#noexcuses - An Eco-Resolution Guide to Actually Reducing Your Waste in 2019
Two weeks into 2019 already and it’s just going to keep cruising along, like the dusky dolphins moving up and down the Kaikoura coastline. Does it feel any different than 2018 to you? I personally have this sensation, this impatience, this sense of urgency that seemed to ring itself in along with the fireworks and champagne on New Year’s Eve two weeks ago. It’s my head telling me, “Really, world? It’s 2019. Wake up.”
We all have our challenges that we want to tackle in 2019, our resolutions that we’re hoping to stick to, changes we want to implement in our lifestyles. For those of you with resolutions that involve tackling the issue of plastic pollution and the impracticality of the “throw-away” culture, please read on. This is a guide on realistic changes you can make this year, and how you can actually keep these habits throughout the coming months instead of getting reabsorbed into the old ways. If you feel like I feel on these topics, you’ll realize that our society is fast running out of excuses to not address these issues on a very personal level.
So, 2019, man! #noexcuses.
What is this throw-away culture we’ve so quickly adapted to in the last 70 years?
I gained a lot of perspective on single-use items and why they’ve managed to become nearly inseparable from our current lifestyle when I started to research when and where our mentality began. One particular image really stood out to me from a 1955 edition of Life magazine, depicting an American family celebrating this new opportunity for “Throwaway Living.” At the time, this title was celebratory, with people realizing the full potential created by the invention of plastic, a material that did away with the drudgery of cleaning up after yourself. Instead, just throw it out! This is the rise of modernism! Now, 64 years after the article was published, all it makes me think about is impending doom and over-consumerism, along with my role in it all.
What is the solution to single-use?
That’s the golden question. Simply reducing our waste isn’t going to be a permanent solution in the long run, as there is still an end-date for all finite materials on the planet. We’re going to run out sooner or later, and it’s starting to look like sooner. So what about a more “circular economy,” where the philosophy of single-use is done away with and there is a new demand that all products be designed and created with the intention that all of the raw materials will be recovered and repurposed? This sounds pretty logical, but now we need to put it into practice. How can we support this circular economy with our own lifestyle? Look to your pantries, your shopping lists, and the way you eat.
I have this massive belief that “food can save the world” when we grow and consume it responsibly.
1) Stop being afraid of “buying in bulk”
I am in no way perfect in this respect. I stumble and fall for the convenience of plastic packaging all the time. It always seems like the added stress and pressure of being this “eco-goddess” (pressure I put on myself, by the way!) that only buys beans and grains and seeds and spices in bulk, then perfectly arranges them in her pantry in mason jars, makes me give up before I even try.
Ditch any image of what’s trendy, what’s cool, and just think about the practicality of it all. Wouldn’t it feel so good to not keep filling up your trash bin with unnecessary packaging?
Practical first steps: Start hoarding glass jars, or whatever other containers you find most convenient for storing food. Grab masking tape and a permanent marker, take the containers to a bulk store, and get their weight. Write it on the sticker. Leave the stickers on the jar so you don’t need to keep re-weighing them every time you restock. Then you just fill them with whatever goods you need at your bulk supply store, and the cashier can easily find the correct weight.
No bulk food stores in town? Are you sure? Do a little digging. I’ve found at least one in every little town I’ve lived in for the past three years. My latest home, Kaikoura, recently opened one that also stocks local organic produce and I am so dang excited!
2) Commit to cooking more each week & focus on meal prep for busy days ahead
What’s up with this “too busy to cook” thing we got going on? What a luxury to be “too busy” to create nourishing meals for yourself! Forty or fifty years ago our grandparents weren’t going out to eat all the time. Even if it is within your means and you’re a total “foodie,” maybe start treating a meal out more like an actual treat and spend some more time experimenting and playing around in your own kitchen.
Added waste-reduction bonuses of cooking for yourself: you wont’t need to worry about to-go boxes or take-away containers, plastic cutlery or cups. If you’ve started to buy in bulk per the suggestion above, you’ll be reaching in your cupboards for packaging-free ingredients. You’ll have more control over what goes into your food, the creative side of your brain will spark up, and you might find you actually enjoy it. Shocker, I know. It wasn’t so long ago before we needed to do this every single day or we simply wouldn’t eat.
Days insanely packed full and the thought of squeezing in time to cook anxiety-inducing? Focus on meal-prep. Give yourself a few hours one weekend afternoon (I do Sundays because it makes the most sense, but you do you!) to shop for and prep ingredients or little “meal packs” for the week ahead, so when your busy weekday mornings roll around, you can open your fridge, grab your pre-prepped lunch, and hit the road. This has proven especially useful for me with my weird work hours -I have to be at work at 5:05 a.m., and most days I finish around 5 p.m. That leaves me with very little energy at the end of the day, and the little I do have I want to put towards yoga or surfing, not meal-prep. With a fully stocked and carefully planned fridge, I’m good to go!
3) Go to the markets
I can’t over-proclaim my love for farmer’s market and the joy I get from supporting a local producer. I don’t have the time or resources to grow all of my own food, and there’s some items I would just rather outsource (like coconut yoghurt!) than make myself. That’s where your farmer’s market comes in handy. Make it a weekly ritual, bring your bags, and buy the local, organic, in-season produce and goods directly from the folks who made them. They’re usually happy to gush about their products, and you’ll meet some truly inspirational people this way. You’ll also be eating much higher-quality produce throughout the week, and your body will be jamming because of it.
Plus, BONUS, most markets have amazing food carts, coffee stalls, and live music. Treat your senses, shop local, and support your local economy. Yes, it is more expensive than the supermarket. But isn’t the Earth worth that to you?
4) Grow at least one food item & forget about needing a green thumb
To get even more in touch with your food, try growing at least one thing. I realize that for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the middle of winter. Perfect opportunity to grow some herbs indoors. I’m not saying you should grow fifty varietals of heirloom tomatoes. If you can do that, you’re a legend! But try small. I myself have been hemming and hawing over starting my own little garden this year, but I’m going to try planting a bit of kale and see what I can get away with.
The idea of walking outside, plucking fresh greens for a crispy, delightful, summer-ific fresh salad is my ideal of heaven. It’s the most locally-sourced you can get, and a lot of us live in climates where you can grow some pretty delicious things. Here’s a beginner’s guide to starting a garden that might give you a couple of useful pointers.
The benefits of growing your own food are endless. No fossil fuels used in transit. You know they are 100% organic (so long as you aren’t using pesticides or other weird things). They’re picked at their primo stage of ripeness. They just taste better! So dig out the spade and get your sun hat.
5) Find the joy in planning your next experience, not buying your next piece of electronics or pair of shoes
I can’t tell you what to get excited about. That’s not my role. I can just say that I have been working on this myself over the last couple of years. I’ve chosen to spend my money on getting from one place to the next, having a temporary bed to lay my head down, eating nutritious food for my body as it explores these beautiful new places. I’ve also purchased a new computer, a hard drive, a nice pair of noise-canceling headphones. I am excited about them, but I am excited because they allow me to do exactly what I’m doing right now: writing comfortably about my experiences and journeys in eco-travel and sustainable living. I love to write about my experiences, and to do that, I need to have those experiences in the first place, so that’s my first priority. I still use a very base-level Nikon DSLR from 2013. I have my dad’s old GoPro 4 (Thanks Pops! Still going strong!). I only replace things when they stop functioning. Until then, reuse, reuse, reuse.
I’ve found as I’ve ventured on through my 20’s that the things that excite me the most have shifted. I’m now chasing that adrenaline buzz of summiting a peak, reaching a new record for how long I can go without tumbling off my surfboard, holding my breath for longer underwater. I used to love cute clothes, boots, and swimsuits. But experiences are things you can’t buy. There’s no waste created by achieving these things. They’re goals, stepping stones. I crave them, and I’ve found that in craving them, you’re led to a more sustainable way of living and a responsible shift in priorities.
This is a pretty simple guide, with ideas that you may or may not have heard before. I didn’t go into too much depth but hope to have some more specific how-to guides up soon if you’d like some of these suggestions spelled out in clear and concise terms. I just wanted to put them all in one spot for you to ponder on. Just know that I, a fellow imperfect human being, have found that implementing these tips has left me with the most soul satisfaction on my green journey, and I hope that by sharing my experience, you might find a bit of inspiration yourself.
This is going to be one hell of a New Year, with plenty of changes to come. It’s up to us to impact those changes and make them positive, so remember that the next time you’re facing the convenience vs. eco battle. It’s worth the trouble.
As always, if you have any questions or want some advice, shoot me a message below!