Tips on how you can start your zero waste journey.
Tips on how you can start your zero waste journey
There’s a popular saying by Anne-Marie Bonneau
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly. ”
Unfortunately in today’s society, it’s extremely hard to live zero waste. Plastic is everywhere. It can also be extremely time consuming and expensive to try to live entirely zero waste.
Zero waste is a goal to work towards and it may take years, you might never reach that goal, through no fault of your own, but that’s not to say that you can’t make a little difference to this world.
According to an impact assessment presented to the European Commission in 2018, the top ten plastic polluters in our oceans are:https://www.mywaste.ie/
DRINKS BOTTLES, CAPS AND LIDS
COTTON BUDS STICKS
CRISP PACKETS / SWEET WRAPPERS
CUTLERY, STRAWS AND STIRRERS
DRINKS CUPS AND CUP LIDS
BALLOONS AND BALLOON STICKS
FOOD CONTAINERS INCLUDING FAST FOOD PACKAGING
So what small steps can we as individuals take that will help make a difference?
1. Drink bottles, caps and lids
You can pick up a reusable water bottle almost everywhere now. There’s many different designs to suit everyones tastes and if you look after it, it’ll serve you for years.
They’re made to last and that’s the key to living zero waste or Minimal waste. Buying to last.
Reusable water bottles are relatively inexpensive and you can get various sizes including 250ml, 500ml and even 1 litre bottles. They’re great for on the go and if it’s insulated then you’ve got cold water on hand for 24 hours. Stainless Steel Bottle
2. Cigarette Butts
I’m not going to state the obvious here. Every smoker is acutely aware of the health risks of smoking, you don’t need a lecture. But did you know the environmental risks of smoking?
While cigarette butts fall second place in the table of SUP (Single use plastics) pollutants in our oceans, they’re the number one littered item on earth Source.
The butts of the cigarette are made up of a cotton like form of plastic called Cellulose Acetate.
Cellulose Acetate could take anywhere from 18 months to 10 years to decompose depending on the conditions the butt is left in.
But that isn’t the worst of it.
“Used cigarette butts are full of toxins, which can leach into waterways, potentially damaging living organisms that come into contact with them. Most filters are discarded with bits of tobacco still attached to them as well, further polluting our environment with nicotine, which is poisonous.” – Source
Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie on Unsplash
3. Cotton buds sticksCotton buds have so many uses! Let’s not diss the cotton bud, especially when it comes to make-up application. But unfortunately a lot of people seem to think that they’re perfectly ok to flush down the toilet. They’re not. Chances are they’re so small that they don’t get caught in waste water treatment systems so they can end up being discharged to streams and rivers and eventually end up being washed out to sea. Switch The Stick are running a great campaign to help get companies such as Johnsons and Johnsons to switch to paper stick production. They’re also working with the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencers to phase out the sale of plastic cotton buds and make the switch to paper because of this Marks and Spencers have now developed their own brand paper cotton buds which is a step in the right direction. Another alternative is bamboo cotton buds. They can be discarded in your home or commercial compost.
Pretty much every type of plastic made has the potential to be recycled if the facilities exist. As of September 2021 soft plastics can now be placed in your household recycling bin. They can also be recycled in any store that has segregated collection bins.
Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash
5. Sanitary Applications
Number 5 in the top 10 plastic polluters
As any woman can tell you, sanitary products certainly don’t come cheap.
But did you know that there are alternatives that are not only safer in terms of toxic shock syndrome but better for your pocket and the environment. ⠀
The menstrual cup is a wondrous invention and they’re now readily available from most pharmacies and even some Tesco stores.
Then there are Reusable Sanitary Pads. A great alternative to a Menstrual Cup or even used in conjunction with one for a bit of extra protection.
And new to us here at Youme are the reusable Period Underwear by WUKA
So what are the benefits of each?
Cloth Pads are perfect for using at any time during your cycle and they come in different sizes with different absorbency.
Made from Organic Cotton, they’re extremely comfortable, breathable, they don’t make you sweat and they wash really well. ⠀⠀
We’re stocking the Eco Femme brand mainly because we love the concept behind their Pad for Pad programme. ⠀⠀
When you buy Eco Femme pads you give an adolescent girl in India the opportunity to attend a workshop on menstrual health and the chance to choose washable cloth pads. ⠀
So not only are you helping the environment, you’re helping young women in India overcome the stigma surrounding periods!
It’s a win, win! #clothpadrevolution
WUKA Period Pants like our reusable cloth pads are again perfect for use at anytime during your cycle. They're moisture wicking and leave you feeling drier and fresher for longer.
We have both the Basics Hipster Version and the Ultimate High Waist Version in two different absorbencies.
They come in size XXS- 6XL so fit a range of body shapes and sizes!
Super practical and comfortable.
6. Plastic bags
Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash
Plastic bags have many uses, but once they reach the end of their lifespan there’s nowhere for them to go except in your general rubbish. Less than ideal, but it beats seeing them floating in the sea, right?
Since the levy for plastic bags came into effect in Ireland back in 2002, people opted instead to buy reusable bags for life. A better alternative, better for the pocket and most of them are made from recyclable materials and are fully recyclable.
Most supermarkets now have the facilities for you to return your broken or torn bags and they’ll handle the recycling for you.
However, single use produce bags are a huge environmental issue not just because of pollution but because of what they're made from.
Plastic bags are made from an ever available polymer known as polyethylene. The polymer starts out at ethylene commonly extracted from natural gases. - Sciencing.org
The drilling and extraction of natural gas from wells and its transportation in pipelines results in the leakage of methane, primary component of natural gas that is 34 times stronger than CO2 at trapping heat over a 100-year period and 86 times stronger over 20 years - ucsusa.org
So all in all, the constant manufacturing of single use plastics bags is not ideal
Photo by Sophia Marston on Unsplash
So what do you do?
Opt to buy the cotton bags in stores. Yes, the carbon footprint for producing a cotton bag is probably higher than producing twice the amount of plastic bags, but they last longer, they can be repaired if torn and at the end of their lifespan they can be thrown into your industrial compost bin.
We have a range of cotton shoppers and produce bags in stock that can be reused, washed and they’re 100% breathable so your fruit and veg won’t sweat. You can check out our full range here
7. Cutlery, straws and stirrers
The European Parliament has as of July 2021 banned the use of items such as straws, swabs, plates and cutlery!
Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash
This is a great step in the right right direction but if you’re someone that can’t live without a straw to drink their smoothie or cutlery to eat your street food then we have everything you need to survive without the single use plastics. Our travel utensil set is the perfect accompaniment when you’re out and about. The pouch is made form organic cotton and is 100% compostable at the end of its lifespan.
We also have a range of straws from Stainless Steel, Silicone, Glass and Edible in stock and they fit perfectly in our pouches for clean storage when in your bag.
8. Drinks cups and cup lids
22,000 coffee cups are disposed of in Ireland every hour.
That’s an astronomical amount. So what can we change?
Photo by Takahiro Sakamoto on Unsplash
Most cafes have started introducing compostable cups and lids which is great, but our country hasn’t provided the right means of disposing of these cups, so unless you take it home and throw it into your industrial compost bin, opting for a compostable cup isn’t necessarily the better option.
This article from living lightly in Ireland is a great read on why biodegradable and compostable plastics aren’t always the answer.
Like reusable water bottles, reusable coffee cups are readily available in a lot of stores. They come in a range of colour, designs and materials including stainless steel, plastic and glass.
The key to living zero waste is investing in something that will last. So if you have a travel mug/reusable cup gathering dust in the press then dust it off.
Refill.ie have a map of locations where you can refill your water bottle for free and the conscious cup campaign have a list of coffee shops around the country who are offering discounts for bringing your own cup. Money off and an easy conscience? What are you waiting for!
9. Balloons and balloon sticks
I’m a huge fan of balloons. They can really make a statement and there’s nothing better than seeing your kids face light up when they get their hands on one.
Photo by Shea Rouda on Unsplash
“Latex balloons are not plastic and are comprised of a natural rubber sap, which is biodegradable, minimal amounts of non-toxic coagulants and pigments. Natural Latex comes from Rubber Tree Plantations which are a renewable resource. Latex balloons are broken down by micro organisms in the soil, water and air over a period of approximately 1 year. and Foil balloons are made with Mylar nylon, often coated in a metallic finish, so whilst they aren’t bio-degradable, they can be deflated and reused again.” – Source balloonman.ie
So if you are planning on having balloons you can compost or even reuse latex balloons or deflate and reuse foil balloons for a later date.
Photo by Yucel Moran on Unsplash
Just don’t go releasing them into the air and the environment.
Photo by Brianna Santellan on Unsplash
10. Food containers including fast food packaging
While it’s not possible to completely cut out plastic containers especially with fruit and veg. A few options would be to buy loose and buy local.
Bring your own reusable containers to the butcher shop or fish monger. Stainless steel lunchboxes can be used for a variety of foods, they don’t stain or hold odours like plastic containers and they can be stored in the fridge and freezer.
They can be great for taking your leftovers home if you’re out in a restaurant and they’re also great for saving you money by not having to buy lunches when out and about. We have a variety of shapes and sizes in stock, you can check them out here
Sandwich wraps and reusable snack bags are also a great alternative.
Perfect for the lunchboxes, they come in many different patterns are washable and can be used as a place mat when out and about.
So if in doubt, start small.
Start by changing one thing, even if it’s a reusable water bottle, or a coffee cup, that’s one less coffee cup or bottle being manufactured and discarded.
There’s an estimated 7.7 Billion people on this planet and each and every one of us has the power to make some kind of impact, no matter how small.