Drinking my coffee in the sun before another intense day at work. Working towards environmental conservation has made a martyr of me. I’m a busy-body. I work all day every day on three separate projects. It’s apt how unsustainable my routine is.
I tell myself that after a big launch in 4 weeks, I’ll claw my way back to a healthy routine. The reality is that this is me always. Working, working, working… What am I working for? Money, environmentalism, people; but mostly something self-fulfilling. I like working. It makes me feel helpful. It gives me purpose. It’s a habit. It’s an addiction.
I suck at self care. I am trying to take 5 mins everyday to do ultra-mega-boring things that are good for me. A little “nothing time” is great for busy people who need more brain space for creativity and processing. It’s not quite meditation and it’s not quite exercise. It’s deliberately dull and unappealing. Want to hear how boring I am? Here goes…
Hello my name is Zoe and I like to feel the wind in my hair, gentle walks in the bushland and:
Just standing there
Just sitting there
Listening to my heartbeat
Feeling my breath entering my nostrils
Staring out the window
Sounds dull huh? You’re probably too busy for this too, yeah? Wrong! Prioritise “nothing time” and let your brain juices flowwwww
In order to change our behaviour, we need to be self-aware. We gotta be mindful. With mindfulness comes the ability to manage ourselves when external factors come into play.
Let’s make some observations on how sociology impacts the way we behave:
Respectful language. Observe the way we talk about the environmental crisis. Is it productive? Are there bouts of anxiety or strain? Is anyone saying “you should…” instead of “have you considered…”?
Accept hypocrisy. Are you a vegan cat-owner, a chain-smoking environmental activist or a road-tripping zero waster? Take note of your own imperfections and accept others. We need to reduce polarisation if we’re going to work together.
Mental barriers. Do convenience or peer pressure play a part in your behaviour? Do you worry about appearing a certain way? Are you organised? What factors make you less likely to change?
Bias. Observe and listen to how we interact, then flip the genders, race or status. Would these individuals get the same response from their peers if they were born differently? Take note of all forms of bias.
Whoah there! We’re nowhere near solutions yet. It’s lovely if you’re eager to jump to actions but it might be counterproductive. I struggle big time with this discipline. I want to brainstorm instead of reflect. Be patient. We’ll get to actions in part 2 of my OOPS principles of behavioural change.
Spoiler alert: We won’t rid the world of discrimination. We won’t achieve world peace. I’m smart but I ain’t THAT smart.
Admitting is the first step. Or, to be precise, Mindfulness is 🙂 We need to know where we stand before we know where to step. This means we gotta stop, and just observe ourselves for a bit.
To kick this off, let’s look at our personal travel habits. These questions are intended to get the wheels in motion (pun intended) but it should be customised to your own unique situation/part of the world:
A long walk. If you have the luxury of mobility, what’s your perception of a long walk? 15 minute walk? Easy. 30 minute walk? Ugh, I’ll just drive… What’s your limit? Can you build on that?
Two wheels. Do you own a bike? Take it for a spin and see how it makes you feel. Do you get anxiety or feel like you’re flying? If it’s the latter, consider flying more 🙂
Car. Do you own a car? Does driving involve transporting others? Are you carrying heavy items? Is it a necessity, a luxury or potentially optional?
Uber, Taxi & Jet-setting. Look at your bank statement to understand the cost and frequency of these forms of travel. How reliant are you on these modes of transport?
Eating To Go. If eating or drinking out, take note of the types of disposable items required to support this. Are any items not essential / destined for immediate waste?
Other? Skateboard, scooter, truck, 4wd, horse, tuk tuk, camel… Got other examples of travel? I’d love to hear about it 🙂
Write down your observations and make the conscious decision to NOT change for the time being. Just continue to observe yourself as life happens. We’ll get to actions in part 2: Opportunity. For now, we observe.
Zero waste husband!! My partner does most of our grocery shopping and cooking while I tend to be a workaholic. That’s how it’s always been. When I first told him about my ambition of a zero waste lifestyle, he responded with support and apprehension. Given that he does so much around the house, I was worried he‘d get defensive if I suggested zero waste alternatives. I didn’t want to be making extra demands.
It was all good! We took this transition as an opportunity to learn something new. He asked a bunch of questions along the way and we researched and shared ideas together. We set standards like “the ZW solution must be as good as or better than the existing approach.” This helped us feel like everything was an upgrade. It also made us extra conscious when not being zero waste. Positive reinforcement and honest observations helped.
I’m so proud of how far he’s come. These are loose organic bananas he got from @terramadreorganics – just one detail in a huge fortnightly shop that was almost entirely plastic free and organic. He’s a pretty amazing human.
I am a domestic animal. I sleep in a bed inside a house. I have regulated meal times. I am well trained. I get anxiety. The council knows where I live. There is a system in place if I misbehave. I suppress my instincts. My population growth is out of control. There is a system for where my poo goes. I am not to allowed pee on everything.
I think an environmentalist pet owner is an oxymoron. Domestic animals create a major environmental impact in Australia. We are aware of our dog’s carbon footprint, meat-based dietary requirements, food/medical packaging and the native fauna that he terrorises or deters. We’re equally aware of the fur therapy, companionship, sense of purpose and mental wellbeing he gives us.
Our mental health is paramount. Early on, we assessed what aspects of our lives bring us joy. We decided not to change these things when going zero waste. Our dog, Toki, is here to stay. After this, we’ll probably get another dog. Let’s not be too hard on ourselves. Let’s just improve where we can with patience, forgiveness and mindfulness.
How we apply zero waste principles to our doggo:
Second hand / street find bed, toys and accessories.
Apply local context to meat consumption ie Kangaroo in Australia (we avoid beef/pig/lamb).
Reuse paper bags for poo and put the whole thing in the compost (we call this our ‘yucky’ compost which is not for growing food).
Favour toys that are indestructible such as Kong.
Put fur in compost after brushing/sweeping/vacuuming.
Package free peanut butter in a Kong toy for chew treats. – Use dog food pellets and bananas as training treats.
Share leftovers when it’s nutritionally beneficial.
Package free vegan ‘pigs ears’ for dental treats.
Favour 3 month worming/flea tablets over monthly skin treatment to avoid extra packaging.
Use package free dog wash.
Respect dog rules when bushwalking. – Manage/prevent breeding.
“Relax, embrace change and seek balance.” That’s what these tattoos mean to me. I drew them when I was 19 based on the lunar cycle and Buddhist wheel. The pretentious designer in me is conscious that they look very 2006 tattoo art – a small inky amulet 🙂 Design nerd aside, I really love being reminded of this mantra as I work, play and plan ahead. When both exposed, they trigger a desire to sit in lotus pose (cross legged meditation pose with palms up). Thankfully, teenage Zoe got a few things right.
I tend to get so excited about the future that I struggle to be present. This year, we’re planning some big lifestyle changes. As we work through decision-making, I will try to chill the fuck out, embrace the change to come and seek balance as much as possible. This mantra has helped throughout my zero waste transition too.
There was a time when humans would dine and draw together. We’d share stories, impart wisdom and teach the ways of the world.
My partner and I have introduced a bit of drawing into our evenings. We don’t have kids (or wisdom to impart), so creative play is a habit we try to consciously adopt. No Tv is fine by me. Instead, we draw plans for the future, explain concepts or creepishly draw each other drawing!
I truly believe all humans are capable of drawing (…as well as singing and dancing). Our species is partly defined by our creativity. We might not be the best illustrators, but most of us can demonstrate concepts through mark-making. It’s a good practice to exercise our abilities in cognition, problem-solving and innovation. If you’re lucky enough to have full mobility and people to dine with, try a shared drawing session. Flex these muscles! For extra brownie points, use scrap paper and a pencil.
Check out this inspirational Aboriginal rock art in Kakadu. The first pic is a cave drawing above a sitting area. Some of these drawings are up to 20,000 years old.
Use protection; Favour plastic-free native flowers sourced from sustainable farms; Teach and learn from each other on how to be better humans; Realise that linen, hemp, bamboo, pure silk and nudity are sexier than any lacy polyester nylon number; Love each other’s natural odour, fur and skin; Favour experiences over physical gifts or keepsakes; Cook together; Explore our homeland together and learn about the local context; Recognise opportunities for personal development; Set goals and support each other to achieve them; Extend compassion beyond our immediate relationships.
Finger print wedding rings by Brent & Jess via @etsy
I learned to celebrate the wins and not punish ourselves if we produce household trash. I learned to keep a close eye on waste collection services and know where my trash is going. I’m learning to stop and pick up rubbish in the street, and the power of community to work on bigger clean up projects.
Celebrate the wins
Take a moment and enjoy the feeling of not needing to take the bins out. Thank everybody in your home for their efforts. It’s not about perfection, it’s about incremental improvements and chances are you’re doing great.
For fear of being disappointed, I tried not to pay close attention to the landfill we generated. At 7 months, I finally estimated our rate of waste creation. I worked out that we would fill one landfill bin every 8 months, and one recycling bin every 5 weeks. Previously, it would take 2 weeks to fill both bins. Our household has 3 people and one dog. One of us is slightly more obsessed with zero waste than the others… Guess who!? If we were to stop making incremental improvements, this is the rate we’d be at. I think that’s pretty great! I thought it would take much longer to get to this stage. Plus, a lot of the waste we were still creating was from products we bought before my zero waste rampage. I love not needing to take the bins out…
Be aware of waste collection
Observe waste collection services and be aware of what happens to waste after it leaves the home. At work, plastic bin liners are a clue that recycling might not be sent to the right bin. Ask questions. Seek answers.
We recently found out that our waste collection service has been cutting corners by dumping recycling into their landfill trucks. It’s not all the time, but it’s still really messed up. We’ve put pressure on body corporate who are in the process of rectifying everything. The service provider will now lose their very big contract (over 200 dwellings… that’s a lot of wasted recycling!). Until now, I’d never thought to check how our bins are being collected. I put my trust in the fact that recycling goes to a recycling plant. Every area is a little bit different, so we’ve learnt our lesson to be aware of what happens to our waste after it leaves our home. Another positive from this is that we are even more committed to reducing our recycling waste.
Pick it up
When the time is right for you, try to pick up 3 items of rubbish. This small and mighty habit can prevent those items being washed down the gutter and into a waterway.
I’m learning to stop and pick up rubbish. Honestly, when I do it I feel a bit weird. I don’t want to appear forthright, pious or alienating to passers by. So, I try to be discreet when I do it. Apart from the looks I get (which are completely in my own head), I also feel a little overwhelmed by the task of picking up rubbish. There’s so much of it and so much being created at a business level. To encourage incremental habit-building, I’m going to just pick up 3 items max (thank to Take 3 for the inspiration).
Organise a trash party
If there’s an area that really gets you down, volunteer to clean it up. Tell others about it and invite them to join. One hour of cleaning between a small group of people can result in massive improvements on the ecosystem and community.
At the start of Plastic Free July, I set the goal of cleaning up a small part of the Merri Creek for one hour every Sunday of the month. If anyone else came along, it was a bonus – and what a bonus it was! With the help of friends, we filled 7 landfill bins (120L each). This is a big achievement for me, but it’s just another day for the legends at Friends of Merri Creek who have been tirelessly cleaning the creek for a long time now.
I have so much respect for people who do this kind of thing regularly, even at a small scale. It’s hard work! One hour of picking up rubbish made my back sore. The walk to the car carrying loads of rubbish made my arms dead (Exercise? What’s that!?). We found some seriously gross items in the creek including a crack pipe and loads of syringes. In one instance, I travelled interstate to get there on time and when I finally arrived, it rained heavily – yet we still managed to stick to the weekly goal. I sound like I’m complaining but I have truly loved every minute of it. This whole experience has created new memories from old junk.
How to slay the trash monster without losing your soul
You’re doing your best. Don’t beat yourself up if you produce household waste. Be aware of what happens to this waste after it leaves the home or office. Pick up 3 items of rubbish in the street. Consider organising a clean up project. Be realistic and take it at your own pace. Little efforts go a long way.
I learned that the ultimate zero waste approach to sex is not having kids. I realised that zero waste protection is often invasive. I reluctantly accept that condoms are ok because safe sex is paramount.
Not having kids
Population growth has slowed down since the 60s baby boom. But human impact on the environment is getting worse. Less humans means less environmental problems right?
I would make a great mum. I was 12 when I changed a nappy for the first time. I took great pride in my ability to calm my nieces and nephew and gently rock them to sleep. I love babysitting. I love watching a child’s personality shine through. When friends come to visit; I can cook a meal, entertain their child, and keep an eye on our dog all while socialising and enjoying a glass or three of wine.
My husband and I made the decision to not talk seriously about having kids until we were both 29. It was a handshake agreement that gave me permission to focus on being a twenty-something, binge drinking, full-time worker with a thirst for travel and live music. It’s only now that we’ve hit our 30s that we’re starting to feel a little foggy about what we want.
Protection is invasive
Zero waste protective sex has it’s downsides. Truly zero waste options are the birth control implant, Copper IUD or a Vasectomy.
Motivated by zero waste and health reasons, I decided to go off the birth control pill. I’d been on the pill for almost 15 years. That’s half my life and basically all of my adult life. My hormones are slowly starting to balance out again, but I’m left with a lack of options for the sexy time. How can we prevent getting pregnant without buying single-use plastic packaging or pumping our bodies full of hormones?
Bar in the arm? No way. I’m done with hormones.
Barbed wire in the snatch? There’s no way I’m putting a piece of metal in my taco. No thank you…
Get the snip? Sure! But that’s super invasive and doctors have tried to deter us because they believe we’re too young (we’re both 30).
Condoms are ok
If safe sex is paramount, then condoms are ok. A condom is the best protection against sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
We see condoms as part of ‘medical’ plastics. We played it as safe as possible for as long as we could and then finally resorted to buying a fresh pack of love gloves. No glove, no love. Amiright?
How to think about the environment in a sexy way
Accept that the most environmentally-friendly approach to sex is not having kids. Consider package-free contraceptives but know that condoms and packaging are ok because safe sex is paramount. Stay true to your personal values. If you choose to make a tiny human, tell them about zero waste.