Second hand gadgets saves waste & cash

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 has a high barrier of entry

Even in the big city, I believe that zero waste has a high barrier of entry but this story has a happy ending.

Set up

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.

Regular shopping

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.

Buy nothing new

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.

Low waste gifts.

I love giving gifts to people that I admire. It’s a special ritual that allows me to show my appreciation for an individual. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always hit the target. I believe the best way to avoid waste at Christmas is to help others navigate the gift giving. It would be so much easier if I had some hints.

Have a think about what you want for Christmas. To maintain the joy and surprise of the gesture, it shouldn’t be too specific.

Got some ideas? Now, tell one person. Preferably someone close to you with instructions that they must pass it on if anyone asks 😉

For me? I don’t need or want anything. Plus I am the WORST because my birthday is 2 days before Christmas. If I love giving gifts then I should make it fair for others too. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about what you might like… What would make me happy? A membership that also gets me an experience! A gift voucher for a bulk foods store! A holiday! Or something that helps me have a holiday! Concert tickets (Sidenote: this concert changed my life and was the catalyst for our move from Sydney to Melbourne) Tea! A cleaner ocean! Beeswax so I can make more balm! A nice dinner! Essential oils! A cuddle! Soap! Less plastic! Pretty handkerchiefs! A true democracy! Plants or seeds! A caravan home experience! Less exclamation marks! Homemade dukka! Less poverty! And any zero waste goodies from brands I trust and admire!

Zero Waste Christmas gift ideas

There’s still time to discuss more minimal approaches to gift giving (ie secret santa, gifts for kids only, plastic free, etc – more ideas in this post #christmasgifts203). Here’s a bunch of gifts that I’ve received/given that I found successful:

  • Mini homemade product samples (maybe steer clear of deodorant balm and toothpowder unless you’re absolutely sure the receiver is into it)
  • Donations or memberships (I loved having a @zoosvictoria membership for my 30th birthday)
  • Homemade marmalade, iced tea, dukka, beer or bread
  • Soap blocks such as coffee body scrub, shampoo bars, etc (@ethiquenz have a great range of different plastic free products)
  • Beeswax wraps (Surprisingly expensive so they make great gifts for those that have expressed an interest to try but were turned off by the price)
  • Experience tokens or workshops
  • Show/concert tickets
  • Plastic free toys and bamboo/hemp blankets for babies
  • Linen napkins, or special tea towels that also double as wrapping
  • Boutique beer and wine
  • Take away coffee cup or thermos: my favourites are @keepcup and @t2tea – Cash! A teenager’s favourite gift of all time 😜
Multipurpose beeswax balm | Ain’t no Planet B

Orange marmalade | Ain't no Planet B
When we have too many oranges, we make marmalade, orange juice and orange cleaner.
Low waste gifts
Low waste gifts

Successfully avoided the freebies.

Staying in a hotel for a few nights and we successfully avoided the freebies. These little rascals can be a tempting way to create waste. Other things we’ve done include leaving a “do not disturb” sign to avoid unnecessary cleaning of our room, separating our recycling in the hope that staff will dispose of responsibly, minimising air con usage, using only one bin for our very minimal landfill (this avoids multiple bin liners being replaced); and sneakily burying coffee grounds / compost in the hotel garden (mwahahahaaa). 🤓Burying coffee grounds just before the cleaner walked by gave me an adolescent adrenalin rush like I was skipping class or hiding a cigarette from the headmaster. Highly recommend for those who like to play it fast and loose

One million dollaridoos is destroyed every hour.

Why is Australian money always crisp? Australia’s damaged bank note policy!! One million dollaridoos is destroyed every hour. It’s shredded and melted into pebbles of plastic reused to make building components, plumbing fittings, compost bins and other household and industrial products.

🏦From the reserve bank: “The Reserve Bank of Australia aims to have only good quality banknotes in circulation. This helps to maintain confidence in Australia’s currency by making it easier for people to check the security features on banknotes and make it more difficult for counterfeits to be passed or remain in circulation.
The Reserve Bank works with authorised deposit taking institutions (ADIs) and cash centre operators to remove damaged banknotes from circulation as soon as practicable.”

Something about this feels really conflicting to me. I like that our money is kept as secure as possible. I don’t like how much is being wasted, but happy to hear that’s it’s reduced since the 1990s. I like that our polymer money is easier to recycle, compared to paper money. I don’t like the inefficiency and futility of this as a workflow. Because our money is so familiar, it makes me question everything around me. What else is being deliberately destroyed for the sake of newness? Are there similar policies overseas?

One million dollaridoos is destroyed every hour.
One million dollaridoos is destroyed every hour.

Reusable food court cutlery

I got served. Thank you @emporiummelbourne for a food court system that enables so many restaurants to go #zerowaste. Not only is it an environmentally friendly approach, but it also makes it easier to eat! Funny that reusable cutlery can make a meal seem so luxuriously gourmet. Thank you for serving us dinnerware realness.


My approach to zero waste home decor is: Try to buy quality; Favour natural materials; Choose a design that gets better with age; Look after it, and accept that scratches and marks are part of its story.

Rather than getting a small dining table and extra bench space, we saved and got one massive table for the kitchen/living/dining. We cook, eat, paint, drink, sew, draw, play and work at this table. It’s been the conduit of many amazing conversations.

I’ve found that buying quality second hand or upcycled items gives a clue on how an item will age. Plus it comes with the ever-so-intriguing element of mystery history  Table from @nookvintage

Less wasteful gift ideas

It might feel forever away, but now is a great time to float ideas about a less wasteful festive season, especially Christmas. There are loads of ways we could customise festive events while still staying true to our traditions and values. Discussing them now gives plenty of breathing room for everyone to consider a change and adjust accordingly.

I find gift giving is the hardest for my families to adjust to. Some ideas to consider:
– No physical gifts, just experiences
– One gift each: Secret Santa / Kris Kringle
– Only buy gifts for kids
– Set a plastic-free gift challenge
– Give donations instead of physical gifts
– Bring food, not gifts

If you could, what would you change about the festive season to be more environmentally conscious?