Here at Commonsense, we’ve been passionate about environmental sustainability since 1991! We’re always looking for ways to make our work more sustainable in areas like waste, energy use and the materials we use. We love initiatives like Plastic Free July, and stock a wide range of products that support a low plastic lifestyle.
We were delighted to interview Hannah Blumhardt, one half of The Rubbish Trip. In 2017, Hannah and her partner Liam will begin a one year trip around Aotearoa New Zealand, telling the story of their no-waste lifestyle, and sharing tips and tricks with others who are keen to live with less disposable plastic. Read on to find out more about living zero waste, and ten easy ways to shrink your waste.
Liam and Hannah from The Rubbish Trip
What does living zero-waste look like?
My partner and I have been zero waste since the beginning of 2015. It’s coming up to two and a half years now.
We send nothing to landfill, and we also follow the ‘5 R’s’ or waste hierarchy: refuse, reduce, re-use, recycle and rot! You’ll notice that ‘recycle’ is low down the list. We see recycling as the last resort. Living zero waste is actually about recycling less, not more. In practise, this means that we produce one wheelie bin of paper and cardboard waste a year, and one small bin of glass. We do not use disposable plastic at all, whether recyclable or not.
What was the most surprising thing you found about going zero waste?
The most surprising thing was how easy it was to drastically reduce waste.
The most difficult thing was transitioning your mindset. It can take a couple of months to transition from a convenience-based mindset to being more organised. It can be really hard if you’ve got a bad memory. It’s all about creating new habits though and everyone can do it, with a bit of perseverance and determination!
Why go zero waste?
Our current model, where disposability is thoroughly normalised, is not sustainable. I think we have just accepted living with rubbish as inevitable, whereas it doesn’t have to be – the throw-away society is actually a pretty new development in human history.
We’re really really conscious that Living Zero waste is not only for the privileged. Obviously, there are barriers to living zero waste, but there are also many savings people can make, both cost and time wise, through this lifestyle. We want the knowledge to be more accessible to all people, which is why we’re going on tour and committed to offering our talks for free!
Apart from environmental benefits, what else can people gain from living zero waste?
We wouldn’t consider not living zero waste now.
It’s better for both our time and money. We’re better connected with our community because we share resources. We spend less time focused of stuff and we’ve learnt how to do so many things, like making toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and bread… pretty much all the things you would buy packaged, we make!
10 Super-Easy Ways to Shrink Your Waste
There are some really easy ways to minimise your waste, Hannah says. Most involve swapping one brand with another, or ditching an item completely! It’s really simple with just a little bit of prep.
It’s important to realise that you don’t need to eliminate everything from the get-go. “It’s much easier to do it step-by-step,” says Hannah. “Focus on the low-hanging fruit – this is usually the source of the biggest waste.”
Here are Hannah’s ten super-easy ways to shrink your waste:
- Use reusable cloth bags instead of disposable plastic bags.
- Ditch gladwrap! Store food in Tupperware and use cloth sandwich bags for packaged lunches (Commonsense sells Munch sandwich bags and a range of re-usable storage containers).
- Ditch takeaway coffee cups – buy a KeepCup. You can use KeepCups on other occasions when drinks are being served in disposable cups too (functions, events, airplanes, Doctor’s waiting rooms… the list goes on!)
- Use a reusable drink bottle instead of plastic water bottles.
- Take your own container when you’re buying takeaway food. The sense of satisfaction will be well worth any embarrassment!
- Use rewashable dishcloths (such as cotton cloths) instead of plastic dishcloths.
- Start a home compost, as many zero waste alternative items are compostable, but need to be put in a compost in order to break down properly.
- Replace your plastic toothbrush with a compostable Go Bamboo toothbrush.
- Replace your plastic dishwashing brush with a wooden Ecostore brush (they have replaceable, compostable heads!).
- Choose products with home compostable packaging, like Trade Aid’s chocolate and coffee range. Its packaging breaks down in six weeks! “We can still eat chocolate and coffee and not feel guilty!” says Hannah.
Are you interested in Plastic Free July? Attend one of Hannah & Liam's fantastic events!