Hetu zero waste shop in St Johns Hill, London
So it's a year since I made a new years resolution to go greener and to live more sustainably. So I thought it would be a good time to chat about it and what i've changed and learnt....
We're a society that loves newness, flashy and brand new. The most up to date brands and fast fashion that quickly gets thrown to the back of the wardrobe when the next best thing comes along. It's turned in to the norm to just throw things away without another thought instead of seeing if it can be repaired and repurposed first. Since my switch to living more sustainably. I've noticed how much we consumeeee as a society. Not only this, but we want ease and convenience with minimal effort to be made because of busy lifestyles. For example, disposable coffee cups... It shocks me to find out that majority of customers coming into my place of work think you can just throw dirty coffee cups into the recycling bin and that someone else will deal with it. Well firstly, its not general knowledge (apparently) that coffee cups can't actually be recycled in general recycling collections and secondly, they don't tend to take dirty or contaminated recyclables, instead they end up in landfill!!! So is it an 'out of sight outta mind' kinda thing where people don't care enough, or is it that there isn't enough information about what can actually be recycled and what can't? Even the compostable and biodegradable coffee cups need certain conditions to decompose so your best off getting a re-usable cup!
It baffled me to find out how little can actually be recycled from home. There's 7 main types of plastic and only 2 or 3 can guaranteed to be recycled from home by most councils, that's if they're actually clean enough. It was a bit of a mind field trying to find out what my local council would actually take and even crazier to see how many peoples recycling is contaminated with food waste and non recyclable plastics which will inevitably end up in landfill. Not only this, but I've started to question whether the recycling you put out with all the good will in the world is actually recycled properly. Once its taken by the rubbish collectors who knows where it ends up? Anyhoo….I came to the conclusion that the most sustainable thing for me to do was to lessen the waste I create completely, so recyclables too. I started to research low waste and sustainable/eco alternatives and started a little (huge) project.
I've started buying in bulk from zero waste supermarkets where you take jars, tubs and bags which you fill up and weigh what dry goods you need. This makes me really think about what I need rather than just buying excessively. I try, when I can, to buy my fresh produce locally from farms and markets not only is this more sustainable, as the veg will have travelled a smaller distance than most supermarkets, but it is helping small businesses to stay afloat and the fruit/veg actually taste REAL due to the reduced modification and pesticides (generally). I've also discovered an amazing company called OddBox. They stop perfectly good, locally grown surplus fruit and veg that are deemed as too 'ugly' for supermearks from going to waste by boxing it up (plastic free) and delivering it to your door over night. How great is that?!
When buying from supermarkets I will only buy products in glass,tin or cardboard very occasionally plastic bottles. This is because these are the easiest to recycle. Things like labels need to be removed beforehand and lids need to be removed from plastic bottles ( depending on your councils ). If yours's is like my council, they wont take plastic bottle lids- so I collect them up and take them to Lush who are amazing and recycle them in their green hub. Another little trick I've discovered is that if you take metal lids off drinks like glass and beer bottles and put them inside an empty tin can and squeeze it shut all of the content will be recycled. Generally small items made from recyclable materials wont get recycled as the machines cannot detect them!
With fashion and beauty I've really started to use up and cut down on what I'm buying. We've all been suckers from going on make up and beauty splurges buying things we don't need just to make us feel better. I've cut down to basic make up and found some great sites and brands that supply eco beauty swaps and refillable make up and perfume! When it comes to sustainable fashion its a bit trickier. The fashion industry is jusy not sustainable. I've always been a massive charity shopper so it's not been too hard. But for cheap fashionable clothing people will head to the high street store generally. I personally love finding hand made and ethical pieces from the lovelies ladies of Adorned. I've bought some great pieces of clothing from them and some beautiful handmade jewellery for friends and family, I would highly recommend!! I'm also a massive sucker for Beyond Retro, ever since I was about 16 I would love going in and fidning one-off vintage or handmade pieces! 90% of my wardrobe is made up of clothes I bought when I was in college I swear! I HATE throwing away clothes.
Then there's being more thrifty and eco-friendly within the home. This is the toughest cookie to crack! But I've found some great re-usable eco sponges and clothes on sites like Etsy and also Plastic Freedom , Anything But Plastic , Soap Daze and The Wild Tree perfect for sustainable gifting too! Basically you've just gotta think before you buy. But this switch has opened my mind massively to how much I used to waste on 'stuff' I didn't need and which didn't make me happy. Since stripping it all back I've been far more content and focusing on the things/people that important in my life and the experiences that bring me joy. It's been a bit of a journey really and I've managed to grab a couple of people a long the way with me! Small changes make such a difference and once you've made one change/swap you'll find yourself making more and more!
Start by keeping a re-usable shopping bag in your bag, getting yourself a reusable water bottle and only getting a coffee if you have a re-usable cup!