ZERO WASTE FOR BEGINNERS

Transparent Glass Bottle filled with water
hand grabbing a light purple egg plant at a market stool

When Nina Altenburger aka The Minimalist Ninja introduced us to the concept of zero waste living it seemed strangely familiar. And of course it did because what we understand as zero waste living now was how everyone lived when we were kids.

It was the time when we were shopping seasonally before the big supermarket chains appeared with imported goods. When recycling and composting didn’t seem as anything special but simply an easier way to go around. When every glass jar was kept for grandmas jams and syrups to stock up for winter. It was before the emergence of the fast fashion and when vintage was simply called second hand. When waisting less was a necessity simply because we didn’t have more.

Of course many things have changed since then and many of them for the better but there is nostalgia attached to that way of living. Now it seems cool to have locally grown organic food which used to be called just food. It is cool to go shopping whilst bringing along your very-french-looking cotton net bag. Oh and, yes, dressing in vintage so that you wouldn’t bump into another person wearing the same thing.

We somehow have a perception that everything we throw out just disappears but we hope we all realise that the things we dispose don’t magically vanish.

According to research an average human generates 2 kg of waste per day. It doesn’t seem that much but when you multiply it for a year it is 730 kg of waste. Like a midsize car, which now seems as a much bigger deal.

We are sure not all of us will immediately go zero waste, although Nina makes it seem effortlessly easy. She is living her life on the fullest and has easily lived in some of the most inspiring cities in the world like London, New York, Berlin whilst traveling the world in the meantime. But seeing her actually made us look at the amounts of plastic and unnecessary things we use and consequently we have produced less waste than before. It happened by slightly adjusting our everyday habits. So we thought asking her for easy tips on how we can live a less wasteful life:

1. First and foremost say ‘NO’ to plastic bags. Always carry along a cotton shopping bag. They are very compact and will save the world tons of disposable bags. We personally carry cotton knitted shopping net. It just looks too cool with all the colourful fruits and veggies. Makes us feel a little bit like a young Jane Birkin.

2. Buy a reusable water bottle. We know it is important to stay hydrated but it is also important to not pollute our environment by buying countless plastic bottles. Did you knew that not all plastic can be recycled? Watch these documentaries to learn more, Bag It and Plastic Paradise.

3. Say no to take-away coffee cups. Less than 1% of the coffee-cups is recycled due to the plastic layer that needs to be removed from the paper. Either find a good friend or a book that is worth those 15 min of sitting down at a cafe or alternatively many cafes don’t mind to fill up your reusable coffee mug. Some like Starbucks even offer discount when bringing your own cup.

Iittala Taika Cup with coffee
yellow pumpkin on a scale

4. Bring along your own pre-prepared lunch and snacks instead of opting for take-away. Not only it is healthier but also cheaper. You can use sealable containers for lunch and cotton towels for sandwiches and bakery.

5. Take a step further and buy in bulk. You can bring your own reusable cotton string bags when going shopping and avoid supermarkets that over package their produce in layers of plastic. Opt for markets and local fruit and veggie shops. For one your cotton string bag will definitely be a conversation starter.

6. Say no to straws in drinks and buy a reusable one for your use at home.

7. Make your own beauty products. It is pretty easy and you will finally be certain of what goes in! Check our article on DIY beauty products.

8. Switch from kitchen towels to cloth towels. Get stainless steel or wooden utensils intead of plastic ones and always opt for glassware. For food storage big mason jars work best. For washing the dishes a thick piece of knitted cotton can be used to scrub pots and utensils in place of your standard plastic sponge. Always look for longer lasting alternatives.

9. Buy as little processed foods as possible and instead make easy healthy recipes yourself.

Net shopping bag filled with vegetables

10. Make it a habit to use a reusable hankerchief. It’s easy to clean, cheaper and not as nasty as you think.

11. Don’t forget your menstrual cup or reusable cloth pads. Not only are these alternatives more environmentaly friendly, they are also much safer and more affordable in the long term than conventional menstrual products.

12. Recycle and compost if possible. Do your own research how can it be done in your area.

13. Minimise your shopping habits. So many of things what we buy we don’t really need. You will live more clutter free life, save some money and help the environment. Win – win situation! Have you seen the Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.

14. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you try to minimise your waste. They usually are very supportive and help you anyway they can. Like when we buy flowers and tell that we don’t need the wrapping paper, girls at our local flower store simply love it.

Glass Jar filled with red lentils
reusable produce bag with figs on a red bench

Just by writing this article we feel like we have to step up our game even more. But remember, non of us are ideal and even if you are unable to do all of these points some of them will pop up in your head at the next purchase and if we all try just a little bit more the world will get lot more better.

For more useful advice for zero waste, vegan, minimalist living go to Nina’s youtube channel The Minimalist Ninja.


PHOTOGRAPHY: Madara Freimane  | ARTICLE: What’s Your Legacy

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