Because it is not enough to be hopping over to another country for a few months whilst trying to power through some research for my PhD, I have decided to add another challenge to the mix.
Over a year ago, my sister threw down a challenge for me to try to live garbage free for a month. It has taken me a long time to ramp up to this particular challenge, and I when you share a house with flatmates, it is not something that is particularly easy to achieve, as a zero-waste lifestyle comes with some substitutions that may not be universally enjoyed.
But I realized that my 3-month stay in Stockholm would be the perfect experimental period to see how close I can get to a zero-waste life.
Thinking back to the 3Rs from elementary school, I have decided that my best approach is to reduce what I use wherever possible, but cutting out completely certain items that are unnecessary. Some of these are relatively simple steps. For example, I have developed a habit of buying sparkling water (because bubbly water feels so fancy!) but as it comes in plastic/glass, I am trying to transition back to the boring but totally fine tap version of hydration. In my dream life, I will have one of these uber fancy sparkling water taps. A girl’s gotta have goals! 😛
The next prong will be to reuse whatever I can. I won’t be packing with me a full set of glass jars for food storage, so particularly during my first few weeks, I plan to buy some things in glass jars (sauces etc) which I will be able to bring with me on my trips to the bulk food store.
I have made a few easy changes and substitutions to prepare for my trash-free trial, finding products that can be re-used. I have replaced my paper Aeropress filters with a new metal one. An added bonus was that all the packaging it came in was cardboard and fully recyclable.
I have also swapped out my cotton rounds that I use to remove my makeup with a DIY solution – cutting up a microfiber cloth to make washable squares. One inexpensive cleaning cloth made over two-weeks worth! (Note: when you cut up the cloth, you will probably get covered in little balls of loose fibers, but they don’t seem to fray beyond that, so I didn’t bother to sew up all the loose edges). And finally, recycle: There are some products that I will be buying, so whenever possible, I will opt for products that are recyclable (or come in recyclable packaging).
There are a couple of other products that I am really excited to switch to. I just found this brand of bamboo toothbrushes that come without plastic packaging. Apparently, when you are done with it, you can remove the bristles and COMPOST the bamboo handle!
In my earlier post on DIY beauty products, I mentioned that I have been making all my own body lotion, which has been wonderful. So, other than the plastic bag that my HUGE amount of beeswax came in, my lotion is now zero-waste. I have also started making my own toothpaste (a mixture of baking soda, a bit of coconut oil, peppermint oil, and water), which seemed sketchy at first, but my teeth feel squeaky clean and fresh and posts like this have reassured me that I am not destroying my teeth by making my own.
Things I will continue using, that I see no alternate for zero-waste:
- Dental floss (definitely not something I care to reuse or recycle)
- Prescription meds blister packs. My meds happen to come in a blister pack and I am not about to stop my meds. Most of the OTC drugs I use can be purchased in recyclable plastic bottles.
My ability to do this will be somewhat dependent on my ability to find a good bulk food store and place to buy produce that is not wrapped in packaging once I land in Stockholm. I am also not sure about if things like bread bags are recyclable in Sweden (If you know, let me know, as I think it might be a bit of a struggle to find gluten-free bakery items that don’t come in sealed plastic bags, as this is usually the way they are kept from being contaminated with allergy-attack-inducing wheat). I am excited to learn what else I can recycle or creatively re-purpose throughout the coming months.
Adding the zero-waste challenge to my ongoing shopping ban is going to make these next few months interesting, so I will keep you posted on how it goes!