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May 9, 2016

The New Normal: Zero Waste

by Julieta Lucca

Unlike Kale and Mom Jeans, some new trends are here to stay.

I’ve always resented the fact that the education system is immensely flawed, in the sense that you grow up and you are thrown into the world with a couple of silly literature books under your belt and B- in friggin algebra (no offense). I was never into Science nor Maths but I grew up with this unnerving and soul clenching feeling that I was not capable of other things because of that.

Here we are years later and I know nothing about mortgages and how to properly budget or why our consumerist lives are killing the planet and how we could be the change.

When it comes to waste, I’ve become incredibly aware of how much trash I single-handedly produce, and this is thanks to many activists around the world who are raising awareness about something so belittled as trash.

Every year, households in the UK throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drinks which contribute to the 100 million tonnes of food that are thrown away altogether by countries in the European Union alone.

Most of the foods that are thrown away are fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as salad, bread and cakes. These items add up to 40% of our total household waste.

33% of all food produced is wasted [*]

Image © Adobe Stock


Waste doesn’t just include perfectly good fruit and vegetables but also general waste like plastics, papers and other packaging. On a regular grocery shopping day, how much packaging do you throw away after unpacking everything?

Have a look and you will see that most fruits and vegetables come wrapped in not one but oftentimes two plastic bags. All this trash goes to landfills where its lifespan doesn’t end but goes on until after we die. Just to give you an idea it takes around 450 years for one single plastic bottle to biodegrade. In many cases a lot of these plastics end up in our oceans not only causing pollution but damaging the ocean’s ecosystem and sometimes even killing the fauna.

It’s easy to read this and feel bad about it but take a second and try to grasp how immense the problem is. Even if you thought that changing certain aspects of your lifestyle wouldn’t make a change, it actually really would.

You may or may not have heard about the Zero Waste lifestyle and how it works. Yes, a lifestyle change can seem daunting at first and it can look like you are investing copious amounts of money, however, no big deed has ever been achieved in one day. Transitioning into a less wasteful lifestyle is about adapting and creating new habits.

For tips and advice, I met up with Kate Arnell, the girl behind eco boost blog and YouTube channel.


Perhaps what I love the most about your channel, Eco-Boost, is how relatable you make the whole subject! When did you realise you wanted to lead a zero waste lifestyle?

I had seen an article in a London newspaper about a family in California who produced hardly any trash and it caught my eye. I then went to Richmond for the day about a month later and stumbled upon the book Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson in a charity shop. I read it within a few days and I instantly felt like it made sense to me. It awakened my inner eco-geek and gave me confidence to do things in a way that I felt more comfortable with (taking my own packaging to stores, avoiding chemical laden beauty and cleaning products, saying ‘no’ to freebies etc). There is something about living my values to the best of my ability that makes be extremely happy. I believe our food should be without toxic chemicals, as nature intended and without excessive, pollutive packaging and a zero waste lifestyle gives me the confidence to put that into practice.

Hopefully excessive packaging has now reach its peak with plastic bags being charged for at supermarkets. But in terms of your journey, what was the most difficult part of the transition and how did you cope with it?

It can be a little overwhelming at first. I remember going to my usual super market and asking the deli counter to put something in my jar and they refused to do it for “health and safety”. It’s ridiculous. Not a great start, right? So it became my mission to find places that would allow me to shop in the way I wanted to and still buy good quality, organic food. I now mostly shop at farm shops or farmers markets or smaller, local shops, which for me, is a bonus. It means I’m also supporting local produce and people and can find out easily where my food has come from. Ask a big supermarket and the guy behind the checkout won’t know if your free range beef was grass-fed or raised on a diet of GMO corn feed.

It was a trial and error time at the beginning but I now know exactly where I can buy most things near me and accept that there are some items that, for now, I have to buy packaged. It’s nice seeing that our weekly trash bag has gone from 2 large bin liners full to about a quarter of a bin liner. It’s mostly food scraps too.

I love the idea that you are actually supporting local shops while doing good for the world. What are some misconceptions about being zero waste you have come across?

That it’s an extreme lifestyle, time consuming and minimalist. It’s not really. It just takes a little getting used to at the beginning, training yourself to think about the end life of a product before you buy it and asking do you really need/want something. It has definitely made me more organised, which is only a good thing as I’m quite a last minute person in general. I now think ahead to what we will be eating in the week and plan what I need to get and which stainless steel tins and cloth bags I need to bring with me.

I think some people think it’s all about recycling more too which actually uses up a lot of resources during the process and often many things, such as plastics are actually down-cycled. Better to avoid something in plastic to begin with, lessening the demand for it.

What advice would you give to people who are currently transitioning into a zero waste lifestyle?

Be kind to yourself and do what you can. Nobody will be completely zero waste and it depends on the resources you have around you and your lifestyle. I think the best thing is to be conscious of your choices and educate yourself. Ask questions –  What can you do with it at the end of its life? Is there a more environmentally kind alternative? Could I buy this second hand? Is it reparable? What is the majority of my trash made up of? Do I really need this? And then adjust what you can, where possible.

Also, remember what works for one person might not work someone else. I tried making my own mascara and it REALLY didn’t work for me. I love the Mooncup (a menstrual cup) but I have met people who have found it isn’t for them. We’re all different. And that’s cool.

I personally found that by investing in a few reusable items made the whole process a lot easier. For example, I invested in a beautiful stainless steel, reusable water bottle without plastic that I feel proud to take out with me. Same with my reusable coffee cup. I cook a lot from scratch and recently bought some knives that are made ethically, have beautiful wooden handles and are designed to last. I now look forward to using them to prep food which means I cook more from scratch. These items make it all a lot easier and fun too!

Oh and remember the five Rs...

Refuse. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Rot (in that order!)


For more tips and tricks, visit Eco Boost on the links below:

YouTube: youtube.com/EcoBoost
Instagram: @EcoBoostBlog
Twitter: @EcoBoostBlog
Facebook: facebook.com/EcoBoostBlog

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