Hello, my name is Liz, and this is where I share stories, ideas and practical tips about living Zero Waste in Sydney, Australia. I write about food waste, composting, foraging, upcycling, helpful resources and more, all through the low waste lens that’s become my habit.
Zero Waste in Sydney
I mainly write about life in my adopted hometown of Sydney, Australia. If you live in Sydney, or are passing through, here is a list of where to shop for unpackaged food. If you’d like me to speak at your event, please get in touch via the contact form and I’d be happy to discuss.
It was my deep appreciation for the ocean that led me toward the concept of Zero Waste.
I grew up in Canada’s Pacific Northwest, where nature is hard to ignore as a source of food, fun and spiritual restoration. My summers were spent unravelling the mysteries of tide pools, catching and eating the freshest Dungeness crab, and watching pods of orcas swim so close to our little boat you could’ve touched them.
While in university, I found a new reason to stick close to the shoreline: surfing. I learned to pop up in the cold, clean waters of Tofino, persisting in spite of a lack of natural ability, 5mm of neoprene and water so chilly it makes your brain freeze.
Through the surf community I discovered the Surfrider Foundation, got involved, and ended up chairing the Vancouver chapter for a time. There I was exposed to the issue of marine plastic debris. Our Rise Above Plastics program revolved around community education and monthly beach cleanups, but this soon didn’t go far enough for me on a personal level.
Travels to far flung places, and exotic beaches, where single use plastic plagued the landscape, made me all the more motivated to do better. But what? I’d already shunned takeaway coffee cups, bottled water, and single use grocery bags. I knew I needed to do more.
It was around this time that I watched a documentary made two fellow Vancouverites, called The Clean Bin Project. I found the philosophy (or practice) of Zero Waste to be a proactive way to temper my growing unease about my own contribution to the problem. Rather than sticking to an incremental approach, Grant and Jen had flipped the narrative, making zero the default. They also made it look doable.
Investigating a Zero Waste approach to life was a natural next step, but not an overnight transition. I sought out refill options around the city, became adept at making my own house cleaners and personal care, devoured books about the circular economy and persisted with my efforts to compost in a small apartment with no outdoor space. Gradually, most of my landfill waste became avoidable or divertable, and living low waste has become second nature. Living this way has helped save me money, slow my consumption, and find joy in simple stuff.
I’m under no illusions that Zero Waste is the solution to everything. It is, however, a way to take personal responsibility for the shocking amount of materials we each send to landfill. Per capita waste is increasing at a faster rate than population growth.
‘I’ll just do this once’, said 7 billion people.
Beyond acting as a yardstick for our personal waste footprint, a Zero Waste approach a way to open our eyes to systemic waste. Navigating life without mountains of waste should be the default, not the exception, nor some niche habit. Nor an aesthetic, while we’re on the topic. When we become waste experts in our home, we’re equipped to bring this knowledge into our workplaces and social circles.
What we throw away says a lot about what we value.
Zero Waste is about valuing resources more, not less.
When we slow down our rate of tossing things away, it necessarily forces us to stop bringing in more stuff, which provides an opportunity to find value in what we already have, including things, but also people, experiences, and time.
Living Zero Waste is a life pursuit, not a short term challenge, so I don’t operate under a specific set of rules, nor do a keep a trash jar for public consumption. There is no one way to be Zero Waste except to constantly question the concept of ‘waste’.
I’m sharing my stories with you in case they can help, inspire or provoke. I’m absolutely fascinated by waste and human behaviour. If you are too, happy reading and thanks for stopping by.