Zero waste week 2017: Our zero-waste survival kit

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It’s Zero Waste Week 2017, so Emmelie Brownlee shares the five things any waste-free winner will need to get started on their journey

It feels like zero waste is having a ‘moment’. From zero-waste supermarkets and the ‘No straw please’ campaign to London’s Borough Market phasing out plastic water bottles, our ‘take, make, waste’ culture seems to be slowly shifting.

Hurrah, I say – it’s about time. While reducing your waste to zero* is incredibly hard, we can make so many small lifestyle changes to get started on this path. And most of them save you money as well.

So, here’s what you need for zero waste week – and beyond:

1.A can-do attitude (not pictured)

This is probably the most important. While reducing waste can be easy, it does require you to change your mindset.

For example, instead of ‘wallet, keys, phone’, when you leave the house, it’s now going to be ‘wallet, keys, phone, coffee cup, reusable bag.’ But once you get into the habit of keeping these handy, I promise you won’t even notice.

2. An arsenal of reusable items

Namely, a canvas bag (or three), a coffee cup and a water bottle, food containers for leftovers and a lunch box. Look for items that are hardy, won’t leak and are made from eco-materials.

Yes it’s an up-front cost but with the carrier bag charge and many coffee shops giving discounts if you bring your own cup, you’ll make back your investments in no time.

And you never know when they’ll come in handy – my water bottle recently doubled up as a prosecco receptacle at a beach party. Without it, I would have been prosecco-less. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

3. A veg box or local greengrocer

Without fail, if I find myself with unnecessary packaging it’s because I have been to the supermarket. You can take your own reusable produce bags but, with most supermarket produce already wrapped, a greengrocer is a better bet.

One of the best decisions I’ve made in the last year is to get a local veg box – it’s much cheaper, delivered straight to my door with next to no packaging and challenges me to cook with the seasons. You can learn more about avoiding packaging with my colleague Matt’s blog on plastic-free July.

4. Eco-cleaning products

Confession: I have never used bleach or anti-bacterial spray to clean my house. Yet here I am, alive to tell the tale.

Yes, heavy duty disinfectants have their place, but they really aren’t needed in day-to-day life. In fact, the US has recently banned antibacterial products because manufacturers have failed to prove they were safe or more effective than normal products. 

I’ve found that there are plenty of eco-friendly products that do the trick, many of which come in recyclable packaging or, more preferably, can be refilled. And don’t forget about cheaper (but effective) alternatives like vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda. Check out these recipes, including an effective oven cleaner and drain unblocker.

5. Recipes for leftovers

Some of my favourite meals have been created with what’s left in the fridge at the end of the week, but sometimes inspiration is hard to come by. For these times, you need a standby resource of recipes for when you have exhausted all possibilities for your overabundance of onions or glut of gourds.

I have a couple of good recipe books, indexed by ingredients but the Zero waste chef has also saved me (and everyone around me) from being ‘hangry’.

What would you add to our zero waste survival kit? Share on Twitter or Facebook using #zerowasteweek.

*I’m using the One Planet Living definition of the zero waste principle: reducing consumption, reusing and recycling to achieve zero waste (to landfill) and zero pollution.

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