3 easy steps to cut down your waste by 2/3

It’s been quiet around here because we’ve embarked on a huge project:

*The Zero Waste Home*

After reading Bea Johnson’s book of the same title, I realised that what we’re currently doing isn’t enough. We thought we were eco-friendly, but turns out we’re not. It’s just not enough to recycle, take bags to the supermarket and our Keep Cups to the coffee shop.

If Bea can achieve zero waste in her home (with two kids, and a dog!) then we had to at the very least give it a decent go. (Full disclosure: My husband said “it’s your project, but if it doesn’t create more work in the end, I’m happy to tag along”.)

How to shop bulk

Bulk shopping is fun – and who said there’s no choice!?

Now I feel silly not to have made these changes earlier (years ago, in fact).

This is what we’ve done:

  • Located a bulk store. Yes, there was one nearby, but we just never looked for it. Now most of what’s in our pantry comes from the bulk store: Pasta, rice, quinoa, dates, beans, pulses, flour, nuts, tea, coffee, herbs & spices and cereals. They also sell glass containers but we had quite a few from products we had bought in glass jars at the supermarket (olives, tomato sauce, etc.). Herbs and tea go into our old containers we bought at the supermarket once they’re empty.
  • Found an organic farmer’s market. Again, there was one within walking distance but even though we’ve been living in the same spot for over a year, we never went. The market has all our veggies, fruit and bread. We also buy eggs, olive oil and olives there and are able to return the containers for re-use to the market stall.
  • Looked at what’s in the bathroom. I realised that we can buy shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, facial moisturiser and unwrapped soap at the bulk store. They also sell coconut oil which I use on my skin. We now use a crystal stone deodorant (which lasts a few years).
  • Removed bins from all rooms except the kitchen. Having bins in the office and bathroom just encourages waste production.

This is what we’ve eliminated:

  • Oranges and onions sold in nets. Apples in plastic bags. Other fruit in plastic trays, wrapped with plastic all around. Vegetables sealed to keep them apart from the non-organic ones at the supermarket. All other packaging for rice, pasta, flour….
  • We eat fruit instead of buying bottled juice.
  • Long ago we had switched to tap water instead of bottled water.

These are some new habits that we’re cultivating:

  • Refuse: receipts, napkins, brochures, “free” items such as pens or hotel toiletries (because of the cost to the environment), paper bags provided at the supermarket’s self-serve bakery section (these 2-3 items can be carried by hand).
  • Reuse: pretty much everything. If it cannot be reused, the rule is to refuse it.
  • Awareness: We realised it’s just about paying attention. We bought mushrooms and mechanically put them in the bag provided. Why? Not sure. Now we just put them into the shopping trolley and add them as last item on the conveyer belt at check out. It’s all these small things that we just never thought about.

What’s left to do:

  • This is what we still buy packaged: nappies, baby wipes, tissues, toilet paper. Some cosmetics such as make-up and powder as well as toothpaste. We have yet to locate recyclable (bamboo) toothbrushes.

What’s the result so far:

WE HAVE CUT DOWN OUR RUBBISH BY 2/3. It’s an overwhelming result, and it was absolutely painless. The switch was so easy, I can’t believe we didn’t do it earlier.

Oh, and my husband is totally happy with the result; he has actually found a few items at the bulk store that we couldn’t buy at the supermarket. 🙂

What’s your approach? Do you have any tips to share? 


Image credit.

14 replies »

  1. Hi Andrea. If you’ve got a Harris Farm supermarket near you, go check them out – they now stock bamboo toothbrushes and similar eco products. I’ve been buying them for years from health food stores and open-minded pharmacies, too.
    Another tip is to purchase Indian vedic tooth powder instead of toothpaste because 1. the containers are reusable 2. the product is environmentally sound and 3. one pot lasts around 2 months per person (a lot longer than a tube of paste).


  2. Fantastic Andrea. Can I ask how do you package things at the bulk store? Do you pre-weigh your jars before filling them?
    You could easily cut down the nappies and baby wipes by using modern cloth nappies and cloth wipes, they are so easy and a lot cheaper too


    • Yes, they check the weight of my jars and write it on the container. No need to re-check each time! I know, I need to get onto the nappy issue now but hopefully soon we won’t need them anymore! 🙂


  3. Well done – it sounds as if you’ve made huge steps in zero-wasting your home! I too am a huge fan and admirer of Bea Johnson but – so far – haven’t made as much progress as you have in achieving a zero waste lifestyle!


    • Thanks for your comment! Yes, we’re lucky to have a bulk store and an organic farmer’s market nearby (which I wasn’t even aware of before doing my research!). Luckily, more and more supermarkets also sell items in bulk 🙂


    • It’s so true. I always looked at shoppers who took home five plastic bags with each shop, thinking I was SO much more eco-friendly – while stuffing my linen bags with countless items individually wrapped in plastic. 😉


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