Does zero waste cost more?

Nada Grocery Vancouver

Is a low waste lifestyle more expensive than life as usual? In this post I’m looking at a few ways ‘zero waste’ can seem to set us financial traps, and I offer some strategies to counter overspending in the name of sustainable living.

In theory it should cost less to use fewer resources, but in reality there are times where doing the right thing can cost more. Here I’m talking mostly about financial costs, though there are, of course, time considerations. To that I’ll just briefly say that while some people may rationally anticipate it’s going to take heaps more time to live low waste, I don’t find it does. Initially, sure, there’s a learning curve. Over time I’ve found living the way I do streamlines my life and improves the quality.

I want to acknowledge that I am a healthy, financial stable, white person with free time and significant autonomy over my choices. I can’t change the fact that I’ve had all the advantages in life, so I’ll speak from my perspective and promise to listen to yours. It’d be a mistake to dismiss voices like mine when there is reason to believe we’re amongst the most wasteful. A study of food waste showed that households earning over $100K a year are one of the most wasteful groups. In Sydney, that income is actually a little lower than the median. My interpretation and theory is that those who feel less pain from wasting resources will waste more resources. And if we’re a wasteful bunch with the time and money to reduce household waste by changing our shopping and consumption habits, let’s do it. It doesn’t preclude us from also working to make zero waste more equitable and accessible to low income communities through support for policies like container deposit schemes and bag bags.

Alright, let’s get into some of the financial challenges of zero waste and strategies to overcome them.

Financial trap #1: Shopping at bulk food stores can be expensive.

There are many flavours of bulk stores – coops, health food shops, regular grocers with a bulk section and discount bulk shops. Here in Sydney, Australia, we have a number of chain and independent bulk stores where you can shop with your own containers, but they are not the discount variety. Most focus on organic, local and specialty foods, or some combination thereof, which can make shopping in bulk more expensive than buying packaged, conventional, far away foods from Coles or Woolies. I’ll admit I’ve had sticker shock on occasional with bulk store purchases, but I’ve learned a few things that help me stick to a reasonable food budget.

zero waste granola
Why not make your own granola?

My tips

  • Look for coops, or buying groups, which are member run and not for profit. These will often offer a discount if you volunteer or become a member.
  • Try farmers markets, which will often have a bulk foods vendor. I’ve found these spots to be better priced.
  • Ethnic food stores were some of my go-to bulk stops when I lived in Vancouver, but sadly, I don’t live near in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have a selection of bulk shops to choose from, take notes on the best pricing for your favourite items.
  • Focus your shopping on low cost and nutritious staple foods, like red lentils and buckwheat. Leave the trendy mermaid powders and mushroom teas alone, or try a scant amount to see if you like it before overbuying.
  • Paying attention to the price per kilo can help you avoid overbuying expensive items. The denser the food and the higher the price per kilo, the more sparingly I buy it.
  • Processed food is always more expensive, whether unpackaged or in bulk. Consider making your own granola rather than buying ready-made.
  • If you will eat 10 kilos of rice and have the space at home, consider buying a 10 kilo bag of rice and recycling the wrapping. It’s not much difference in net waste than shopping in a bulk store, and it’ll be cheaper.
  • Make sure you’re taring your containers properly and check your tally as they’re being rung up, or on the receipt before you leave the store. Mistakes can happen and this is a good way to correct any accidental overcharges before you leave.
  • If you can’t afford bulk shop prices, look for the packaged goods with the best recycling outcomes in your area.
  • My last tip is about reframing. I significantly changed the way I perceive the cost of food since reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma. At the time, I was still food shopping like a uni student (saving my money for drinking, ha) and the book guided me to think about the long term consequences of buying cheap food on my health and the soil. Food is precious, and I buy the best quality I can afford.

Financial trap #2: Eco consumables can be expensive

Biodegradable and refillable dental floss is expensive you guys. There is no denying it. Some products like this probably cost more to produce, and others might simply be mining a niche because we’ll pay more. For example, I’ve spent too much money on dish scrubbers that have either turned out to be greenwash, or conversely, a little too biodegradable, falling apart mere days after I started using them.

zero waste dental floss
Refillable, biodegradable floss exists, but at what cost?

My tips:

  • Don’t feel you need to go all or nothing. I wrote about participation> perfectionism as it relates to dental floss, but the same thinking applies to other products. Be mindful of your own financial limits and wellbeing.
  • Ask yourself whether something is truly better, or more sustainable. Often it’s not, but marketed to be. Most single-use ‘eco’ plastics designed to replace petroleum plastics fall under this category.
  • Calculate your actual costs. When I wondered how affordable it really was to buy Who Gives A Crap toilet paper, the brand that builds toilets for those who need them, I tracked how long it lasted. Turns out 48 rolls lasts over 18 months at my house, so I’m paying an affordable $32/year to buy TP. I googled some Woolworth’s brands for comparison and found 12 packs for $9, which comes to $36 for 48 rolls.
  • If a product claim sounds too good to be true, it might be. Don’t be afraid to inquire with sellers to check that they understand the materials used in their products. You’d be surprised how often goods are mass produced overseas and then white-labelled under various brand names, giving the seller limited control over the production process or insight into materials being used.
  • Can you make the thing instead of buying pre-made? We don’t usually need separate surface, bathroom and kitchen cleaners, and buying eco-cleaners can be pricey. Simple unbranded ingredients like castile soap and vinegar are cost-effective multi-taskers. I don’t buy things like reusable makeup remover pads or special cleaning rags because I can make my own for no cost. I also make a few DIY products, like mascara, deodorant, lip balm, and the best hydrating serum I’ve ever used. It’s a cheap and convenient practice for me that honestly takes less time than shopping for these things. If you’re buying, use every last drop in the container.
  • Consider what products you can skip buying altogether. I have vastly simplified my face and body routine over the last ten years to my financial benefit. I use less volume of product, and fewer products, I am more accepting of myself and ‘need’ less gunk to face the world (I’m keeping concealer though…).

Financial trap #3: Zero waste food storage containers are pricey

Blame picture perfect Instagram pantries for stoking our collective desire for perfectly matching sets of glass jars. I’ve bought a few new containers over the years, but the majority of what I use are from the recycling bin, salvaged plastic containers or containers I’ve scored from secondhand shops. I.e cheap.

Free glass jar from the recycling.

My tips:

  • Make the op shop your first stop. It’s a great place to find glass Pyrex containers and flip top jars.
  • If you want to invest in new containers, consider your needs specifically, rather than focusing how it will look on your shelf. If I had my time again I would skip Weck jars, which I’ve broken too easily and have too many parts and fussy clips. I favour Mason jars because I can make sprouts, ferment veggies, store food, and travel with them without leaks. All practices that save me money. I cherish my stainless steel Onyx containers because they are leakproof and lightweight, two essentials for biking to work with lunch and my laptop on my back. I didn’t run out and buy these items all at once, I really thought about what purpose they’d be for, and I only bought them when my other solutions (op shop finds and recycled jars) didn’t work as well.

Financial trap #4: Reusables require an upfront investment

Affordability is relative, and I feel frustrated for anyone who is not able to make investments in reusables. I wish there were instant government rebates on reusables. How cool would that be? Or at the very least, end of year tax rebates. Because the return on investment can be significant.

Let’s take menstrual products for example. Without completely knowing they would work for me, I spent almost $100 on reusables: $60 for the cup and $38 for three reusable pads. However, over five years, I will save $400 that I used to spend on tampons.

Coffee cups are another example of a one time investment generating a yield over time. You can save up to $0.50 on a coffee at Responsible Cafes on each visit. If your reusable cup cost $20, it’ll have paid for itself after 40 uses, and everything from there on is pure savings.

My money saving reusable coffee cup.

My tips:

  • Consider the total lifespan of the reusables to get a sense of how much you’re saving longer term. This can help you decide if something is worth it. In many cases, I’ve found significant financial advantages to reusables.
  • Make investments as you’re able to. Don’t feel pressure to do everything right away and take your time to research the best solution for you.
  • When in doubt, try the op shop. You won’t find menstrual products, but you can often find inexpensive reusable cups, thermos flasks, and pieces of cutlery for your on-the-go kit.

Financial trap #5: Repairing things can be costly

Repairing goods to keep them in use is a great way to avoid the impacts of new manufacturing, like mining, chemical discharge and transportation emissions. But it also saves money to put off new purchases as long as possible. Sometimes repair costs can seem high compared to the cost to buying new. The solution is partially to change our mindset, but also to uncover community resources available to help you repair something.

shoe repair after

My tips:

  • Consider the value of your time. If I have a pair of shoes that fit me well, and I like, why would I want to waste time searching for a new pair then breaking them in (UGH) when I could just have my favourite back? Browsing a shopping centre, physical or online, is my nightmare. Repairing my cherished items saves me time and mental effort.
  • Consider also who is benefiting from your spending choices – is it a small family business who will probably recirculate the money locally, or is it an overseas company that will take the money into a different economy?
  • Recognise when mental accounting is convincing you to overspend to have ‘new’. I took a broken stick vacuum that a friend was giving away and paid $150 to replace the broken handheld unit. I could frame it as spending $150 on a repair, or as getting a like new vacuum worth $300 for half price.
  • Learn to repair at least some stuff yourself. I sew buttons, mend holes and do basic maintenance on my clothing. If it’s beyond my skills, I’ll take it to a tailor. Little hole-in-the-wall tailors are always cheaper than mall tailors.
  • Take advantage of free repair services offered by companies like Nudie and Patagonia.
  • Check for repair cafes and bike maintenance workshops in your area. These are often free and supported by councils.
  • Do you have a friend, neighbour or someone in your network with the skills to help? My boss’ son enjoys taking electronics apart, and was excited to fix my broken hair dryer.
  • Does your town have a local exchange network? These are networks that operate with alternative currencies, usually based on community contributions. Try Sydney LETS if you’re local.

Not only do I believe zero waste living doesn’t have to cost more overall, I know that it’s equipped me with the skills to save money. The best way to save money while living zero waste is to slow the new and/or unnecessary inputs, in whatever way makes most sense to you. Use less, use what you have for longer, find value in the secondhand and buy the best quality you can afford. Don’t sweat it if your bandaids aren’t biodegradable!

My usual response to anyone who’s concerned about the cost of zero waste is stay out of the shops. The more time more you spend browsing retail, even the lovely eco stores with the natural fibres, the more likely you are to buy something you don’t need. I’m not against buying new goods, but I know if I spent more time at the mall, I would spend more, simple as that. I’ve cut unnecessary purchases by considering what I actually need before going into environments where it’s the seller’s job to persuade me to buy. This is why I don’t link to products on this site – encouraging anyone to shop is the opposite of what I’m trying to do.

How can you tell if something is a need or a want? My rule is that if I buy something new (even secondhand), I need to start using the crap out of it right away. If I can’t see myself doing that, it’s probably a passing want, not a need.

What’s your biggest financial concern about zero waste and low waste living? If you have any other tips and tricks to add, I’d love to hear in the comments.

The lazy way to make reusable makeup remover cloths

zero waste eye makeup remover pads

We humans tend to criticize laziness as a character flaw.

I however, believe selective laziness can be useful. Case in point – if you’re moving to reusables for makeup removal, there’s no need to buy anything new or use a sewing machine. The lazy way is to cut one very old tee shirt into squares and store in an old jar in the bathroom, unhemmed. I’d love to learn how to sew, but that’s apartment space and a skill set I don’t have.

To remove makeup, I usually rub a few drops of coconut or jojoba oil (check the bulk page for tips on where to source in Sydney) into my face and eye area with clean fingers. Then I wipe clean with one of the squares wetted with warm tap water. Used wipes go into a small container that doubles as a pre-soak vessel. I soak the dirty wipes in hot soapy water to lift some of the grime before I add them to a towel wash.

zero waste eye makeup remover pads

zero waste eye makeup remover pads

Why not just use normal facecloths?

I sometimes do, but they’re larger than I need for the minimal makeup I wear – mostly just mascara, liner and concealer. I don’t love reusing the same towel over the course of several evenings since terrycloth is too thick to dry from sopping wet and all I can think of is bacterial growth.The smaller squares of cut tee shirt fabric have the perfect amount of surface area to clean my face, and using them instead of facecloths has a side benefit of reducing towel laundry.

zero waste eye makeup remover pads

What about those cute fluffy makeup remover rounds you can buy?

Buying new fluffy white cotton pads to repeatedly wipe dark substances off your face makes as much sense as a bike mechanic wearing a white tee-shirt. Why make life difficult? My pile of not-white-anymore cloths works best for me.

From makeup wipe, to cleaning cloth, to the compost

When they eventually become too grimy even for my face, I use them for even grubbier tasks, like dusting ledges or houseplant foliage or polishing shoes. If it’s cotton fabric and I’m not using them with any chemicals I wouldn’t want in my soil (I use vinegar, castile soap and bi carb), I can eventually compost the rags. I wouldn’t do this with blends or synthetics though.

Textile recycling isn’t an actual thing (yet)

While there are some potential benefits to what retailers like H&M and Uniqlo are doing to offer clothing collection boxes into their stores, the reality of all the research and development so far is that we’re far from a place where textiles can be recycled. It’s more accurate to categorize this process as clothing ‘down-cycling. It’s the same as most other collection donation services – a portion of what is useful and clean is sold in-country, more is sent abroad to be sold or burned, and what can’t be sold might be turned into industrial rags. We can do better by buying less to begin with, using our clothing longer and downcycling at home. My tee shirt can be demoted from being worn outside the home to sleepwear, and only then to rag.

zero waste eye makeup remover pads

It’s good to be lazy sometimes

What we buy is inexorably connected to what we throw away, so I’m fascinated by the many ways that we can enrich our lives without buying a thing, or by simply reframing waste as treasure. Less stuff to buy means less chasing our tails to earn money to try to afford what we don’t need anyway. More time to laze about with friends, in the kitchen, and in the garden. Ironically, frugality – not buying new things – is what can help us live more full lives.

My Plastic Free July in review

How was your Plastic Free July? I don’t usually do Zero Waste inventories as such, but Plastic Free July almost seems to demand it, so here goes. Follow along, then tell me how yours went.  

Day 1 – It’s Canada Day and we’re at a Canadian-themed bar in North Sydney. It’s all kinds of plaid, moose heads, and plastic. I pine for a caesar, but have an imported beer in a bottle instead. It’s hard to know if I’ve taken a step forward or back.

Day 2 – I’m sitting on the panel after a screening of The Clean Bin Project alongside Jean Bailliard of Terracycle and Dr. Mark Browne, marine plastics researcher at UNSW. It’s a Plastic Free July themed event and the audience is engaged. Mark points out that in Australia (or did he say NSW?), plastic is already classified as a pollutant, which should work to our advantage in pursuing legislative changes such as a bag ban.

photo credit: @SeasideScavenge

Day 3 – I eat a homemade lunch at work, as usual. Sundays I cook up a bunch of random stuff for easy assembly during the week. No two lunches are exactly the same. I don’t understand why some people don’t embrace leftovers, they are the best thing ever.

Day 4 – I go to a client’s office and to my delight, the name tag printer is not working. I skip the mandatory sticker printout.

Day 5 – I pay $5 for one avocado at a grocer near my work. It’s big, although not even the biggest I’ve ever seen (Panama), but at least it’s not suffocated by cling wrap. This particular business is obsessed with plastic and polystyrene. They will wrap cheese that already comes in plastic in more plastic and on a foam tray. It’s maddening. Obviously I don’t buy anything so grossly over-packaged, and yet I observe that so many people do. We have to set better defaults.

Day 6 – A client asks how my Plastic Free July is going so far. Great! At lunch I refill a litre of olive oil in a flip top bottle. You can always find this type of bottle at Vinnie’s or Salvos. There are two places on the same road near my work that offer olive oil refills. I go with the Australian sourced and pay $18.95 for the bottle, which is less than the cost of the same amount in a bottle in the same store.

Day 7 – It’s day three eating the same avocado, because it’s huuuge. We use a bokashi bucket for food scraps at work so that’s where the skin goes. I am reminded that I need to empty it. My boss once remarked on its seemingly magical ability to always take just a little more, even when you thought it was full. It’s because of the scraps starting to pre-digest and pack down. A misguided (a word I will use as a euphemism for the mean word I really want to use…) neighbour forced us get rid of the tumbler composter behind our building, so now we’re back to me taking the bin home to empty. Which is fine, because I have a little dirt patch where I bury bokashi bin contents, and I am one of the lucky buildings with food scrap collection by the council.

I’m craving chocolate and I take risk on a brand I don’t know – will there be plastic inside? I shake it but I’m still not sure… Relief – it’s foil, so I can collect it in the tin at home where all those small bits go. I wish packaging designers would stick to materials that are readily recyclable, rather than the so-called compostable plastic. Recycling infrastructure is doesn’t move quickly (large capital investment) and nowhere can really handle compostable plastic. Plus, recyclability is only one point – the recycled product also needs to have value.

Day 8 – It’s the weekend and we head down the coast to see family and surf my favourite spot. The water is so clear I can see the bright greens and browns of the seaweed on the reef while I’m on a wave. We get a coffee and lunch at the newish spot, Earth Walker & Co, which is half café, half general store. As the name suggests, locally made produce features, and I see a green drink served with a metal straw – nice. They also give $0.30 off your coffee if you BYO cup. It’s packed. Since we’re in the hood I stop in at The Flame Tree Coop to stock up on bulk nori.

Day 9 – There’s a beach clean up in Bondi put on by Responsible Runners and I chat with a council person who is confident of the inevitability of a state-wide bag ban. Afterwards I get groceries at one of the few supermarkets I don’t avoid actively avoid – Harris Farm Markets. I’m as cynical as anyone, but I appreciate the steps they are taking to offer unpackaged foods. You can buy milk in a refillable bottle, plastic free bread, bulk sundries like legumes and flours, and ugly produce in reusable green mesh bags. This doesn’t mean everyone shops this way though. I observe as a fellow shopper uses one plastic bag for one tomato, another for one lemon, and so on.

At home, someone is brewing beer. I take some of the spent grains to dry and blend into a coarse flour to see what I can make of it. The rest goes to a chicken we know.

Day 10 – At the butcher, a sluggish Frenchman helps me, but doesn’t really help you see. He uses a plastic bag to grab the sausages after I specifically describe what I’m trying to accomplish. There is a language barrier, so the other employee sees and comes to my aid, but not really, you see. He and I have discussed my desire for no plastic on many occasions before, with the result that he nearly always says ‘no plastic’ with a thumbs up when he sees me with my own container. But this time, when he sees what’s going on he chimes in to tell me that of course they have to use this plastic bag. He’s completely ignoring the fact that somehow all the other times they didn’t have to. The Frenchman smirks and tells me he has ‘very dirty hands’. I’m irritated at this procedural change and tell them it’s the only reason I come here (not strictly true – it’s the closest, they are independently owned and they sell biodynamic meats). Sigh. I’ll try contacting the owner.

Day 11 – After work I’m helping a friend with a very cool project she’s been hard at work developing.

Day 12 – It’s cold, and we go for ramen. I have a jar with me and I take the leftovers home. Have I told you how much I love leftovers?

Day 13 I stop at five separate grocers on the way home to find basil that isn’t wrapped in plastic. At the last shop, in a fit of frustration, I unsheathe the bunch and buy it naked. I’m not solving the world’s problems by doing this, and it occurs to me that possibly if I’d found the basil unwrapped…it may have come packaged in plastic before I got to it. It’s not always rational, what we do.

Day 14 – I’m celebrating more than the usual TGIF.  Woolworth’s announced their intention to remove bags from checkouts across the country and within hours Coles and Harris Farms have announced firm commitments of their own. Pressure on government is working, and the truth is that once a majority of states have made commitments to bag bans, it’s the path of least resistance for national chains to ban bags everywhere.

I squat down and rip the knee of my jeans. Great.

Day 15 – Halfway point. I enjoy a nice run around Centennial Park. I check on my worms, and distribute the worm castings that have accumulated over the past couple of months.

Day 16 – It’s a gorgeous sunny Sunday. Biking is a quick method to get around and it’s also very lovely as I can cut through Centennial Parklands. I pick up some jeans that were in for zipper repair, run a few errands. I travel through a new neighbourhood and come across a shop with gravity bulk bins.

Later I have a few friends over to make DIY deodorant and cocoa butter lotion bars that smell like chocolate and melt into your skin on contact. We then go see other friends for dinner, where I test the friendship by asking to take home the bones from the meal. I like to give my friend James some good stories to tell about me, and I have a feeling this could be one of them.

Day 17 – The bones go in the slow cooker for broth. I vacuum the house with a stick model that was donated to us broken. We bought a new part and now it’s got a a second life. The chamber is full of lint and that goes into my landfill container – electronic dust isn’t something I want in the compost.

Day 18 – Friends send an invite for a housewarming this Friday. There will be food and music and drinks…. and no plastic or else deal with Liz, or so it reads. My reputation precedes me, and I’m not mad at it.

Day 19 – Normally I use a ceramic cup to get my long black from the coffee shop near my work, but today I bring my metal travel cup. The baristas both love it. I get compliments on it wherever I go on this one. It’s insulated so my coffee stays nice and hot. It also matches my refillable pen!

Move over avocado, there’s a new toast in town. I make the tastiest chickpea salad open faced sandwich topped with sprouts I grew. What can’t you do with chickpeas?

Day 20 – Celebration event in Bronte with the local enviro groups. Council is doing a great job of working towards collaboration for impact.

Day 21 – We get our delivery of limited edition toilet paper from Who Gives a Crap for the office bathroom. Sustainability minded folks working in marketing (cough) can have moments of dark self-reflection, but how could it be all wrong when someone has created a toilet paper people can truly love and helps build toilets?

Day 22 – Hungover from a housewarming party the night before. Beer pong can be played just fine in real cups, and more people need to know this. We visit The Cannery for a late breakfast and I opt for laksa in a cardboard bowl, which works pretty well. There are maroon bins for organics instead of garbage and is a garden area out back (probably not where most of the scraps go).  I like the approach.

We venture on to Marrickville where I stop in at Village Wholefoods for some pantry staples and to drop some empty containers in store in the TerraCycle bins. I’m still using up makeup from years ago. Judge me. Terracycle is becoming more common in Australia since coming here from the US about 4 years ago. They specialize in hard to recycle items.

Day 23 – I willingly acquire plastic today, but all for a good cause – I found a library I didn’t know was only a few blocks from my house and I get a library card and eight books for the price of…none. One of the books is a digital copy of The Art of Fermentation, which I had as a hardcover, but left back in Canada with my sister in law. It’s a very handy reference and I am inspired to start a rye sourdough and also make saurkimchi. I also make jackfruit tacos for dinner. They taste a lot better than the last time I tried cooking jackfruit, maybe because I cooked them with a small bit of sausage, shhh. I do not reveal this to A (about the jackfruit that is), and if he has suspicions, he hides it well. I freeze the remaining chipotle peppers into single pepper ice cubes for future use. Freezer = magic.

The giant Moccona coffee container I was using to collect compost cracks, so I recycle the base and keep the top portion – it makes a perfect container for my mending kit.

We spot whales off the headland. They wave. We wave back.

Day 24 – I finish the book Poisoned Planet and mull it over. The book is not just about plastic, but about many forms of pollution (phosphorus, CO2, etc.). Pollution is just stuff out of place, but my holy moly is there a lot of stuff out of place! And according to the author, it’s dropping our society’s average IQ by a couple points every generation through our inevitable intake of harmful manmade chemicals. Outtake: it’s impossible to contain pollution. Personal detox is a myth.

Day 25 – It’s Christmas in July. Nothing eventful happens.

Day 26 – The printer is still broken at my client’s office. Sticker free again!

Day 27 – Normal, no plastic day.

Day 28 Another zipper broke on me, on another pair of jeans. Good thing I’m wearing a long silk shirt (dress?) that I got at the Red Cross Op Shop.

Day 29 – If you need aloe, I can get you some aloe.

Day 30 – I spend most of Sunday hanging out with some girlfriends. It’s peak Bondi. ‘It’s like the last day on Earth or something’ notes my friend. There are humans everywhere, and there is a small mountain of trash on Campbell Parade in front of the McDonald’s, just a few hundred metres from the shoreline.

Day 31 – The end. I don’t remember what happened today, but it didn’t involve plastic.

The Plastic Free July tally:  

  • some produce stickers.
  • some receipts
  • a piece of plastic from the butcher
  • the darn piece of plastic from the basil
  • dental floss
  • vacuum lint

How it go for you?

Sorry, but takeway coffee cups aren’t recyclable.

coffee cup

#Sorrynotsorry if I shattered your illusions, takeaway coffee cups ain’t recyclable. Let’s dive deeper?

“But takeaway coffee cups are made of paper aren’t they?”

Yes, but the paper is lined with plastic or wax. Fusing two materials together requires unfusing to sort materials for their respective circular resource streams.  This is beyond the capabilities of the vast majority of recycling programs in Australia.

“The cafe I go to uses compostable coffee cups.”

Okay cool, they’re clearly trying to do the right thing in the face of additional expense, but let’s be real, are you actually composting your cup or just tossing it in the landfill? If it’s the latter, that’s not actually helping. You have to compost to collect your brownie points. You can help your local cafe owner reduce the impact of cafe operations by bringing your own cup.

eco coffee cup
Not all eco cups go to Heaven.

“What if the barista refuses my reusable coffee cup?”

Sydney’s coffee scene is too competitive to piss off a regular. To smooth the transition, ensure your cup is fit for purpose (mason jars are not the best choice for hot drinks you plan to carry) and bring it in clean. And smile that charming smile of yours as you explain to them that you just can’t abide wasted materials.

reusable cup

Now, the rewards don’t stop with gaining a smug sense that you’re helping reduce landfill waste – you can also save cold hard cash. Many a cafe will offer a discount for those who bring their own cup. Check out Responsible Cafes’ map of participating locations Australia-wide to find the cafe nearest you. You could save up to $0.50 off your long black!

“It makes me look cool”

Think about how silly that even sounded to read. Granted I don’t think anyone would admit to believing this, but monkey see monkey do, and we live in a visual culture, friends. As long as Pinterest lifestyle blogger types glorify the single use cup as prop (or boxed water for that matter, don’t get me started..), we’re going to be battling the the trickle down effect of this absurd aspirational cachet. Don’t fall victim to this fashion crime. Choose to reuse instead. It looks better on you.