Time for a check-in about how my attempts to reduce waste went during my time in Stockholm. As I mentioned in my intro blog post, my 3-month stint in Sweden seemed like the perfect opportunity to test out this way of life. This grand experiment had a lot of challenges but also several triumphs.
Guests and traveling: Over the last few months, I have hosted several friends in Stockholm and have spent several weeks traveling I have found it to be particularly challenging to be a gracious host and avoid accumulating household waste. While my friends are well-aware that I have fanatical habits, I didn’t impose my stringent zero-waste rules on them, so I excluded the small amount of waste accumulated during these visits and trips from my 3-month total. While traveling, I tend to rely on a higher percentage of packaged foods (energy bars, nuts and fruits, chips etc). I didn’t carry these packages back home, thus underestimating my total waste generation.
Not enough naked produce: Other than my occasional excursions to the farmers market, I did find it challenging to find naked produce in the grocery store. Many products come in plastic wrap and I also use some frozen veg, which usually come in plastic bags. I have yet to find good veggie protein that is not packaged (most of the meat replacements, cheese, and tofu come in various forms of plastic containers).
Floss: I have read about using silk or natural floss but I’ll admit I am really hesitant to switch from my regular brand of floss. My teeth are the closely spaced type that like to destroy floss, so even though my weekly trash largely consists of a mittful of floss, I am not eager to test an alternative. Similarly, I take some meds and I don’t really have an option to demand they come in a reusable bottle rather than the blister packs that they currently come in.
Despite my failings, I have found this mindset – towards zero-waste – to be a positive one.I know I haven’t been perfect and definitely didn’t achieve zero-waste, but I have not doubt that I have reduced the amount of household waste I consumed and became much more vigilant about recycling and composting, including sneaking composting into other bins about town under the cover of darkness as my building didn’t have compost and biking my recyclables to work where I could properly sort my glass and plastics (after a training session on how to recycle like a Swedish person. Spoiler alert – the system is intense, precise, and probably another thing that Swedes are just better at). I think it is getting a little bit easier, as I have gotten more familiar with Stockholm, and I know a few grocery stores that have bulk sections or products that have zero waste.I found some great zero-waste products and have chosen the recyclable option whenever possible. Finding products that are “naked” or in recyclable packaging only remained a challenge, although I did find a few shops (including Paradiset) which had a decent selection of bulk foods. I think it is getting a little bit easier, as I have gotten more familiar with Stockholm, and I know a few grocery stores that have bulk sections or products that have zero waste. I even found a chocolate bar that comes in paper packaging AND has a socially conscious ethos (striving toward slave-free chocolate industry and drawing attention to the major issue of human rights abuses in the chocolate industry).
So, [drum roll] this is what 3 months of waste looked like!
A total of 0.6lbs/0.27kg and only a 1/2 bag! Not quite as sexy as the zero-wasters who fit their entire year of household waste into a glass jar, but a solid effort for this relative newb.
A few of my favourite zero-waste things:
- Homemade snack sacks! My darling sister crafted a series of snack sacks for my zero-waste trial, complete with water resistent lining and a variety of sizes and zipper/velcro closures. They are a constant companion.
- Bamboo toothbrushes! These guys have been great, and the handle is compostable. I can just pull out the bristles and throw it in the compost bin! They have worked really well and I am so pleased with their performance and durability.
- Homemade toothpaste. I riff off this recipe from Sweet Madeline, and I feel like my teeth have been squeaky clean.
- Homemade deodorant spray. I was using Weleda deodorant, but have refilled the glass spray bottle with my own concoction. Once I have found the perfect essential oil blend, I will share the recipe.
- Produce baggies & canvas bags. A few tweaks to what I carry around each day really helped – I always have a canvas bag and a mesh produce bag tucked into my purse, as there are many days that I would quickly pop by the shop on my way home.
- Microfiber cloths instead of cotton pads. This substitution was a resounding success and I highly recommend this approach for makeup removal! With a splash of coconut oil or micellar water, these cloths are marvelous and my skin is very happy.
Zero(ish) waste Plans:
Now that the challenge is over, I think a few things will change – for example, I am no longer collecting all my waste (partly because I share a flat with two other humans while in London and storing a bag of trash seems like an unnecessary step). But, I felt really good about trying to tread more lightly on the earth and find ways of aligning my consumption choices with this ideology. Thus, I hope to continue with trying to minimize the garbage I accumulate. Here are a few ways that I will try to maintain a zero-waste approach to life.
- Food stuff: I will continue to try to find as many naked produce items as possible. For the next couple weeks, I can take advantage of the local farmers’ markets before they close for the season. After that, I will continue getting the Abel & Cole organics fruit & veg boxes, which do a good job of minimizing non-organic packaging.
- Beauty products: I am constantly looking for ways to ensure my beauty products are as natural and low impact as possible. There are a few products I have been eyeing. I have been using the Mach 3 razor for years now – it has been durable and each blade has a long life. However, once I have finished up the blades, I have been eyeing this safety razor which in the long run seems like an economical and eco-friendly choice.
- Office supplies: I am a big fan of really good stationary supplies and I have switched over to a stainless steel Lamy fountain pen, which is both beautiful and lovely to write with. I still have a number of replacement cartridges, but my plan is to switch to the refillable ink cartridge once these have been used up. While I have a bit of a stockpile of highlighters to work though, I am eyeing highlighter pencils (either these or these) when I need to restock.
In sum, this has been a fun challenge, one that forced me to be aware of how everyday behaviours contribute to the mounds of trash in the world. I hope this zero(ish) , and one that I hope will continue to have an impact on how I make decisions moving forward. Because we can do so much better.