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 as well as a community resources page. If you’re interested in having me speak at your event, please get in touch via the contact form.
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. Summers were spent unravelling the mysteries of tide pools, eating the freshest Dungeness crab, and watching pods of orcas gracefully glide by our small inflatable boat.
At university, surfing became another reason to stick close to the shoreline. I learned to pop up in the pristine waters of Tofino, persisting in spite of a lack of natural ability, too many millimetres of neoprene and water so cold it makes your brain freeze.
Through the surf community I discovered the Surfrider Foundation. I got involved, and led the Vancouver chapter for a time. I learned everything I could about the issue of marine plastic debris. Our chapter’s Rise Above Plastics program centred around community education and monthly beach cleanups. Soon this 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 more could I do? I’d already shunned takeaway coffee cups, bottled water, and single use grocery bags.
Around this time, I watched a documentary made two fellow Vancouverites, called The Clean Bin Project. Jen and Grant spent one year competing with each other to produce the least amount of landfill waste. Only the cleanest bin would win. Instead of an incremental approach, Grant and Jen flipped the narrative, making an empty bin the default. They also made it look entirely doable. Like Jen, I also break dishes far too often, but I’m working on it.
Pursuing this idea of Zero Waste was a natural next step, but not an overnight transition. I sought out refill options around the city, became adept at making my own cleaners and personal care. I 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 has become 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’ll just do this once’, said 7 billion people.
I’m under no illusions that reducing household waste is the solution to all the challenges we’re facing. However, it is a way to take personal responsibility for the shocking amount of materials we each send to landfill. Our per person resource use is increasing faster than the population is growing. Reducing our household waste, often through painless everyday changes, is something that we can start now and immediately see an impact.
Beyond acting as a yardstick for our personal waste footprint, a Zero Waste approach is 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 better 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.
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’.
It can seem like a lot to take in at first, but it gets easier over time. Zero Waste is a practise, not a final destination, and there are always new challenges to consider and adapt to as our lives shift and change.
I’m sharing my stories with you in the hope that they might inspire or simply support you in reducing waste. I’m absolutely fascinated by waste and human behaviour. Happy reading and thanks for stopping by.