Recently, I had a conversation with a few women about the zero waste lifestyle. The consensus to which we came was that as wonderful as it is to go zero waste, it can be overwhelming, so it is best to start with a few things that are easy to change and then create momentum from there. I also think awareness is key.
I am by no means a super environmentalist. There are things I cannot or don’t want to change right now. Nevertheless I am already implementing a few things:
- Non-plastic straws: I juice every day and I love to prepare smoothies, which I both drink through straws, so it was a natural consequence to finally get glass straws. I also have metal straws, but I reserve those for traveling. My glass straws are in use daily and actually it always gives me a luxurious feeling to sip my juice through one of them. Which as I think about it is so the opposite of what I often connect with being environmentally friendly: sacrifice and lack of comfort.
- Beeswax wrappers: I was interested in them for a while and finally last November I had the opportunity to have a friend show me how crazily easy and fun they are to DIY. I loved that I was able to choose from a variety of fabrics and to color coordinate them that way. It immediately made them more my own. I enjoy them each time I use them. Again joy vs. lack.
- Glass containers: I have purchased a pile of the usual plastic containers over the years. A while back in a bout of simplifying I selected only the ones I was really using and that were versatile. At the same time I was thinking about getting glass containers. A simple idea came in the form of marmalade glasses: I started washing and de-labeling some of the glasses and lids I gathered. I made sure to only use glasses with the same lid size. That makes it super easy to match the lids to the glasses: any one goes! I store butter and left overs and pickled things etc. I use them to carry snacks with me. They are super practical, inexpensive and easy to clean and I’m always happy when I find a new shape of glass with my standard lid size: a new one for my collection. Again, joy and feeding my sense for practicality.
- Recycling: Recycling has a long tradition in my life, my mom taught me early on. Yet it was only recently that I started to collect the plastic separately and then bring it to a collection point near by. It makes me happy to go take the plastic away and at the same time it makes me sad to see how much plastic we all accumulate. The public bin is so often overflowing! It increases my awareness though, and I am getting more conscious about all the things we wrap and box in plastic – even produce! This makes me shake the head especially when it’s organic produce.
- Reusable grocery bags: I carry one in my backpack at all times in case I buy something outside my planned shopping trips. Those are always accompanied by a selection of bags. I also use them for doing the laundry in the basement, and for other household taks. It is such a no-brainer habit for me. When I do end up without one at a store I feel conscious about it and I try to at least get a paper bag instead of the plastic ones. I also love that here in Germany they are ditching the small plastic bags they used to give out for free at the drug stores. In fact there is one store chain that switched to fabric bags instead, for which you pay € 2,00. That’s quite pricey, but the genius behind is it’s actually just a deposit fee as you can return the bag any time and get your money back!
- Bottles and mugs: I have a selection of different sized water bottles and one mug in case I want tea on the go. Also a no-brainer, and in fact you will hardly see me without one outside my house.
Three things I want to try or use more often:
- Reusable bags for produce: I mostly shop without a car, so I like my produce in bags in order for them to not tumble through my bags while I carry them home. Recently some stores started selling reusable non-plastic bags that can be used instead. Because they are lightweight they don’t make you spend more when shopping fruits and veggies that need to be weighed at the cash desk. I will definitely get some, I’ll look for them next time I go grocery shopping!
- ReplacePlastic App: There is an association here in Germany called “Küste gegen Plastik” “Shore vs. plastic” that has created the app “ReplacePlastic”. With this app you can report products with too much plastic packaging by simply scanning the bar code. Once 20 different people have reported about the same product the association sends out an email to the manufacturer. 5000 such emails have already been sent until the beginning of this year. One manufacturer has even responded in wanting to forego plastic in his packaging! I just tried it and it’s mind-blowingly quick. Isn’t it great how easy it can be to create change if we do it together?
- Zero waste stores: There are two of those here in Munich. To go there on a weekly basis doesn’t make sense to me because of their location. But I would love to go there, shop some and get some inspiration. Also there are some grocery stores that let you bring your own containers to be filled with cold cuts and meats at the deli counter. Definitely something I’ll look into, too!
As I was writing out the list of things I am already doing I was surprised how much joy it gives me to go environmentally friendly, not only because it is saving the planet one step at the time, but because it gives me joy to use high quality products and to be more congruent with my level of awareness, and saving the planet without feeling deprived is fuelling my desire to find evermore ways to do so!