How to slay the trash monster without losing your soul

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.

Speedie waste cutting corners
Speedie Waste cut corners by putting our recycling into landfill

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.

Zero waste trash pick up
I now believe that picking up rubbish is everyone’s responsibility

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.

Trash Party for plastic free july 2017
I held a series of Trash Parties for Plastic Free July. It energised me.

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.

Next: Reduce landfill with a new beauty regime, shopping habits and kitchen planning.


A functional zero waste kitchen

I learned to split my bins, write ‘landfill’ on my kitchen bin, save my scraps, make my own cleaners, use what we have before replacing it, favour long-lasting re-useable items and natural materials, and understand how to store food to maximise its lifespan.


Split my bins & keep the landfill small

The kitchen should have a teeny tiny landfill bin as well as compost, recycling, and potentially a separate soft-plastics recycling bin if this option is available to you. The mindset is that all of these bins should be the last resort for items that come into your home (ie consider using food scraps for stock before composting them).

Our compost bin is bigger than our landfill bin.

Our compost bin is bigger than our landfill bin. We keep it on the kitchen bench so it’s front of mind and easy to access. I made it out of a metal tub I found and the lid of an old pot. Essentially, it just needs to be leak proof and have a hole on top to breathe.

Our tiny landfill bin is hidden in the laundry cupboard next to the kitchen (out of sight, out of mind). We also have a soft plastics bag hiding in this cupboard to keep us all sane while we transition as a household.

At our current rate of waste creation, I’ve estimated 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, mostly from kitchen waste. Shrinking the size of our kitchen bin encouraged us to think twice about throwing things away.

Next: Let’s talk Trash


Save my scraps

Food scraps have a multitude of uses. They can be turned into stock, iced tea, cleaning products and beauty products. The freezer is a great way to keep food until you’re ready to turn it into something new.

Ziplock bag of veggie scraps in the freezer. When full, we made vegetable stock.

At our place, vegetable scraps are put into a bag in the freezer and then periodically turned into a delicious veggie stock for risotto, paella, soup and stews. On top of veggie scraps for stock, I’ve been saving fruit scraps for iced tea. The core and peelings of stone fruit are perfect to infuse overnight with mint leaves and some red or black tea. It makes a really refreshing cold drink. Meat off-cuts and bones make amazing stock, too. Even coffee grinds can serve a purpose before they go to compost, my favourite is a deep-cleansing body scrub combined with coconut oil.

Fruit scraps are saved for iced tea

Make my own cleaners

I hope I never need to buy cleaning products again. Vinegar rules!

Essential cleaning products for kitchen, bathroom and floors
  • Dishes & Hands: Castile liquid soap. We have the same soap pump for both dishes and hands.
  • Multipurpose spray: Vinegar + Castile soap + water. This spray is used for benchtops, floor, cupboards, oven, fridge, etc. It can even be used on carpet, leather and upholstery.
  • Orange vinegar: Orange scraps + White vinegar + 2 weeks. The cleaner smells amazing and is highly effective. I also love seeing the bottle/s of orange slices on display in the kitchen. I find it decorative and beautiful. It’s become my own version of cut flowers. I also throw lemon rind in there if I don’t have a use for it.
  • Baking soda: No recipe needed. Just put it in an old spice shaker and use for scouring the oven, cooktop, kitchen sink, drains, and stubborn grease. Shake on a surface and use the multipurpose spray to see it froth and bubble.

Use what we have before replacing it

Zero waste thrives with a ‘make do’ attitude. Use up what you have before replacing it with a zero waste alternative. Either that, or give it to someone who doesn’t have the same flexibility as you. Hide single-use items out of sight (out of mind) to help reduce any dependency.

Turns out, we didn’t need any of these items

We hid items in the garage to see if we could live without them. It worked. As a household, we can live without bags, plastic wrap, baking paper and snap lock bags: so, I was happy to give these away.

I have learned that zero waste thrives with a ‘make do’ attitude. Did I need to buy a metal lunchbox? No. I did not. I could have put leftovers in any jar or plastic container that has been floating around in my cupboards for years. Or I could have bought a plastic lunchbox from a thrift store for $1. Thanks to this very pretty, over-priced lunchbox, I’ve become conscious of why I am buying something. I don’t regret this purchase. It’s encouraged me to form a habit of bringing my own lunch to work. But, I don’t want anyone to think they need to prepare themselves for going zero waste by buying anything. Trust me, you can make do. The goal isn’t perfection, it’s improvement.

Despite what others say, this metal lunchbox is not an essential item

Favour long-lasting re-useable items

If anything needs to be purchased, favour long-lasting reusable items made from wood, metal, glass, marble, and natural fabric. Better quality products can be bought second-hand.

When the time comes to replace something in the kitchen, consider natural materials like wood and metal. These are often easier to find at thrift stores (I am looking forward to replacing our old kettle with an antique stove top one).

  • Beeswax wraps: Substitute for plastic cling wrap
  • Metal utensils and cookware: With wooden handles.
  • Glass & Stainless steel containers: For food storage
  • Wooden chopping board: For fruit, veggies and bread.
  • Marble chopping board: For chopping meat and cheese.

Store food to maximise its lifetime

Research how to store fruit and veggies to maximise their lifetime. Utilise the freezer. If food starts to go bad, there’s often a recipe that compliments this part of the food’s lifespan (ie old milk makes excellent greek yoghurt, old veggies make great soup and old bananas make sweet smoothies).

Yellow banana = Snacks. Brown bananas = Smoothies and cakes.

Storing food takes a level of observation. I try not to over-stock so I can easily see if something is getting old. I have found a few simple tricks like storing carrots in a jar with a splash of water, or keeping fruit in the fridge to help it stay fresh a little longer in warm weather. I researched the main foods that we eat, and found tips for each one.

If we’re over-stocked, we’ll chop up food for the freezer such as carrots, corn, peas, spinach leaves, minced garlic, ginger, berries and sliced sourdough.

When the pantry gives us sad looking food, I turn to Pinterest for inspiration and see what comes up. Most fruit and vegetables have a recipe that compliments each stage of it’s life.

When we have too many oranges, we make marmalade, orange juice and orange cleaner.
When we have too many beetroots, we make falafels for the freezer and beetroot mud cake

 


How to transition to a zero waste kitchen

Write ‘landfill’ on your smallest bin, and split the rest into compost, recycling and soft plastics. Utilise your food scraps by saving them in your freezer. Store food to maximise its lifespan. Consider DIY cleaners. Favour long-lasting re-useable items and natural materials. Use what you have before replacing it.

Next: Reduce packaging waste when grocery shopping


Reducing waste while traveling on the go

I learned what to take on a daily basis and how to pack light for longer trips away. I formed a habit of taking snacks, a handkerchief, and a bottle while on the go. I realised that zero waste is about minimalism and simplicity.


Day to day

A handbag audit could be helpful at this stage. Think about all the items you use on a daily basis and add a handkerchief and small shopping bag to the set.

Whats in my bag for zero waste
At most, this is what’s in my bag.

Essentially, all I need is my wallet, phone, keys and a handkerchief. Everything else depends on where I’m going and whether a bag is necessary. Here’s the full extent of what I take:

  • Bailey Nelson glasses for seeing way off into the future
  • Small cheesecloth bag that fits in my pocket
  • My favourite handkerchief: To use as a scarf, to hold bakery treats, napkin, tissue …only ever in that order Snotzilla always comes last
  • Lush lipstick (only if I want to feel fancy)
  • Mr Simple wallet: Moving to a “men’s wallet” was the first step to not needing a handbag at all – I just throw coins in my pocket now
  • Phone
  • Keys
  • Multi-purpose balm in a Lush sample container: For lips, hair, nails, moisturiser and general spruce up
  • Cough lollies: If I have singing practice. I buy these in glass jars to avoid individually wrapped plastic packaging.
  • T2 water bottle: Usually just for singing or long walks. This doubles as a thermos and keeps tea nice and warm for hours.
Zero waste coffee run
I take two items with me on a coffee run: My handkerchief and reusable coffee cup

Snacks, handkerchief & bottle

If travelling for an extended period of time, take snacks to avoid impulse purchases, a drink bottle that can be refilled, and a handkerchief for take away sandwiches, baked goods, etc. If you’re more of a sushi fan, a small container is helpful too.

Airport survival kit for zero waste
Airport survival kit: Handkerchief, snacks and water bottle

I now have an airport survival kit: Snacks, handkerchief, and water bottle. These three items ensure a package-free trip from Melbourne to Katoomba. That’s a 1.5hr flight plus 2.5hr train ride with loads of waiting time in between. The salty macadamias and chocolate covered almonds prevented me from buying McDonalds Chicken McNuggets at the airport and Pringles on the plane. The water bottle prevented me from guzzling down lemonade and then throwing away the vessel. The handkerchief was used to wrap a toasted cheese and tomato croissant to take away. I also bought an apple for a zero waste snack.


Minimalist beauty

While in transition, take the labels off certain products as a reminder to keep the container and bulk buy / DIY once it runs out.

Zero waste travel
My first big trip while adjusting to a zero waste lifestyle

I’m getting the hang of zero waste travel and learning how to pack light. This is what’s in my toiletries bag for a 3 day trip. This works pretty well for me. We went to New York for 8 days and I took a similar set of items, and it was perfect. If we were camping, we would have tea tree oil and Castile soap – and the blush would be the first thing to go.

  • Tweezers
  • Fine brush
  • Eyebrow pencil
  • Blush powder: I’m working my way through the last of my make up. This powder can easily be made with beetroot powder and cornstarch.
  • Home made toothpowder
  • Rose hip oil or Argan Oil
  • Multi-purpose balm in a tiny jam jar: For hair, lips, nails, feet, etc
  • Deodorant
  • Bamboo toothbrush: I recommend Uppercut Delux toothbrush
  • Reusable make up wipes: Made from my old bath robe
  • Home made face powder in a Lush tin
  • Large makeup brush
Zero waste travel
After a few months, my travel pack is getting more and more minimal

Pack a capsule wardrobe

Get comfortable wearing pants, jumpers, and jackets a couple of times before washing. Packing light takes practice so it helps to take more holidays (you know it!). This is also great practice for a longer term capsule wardrobe.

Capsule wardrobe zero waste travel
Everything I brought/wore for 4 days away.

All the clothes, accessories and shoes I brought for 4 days away: Tracksuit pants, 2 x Jeans, 4 x undies, 2 x Socks, 1 x Bra, Scarf, Beanie, Leather jacket, Hoodie, Glasses, Sunnies, Cardigan, 4 x T-shirts, Gloves and Boots.


How to be zero waste without lugging your life around

Always remember to bring a handkerchief, a drinking vessel and a shopping bag. Use travel as a test for minimising everyday toiletries & wardrobe. Take note of items that you use on the go. Challenge yourself to pack lighter & smarter.

Next: Remain ready with Zero Waste Groceries


New shopping habits for zero waste groceries

For zero waste groceries, I have learned to shop local, seasonal produce. Forming simple – but sometimes easily forgotten – habits of bringing shopping bags and jars so I could buy package-free where possible. I look out for glass and paper packaging to avoid wasteful plastics. I took my time and now embrace the idea of an empty fridge.


Shop local, seasonal produce

Local, seasonal produce can be bought from farmers markets, through delivery services, or from independent grocers. If none of these options are available, then seasonal produce can be bought from large supermarket chains – you just need to keep track of what’s in season.

Zero Waste Grocery Haul from Ceres
$30 Grocery delivery from Ceres Fair Food

Every fortnight, we order a $30 box of fruit and veggies from Ceres Fair Food. At first, it was too much of a good thing – what does one do with four broccolis between three people? After giving some produce to neighbours, I turned to Pinterest for inspiration. Pinterest made it quick to look up options. I made broccoli soup, broccoli pesto, broccoli stir fry, broccoli gratin, broccoli pasta… we were not short of ideas. It became a satisfying challenge to cook all of the food delivered to us. If we can’t get through it all, I chop it up and put it in the freezer.

Zero Waste grocery shopping
I love that this is what carrots look like

Shopping bags & glass jars

A large shopping bag can hold multiple bags and jars. This helps reduce plastic bags and containers. These items can be kept in the car or near the front door to help kickstart the habit. We keep our jars in a little carrier to avoid spills.

Zero waste grocery shopping
This is what I take to the shops for a top up. I don’t mind using paper bags now and then.

For weekly top ups, I take a small and large shopping bag, 2 jars and a handkerchief. The jars carry wet bulk like liquid soap, peanut butter and vinegar. The handkerchief holds baked goods and the bags hold everything else. For a bigger shop, we have four large canvas bags that we take to the supermarket. Fewer bags make it easier for the cashier to fill them. These require a trolley and a car to take home.


Buying package-free

Finding a store requires a bit of research, but there’s plenty of online directories to get started. Most have only dry bulk (flour, nuts, grains, chocolates, etc) and some have expanded into wet bulk (oil, liquid soap, honey, peanut butter, kombucha, etc). To perpetuate a new zero waste habit, we favour places that are friendly, inclusive, and enjoyable to shop at.

Zero waste grocery shopping
Zero Waste stores are popping up in small towns and big cities.
Zero Waste grocery shopping
Make it easier at checkout by taking note of the product number

The Source was my entry point into package-free shopping, back when I didn’t know what zero waste was. I used to walk there on my lunch break and get myself a little treat, like vegetable crisps or chocolate covered blueberries. Their beautifully merchandised store makes it easy to understand a totally new way of shopping.

Let’s face it: Getting started is daunting! I’ve had my fair share of patronising, pious staff and overwhelming, poorly merchandised stores. Most of these stores felt like “organised chaos” with a high barrier of entry. It made me feel lost and unmotivated. Fortunately, package-free stores are an expanding part of the retail sector which means improved customer service and merchandising.

Package free shopping at The Source
Shopping at The Source Bulk Foods can result in some impulse purchases

Be patient

Some stores are hesitant to sell items package free. Be nice. Be patient. Have courage to ask questions and suggest change.

I find that the main reasons for stores to hesitate with BYO packaging are:

  1. OHS – If they’ve been burned before, they’re not going to budge. Leave it be. They have a business to protect.
  2. Efficiency – If the store is busy, any to change their workflow tends to add stress and delays. Be nice. Maybe come back later.
  3. Lack of understanding – Most people understand if I say “I’m trying to go plastic free” but they won’t understand if I say “I’m zero waste”. Be nice. Be patient. Have courage. We’re all learning together.
  4. Production lines – A large scale company (like a supermarket chain) has loads of moving parts. They can’t change overnight. Inquire politely via social media and customer service streams. Suggest change. Follow up. Be patient.

 


How to balance zero waste & grocery shopping

Bring your shopping bags & jars. Favour seasonal produce. Buy package-free at bulk stores and avoid plastic at big supermarkets. Ask questions. Be patient while retailers adjust too.

Next: How to manage a Zero Waste Kitchen


How to transition to a zero waste wardrobe

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.

My capsule wardrobe in Winter

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).

Next: Travel light with a capsule wardrobe

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.


Shop Second-hand

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.

My second hand R.M Williams boots

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.

Shop second hand | Ain't no Planet B
High quality second hand is my favourite


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.

Next: Learn how to travel light

Capsule wardrobe packs light | Ain't no Planet B


How to think about the environment in a sexy 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.

Next: Stay pampered with Zero Waste Beauty


Good health is paramount

I learned that good health is paramount & that it’s ok to create medical waste. I learned the power of self care & mindfulness. I discovered that napping, stretching & eating well is pretty effective. I realised that a healthy recovery sometimes doesn’t require medication.


Staying alive

Be realistic and accept that some medical conditions require waste. Your health is paramount and modern medicine saves lives. Swallow your pride and remember that there comes a time in everyone’s life when the doctor says “Can I have some of your poo?” and you’ve just gotta ignore all the standards you’ve set for yourself and drop the kids off at the plastic pool.

Medical waste | Ain't no Planet B
Medical waste is a fact of life

A topic I’d love to hear more about is zero waste sickness. I’ve had great health since starting zero waste because I’m eating well, am looking after myself and am more mindful. But I don’t have a medical condition. So, what about the serious illnesses? What about the times when natural medicine can’t cure you? Sometimes medical plastics are unavoidable.

When my husband, James was 14 years old, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. For 16 years, he has manually injected himself with insulin and tested his blood. Every syringe and single-use blood test strip has been a saving grace that keeps him alive.

Today, he is relieved to have upgraded to a wearable insulin pump that automatically injects insulin and monitors his blood. James reckons he has become part robot and he loves the freedom that this tech has given him.

Insulin pump | Ain't no Planet B
Pump & applicator for insulin-dependent diabetes

He has two wearables: His insulin pump and a continual glucose meter. He needs to change the cannula and reservoir in his pump every 3 days. The glucose meter is changed every 6 days. The tech comes with a single purpose applicator to ensure a sterilised and safe application. Unfortunately, this system creates a lot more waste than the manual one. Down the track, there may be opportunities to find a system that produces less landfill. But sadly for now, some waste is essential. I’m just so grateful for modern medicine and to have the best treatment available for my best friend.

Standard amount of waste for insulin pump | Ain't no Planet B
Standard amount of waste for insulin pump

Favour recyclable packaging

Ask questions. Explore options. If given a choice by your doctor, take small steps to reduce the amount of single-use plastic required. Avoid blister packs. Favour bulk. Vitamins are often available in glass jars. Headache tablets can be sold in bulk plastic tubs.

Favour glass for medical waste | Ain't no Planet B
Favour recyclable packaging for medical waste

My husband was shocked by the amount of single-use plastic required for his insulin pump. He asked his doctor loads of questions and found that this pump can be topped up using the same syringe he’s familiar with (100% plastic) or a vial (glass / metal / rubber). Being inspired by zero waste, he’s opted for glass vials that have a metal and rubber lid and are packaged in paper. Using recyclable packaging makes no difference to his wellbeing, but it results in significantly less plastic coming into our home.

Refilling the old way | Ain't no Planet B
Refilling the old way

On a slightly less life-threatening note, I have had bouts of mild insomnia at various times in my life. It occasionally gets to the point where a pill is necessary. Rather than purchasing blister packs and plastic containers, I now favour a glass container with loose pills inside. It cures me of my temporary ailment and I now have a jar that I can reuse for toiletries.

If a fork in the road presents itself, and it has no impact on my wellbeing, I try to favour recyclable packaging.


Consider a drug-free remedy

If your doctor says it’s ok, consider not buying a product at all and opt for natural remedies, manual therapy or recovering at a steady pace.

Tension headaches | Ain't no Planet B
Ain’t no painkillers for my tension headaches

I can get tension headaches from sitting at a desk all day. Rather than taking a painkiller, I go to a manual therapist to solve the problem at its core: knotted shoulders and neck. It works a treat!

I have a special talent at getting food poisoning. It’s really quite remarkable just how many types of food I’ve been poisoned by: milk, bread, beans and prawns. Seafood poisoning was the worst. I thought I’d never recover. When I’ve tried to take a pill for my belly, it’s resulted in further discomfort. Despite my best efforts to speed up recovery, the best remedy for food poisoning has always been hydration, time and a delicate diet of rice, broth, bananas, salted bread and whatever vegetables my body is craving. This is a sickness that takes a great deal of patience and self-awareness.

Sickness varies from person to person, and I trust that the doctor knows what’s best for me. If I’m lucky enough to have the option, I’ll heal without medication.


Look after yourself

Get regular check ups from your doctor, dentist and therapist. Eat well, exercise, take a nap, do some stretches and listen to your mother.

Eat fresh foods | Ain't no Planet B
Understand how food can affect your health

I’ve had this book, “Foods that Harm. Foods that Heal.” all my life. I think it’s shaped me. It offers a reference for what to eat/avoid in certain health situations. My mum would refer to it when I had a sore tummy or a cold. I began to flick through the pages when I experienced the joys of puberty. Today, it’s a reference for a quicker recovery or supporting a change in lifestyle like reducing meat in my diet or increasing exercise. Even though some parts are a little outdated, I’m always learning something new.

I’ve also noticed that I’m stretching more and am mindful and realistic about when I’m run down, so I rest (I vaguely remember my mum telling me about this far out thing called “resting”). I don’t quite know how to explain it but I can see how zero waste is an enabler for good health.


How to be fully sick without feeling bad

Good health is paramount & it’s ok to create medical waste. Look after yourself. Ask questions, explore options, listen to your doctor and do whatever you need to be as healthy as can be.

Next: Let’s talk about sex, baby!


Experiencing red week without any waste at all

I learned to ignore my fears and try something new. I used a moon cup and experienced red week without any waste at all. I got to understand my body and listen to my cycle. I learned that disposables are not essential, in fact, they’re a little gross.


Try something new

Compromising current norms and suppressing anxiety may be required to try something new. It’s out of the comfort zone, but worth it if you feel motivated about reducing landfill.

I was mortified by the thought of leaving the cotton pony behind. Switching to a reusable product did not sound appealing at all. I had a good thing going on with tampons. The system worked. It was simple, clean and easy. It was socially acceptable. It’s a lovely gesture to give someone a tampon when they’re in need. We have a stash of pads and tampons at work that anyone can freely take. That’s girl power, right?

Given that this system worked perfectly well for me, there was only one motivation for trying something new: Reducing my landfill waste. I pictured all the used tampons and pads sitting at waste disposal centres around the world. I pictured rats and other scavengers mistaking them for food. I pictured someone sorting through that rubbish and casually uncovering one, like it’s no big deal because they see them ALL the time. I no longer wanted to contribute to this picture.


Switch to a moon cup

Moon cups are available at pharmacies, natural alternative stores and online. They take a bit of getting used too. Expect an adjustment period (ha, get it?), as well as a new sense of empowerment and independence.

The Diva Cup. I was terrified and confused when I took this photo.

When I first experienced one whole red week 100% landfill free, it was life changing. Using a moon cup felt like a huge milestone. The moon cup I have is a Diva Cup, but there are plenty of similar brands making these small and mighty solutions to landfill free periods. The only waste was the recyclable box that it came in – and that’s potentially it for one whole year. Mind blowing!

 

Something about this gave me a sense of empowerment. I learnt a lot about myself. Achieving the same level of comfort and ease took a couple of days of practise but once I got to that stage, I was really impressed by this product. Had I experienced leaks, I would also invest in period-proof underwear like SheThinx. This was not necessary. The cup alone is all I need.


How to bleed for one whole week without using disposables

Take a deep breath and try something new. Familiarise yourself with your body and your cycle. Consider using a moon cup and/or period proof underwear. Practice makes perfect.

Next: Go deeper with Zero Waste Sex


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.