Low-waste journey kit. Image of plastic-bottle used as planters in background.

Sharing lessons from my low-waste journey

Lessons from my low-waste living and tips for you to begin your low-waste journey

By Aastha Srivastava

It’s been a couple of years since I started my low waste journey. I started with making a few small changes in my lifestyle like never accepting any kind of poly bags or plastic straws from street vendors, carrying my cloth bag everywhere, making conscious food choices, what I wear and where it comes from, etc.

When it comes to the idea of low-waste living, people are a little daunted. Waste is not seen as a big problem. It is just a by-product of how we live our lives. But over the years, the amount of waste we produce has increased. The growing amount of waste is negatively impacting not just our health but the planet’s health as well.

Going completely zero-waste is very difficult; but not impossible. I believe that small steps each day helps. In fact, we all are choosing to do some zero-waste practices each day. We just need to keep learning and adding more of them to our daily lives. It took me a lot of time to understand these things and I’m still learning and educating myself to be better at this.

What started my low-waste journey? – An incident that changed my outlook towards waste

One day, a YouTube video caught my attention. When I saw the title “4 years of waste in a jar”, I was intrigued. I wondered whether it is even possible to reduce your waste to just a single jar. My family tosses a dustbin brimming with trash each week. I needed to find out more about it.

I got really excited with the idea of decreasing my waste and fitting it into a jar. This is not entirely possible (especially when living with a family) but I needed to start somewhere and this was my motivation.

So, I educated myself, did some research about it and found an entirely different way of living that I never knew existed. I learnt about Recycling, Composting, Harvesting, Upcycling, Reusing, Reducing, Zero-waste, Sustainability and tons of other topics in-depth. I understood the correlation between them, why we need to do it and most importantly how to do it. These concepts gave me a new positive outlook towards life and I wanted to live up to it.

How easy or difficult is it to go zero-waste really?

To be honest, it’s not at all easy especially when you live with your family. You can’t control their lifestyle choices but surely you can control yours. Though eventually, your family starts adapting these changes into their lifestyle as well, if not completely then maybe they start taking small steps.

Once you start to reduce your waste, you notice the outstanding things still going into the bin and then seek alternatives to them. When you put your mind to it, you can find a solution for nearly everything.

Some things that I have been doing over the years to reduce my waste include: making my own beauty products, using products from sustainable brands thus ensuring plastic-free packaging. Making things at home like moisturisers, lotion bars, lip balms and tooth powders is not that tough. Plus, you can customise the ingredients based on your needs and what suits your body.

I also started understanding the different types of waste. A big reason why our waste does not get processed is that we dump everything together. Understanding the difference between dry vs wet waste and why we need to segregate it is essential. So now, I segregate into three different bins: recyclable waste, non-recyclable waste and organic waste.

I am still attempt to minimise my waste even if it’s recyclable because recycling is not entirely sustainable since you still end-up creating some waste. Lowering your overall consumption definitely helps. It may be difficult at first, but eventually you learn to use what you have.

Low-waste living is not easy to adopt. After all, no big lifestyle change is ever easy. But, for me the initial motivation was curiosity, now it is all about living in a way that’s kinder to the planet.

Some tips to start your low-waste journey

  1. Watch documentaries, read and educate yourself about various topics. Low-waste, recycling, carbon footprint, climate change, etc. The practices under them are constantly evolving, so find resources that let you stay up-to-date. You can only feel confident about starting something new and be consistent, only if you have enough knowledge about it.
  2. Talk about it. Have a support circle of friends or like-minded people who are starting or on a low-waste journey themselves. Connect with people living a similar lifestyle and ask your doubts to them. You’ll be surprised by the help you’ll receive.
  3. Listen. Listen to what the media is saying, what other people feel about it, concerns your family or loved ones may have. No lifestyle choice is perfect, so listen to how you can evolve into it in a way that is easy for you and others around you.
  4. Last but not least, never forget to apply the 5 Rs of low-waste living.

1. Refuse

Learn to say no — to promotional freebies, junk mail, plastic bags, straws, whatever is thrown at you.

2. Reduce

Letting go of all the things we do not truly use or need in our home, going through a decluttering process. If you come across something valuable, then donate the resource to your community or people who made need it more than you. You put it back on the market and it boosts the secondhand market, which is very important for the future of low waste.

3. Reuse

Swap disposables for reusables- replace paper towels with rags, replace sandwich bags with tiffins, going to the grocery store with tote bags, mesh bags, etc. Stop using single-use items and replace them with multiple usable ones.

4. Recycle

Avoiding materials that are not recyclable and sending those that can be to recycling centres. Thus, point one of educating yourself on what is recyclable is essential.

5. Rotting

Composting is the last rule, the last resort before the landfill. Compost your kitchen waste and biodegradable materials after referring through a compostable waste chart.

Final thoughts

If you ask me for something I wish I had known sooner or when I was starting this journey, I would say this: Low waste living is a journey. You can’t learn everything in a day or two. It’s a long term process of learning and most importantly unlearning your past habits.

But, if there’s one thing that I knew sooner it would be this- I wish someone had told me to not stress over things so much. Take it slow initially and feel guilty and anxious every time you make a mistake. Low-waste living is a journey to be taken one step at a time. So make little progress each day and enjoy the journey!

Aastha is a zero-waste enthusiast. She is a self-confessed imperfect zero-waste lifestylist and believes it is not about perfection but taking small steps each day. Aastha shares her low-waste journey on her Instagram page.

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