I was talking to a friend this week (yep, a real friend, in real life, sitting in my garden, enjoying a socially distanced cup of tea!) and we started talking about my Zero Waste journey.
He commented on how ‘mindful’ I was. That word stopped me in my tracks and made me consider that yes, Zero Waste DOES incorporate being mindful. The Cambridge dictionary describes mindful as ‘careful not to forget about something’ or ‘giving attention to’. Both of which are pretty accurate when you think about it.
One of my frequently-used phrases when talking to journalists is that your choices start long before you reach the checkout. You have to ask yourself what you will do with a product or the packaging when you have finished using it. That’s being mindful, right?
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the ways a Zero Waste lifestyle, is one of being mindful:
Be mindful of what waste you generate
When you know what waste you could generate in your activities, you can plan and be ready. You can reduce or refuse to create that waste. One of the first things we get participants of Zero Waste Week to do it take a waste audit, so you have a clear picture of the sort of waste you create. This is a good starting point in planning a more responsible way of living.
Bringing your own utensils like a spoon and fork or reusable drinking straw gives you the power to say NO to a disposable utensil when you order a takeaway.
The habit of bringing your own bag when you do your grocery shopping gives you the same power to say NO to a plastic bag.
Be mindful of what you throw away in the bathroom
According to 2019 figures from the government, the total weight of ‘waste from households’ in England was 22.1 million tonnes. But so many of these every day items that end up in our bins can either be recycled or we can we can find alternatives for.
It’s pretty straight forward to consider how we might reduce waste in the kitchen, but we generate waste in other rooms of our homes too. For example, in the bathroom, we might throw away cotton balls, cotton pads, sanitary pads, and tissues.
These are things that we have been using for years. Things that we deem important in living a hygienic life. But being aware that these make contribute to our weekly waste, we can start looking at options around us.
There are plenty of eco-friendly options available, such as washable and reusable personal care items like an alternative to single-use cotton pads, washable sanitary protection, reusable handkerchiefs and plastic free alternatives to shampoo, such as shampoo bars. We can make a conscious decision every time to not just make ourselves hygienic, but also create a clean environment around us.
Be mindful of what you or others might reuse
We, as humans, will generate waste no matter how mindful we are. The question is how much and what are we throwing away. We might be throwing away something that other people will find useful. Alternatively, we might find another use for something instead of throwing it away.
It only takes a little creativity to make treasures out of waste and you’ll find heaps of ideas on pinterest, YouTube and Instagram. And ideas vary from very basic, such as using the backs of letters to write your notes and shopping lists to using an old ice cream tub to store leftover food. You might do for practical reuse such as making old t-shirts into reusable shopping bags or more artistic – many artists will love your old snack wrappers or broken bits of plastic to create something amazing. If you carefully open your post each day, unwanted packaging can be offered on Freecycle. These changes in our habits are small steps in ensuring we minimise the waste that we throw away.
Be mindful of where your waste goes
One of my rallying cries is ‘There is no such place as away!’. Think about it, when you throw something ‘away’, ask yourself where it is going. ‘Away’ isn’t some magical place, it’s always somewhere else such as the bottom of the ocean (Sadly, there are currently tons of plastic garbage floating around in the ocean and washing up on our shores), an incinerator, a landfill site or in a hedgerow, potentially causing harm to wildlife. Minding where our waste goes (and reducing it as much as we can) will help keep our beaches clean and our aquatic resources protected for the next generation to appreciate.
Be mindful of the example you’re setting and the reason behind this
It became obvious when talking to my friend last week that I was inadvertently being a role model. And I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. On some Facebook groups, for example, I notice how people can get quite aggressive and judgemental about people who do not think or act like them.(Not on my Facebook group of course which you can join here!)
I’m quite the opposite. I just go about my day, making my decisions and if someone asks me about what I’m doing (I have been stopped in shops to ask why I have my own containers or asked by cashiers why I don’t want a plastic bag!), I tell them. Without judgement or trying to change them! When my daughter was a young child, our choices as parents, automatically becoming modelling which she picked up. Likewise how we respond with work colleagues or neighbours sends a message about how we are choosing to consume and deal with waste. Being a role model for your family and supporting each other in making these lifestyle change helps ripple positive changes out into the community at large.
What about you. How does being mindful influence your Zero Waste lifestyle?