Creativity and constraints

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?

Camposting – compost on the go.

Camposting is the art of composting while away from home (or while camping).

The thing about composting is that once you start, it feels so good and right that it becomes impossible not to do it all the time. But alas, compost bins aren’t (yet) on every street corner, or even hazily considered by the vast majority.

So then, what to do when you’re out and about and need to dispose of your food scraps in a way that will benefit future generations rather than contribute to methane production in landfill?

Pack it in, pack it out.

campost jar
Sort of beautiful, no?

In my dreams, city councils and businesses would provide compost bins for organics disposal.The contents would supply urban farms with nutrients to enrich growing soil, and we’d all eat hyper-local food without the need for synthetic fertilisers, which are an extremely potent driver of climate change.

Since this utopian dream is clearly not (yet) realised, composting on-the-go involves bringing your bits back home to be composted.

If you take a lunch to work (in a reusable container, obvy), just reuse it to bring scraps back home. If you camp, bring an extra container with a good seal to avoid leaks.

File this one under #tooeasy.

Say no to plastic microbeads with these alternatives

pumice

Micro plastics are hidden in a shocking number of personal care products, including face and body scrubs and toothpaste, under the names polyethylene and polypropylene. These plastic ‘beads’ are used to add exfoliant action or simply to make a product seem shiny and effective when being considered for purchase by unwitting drugstore shoppers.

These plastic beads are designed to go down the drain with the rinsewater, and since they can’t be filtered out by wastewater facilities, they end up in the rivers, lakes and eventually, the ocean. This means they end up in, among other things sharks, coralsmussels and fish. At best, microbeads are an example of terrible design, but consider them a crime against nature.

Some brands have made slow moves to remove or replace the microbeads in their formulations, emphasis on slooooow. Some countries have moved to ban the bead, and yes, it’s good news. But the whole process could take years. One single product can contain up to 360,000 pieces of microplastics!

Microbeads are completely unnecessary in your quest for great skin.

The good news – no one actually needs microplastics and there are plenty of alternatives. The other good news is that when you back out of the drugstore, you can avoid a tidal wave of over-packaging too. The other, other good news? Most of these alternatives I’m about to suggest are super cheap, which means more money in your pocket to spend on experiences.

So here you go – if you’re looking for a way to get healthy, smooth skin without the lurking stupidity of microplastics, here’s what I use or have tried, and whose effectiveness is just as good or better than anything you’ll find in a drugstore:

Try these microbead scrub alternatives

Konjac sponge
Extra light, good option for your face.
Don’t let the dried shape fool you – once wet, the konjac sponge softens and offers a delicate cleansing. Water is all you need to wash your face. It’s made from a root vegetable, so you can compost it when it’s worn out.

Baking soda
Medium, good option for your face
Baking soda – what can’t you do with it, really? I take a small amount of baking soda, mix in a few drops of water and use the paste to exfoliate my face. It’s mild, yet effective.

Loofah
Medium, good option for your body
A loofah is a vine grown vegetable vaguely related to the cucumber. They are a beautiful addition to your shower -much better looking than those ubiquitous plastic poufs. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could try growing your own.
Loofah
Sugar
Strong, good option for your body
I mixed white sugar (any kind of sugar would do, short of confectioner’s!) with coconut oil and used it on my lizard-like limbs while road tripping around the western US. I eventually stopped having real showers on that trip, except for the salt water variety (blame the drought) and this concoction worked surprisingly well, even without water.

sugar scrub

Coconut fibre brush
Strong, good for dry brushing 
The stiff fibres of the coconut fibre brush make it an excellent option for dry brushing. When you’ve worn it out, you can compost it. They take eons to wear out, and in fact I haven’t yet worn one out.

coconut scrub brush

Save your time, your health, and the ocean by skipping microbeads

Skip the drugstore ‘beauty’ aisle and try these microbead-free alternatives for face and body. You’ll reduce your skin’s toxic load, save money, and ditch the stress of reading ingredients lists. The bonus (and it’s a big one) is that you can typically source all of the options I’ve suggested in recyclable packaging or bulk refill – which means no micro or macro plastics to contend with.

Zero waste is a practice

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.