Today is a special day for two reasons, first of all it’s one year since I decided to take my first step towards a zero waste lifestyle, also it concludes my first month using a jar to collect all of our landfill waste.
One year of Zero Waste
One year ago I was making my first DIY toothpaste and deodorant, and shyly posting about it on my personal account.
Right after posting the picture, in which I mentioned Lauren Singer, I saw that a couple of my friends had started following her on Instagram, this little thing made me realise that what we do has an actual impact on the world, and that we get to choose what kind of impact we want to have. It doesn’t matter if the impact we make seems small, like having a couple of people reading about the zero waste movement for the first time, or making someone switch to a reusable bottle, because I truly believe that every small change matters.
Take the example of the water bottle, maybe after posting a lot of things about plastic pollution, health risks connected with the use of plastic and the economical advantage of using and refilling your own water bottle, one of your friends will decide to make the change, what would this imply in numbers?
Let’s say that he used to buy one small water bottle (0,5 L) every working day, this means around 260 water bottles saved per year. What is the impact of 260 small water bottles?
Consider that it takes around 3 litres of water and 0,25 litres of oil to make a 1 litre bottle of water, if we include also the energy involved in the transportation, the total carbon footprint of 1 litre of bottled water is around 165,6g of CO2 (excluding the energy necessary to dispose it/recycle it).
So this means that not buying bottled water for one year saves around 260 L of water (considering only the water used in production), 32,5 litres of oil and a total of 21,528 kg of CO2, which is the amount of carbon emitted by a Fiat 500 to cover 116km.
While this might not sound like a lot compared to the total emissions of a country or even of an individual, it is a relatively high number considering that it is the effect of simply drinking a small water bottle a day.
Anyway, back to my zero waste anniversary! It has been a great year, I have learned to reduce not only my waste but the things I need in general, minimising a lot all of my possessions and needs.
This has left me with more free time, more money and it made me discover an amazing community in which to inspire and be inspired!
Honestly when I first started it seemed impossible to actually be Zero Waste, and while I’m not perfect and I’m always trying to do better, I can say that today my lifestyle has changed completely, it’s healthier, more natural, more minimal and more simple.
I have become able to easily identify which things are important for me, which are just superficial, and also what superficial things I like to have anyway.
I have also learned a lot about the impact that individuals have on the planet in the various ways in which they live their lives and what alternatives exist that might help mitigate this impact.
I am really happy to have started and stayed on this journey, to have convinced Giulio to get on board and to have had inspired some of my friends in changing some of their habits to be less wasteful.
The jar “experiment”
After almost one year I have started collecting our landfill waste in a jar too!But why didn’t I do it sooner?
The main reason is that I transitioned to a zero waste life pretty slowly, focusing on small targets other than trying to be as zero waste as possible from the first day. This was both to give me time to adapt and because it took me a while to find zero waste options in Rome and websites that sold plastic-free items in Europe.
Anyway, back to the jar, it includes all of the landfill waste that me and Giulio produced this month, it doesn’t include recyclables and compostable. Unfortunately we are not able to find all of the products we need without packaging in Cambridge so we still produce more waste than we would like to.
When we can’t find something without packaging we usually first look for plastic-free options, if there’s none (or if they are too expensive) we simply buy in big bags of 1kg, 5kg or 10kg depending on the good.
Our other main problem is that we don’t have a freezer this year, this makes it very complicated to prepare things in advance like pasta sauces, lentil burgers and so on, so we sometime have to buy some goods that we would have been able to made ourselves. The biggest problem is tomato sauce, since for now I don’t have the room or money to buy the equipment needed to can foods my initial plan was to prepare large amounts of tomato sauce and then freeze it. Unfortunately this wasn’t possible and so we just kept buying canned tomatoes in tin cans like we did before.
What’s in our jar?
Let’s get to the actual content of our jar!
Starting from the top left-hand corner:
- Plastic windows from two lasagna boxes that we bought months ago, we will not purchase them again as now have a pasta maker and can easily make them myself!
- A plastic wrapping from our reusable, stainless steel ear picks, this is a one-time purchase so we won’t have more in the next months
- Stickers from bags of food, spices, herbs and butter. We have now found a place where to buy bulk spices and we have switched to a butter with recyclable packaging so this pile should also decrease
- Produce stickers from fruit and vegetables, I now try to buy the ones without sticker as apparently most people tend to choose the ones with sticker
- 2 stickers from a burrito place we went to (unfortunately they can’t avoid them as they use them to write the content of the burrito so that the cashier knows the prices)
- Many many receipts, unfortunately many places don’t give the opportunity not to print it and we haven’t found any place that doesn’t use thermic paper yet
- A little bag of mixed materials from a Mac&Cheese we bought a couple of months ago (we now simply make it at home but we had to finish it)
- The three little white round things (I don’t know how they’re called haha) are from two bottles of Maple syrup and a bottle of milk (we usually drink oat milk but occasionally buy cow milk for some recipes)
- Two luggage stickers that I actually collected on December and January but I forgot to take off, and since we don’t have a trash can anymore they went into the jar
- Some tape from products or shipping packaging
- A plastic film that was around the top of another maple syrup bottle (we do like maple syrup haha)
- A label that we didn’t need anymore
- A plastic top that came with my Fountain Pen
- Some band-aids and the equivalent white paper on which they’re placed. Once we finish this pack of bandaids we would like to use some fabric, and see how we like it
It was very interesting to see not only how much landfill waste we produce but also what kinds, it helps us understand what to change in order to reduce it a little more.
We will definitely continue using the jar method at least for the next 11 months and then if we’ll need another jar we’ll start over!
What was tour first step towards a zero waste life? Did you slowly transition or did you jump all in? What are the areas in which you produce the most waste?
“Research on Carbon Footprint of bottled water” June 2012 Beverage Industry Environmental Table