Yes yes, we know. We throw out too much stuff and don’t recycle enough. I know we have heard these messages 10 ways till Sunday, but I still enjoy it when someone presents this information in a clever, compelling way. London recycles released some startling statistics about how much waste is produced in this country’s capital.
Each year, the average person in London produces 438.8kg of household waste, which is the equivalent of the weight of two grizzly bears!
I like to imagine the sleuth of rubbish bears that would be following each Londoner around, representing their grizzly garbage habit. I am in my 3rd year of London life, which means I have hypothetically created nearly 6 bears of garbage! That is astonishing?
But how can we address these hordes of garbage bears? Amazingly, tiny actions add up.
If each person recycled just 2 more glass jars, 20,000 tonnes of glass would be saved, which is the equivalent of the weight of the glass covering the shard!
So how have the last few months of my zero(ish) waste life been going?
I have found a place to refill my dish soap/washing up liquid (Planet Organic in Muswell Hill).I have also finally found a conveniently located tea shop where I can re-fill my tins with loose leaf tea.
I had previously blogged about replacing toilet paper at home, and I am so pleased with how easy of a shift it is. It is one of my favourite zero-waste swaps.
I have been travelling a lot in the past 6 months, and one of the major plastic-generating areas is drinking water, particularly in countries where tap water isn’t potable (or where my sensitive insides get enraged with the lower water quality). Right before going to Malaysia, I decided to purchase a Life Straw. The Life Straw was originally designed for disaster zones where drinking water has been contaminated. It filters out bacteria and protozoa (although not viruses). While the ads say you can drink out of a puddle or your own urine etc, I have been primarily been filling a bottle or cup with tap water, and drinking through the straw. This one simple purchase probably saved me dozens of water bottles while in Malaysia and then again during my recent travels in Guatemala.
Zero-waste struggles: My existential glitter crisis.
The glitter bomb.
I gotta say, I am a big fan of everything sparkles and glitter, so realizing that glitter basically = ocean-destroying plastic microbeads, I was devastated. In addition to all the glittery craft projects, I realized that there was secret microplastics hiding in my eye shadow (a seemingly innocent whim purchase of H&M glittery eye shadow containing polyethylene and some other questionable ingredients).
So what do you do when you find microplastic lurking in your house? I turned to the internet for advice. There seems to be some organizations that will use them in educational kits if you ship microplastic products to them. Others recommend sending them back to the manufacturer. The next “best” thing is the close the container tightly and throw them out, as they are unlikely to escape the landfill into the environment. This sounds counter-intuitive, as much of my zero-waste efforts have been using up products that might not be perfectly packaged, but realizing that throwing them away would just create more waste. That is not the case for microbeads, because as soon as they wash down the drain and get into the environment, they can begin their havoc.
In more uplifting news, you don’t need to resign yourself to a dull existence!
The alternative to plastic has usually been mica (basically the shiny rocks ground up into a powder), but there is also concern about the mica industry. It has come under criticism in terms of labour practices including the use of use of child labour and low health and safety standards. [Sidebar: don’t you find sometimes that as soon as you start to pull the thread of trying to understand the impact of your consumer choices, the it gets more and more complicated?!]. Some companies using mica have pledged to source materials only from “child safe” villages (although a dose of skepticism may be required about whether this is getting at the root issues), while other companies, like Lush, have turned to the use of synthetic mica. Whew. Turns out glitter is a really complex issue!
Lots of glitter = plastic (boo), but
There are alternatives! (yay). However,
Some of those natural alternatives (mica) may not be produced ethically (boo), but
Some companies are working on finding ways for us to continue to sparkle without destroying the earth (yay!)
Future zero-waste & plastic-free goals.
For 2018, I have issued a moratorium on lipstick buying. I have a sizable collection, each in little plastic tubes. All of which I love, but I think even if I wore lipstick every day this year, I might not run out. As I work through my backlog of lipstick, I will be on the hunt for a brand of natural lipsticks that comes in plastic free packaging (my dreamy ideal would be a metal tube that is refillable!). If you know of such a product, give me a shout!
I know there are some other lifestyle tweaks that I can make to stop breeding so many rubbish grizzlies, and I am sure I will have lots of fun trying to find ways to be a better zero-waste warrior in 2018. Comment if you have any zero-waste challenges you want me to take on!