Baby Steps to Less Waste
Baby Steps to Less Waste
"The journey to becoming zero-waste is about becoming less wasteful; it's not about perfection." Retykle Ambassador, Jenny Zhang, shares her journey of less waste and shares a few tips on how you can start yours!
Let me start by saying that I am nowhere near not generating waste, but I have celebrated every step towards it in the past couple of years. My motivation is to create less waste which leaves more room for nature, ourselves, and future generations. The journey of being more mindful of creating less waste is a personalised path to a better self and family, but it is not about perfection.
What we need to remember is to start small and don’t penalize ourselves every time we fail to be zero-waste. Instead we need to celebrate every little win when we hack our way out of generating waste. Trust me, a positive feedback loop will generate a lot less waste in the long-run rather than getting frustrated about how impossible it may seem at times to not be generating waste.
So, where to begin? It all starts with a bit of planning.
Step 1: Reduce waste while out and about
I know it can be hard to do when we are juggling between kids, work, chores, etc., but a bit of planning ahead will save time, money, and waste down the road.
There are times when I get home late and want to spend time with my baby before she sleeps instead of cooking, so I will order the occasional takeout and when we have a day out with the baby, we will use disposable diapers. But that is okay because it would be impossible and overwhelming to try and achieve a zero-waste lifestyle all at once!
Here are the things I have in my on-the-go zero-waste kit:
Grab’n’Go Takeout Bag
This reusable bag is lined with BPA-free TPU lining, for bread at the local bakery and whenever I over-order at a restaurant (i.e. those last two chicken wings!).
Pro tip: even though it is leak-proof, avoid strong color/scent food like curry with turmeric or it might stain the lining.
Stojo Collapsible Cup 16oz
For my caffeine/tea cravings (many cafes/coffee shops will give you a discount for BYOC!) I use my Stojo collapsable cup or if I don’t feel like bringing my water bottle and know that wherever I am going will have a water station. These also come in a variety of colours too!
Bonus points for using it to get soup or sauce to go.
If you really have to Marie-Kondo the items you carry with your on the daily, the utensil set is optional because it depends on how often you order food or beverages outside. This kit will add a bit to the bulk to your bag, but I have gotten many uses out of these items in the past few years that the accumulated feeling of accomplishment is totally worth the extra few grams.
Step 2: Minimize takeout packaging
I love cooking but I don’t want to every day, and with a baby around I like eating at home more often. However, does this mean that I have to cringe at the plastic boxes and styrofoam bowls every time I order delivery? No, it just takes a bit of planning.
When I go to work, I bring a few takeout containers and a sturdy leak-proof bag (from past deliveries/packed-to-goes) in my bag. When I eat out for lunch, I'll order a few extra dishes to bring home. Tada! Dinner for the whole family in 1 minute with no additional packaging. The vendors will often compliment my eco-friendly practice and may even throw in a freebie snack into my box.
Step 3: Start at home
BATHROOM + PETS
Many of the packaging used in our daily lives we barely notice anymore: the shampoo/shower gel, toothpaste/floss, boxes of packets of face masks, bottles of lotion/cream/foundation… the list goes on.
You don’t have to throw everything away all at once, start with one or two things as an invitation to try something new: if you are super loyal to your special-scented shampoo, don’t pull your hair out of guilt, maybe swap out the shower gel for a bar soap? Try a DIY face mask with the last spoonful of yogurt instead of buying another box? Remember to celebrate the progress and don’t stress about the regress.
I have recently found recycled toilet paper made from tetra paks (a.k.a. milk cartons and soft drink boxes) and recycled paper; truly circular! You can make your beverage drinking zero-waste while saving trees! It's a win-win!
We also involve our fur-children in our zero-waste journey: they use flushable cat litter made from the byproduct of soy milk (unprocessed dried tofu). Most online pet shops I have visited offer this option, although it still comes in a big plastic bag. We did try to train our cats to use the toilet but failed horribly when they were young, so that’s where we are right now.
Surprisingly, many food items have package-free options in Hong Kong, you just have to look other places besides the supermarket. You can BYOB and get groceries from the wet market (which can be much more inexpensive and fresher than at the supermarket) and purchase grains and snacks from shops like Live Zero, Lively Life, and Slowood. This all depends on your time, your budget and again, a. little bit of planning.
Another idea is to explore the options around your neighbourhood or near work, jot down your shopping list and prepare the appropriate bag/containers the night before. Or make it a regular thing, say the first Sunday of every month you fill up on all the dry goods, and reward yourself with a meal from your favourite restaurant nearby. Remember to bring your boxes to extend the delicious meal to the next day!
Live Zero started delivery service during social distancing that came in paper bags! My fur-baby, Coco, approves with a wink ;)
KIDS BEDROOM + PLAYTIME
I am also thankfully I have found Retykle when my baby was a newborn, which took out much of the hard work to find affordable and quality second-hand clothing as she goes through them like a flip-book!
I also try to make DIY toys out of random household objects. Both my baby and my cats will probably play with a new toy for a maximum of 5 minutes, so the idea of buying any new ones sounds too wasteful.
Also, something that I have found immensely helpful is to get connected with my neighbourhood mom groups on WhatsApp or Facebook. I have gotten so many free or inexpensive high-quality baby gear and gadgets from fellow moms, which is great because they are being passed along to new babies in the neighbourhood. Also, Retykle now sells baby gear and gadgets including baby carriers, strollers, cribs, and more! These resources have made a huge difference in making it easier to find things that I need while staying on budget.
These are just a few ideas to try to make your world a bit less cluttered. What do you want to try first?
Remember: start small and don’t feel guilty when you fail. Instead celebrate every little win when you hack your way out of generating waste. You are taking baby steps to new habits!