An Introduction to Going Zero Waste

Reusable Bottle Gippsland Unwrapped

An Introduction to Going Zero Waste

In light of the closure of all of SKMs facilities, and the recycling of over 30 Shire Councils going to landfill, A Guide to Cardinia is running a series of articles by guest experts on what we can do to refuse, reduce and recycle, of which, this is the first.
This is a guest post by Tammy Logan of Gippsland Unwrapped.

Tammy Logan Gippsland Unwrapped

Tammy Logan is the author of Gippsland Unwrapped, a blog about maximising resources and minimising waste. Based in Gippsland, Tammy combines 20 years of qualifications and work experience in conservation biology, natural resource management, science communication and community engagement with her dairy farming roots to deliver practical sustainable living solutions. Tammy works in collaboration with community groups, businesses, educational institutions, and government agencies throughout Gippsland (and beyond) to deliver waste education and advice. Tammy wants to prove that living sustainably results in a more meaningful life and that individuals can be a strong force for positive change.

What is the zero waste movement?

Many people have now heard of the term ‘zero waste’ and of people with jars filled with their whole year’s worth of waste. But what exactly is the zero waste movement?
The zero waste movement focuses on maximising resources and minimising waste. The goal is for no rubbish to be sent to landfills, incinerated, or littered in nature, and is guided by the waste hierarchy of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot (compost) – in that order. ‘Zero wasters’ care more about refusing, reducing and reusing than recycling or composting because it has a much bigger positive environmental impact. Quite simply, if you avoid bringing rubbish into your life in the first place, then you don’t have rubbish to recycle or throw away later.

Striving for zero waste is a way of changing attitudes towards consumerism and our shared resources to create a better system, for example, moving away from a linear (take, make, dump) economy to a circular economy where everything is a potential resource for something else, there is no waste. It’s a protest against a throw-away society, a demonstration that we don’t have to tolerate mindless consumption or the environmental, health and social ramifications that come with it.

Striving for zero waste is not about individual perfection, it never has been. Most zero wasters know this and repeat it often. Instead, it’s about caring and effort, it’s about doing something because doing something is always better than doing nothing. And to quote Oprah “doing your best in this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment”. Before you know it, you will have made plenty of small changes that add up to make a big difference. Everyone is just at a different point in their journey which is heavily influenced by skills and knowledge, circumstance and privilege. Some people may never be able to participate and that is exactly why those of us who can, should.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if you have a waste bin or not, as long as you consume and use resources mindfully and intentionally, and/or advocate for change in business and policy, you are part of the zero waste community and you are helping to drive societal and systemic change.
You are an activist making a difference by being the change you want to see in the world, and that creates the conditions necessary for others to follow suit.

How do I get started?

While it might not be feasible to go completely zero waste, there are plenty of small changes that individuals can try to make in their daily lives to reduce waste. Here are some of the basics for you try.

1. Swap disposable plastic bags with reusable bags
Recyclable Produce Bags

Try to remember to take your reusable shopping bags everywhere you shop, every time you shop. Get in the habit of saying “no bag thanks” and having your reusable bag handy or being prepared to carry your purchase. A really environmentally friendly way to get yourself some reusable bags is to make them yourself from old clothing and other pieces of fabric from around your home.Supermarket fruit and vegetable bags are another type of plastic bag that can be replaced with a reusable version. You can buy them at markets or online stores but I like to make my own from mesh-like material I might have at home or find at an op shop. Old lace curtains are great for repurposing into reusable produce bags.
A third type of reusable bag is the bread bag which is a cloth bag you can take to a baker to have your bread and baked goods put into. Again, you can buy bread bags or make them yourself.

2.Swap disposable cups with a reusable cup

Reusable Cup

Coffee cups aren’t only made of paper, most are lined with a coating of polyethylene which is a type of plastic. This makes them hard to recycle or compost, and most end up in our environment or in landfill. Instead of a disposable cup, use a reusable travel cup, or a jar with a lid, or consider sitting down to enjoy your drink rather than getting takeaway.

3.Swap disposable bottles of water with a reusable bottle

Reusable Bottle Gippsland Unwrapped

Get in the habit of having a reusable water bottle handy at all times. Apart from the plastic pollution problem, bottled water is much more expensive and uses a lot of resources in the harvesting, packaging, transportation and distribution of water than refilling a bottle with tap water.

4.Swap plastic cling wrap with reusable food covers
Plastic cling wrap has become something we consider essential in the kitchen, but I have found it to be completely unnecessary. Instead of using cling wrap, try using plates on top of plates, containers, tea towels, shower caps, or beeswax wraps. Read more here.

5.Swap disposable plastic straws for a reusable straw, or just use your lips

Steel Straw Gippsland Unwrapped

You may not have given straws a lot of thought but straws are in the top 10 items picked up at beach cleanups in Australia. If you don’t need to use a straw, make sure you refuse them when you buy drinks. If you really like to use a straw, get yourself a reusable one with a cleaning brush.For many more tips on reducing your waste, check out the Gippsland Unwrapped website, Facebook, or Instagram.

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