Zero waste goals - How to take better care of Mother Earth

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I hate that in today’s world people can only relate to you if there is a label around your neck. So to make this easier for you, and me more relatable, let me hang the label around my own neck – I am an eco-conscious mom, a green mom if you will. Although the definition is very “loose” and wide, I think you will get the just of it:

Green: “to be environmentally, health, and socially conscious” To be conscious. To know what the effects of your actions are, whether that is environmental, for your own and other’s health, or socially. Admitting that there are consequences for everything.

The green part has been a long time coming. My Master’s thesis was about sustainability and environmental consciousness, so I have dabbled a bit. But still, the move over to green living happened kind of unplanned. How do you ask? Well, if all of your decisions are based on a little person, and you love that person, you will, of course, do whatever is necessary to ensure they are protected right? Turns out the things that I felt protected my family were a bit green, much like my compost heap.

I don’t love my kids; my whole world revolves around them and Husband. And in our ever-changing, toxin-ridden, over-populated world I will do anything to ensure they are happy and safe. We face water scarcity, food insecurity, air pollution, extreme UV exposure, etc. Our planet is under stress, our oceans full of plastic, mountains of landfills releasing greenhouse gasses, worsening climate change and global warming.  This is leading to an unprecedented increase in natural disasters, from mudslides to earthquakes, wildfires destroying complete towns, tsunamis, need I go on? Although I was aware of all the negatives associated with consumerism (spending more than what we can on things that we don’t need merely for the sake of having things) and wasting and polluting, the transition to green actually came about slowly. Initially, the changes were small. Some things just felt right, other things I stopped doing (or started doing) after reading about it and doing my own research. A lot of things I did through trial and error, and some things I still struggle with. Mostly, my conviction was strengthened as I saw the results, and these were both economical as well as physical, e.g. changing to cloth diapers not only slashed my nappy bill (like obliterated it) but also stopped both kids from struggling with nappy rash. Having a compost heap helps the environment as fewer things from our household ends up in landfills, but also keeps my garden lovely fed and happy. Win win win all the way.

I desperately want to be part of the Zero Waste movement, to be able to fit my trash for the whole year into one glass jar, but I acknowledge that this process takes time and some things are easier than others. So for now, I am focusing on the following 10 things. If you would like to start on this journey, but you are not entirely sure where to start, maybe give this list a try:

  • Buy natural as much as you can

Read ingredients and decide which are your non-negotiables, e.g. GMOs, microbeads, palm oil, parabens, etc. Some chemicals have a lasting effect on not only the environment but also on your own body and health. Other ingredients or products destroys wildlife, forest or the oceans. Read up and decide who you would like to support, and who not.

  • Make your own as much as you can

Not only a cost saver but also so much better for your body! See my recipes under Crunchy Mamma.

  • Use reusable – from bags to containers, to jars, etc.

The zero-waste movement has a good point. We are creating too much waste and by buying single-use items we are feeding the demand. Just stop it. Try and cut back on plastic, from grocery bags to straws, to disposable coffee cups at your local takeaway coffee shop. There is a long list of items that you can buy or repurpose (which is, of course, the better idea) to substitute single-use items. I am doing my part by not taking grocery bags when I go grocery shopping, buying loose fruit and veg and then getting the store to weigh the items without putting them in a plastic bag (yeah Food Lovers Market!), buying refills instead of new products in new packaging and trying to stay away from takeaway coffee spots. We have been doing cloth nappies for 3 years, and have never regretted the decision. I have bought a menstrual cup (so no more tampons) but still trying to work it out and my next thing to buy will be an eco-coffee cup so that I can have takeaway coffee again.

  • Shop at farmer’s markets or become part of a co-op

Support the local producers, farmers, and creators. You are cutting back on carbon miles, bringing money into your community, feeding the economy, and ensuring your family gets only what is fresh and seasonal. Again, there is a savings element since you will no longer pay the costs associated with sourcing and importing the goods. We are part of a co-op, and if you would also like to become part of the Pretoria one you can sign up here (use my name as reference).

  • Conserve water and energy

All the usuals: Wash with cold water, shower don’t bath, water the garden in dusk or dawn, etc. Find smarter ways to get energy, from solar panels to wind turbines, to harvesting methane gas from your compost heap to heat up your hot water. For cooking, invest in a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, or a wonder bag. All 3 cook amazing stews, soups, etc. in a fraction of the time that you would have spent if you did it conventionally in the oven or on the stove top. Ditch your tumble dryer, rather hang your laundry outside to dry in the wind and sun. Yes, you are saving money, but you are also saving the environment one day at a time. Every little bit helps, believe me!

  • Always have vinegar and coconut oil on hand

You would be surprised to know how many uses these two simple products have, other than cooking. We use coconut oil for making our own beauty products, body treatments, and some cleaning. It’s a versatile carrier oil, can be added to baths as a moisturiser, slathered on chapped lips, etc. Vinegar disinfects, whitens laundry, sprayed on baking soda it makes an awesome cleaner, and more. Both are cost-effective and very kind to the environment!

  • Use essential oils

See my guide here. We use them for everything!

  • Take a long, hard look at your medicine cabinet

Start with throwing out (safely dispose of) all medicines that are past their use by date. Expired medicines can be dangerous, so chuck them! Then take a long look at those you have left – do you really use them? And if you do, should you? Some mainstream meds can safely be replaced or substituted with natural products. And some other meds have no use, so why keep them. Ever noticed that with flu meds you are sick two weeks and without you are sick for 14 days? Yeah… keep that in mind.

  • Read, research, ask

Become a member of a crunchy group, a zero-waste group, and a green group. Be warned, this has the possibility of pulling you down the rabbit hole! But most of the changes that you will definitely make will be for the better – on your pocket, the Earth, and your psyche.

  • Eliminate as far as possible

Decide to consciously decrease or stop your use of plastics and single use items. Refuse straws in restaurants, don’t buy new plastic items like containers (move over to glass), etc.

But the best advice and tip? Dont ever feel disparaged! Even the smallest change can lead to major improvements, so even if you fail today, try again tomorrow.

Share with me your best eco-friendly tips!