How to make progress towards zero waste, not perfection

How to make progress towards zero waste, not perfection

Trying to reduce the amount of rubbish you create can feel like a huge task sometimes. When you think about all the bits and pieces that you’ve thrown in the bin over the last few days, you might feel like you are not making a dent in the total amount.

Looking back to where you have come from

The key to stopping myself getting downhearted about whether I am really making a difference, is to think about my progress towards zero waste so far. I think back to when we put out one or two big bags of rubbish a week for the rubbish collection. After only a couple of years of changing lifelong habits, we have put out just one bag of rubbish in the last 6 months!

Don’t stress about perfection – just start small

Like so much in life, think about this as progress over perfection. It’s a bit of a journey, with each small habit building up on the previous one.

I’ll be posting soon about all the little changes we have made, which I hope gives people some useful ideas.

Do what you can, that fits in with your life right now

Go gently on yourself when you make changes to your habits if you try to reduce waste. Pick some easy wins in one area of your life and home at a time. Some easy and affordable wins are:

  • Buy ready packed potatoes in a paper bag rather than in a plastic bag (the paper bag can be recycled, composted or used to make a fire in a woodburner)
  • Change from buying meal sauces in a plastic sachet, to sauces in a tin or jar (and recycle the tin or jar)
  • Swap plastic packed pasta for one in a cardboard box
  • For pet owners, buy wet pet food in tins, rather than in plastic sachets, its also a lot cheaper.

Try not to measure yourself against social media images of perfection

Ok, this sounds like an odd thing for me to say, as I’m right now putting myself out there online as some kind of expert.

In reality, I’m bumbling along this path towards zero waste as well. I’m working things out as I go along. I have to work out what is ‘doable’, and what simply takes up too much time or money for me to adopt that habit all the time.

There are lots of inspirational people out there who are doing really well at reducing their waste. However, their story often gets reduced down to showing how much rubbish they collect over a year, usually in a glass jar. This can be disheartening, as it looks so perfect and hard to achieve for a normal, regular person with kids and pets and hobbies! There is a great blog post by Kathryn on about why the trash jar isn’t always a true picture.

People show their ideal ‘best life’ on social media, we are all guilty of that. Try not to measure your progress with where someone else is at on their path – you might be comparing the beginning of your journey with the middle of theirs!

My Eco confessions

This has been a thought provoking journey so far, I have tried different ways of doing lots of things. However, we definitely have a few ‘eco confessions’. There are some things I just haven’t been able to swap out for more eco alternatives. It’s often due to the cost of alternative products to the ones I usually buy, availability of them, and the amount of time a new habit might require.

My big Eco confessions right now are:

  • We have a pile of things in the garden that are going to end up in landfill. They can’t be reused or recycled or donated. Things like broken sandpit toys, cracked small plastic chairs from when the children were littler, and odds and ends of treated timber off-cuts. The best option here is to make sure they are properly disposed of, and won’t damage the environment. This will mean a trip to the tip, and they will end up in landfill.
  • Items we bought before we ever considered aiming for zero waste. Things we have bought over the years, before we started trying to reduce the amount of waste, may end up in landfill. For example, there is a roll of cling film in the kitchen drawer, that I bought years ago. We will try to reuse or recycle where we can, but some of it is just plastic rubbish. Still, that was in the past, and I wouldn’t buy those things in future. You live and learn.
  • I have a stockpile of soft plastic that I am saving for the Soft Plastic Recycling scheme to restart in our area. I’ve been trying to reduce how much I end up with, but I’ve still have a reasonable pile of it in the shed. It’s all washed and dry and ready to go, as soon as the scheme comes back here, which I’m hopeful it will).

So overall, I think we all need to look at what we can realistically do to reduce waste, while not being too stressed or perfectionist about it. If we all make some changes, they really will add up.