Trying to live a zero waste life while simultaneously raising a family can feel almost impossible at times, but Anita Vandyke, bestselling author of A Zero Waste Life, is here to help.
A ZERO WASTE FAMILY
A Zero Waste Family is a gentle thirty-day guide highlighting the lessons Anita learned during her first year navigating motherhood, while also studying medicine and still trying to reduce her waste.
As parents we are constantly juggling the needs of children, work, chores and money. This book is not designed to add to the guilt that we already feel. It’s about showing how, by applying zero waste and minimalist principles, being an eco-parent doesn’t have to be difficult, and that by making small changes as a family we can make a big difference to our world for our children and future generations.
Anita has given us some easy, actionable ideas on how we can start reducing the waste in our households.
1. Aim for effort, not perfection
The first day of the thirty-day guide in A Zero Waste Family is accepting that we should aim for effort, not perfection. It is an acceptance that we are all trying our best. Let’s begin by loosening the grip on the ‘perfect’ way to live a zero-waste life and accept that by simply making an effort with everything that we do, adds up to a big cumulative difference.
2. Create a trash command station
In my home I have divided my rubbish into dry rubbish, which are sorted into three pedal-press, rubbish bins and wet rubbish, which are sorted into compost and bokashi (fermenting) containers. All these bins and containers are clearly labelled to ensure everyone knows where everything is going.
3. Learn how to recycle properly
Check with your local council what actually can be recycled. They usually have a one-page information sheet which you can tape onto the lid of your bin.
4. Don’t forget to recycle your soft plastics
Did you know any soft plastic that is scrunchable can be recycled?! Recycling bins are located outside major supermarkets. Keep a bin separate for this, so that you can take your soft plastics to be recycled on a regular basis.
5. Have a landfill bin
This bin is clearly labelled ‘landfill’ as a reminder to all household members that whatever rubbish they put in this bin ends up somewhere as landfill. Remember when we throw something ‘away’, there is no such thing as ‘away’, it ends up in landfill, contributing to methane gas which is a significant source of greenhouse gas.
Most of your wet rubbish can be composted. Create a compost bin in your home and educate yourself on what food scraps can be composted. You can also try other systems such as worm farms or a bokashi bin (which can ferment animal products as well).
7. Avoid plastic if you can
Plastic is made of petroleum and plastic is not actually recycled, but downcycled. This means it gets downcycled to poorer and poorer forms of plastic until it cannot be downcycled any further and sits in landfill, releasing methane into the atmosphere. Reducing our plastic waste can be done with a few simple switches:
- refuse single use plastic bags and bring your own, if you forget, try asking for a box instead (which you can responsibly recycle)
- try shopping at the farmer’s market and buying produce without packaging
- refuse straws, use your mouth instead! (or a stainless-steel straw if needed)
- say no to disposable coffee cups and replace it with a reusable coffee cup
- There are countless more plastic-free solutions, for more ideas check out @rocket_science
8. Make second-hand your first choice
Whenever you need to buy something, try to see if you can buy it second-hand first. Look at designer consignment stores, try eBay, get a tailor to alter your clothes – make a good effort to try to buy second-hand before buying new.
9. Make a zero-waste kit for your family
Make yourself a zero-waste kit and leave it by the front door with your shoes or in your car! My zero-waste kit includes:
- Reusable drink bottle
- Cloth bag
- Stainless steel straw
- Reusable coffee cup
10. Get outside
Finally, one simple, yet highly effective way to be an everyday activist is to head outdoors every day. When you are connected with nature, even if it is a simple walk in your local park, this allows you to see the beauty and grandness of nature. You come to appreciate nature is worth fighting for. We need to be everyday activists so that we are reminded that Earth is the only home we’ve got – there is no Planet B.
For more ideas for becoming a zero waste family follow Anita:
A Zero Waste Family by Anita Vandyke, published by Penguin Random House on 1 December 2020, $19.99.