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Waste-free Living: What I have learnt

We have been on our waste-free living journey for about 2 years now. It took me about a year to really get into it and the lockdown hit which actually helped us to ramp up our waste-free living efforts.

Over the past 2 years I have learnt so much not just about how products are produced and disposed of but also about how wasteful we were (are) as a family. When you start taking stock of what you bring into your home and what you throw away, it is incredibly eye-opening and a little embarrassing.

To be honest while I am enjoying it, it has not been easy and sometimes I tempted to just walk into a supermarket and go back to how we used to shop. But then I do actually pop into a big retailer and am reminded exactly why I started. There have been many lessons learnt over the past 2 years, but these are just a few of the ones that stand out.

Lessons in Waste-free Living

You have to get the whole family on board. This year is the first year that I have the whole family on board and it is making it so much easier. If everyone is on the same page you can move forward together. It has taken me some time to get the kids to the point where they don’t just want stuff because it is shiny and pretty. Kiara is completely on board and she is very intentional about what she spends her money on. The younger two are more aware now about what plastic they accept and I think by the time they become active consumers they will be very conscious about what they are buying.

It is not a quick switch. You can’t decide to reduce waste today and tomorrow you are living a waste-free life. We are two years into our journey and I am not sure if we are even half way to where I want to be. It takes time and you have to be prepared to give it that time.

Unwrapped and the Refillery for amazing waste-free grocery options.

Avoid comparing. When you start looking at others who are living a waste-free life, many are vegan or vegetarian – this doesn’t mean you suddenly have to cut out meat. You do not have to buy all your groceries from a bulk store if it doesn’t fit your budget. You have to find do what works for you and your lifestyle. Reducing waste is a big change, don’t make it harder by constantly comparing to others.

If you can’t eliminate, reduce. Waste-free living in South Africa is not easy (yet). Our choices are limited and our budgets are tight. Instead of trying to eliminate completely, focus on reducing. Make simple swaps that are easy but meaningful. When you actually focus on this you will be surprised just how much you can reduce.

Reduce rather than recycle

Upcycle and recycle. Before I throw something away, I often see if we can’t reuse or upcycle it. We have very little in terms of packaging waste but we keep as much as we can. We buy the big yoghurt tubs and then plant seedlings in them. There are a million things you can do with glass jars. Old towels can be cut up into kitchen rags. If you think outside the box a little you will find a use for pretty much anything.

You do not need to buy new stuff. When you make the decision to live waste-free you do not have to empty your home and start buying new stuff in line with your new life. In fact this goes against the idea of a waste-free life. Instead use what you have until it is finished, donate what you no longer need or what no longer serves you. It is part of the reason that the switch takes time but it is worth it.

There are so many waste-free living tips out there. Many of them I have tried, some have worked but many haven’t. But each time something doesn’t work we learn the lesson and keep going.

What are some of the lessons you have learnt in your waste-free journey so far?

I am working on a comprehensive waste-free guide to help you make the switch. If you want to receive it, please subscribe to my weekly newsletter and be the first to have access.


1 Comment

  1. Julia
    15 March, 2021 / 8:12 am

    You could totally write a book on this stuff. You should!

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