your new habits, before becoming overwhelmed and calling it quits. Write your shopping lists with care. Put shopping bags somewhere you can see them and grab enough of them when you leave. Prepare your lunches in advance. Go out, make mistakes and then fix them. Teach your partner, or whoever might be in this mess with you, to get used to living with the reusable items too.
Nothing bad is gonna happen if you refuse the plastic bags
IV. Tackle the hygiene issue
Kitchen towels, cotton bags and handkerchiefs are nice to have while they are still clean. But as soon as they get a bit dirty, the gross factor kicks in and you’d rather be using something else. The solution is to just wash as much as you feel like. Instead of using the paper version and throwing it in the trash, use cotton or linen alternative and throw it into the washing machine as soon as it doesn’t feel clean. Let it pile up there till your laundry day and do not worry about using more water because of that. I wash a lot of kitchen towels and handkerchiefs on weekly basis and it doesn’t really increase the amount of laundry I have. Sterilise your mason jars or pre-owned stuff with boiling water. After awhile you will let go of the concept that only new and disposable products can be clean.
V. Think of limitations outside of your home
Your home can be a perfect zero waste sanctuary, but what happens when you leave? I find glass bottles to be too heavy to carry around, so I use a high-quality plastic bottle. Think in advance if you will be taking any foods or drinks to go and plan accordingly. I am not really a coffee to go type of a person, but I’m assuming you should check how big of a cup fits under most coffee machines. Travelling with a razor blade and some baking soda in your carry on might not be the best idea either and you should find some smaller bottles or jars to transport your homemade toiletries around. Any events coming up that might need some preparation, like attending a dinner (refill wine bottles), a wedding (borrow a dress) or a picnic (get reusable picnic gear) for example?
Have any troubles with disposable items? Let me know!
Having a snack on our weekend trip
Grunewaldsee Berlin Wilmersdorf