Recently we were interviewed by “The New Indian Express” newspaper about reducing our waste and going for a zero-waste lifestyle. You can read the newspaper clipping here
A dear friend suggested that I write a blog post on how we are trying to achieve this and that’s how this article came to be.
Zero-waste lifestyle is all about reducing waste and more importantly as much of the plastic waste that you can and using eco-friendly products that are safe for our environment and safe for us too. More than calling it zero-waste, I would like to call it eco-friendly lifestyle.
It was not something that started out as an agenda for us. It had always been more or less that way even before we had terms like zero-waste. If you see, culturally we are a nation which had always used stainless steel dabbas for packing lunch and cloth bags for shopping. We believed in reusing things till they lasted. But somewhere along the way we all fell for convenience coupled with cheaper alternatives in the form of plastics and thus a use and throw culture was born to wreak havoc. And thereby started our downfall…
Zero-waste is not something that can be achieved all at once, rather it is taking small steps towards consciously reducing our waste in our day to day life. Our aim should be reducing the waste we generate and start noticing the trends we have picked up along the way. Notice how and where do we inevitably bring in plastic waste from and try to address that by finding alternatives.
The toughest part is to source those alternatives, because it’s not easily accessible. All that our convenience marts and supermarkets stock are, yes you guessed it, “the cheap and attractive made of plastic” range of goods for us. And it is always difficult in our busy daily schedule to go all the way to find alternative sources and that’s how this vicious cycle keeps feeding itself without an end at sight.
In our case, we slowly incorporated small changes into our lifestyle, researched and sourced alternatives to most things we could and we are still striving to keep going in the right direction finding ways and means to reduce our waste further. To bring in more success in our endeavour we did a “home audit for plastics” and listed ways in which we were getting plastics into our house. This helped us in proactively finding the alternatives for those items and thus made us conscious about not bringing in any more unnecessary plastic.
Here are a few things our family is able to do consistently towards reducing waste.
- We segregate waste and thus biodegradable waste goes for composting and recyclable waste goes for recycling.
- We always take cloth/jute bags of shopping. We keep a couple of cloth/jute bag in our car which comes in handy when we shop.
- We always pack lunch and snacks in stainless steel boxes to school and office.
- Also we never forget to carry filled water bottles whenever we go out. This way it becomes easy to avoid buying water bottles outside.
- We have also switched to stainless steel straws which we carry along with us when we go out, this way we don’t use any use and throw plastic straws at restaurants or road-side tender coconut vendors.
- We have recently switched to bamboo toothbrushes for our family; though it is more expensive than its plastic counter-parts, we hope to see how this works out for us in the long run.
- We only use cotton hand-kerchiefs instead of one time use tissues.
- We never waste food at home. Even in restaurants if we end up ordering some excess food, we get it packed and give it to someone in need on our way back.
- I make my own homemade soaps. I have always been apprehensive of the chemicals that are used in soaps and cosmetics. Soaps being something we use every single day, I really wanted to stop buying store bought ones.
Skin is the largest organ in our body. And it absorbs whatever is provided. The ingredients in store bought soaps are a concoction of incomprehensible chemicals that would scare the wits out of anyone.
My kids and family’s health was my reason for choosing and making homemade soaps with all natural ingredients.
- As it happens, once I started making my own soaps, I couldn’t stop there. I started experimenting with homemade cleaners too. Eco-friendly plant-based alternatives for dishwashing detergent, laundry detergent and surface cleaners.
- Of course it doesn’t stop there and I attempt at preparing my own tooth powder – a concoction of all that is good for healthy teeth and gums. I am pretty sure, I won’t stop here…it’s an on-going journey of new discoveries and experiments and I am one excited learner. It’s never too late to start living the way we want and we are never too old to learn something new.
- We recently adopted the Nature cure way of life and have cut out packaged ready-made food /snacks/biscuits etc almost entirely. I am saying “almost entirely” even though we don’t buy these items, is because I believe that we are living in a world surrounded by these things and as much as we want to cut them out of our lives for the sake of our children’s health and well-being, it’s going to be a constant challenge. I believe that we can’t really keep our kids out of these things as we are aware of the temptations around them. I want my kids to try and taste things which they feel tempted to, so they don’t feel left out. I want them to make a sound decision when it comes to food choices. And it’s a wonderful thing that both my kids are aware of the things that are put in these ready-made food items and willingly make healthy food choices for themselves. They happily incorporate a large portion of their meal with vegetables and fresh fruits every day. At rare occasions when they do eat some unhealthy stuff, I take heart in the fact the majority of their food is still pretty healthy.
- My kids love bread, and as the frequency of store-bought bread consumption started increasing, I started worrying. Looking at the ingredients on the cover made me panic every single time. If you need to know more about it, just type “scary ingredients in bread” and you can find out.
But during all those panic attacks the only thought running in my head was that bread is not something that one can make at home easily. I have heard that it is a very complicated long-drawn process to make one. But I was wrong! Since then I have started using “a bread maker” and all my problems are solved. There are a lot of misconceptions on Bread-making machines and how they up to no good. But I took a leap of faith and went ahead and bought it. And since then, there is no turning back…No more store-bought bread for us.
I started baking bread at home and guess what else followed? Yes, jams too. Homemade bread and jam. Not only is the aroma heavenly, it tastes heavenly too minus the excess sugar. Though the shelf life is much shorter (but of course!) we can eat it without an iota of doubt with all the wholesome goodness we put in.
- As a family, we love to cook. My kids are a very big part of the cooking process, especially when it comes to gourmet food.
At home I don’t use ready-to-use stuff for cooking. I make my own chutneys and spice mixes. Whether it is our everyday dosa/idli batter or the master-chefy marinara sauce, béchamel sauce, pizza dough, cakes, lasagne, pancakes, Quesadillas or everything else, it’s all made from scratch. I believe that cooking from scratch is a wonderful way towards being eco-friendly as we cut down on lots of pre-packaged buys.
It helps that we cook as a family most of the times.
- As you see food safety is an issue very close to my heart. And therefore I switched to organic about four years back. Grains and pulses come from my in-laws agricultural land and things we don’t grow we buy from trustworthy organic sources.
- We switched to organic milk too as that’s another scary topic for me and don’t even want to go into the details of what’s in our packaged milk.
- Very importantly we try to always source things locally from farmers market and known retailers and try to support small-scale businesses. We also try our best to go to independent salons and grocers rather than multi-national chains. Again a small effort to support local businesses…
- While we are discussing local and organic stuff, I would like to place emphasis on buying native heirloom varieties of produce rather than hybrid and GMOs. That’s another whole different ball game being played out by the giants in the food business.
We have a small farm where we are in the process of planting native fruit trees and vegetable crops. It is a small effort to create a small bio-diverse space with all the elements of nature at its best.
I guess all these contribute towards our zero-waste (no…let me rephrase) reduced-waste lifestyle. It’s an on-going process of unlearning a lot of things for us.
I believe zero-waste is not just a fad rather a way of life; that is how it was, not so long ago, and I am sure we can go back to our healthy ways if we could just make small changes in our lifestyle.
It’s not complicated at all. It’s not all or nothing either. Just small baby steps towards reducing waste in our own possible ways can help us go a long way in tackling the plastic menace and other environmental issues.
Here’s looking forward to a plastic free, pollution free future.