Zero Waste Wednesday #1 - What I Learned
Last Wednesday (3rd of June 2019) I did my first Zero Waste Wednesday challenge (rules outlined here).
I figured a quick review of how it went would be a good idea.
I'll divide this up into a few sections as there were a few distinct areas that were more challenging than others.
I thought food would be pretty easy.
On the Sunday before ZWW I prepped dinners and lunches for the week, as I do every week. I also don't eat breakfast or drink coffee so no issues there.
On the day, however, I had to go out for a work lunch. This meant I was faced with restaurant waste.
The restaurant we went to was a small sushi place that only supplied paper napkins so I had to not use that napkin.
Other than that there was no waste with the meal, provided that they buy soy sauce in bulk and the small jar of soy sauce on each table is refilled rather than replaced.
I also brought some nuts and raisins to work as a snack. I had them in a small plastic reusable container.
For me food is one of the easier things to prepare for ZWW because I always prep food anyway. However I can imagine for many people this would be a whole new way of operating and could be a lot more effort than you are used to.
I think this was the toughest area, and one I hadn't really thought about until I was faced with waste on the day.
Shower gel, shampoo, deodorant, moisturiser and tooth paste are all things that I only thought about the evening before ZWW in an 'Oh yeah, I need to de-waste those things. Shit!' moment.
I did manage to put most of these things in reusable containers and now I'm set up for the next few ZWWs.
This also got me thinking about alternatives to commercially bought toiletries. There are plenty of options for low waste all natural products, which I hadn't given much thought to before.
So this was really one of the more enlightening areas for me, in terms of changes I can make to further reduce my day to day waste production.
I was so preoccupied with setting myself up with food and toiletries for the day that I didn't think about some of the challenges I would face in the office.
For example, washing my hands after using the toilet.
I'm in a temporary office at the moment and the hand dryer is broken, meaning that the only option for hand drying was paper towels... I had to shake them dry and rub them on my jeans...
Then there was the water cooler. It uses a giant plastic jug so that was a no go.
Thankfully we had a reusable water filter that I could fill and put in the fridge. That filter would have to be replaced at some point in the future too - but I couldn't not drink water so I decided to just avoid the plastic and go with the filter.
One thing I had to forego altogether was the cup of green tea I usually have after lunch. The packaging and tea bags are compostable, but we don't have composting facilities in the office so that was off limits too.
Ok so there were of course moments throughout the day where I thought to myself "I'll make this one exception", but only one case where I really needed to do it.
There were no alternatives there, so I did produce some waste, but as far as I'm concerned it had to be done.
What does it all mean?
One thing I hadn't thought of before ZWW that turned out to be interesting (and a very compelling reason for everyone to try ZWW) is how intentional you have to be throughout the day.
I had to be constantly mindful of my actions, which was a pretty dramatic shift from my normal day to day.
The paper towels in the toilet for example. I usually just mindless consume them because they are there and my hands need drying. Now, however, I'm very aware of it and want to push to get the hand dryer fixed.
I also found that zero waste, as a lifestyle, would have huge benefits in many other areas of anyone's life.
First off, you will produce less waste, which is a contribution to the global good.
This results in a general reduction in materialism and a move towards minimalism, which has been shown to be good for one's mental health.
Physical health is also positively impacted.
In my opinion, prepping food is essential for living a healthy lifestyle in the modern world. There are simply too many instantly available unhealthy options out there.
Everywhere you turn you find highly processed, unhealthy and obscenely packaged convenience foods.
When you prep your food for ZWW a day in advance it's easier to go with something healthy than it is when you are making food choices in a moment of hunger.
How many times have you told yourself on a Sunday "This week I'm eating healthy and cutting out sugar!" only to succumb to convenience and taste by Monday evening?
On ZWW this is not an option. Even the office donuts are off limits because of the box they come in.
Living this lifestyle nudges you towards healthy eating.
The final benefit I'll mention here is that prepping for ZWW will set you up for a general reduction in waste production.
I now have reusable jars for everything and can go find lower waste options for pretty much everything I consume on a daily basis.
So while ZWW was a little more challenging than I thought, it was worth doing and I will definitely be doing it again tomorrow.