Creativity is merely resourcefulness amidst constraints.
Limitations then, are a way to practice creativity. Creativity is a muscle. So being faced with limitations can improve your life by showing you ways and methods you would otherwise not have considered.
How can I use all of these tomatoes from my garden?
What could I do with this old tee shirt?
What other uses might this empty glass jar have?
What else could I cook while the oven is up to temperature?
What are some groups that might be interested in taking my food scraps?
How long could I go without buying anything new?
What are some recipes for plant-based meals so tasty I won’t be asked, ‘where’s the meat?’
How little household waste can I produce and still live a fun and productive life?
What are your constraints? How are you deciding to being resourceful?
Is a fear of failure stopping you from adopting a Zero Waste lifestyle? The solution could be to think of Zero Waste as a daily practice rather than an outcome.
Why start a practice? To improve. To develop a good habit.
And yet many of us will not start something out of an irrational fear of not being good at it – even if we’ve never tried before and should have no reason to believe we have a special talent for it. Known by another name as Fear of Failure.
Only in the last few years have I embraced the idea of failing as a tool for learning. I wasn’t in a growth mindset before, so I would rarely attempt something unless the outcome seemed achievable.
I’m a little kinder on myself now. I liken my Zero Waste practice to yoga. Nobody should expect to do a handstand on their first day (or maybe ever). I have never done a handstand during my yoga practice, and I have never produced no waste during my Zero Waste practice.
It’s not the handstand that is the most important anyway, it’s all the actions, intentions, and reflection that lead to one, and that make the inversion physically and mentally possible – it’s the practice.
Everyday actions to reduce waste are the asanas of a Zero Waste practice.
The cumulative effect of these asanas is that I’m better able to reflect, respond and react in more productive ways to the challenges of living in a wasteful world. It helps avoid impulse purchases. It also reduces my waste hugely, even if not to a complete zero.
More important than the optics is for me to get better at graciously refusing things I don’t want or need, or offer only marginal benefits, plus anything with too much or un-recyclable packaging. I get better by practising what I believe. I aspire to be satisfied with the things I already have more than I am enticed by those things I don’t. The only way to do this is to turn belief into an action.
If you find an expectation of what Zero Waste living should look like is actually preventing you from getting started, don’t. Using a mason jar to store your trash is one outcome, but not the entire point. We can only start from wherever we are. Your practice may start with a single swap of a single use shopping bag for a reusable. Who knows where it may lead you.
I now keep a page for waste-free shopping in the Sydney area. You’ll find it over here.
When I first moved to Sydney from Vancouver, I felt lost without my carefully cultivated go-to shops for refill and bulk goods. Luckily, the trend for unpackaged foods is catching on, and if you live in Sydney, there are now a decent number of shops where you can refill your nuts, grains, seeds, beans, spices, baking supplies, superfoods and many other edibles. Don’t forget personal and home care products – many of the shops below cater to the Zero Waste lifestyle more fully by offering a small selection of packaging free cleaners, soaps and shampoos.
This fast growing chain began as a market stall and now offers four storefront locations in NSW and ACT + continuing market appearances. In Sydney, try Bondi Junction, Newtown, or Cronulla.
You’ll find (most) staples, including basic and speciality flours, grains and cereals, dried fruit, spices nuts, snack foods, oils and vinegars as well as more obscure ingredients that are a challenge to find unpackaged. I’m talking hemp hearts, chia seeds, spices rice pasta, vegan chocolate, bee pollen, and ahem, maple syrup. Also try their unpackaged soaps for home, body and laundry.
Another bulk food chain. They really do focus on foods – the only personal care item I found at the new Bondi shop was epsom salts. The stores are well-organized, with plenty of ingredients to inspire.
This cozy co-op has been in existence longer than I have, and offers a small selection of personal care and household cleaners. This is where I first met and fell in love with the humble coconut husk dish scrubby.
Olive oil and preserved lemons on offer, as well as a range of biodynamic meats. Olive oil is refilled by volume (apparently this works out to the same as by weight), so just bring a container with one or the other listed.
You can return your Kombucha bottle for refill to their market stall, or refill around town at places like the Fruitologist on Bondi Road, where it flows from the tap. If you want to try making your own, $10 will get you your very own SCOBY (message Cha Cha a few days prior to arrange).
Perfect Potion is a chain with a focus on aromatherapy. The goods are mostly packaged, but there is a small selection of body care ingredients like clays, cacao butter and beeswax that can be bought in your own container.
While not necessarily a mecca of packaging-free goods, Dr. Earth is a place to find items like beeswax food covers and bamboo toothbrushes. Their Newtown store has a tiny bulk refill area for laundry powder if I recall correctly.
I met Toby at the Bondi Farmers Market, where he sells a variety of soaps (including shampoo bars), scrubs, and oils. He will refill essential oils upon request. Send him a note a few days prior to arrange with him. So far this is the only essential oil refill option I’ve found.
You’ll find healthy, organic food with as little waste as possible at the Flame Tree Co-op. If you, like I did, stumble upon this place without your arsenal of refill containers – rejoice – for they have a pile of clean, donated jars to use, free of charge.
Bulk food, home and laundry supplies, as well as local food organic produce.
This not an exhaustive list, simply the places I know about. If you know of someplace good in Sydney, post in the comments below!
I was snatching a wayward plastic cup from the sand after a surf. He, clearly, questioning our relationship.
He doesn’t love it when I touch Other People’s Garbage.
There is taboo attached to picking up someone else’s garbage. Oddly, more so than around the act of using a cup once and discarding it.
What I don’t bother explaining to him anymore, is that while this piece is someone else’s, it might as well be mine. I’ve made my share of trashy bits in my short life.
We’re all responsible when trash ends up on the beach.
It’d be easy to blame the volume of debris I find on run of the mill litterbugs or a handful of bad people. But there is too much of it. Gyres-full.
We’re all responsible.
Before it was trash and ewww, it was probably useful and convenient. It was a quick way to get a slushie without having to bring our own cup and reusable straw. An easy way to pack food to put in a pocket for a day on the slopes. A way to save time on cleanup after the party. Maybe it was your toothbrush.
Even if we don’t willfully throw things into the ocean, that’s somehow where a good proportion ends up.
It’s the flyaways that escape from the top of the overstuffed bin. It’s the random objects that fall out of car doors. The hat that blew into the ocean when the Southerly howled through. It’s the fin I snapped on a rock in Punta Mita and never could find. Anything in a storm drain’s path. So many ways.
Much grosser things are in store for garbage that we don’t pick up.
Something else I think to say aloud, but don’t, is that touching Other People’s Garbage with my bare hands is probably slightly better than swimming through it face first, and far better than eventually eating it after it disintegrates, gets ingested by a fish, and swims through the food chain to end up on my dinner plate.
Maybe worse – the fish doesn’t make it as far as my plate, because it died of starvation after feeding on bulky, yet nutritionally empty pieces of plastic.
Opting out of single use can feel like swimming upstream.
Our culture loves the convenience of ‘single use’, making it feel inconvenient to opt-out of this cycle. I know this because these days I try to live with the philosophy of Zero Waste.
This means I try to create as little unrecoverable waste as possible while living life normally in ever other way. I refuse, reuse, reduce, recycle and compost before I will resort to throwing something ‘away’.
I’m by no means always successful in avoiding the plastics, the packaging, and the unrecyclables. I have not achieved the elusive zero in Zero Waste.
Zero Waste is a practice, not a destination.
I recommit to it each day, and each time I go to the beach.
As part of my practice, I’ll keep picking up those reminders of my own trashy past – I’ll keep picking up Other People’s Garbage. Because whether or not it’s yours or mine or someone else’s, litter is an invaluable and tangible reminder that throwaway culture is a pile of rubbish.
As for my boyfriend? His protests are getting weaker all the time. And he wouldn’t tell you this himself, but I’ve seen him getting down with OPG.