Buy nothing new: Even for gadgets! Just because I work in tech, doesn’t mean I have to buy brand new gadgets. This is a second hand MacBook Pro with touch bar. It was only a year old when I bought it. The nerdy part of me gets to enjoy the new interface, while the eco conscious part of me is happy to have taken this off someone else’s hands. It works perfectly and I think I saved about $700AUD. Banana and bulk buy nuts are essential zero waste additions to my work day.
Zero waste formal wear! I found this silk dress, silk shirt, suit jacket and suede boots second hand.
Dress codes make me comes to terms with my assigned gender. I dread the thought of having to wear a pretty cocktail dress. I feel pressure to buy a whole new outfit for weddings in the same circle of friends. My anxiety about attire has been so obvious that I’ve been warned to “conform to gender norms” for certain weddings. Ugh. It’s so much easier for cis dudes…
With practice and confidence, I have finally worked out how to dress up and still feel authentic. I love this simple silk dress, but I usually prefer to suit up for weddings. I love a suit because I can change the look by swapping the shirt. I even borrowed my friend’s tie for one occasion.
There’s a practical side to this. Wearing pants allows me to dance even more ridiculously than I already do. And that’s what newly-weds want at their wedding, right? A lively dance floor! I dance in a way that guarantees nobody else will feel like a fool if they let loose.
Not everything pictured here is second hand, ethical or zero waste. In contrast to my second hand silk and ethical bag, I’m wearing a fake leather jacket that is basically the epitome of fast fashion. I bought it on impulse 3 years ago. I rarely wear it. I’m not proud of it but I like it over a dress. I’ll hold onto it until I find someone I can pass it on to.
We don’t have to be perfect. Sometimes the best qualities are the desire for self improvement and the willingness to learn and grow… and of course, killer dance moves. Get those knees and elbows in the air.
Second hand score! $10 Crofton pot from a garage sale. This is a huge upgrade from our Teflon-coated @stanley.rogers frypan bought new for around $40 at a discount store many years ago. Funny how buying second hand can result in major upgrades at a fraction of the cost.
For zero waste fashion, I learned to wear all black, reduce to a capsule wardrobe, simplify, and wash less. I now exclusively shop second-hand, and favour ethical brands and natural fibres. I learned to take my time and not give anything away too hastily.
Minimise to a capsule wardrobe
Wearing black makes it easier to minimise. Everything goes together and dresses up or down really easily. Zero waste is just as much about saving resources as it is about saving personal time and energy. I love not having to think about what to wear.
Cutting back on what I own has been a slow process over 12 months. First, I got all the stuff I rarely wear and put it in a box out of sight. At the end of each season, I sorted through it again. Anything that I didn’t miss I’d give away or sell online. I’ve still got a small box of summer clothes that I’ll reassess at the end of winter (I’ll definitely miss my thongs …ahem …that’s “flip flops” to my international friends).
Why is this related to zero waste? It’s trained me to buy less and treat fashion a bit like grocery shopping – for instance, I can easily see that I’ll need a replacement pair of black jeans in the next 2 months. This level of control and awareness allows me to slowly search the second-hand market and make more considered purchases. It has also reduced my laundry, saving time and energy.
I found it best to hide things under the bed until I was absolutely certain I’d never wear it again.
Know your size and casually trawl local markets, thrift stores, eBay and gumtree. Buy near new and good quality. Set clear standards on what you want.
I developed an eBay addiction. I began as a seller. Once I realised I could buy second-hand high quality, ethical Australian brands, I was unstoppable. I checked it every day. I saved searches of my favourite Country Road jeans, so I could get notified if they were listed. I saved searches of ALL Cue Clothing just to see what was available in my size. I bid on a pair of near new R.M Williams boots at half the price of a brand new pair. I won.
After this, I began to broaden my horizons. I love Alison Mosshart’s style, so I researched what she wears, and found an endless collection of second-hand Equipment shirts by Kate Moss. Pure silk. Rad patterns. Kind of affordable… Sadly, they didn’t fit very well. And I didn’t enjoy separating them for a gentle wash cycle.
I now have strict standards on what I buy. I try to keep to black clothes, natural fabrics and brands that I know fit well.
How to transition to a zero waste wardrobe
Audit your wardrobe and hide items on low rotation. Consider simplifying to a capsule wardrobe. Wash when needed, not after every wear. Shop second-hand. Favour ethical brands and natural fibres. Take your time and don’t get rid of anything too hastily.
Even in the big city, I believe that zero waste has a high barrier of entry but this story has a happy ending.
To begin my journey, I spent some sweet dollaridoos on a moon cup, a safety razor, beeswax wraps and a new lunchbox. These items made a significant dent in my weekly budget. A year later, it’s worked out to be financially viable and I don’t need to buy these items again. I tried to not buy anything I wasn’t 100% sure I needed (here’s lookin at you: tongue scraper!). I had to be in it for the long haul with this kit.
Today, I’m fortunate to be able to eat local, organic, plastic-free wholefoods because the soil here is rich and a portion of my income is expendable. I buy organic nuts and grains entirely package free. It’s easier for me because there are bulk stores within walking distance. Compared to the packaged “dollar dazzlers” at major supermarket chains, I started spending a lot more on food… but then something else happened:
- I no longer needed to buy beauty or cleaning products.
- We didn’t need to buy bin liners, cling wrap, aluminium foil and zip lock bags.
- We learnt how to buy and cook exactly what we need, how to store it and how to make use of scraps.
- The bathroom cupboard needed little restocking because I was making my own or favouring multipurpose products.
- I stopped buying goods brand new and learnt to repair instead of replace.
- We sold items because we no longer had a use for them.
- We started making more items from scratch like bread and tortillas, which worked out cheaper and more enjoyable.
- I realised that major supermarket chains charge more for organic produce (beauty standards?) so we saved by going direct to farmer.
- I have a feeling that organic food is why I’m not getting sick as often, so I’m not buying cold & flu medicine all the friggin time… that’s just a theory… I’ll probably get sick now that I’ve suggested that… *cough*
The steep curve eventually balances out. It gets better. It pays off. It’s worth it. But I ain’t gonna tell you it’s easy.
These items were given to my 6 year old niece, Liberty. Little Libby lost her Toy Story doll, Jessie, so this replacement was a welcome surprise. Libby loves glitter; her favourite colour is rainbow; she loves learning to read; and she runs her own cafe made entirely of wooden & felt ingredients.
Merry silly season from Dad’s 65 year old Teddy; a gift that continues to last a lifetime.
Ps. I showed Dad this pic and he said “Awww that’s my best friend! My first love!”
This is face wash, make up remover, facial scrub, body scrub, shampoo, shaving cream & body wash in a teeny tiny little tobacco tin. The minimalism that comes from a zero waste mentality makes travel easy.
Neither myself or my partner are particularly masculine or feminine in the traditional sense. I don’t think anyone is 100% anything. I think we spin in a cycle of different headspaces. I think those headspaces get mistaken for male/female counterparts.
Next year, I’d like to officially buy nothing brand new. As part of transitioning to zero waste, we’ve hardly bought any new goods. We bought a new @dyson vacuum cleaner after a series of second hand fails. We’ve also bought new metal containers and beeswax wraps to support our new zero waste lifestyle. All clothes purchased this year are second hand – more significantly is that I need less stuff in general.