Category: Zero waste/responsible behavior

Plastic is not the problem, we are.

Why plastic is (often) not a problem

2018 seems to be the year against plastic. Social medias are full of videos from different organisations raising awareness against the dire consequences of our disposable plastic consumption. Oceans are the particular focus on most of these campaigns as the threat of plastic is becoming more known and new studies keep on showing every few months that plastic dumped in the oceans comes back to us in many creative ways, in our food most notably. Here from Greenpeace Australia, if you don’t like to read that much, here is a documentary for you… And since we are at it, check this out about the plastic continent.

It is also very trendy in the zero-waste/eco-conscious community to rain down hell on plastic, to worship the vintage glass jar, to hail the bamboo disposable fork. This, however won’t save the planet. It might even destroy it faster than plastic.

Beware of false friends

Glass is made mainly of sand, also used quite widely to make concrete. We are already over-extracting sand from the environment and a radical increase in the global demand (as a large shift to glass jar would require) would only further increase the destruction of marine life, marine coastlines and everywhere else we get our sand from. Plus, on a very practical matter, have you ever held a jar in your hand? These bad boys are both very fragile and extremely heavy. The amount of extra energy necessary to transport such jars around the globe would probably increase their carbon footprint very significantly. I am therefore pretty sure glass jars have a much higher carbon footprint than plastic containers all the while being less practical.

Alternatives to Styrofoam cups, plastic plates and cutlery have been popping up everywhere in the Western world. Nowadays, you are not a respectable, hipster coffee shop or “healthy” fast-food joint if your paper napkins are not brown, your cutlery made of wood or bamboo and your plates of cardboard (hello Exqi and the likes!). The thing is though, wood is not recycled and neither is paper and cardboard that has been covered in oil and food stains. So while it might not become a microparticle that will kill birds or come back in our stomach when we eat fish, it still takes up to several months to biodegrade, requires a lot of work to be moved around to where it can do just that and stays very much a garbage that will pile up somewhere and cause problems.

Oh, yeah, here is also a fun fact. It is better to give a plastic bag to people showing up at your store or conference than a trending tote bag. Tote bags have a much higher carbon footprint and the point is that you shouldn’t need or get two billions of them, a couple are enough. So while it makes you feel good, it does more harm than good. So, really, ditch it and find a better way to protect the environment.

Changing our habits around waste

The reusable bag frenzy and why it is backfiring is actually the perfect example of what the problem really is. It does not matter what material we use as long as we are still in the habit of throwing it after one use. Single-use items create enormous amount of problems and waste, both in terms of trash and money. We spend billions producing, distributing, cleaning, moving, sorting and storing our trash every year. I mean, we used to ship part of it to China until this year… For real?

If we suddenly banned plastic cutlery and simply replaced all of it with wooden alternatives, what do we think would be left of our forest? How do you expect nature could meet that enormous demand? Instead of an ocean full of plastic, we would have a world without trees. Does that seem better to you?

Going back to the tote bags/reusable bags,  if we keep getting 10-20 or more every year, we are actually having a worse carbon footprint than our former habit of plastic bags. If people always forget to bring the bag they bought the last time to do their shopping, if they end up buying new ones every time, things are worse off than they were.

This is why it is our single-use habit that needs to change in order to meaningfully impact our environment in a positive way. As long as we focus our energy in pointing fingers to easy targets, we won’t be able to evolve into a more sustainable society. Until we gain the awareness to ask ourselves the right questions about our habit of polluting and creating waste, we won’t really make a difference. If we cannot forgo some of our comfortable but perilous habits, like not planning before shopping, we can try to get rid of any particular material and replace it with a more neutral one, it will still be a problem to deal with.

Take (a small) action now!

So how about this? How about you prepare a shopping bag, one full of plastic, tote or whatever bags and containers you might need when you shop. Always put it back together when you’re done sorting your shopping at home, always take it with you when you go shopping. Hang it by the frontdoor if you think you’ll forget about it.

How about you make a lunch box, with some cutlery from your kitchen, a washable napkin, a cup so that when going to eat in your favorite place, you don’t have to repeatedly use single-use items?

There are another one million things you can anticipate and do to starve off your single-use item addiction and honestly, are the two I just mentioned really a bother?

Living a zero-waste lifestyle is impossible. Here is why you should try.

¨Like whatttt? What do you mean? Ain’t most of this damn blog you are making me read about living zero-waste? What kind of Ponzi scheme are you working on, you, hoodlum!¨

Perfectly legitimate questions, but hold your horses and let me explain.

A bit of theory(-ish)

The people that coined the terminology about ¨zero-waste¨ follow the same idea as the people that talk about ¨degrowth¨: they want to be thought-provoking, they want you to rethink how you see life. Zero-waste ideology is as much as about going back to the good old days of being a happy caveman as the degrowth movement, that is not at all… And anybody that tells you differently is probably the type of person that sees the title of a Buzzfeed article and takes it at face-value: a sympathiser of fake news and half-informed rants.

Anyway, do look at degrowth, it is fabulous as an ideology! (impartial? Nop, but again who truly ever is…).

Living Zero-waste is about ¨Living-Zero-Unrecyclable/Unreusable-Waste¨

Zero non-recyclable waste

Back to the matter at hand though. Living Zero-waste is about ¨Living-Zero-Unrecyclable/Unreusable-Waste¨ and that is what the famous jars that the most prominent advocates advertise to show their exemplary behaviors. Living zero-waste has a lot to do with shifting from plastic-based containers, packaging, bags and what not and using tree-based or sand-based alternatives (yes, glass is made of sand). If you belong to least extremists of the group, it is technically acceptable to use cardboard plates and cups that you throw away after one meal, it’s still a problem but less of a problem and a step in the right direction so yay, you!

There is a certain need to change your daily habits and behaviors too

But you also need to change a bit

Simply replacing non-recyclable items by recyclable ones is not what the zero-waste lifestyle is about though. There is a certain need to change your daily habits and behaviors too, and this is where this movement joins partly the ideology of the Degrowth bunch. Because as long as you are producing a ridiculous amount of waste, recyclable or not, you are putting a strain on natural resources and requiring a lot of (often non-green) energy to recycle all your trash. In that sense, less is more, and buy adopting this lifestyle, you should realise that you don’t need to buy stuff all the time, that there is a lot of DIY you can do that is simple, fun and makes a tremendous difference both on the planet and on the lives of people living in it.

You become a more conscious consumer, a supporter of less multinational, big-profit-making companies, you stop buying your immediate, affordable satisfaction at the expense of human dignity in other countries. Also, you become necessarily more mindful of the cost (human, ecological, social) of the cheap products you buy, produced in countries far away where regulations and social structures allow for more slavery-type of labor, for more use of weird, potentially dangerous chemicals that would be ban in your country, etc. You become a more enlightened and respectful world citizen and that can only help bring the best out of globalisation, for a brighter future for all. Doesn’t it sound much better for everyone?

So what are you waiting for?

Then give it a try, use more tupperwares, keep a fork, a knife and a spoon in that cool bag of yours so you don’t use so many disposable ones everytime you go to lunch. Or how about taking 10min and making some laundry liquid with your kids? You’ll see, it’s crazy simple.

Phase 2: To live zero waste or not

Hello fellow adventurers,

We are in for quite the unknown adventure, stepping into unchartered territories as we progress through the dangerous journey of living a more eco-conscious life.

This post could be interpreted as an admission of defeat, as a dent into the shinning armour of the protector of nature. However, this would be the most negative perception of what I am about to say. I personally prefer to believe that as we set a new trend, start a movement  of people following a new alternative lifestyle, it is normal that some limitation apply but that in the future, it will become possible to achieve our goal.

What I am trying to say in a cryptic way is that, well… You can’t live a true zero-waste life now. If you are living in a city, integrated in society, you are bound to find moments when there are no alternatives to making waste. Your light bulb blew up, you are traveling in an airplane and they bring you food on a nice disposable tray, before you can say anything, the waiter in the bar brings you a cocktail with a straw and a little umbrella, etc.

You just can’t fight on all fronts. It would take too much time or mean too many sacrifices. The thing is, it’s completely ok. Hell, if everyone would lower their waste production to the minimum, it would already make such a tremendous difference. What matters is to make efforts, where possible, to act. No effort is too small because one after another, it will amount to a lot. There will be ups and downs, times where you push your limits and times where you regress to past behaviours. I’ll admit I still occasionally do my shopping in a supermarket when I am pressed by time. As often said, it is not the end goal that matters so much, it is to embark in the journey. So keep your eyes on the prize and work progressively to achieve your objectives. Know to celebrate your successful efforts and be forgiving of your failures. This transition is not something that can happen quickly so don’t expect it too, don’t lose your hope and motivation.

So long,

Marty Jeeper

Travels in the zero-waste world

Eco-friendly travels… I don’t think so…

Traveling is never good for the planet. Well except if you are hiking with a bag full of tree seeds and planting them all over the place or just happen to visit Trump with a copy of the Paris Agreements to stuff up in his mouth… Doesn’t happen a lot right?

One could argue that global warming and pollution would be a lot less of a problem if we simply didn’t travel, living the happy life of back when, when one’s whole world revolved around a few square kilometres. Technology, worldwide media and entertainment and so much more other influences have made us travel-addicts. We ignore the beauty of nature a few kilometres away from our homes and embark in a never-ending chase for all the other wonders our planet has to offer. We forget to see the beauties of the sunrises in the morning, the jaw-dropping landscapes our immediate surroundings have to offer and only take the time to enjoy what is around us when we go on our much awaited holidays. Why is it that only in a foreign setting do we take the time to finally appreciate what is around us?

Better past

#1 Whenever you can, travel close

Now there is no denying that you won’t find a centuries-old buddhist monastery in the middle of the French countryside and that through travels, there is much to discover that would be out of reach in our home countries. However, in many instances, when traveling is about laying on a beach in the sun, partying all night long or seeking a relaxed resort to do nothing but being taken care of by other people, being thousands of miles away can matter very little.

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Think about offsetting but don’t let it fool you

What I am getting at, as you have probably figured out by now, is that traveling is, by nature, eco-unfriendly. Planes are the worst but even car travel or trains have an impact that can not truly be mitigated. Carbon credit systems, tree-planting and other schemes put in place to offer the more eco-mindful a way out of a truly awful environmental track record are not satisfactory enough solutions to offset your pollution. This is why, to a large extent, one must always weigh the added-value of far-away travels before making a decision for a holiday. Indeed, the only true way to be waste-free and carbon neutral is just not to travel.

That being said, I am the first one to hop on a plane and go on the other side of the world to discover the wonders of nature, of human civilisations or for work…  I am therefore not trying to write an article to shame and blame all world travellers. Far from it. It needed to be said before I can suggest ways to mitigate the amount of waste one produces and share with you insights I have gained on the little things that can be done here and there to ensure that while you still live your life in the 21st century, you ensure you respect nature and our planet  as much as possible, wherever you are.

#2 Travel kit

This one is a must have… and not just traveling. So many places, and interestingly enough, a large number of the “do-gooder organic” food places that pop up everywhere nowadays don’t want to deal with cutlery anymore and give you disposable ones. Not being prepared will make you use them, and you might feel shitty about it. Well don’t, just take it as a reminder and a lesson. When you are planning to go out, pack your “going away” kit. Mine is very simple, I have a fork, a knife (well until airport security took it away… Rookie mistake), 2 spoons and 2 table clothes. If I know I will be eating with someone, I even pack extras so the others don’t have to use the reusable wannabe garbage. I get a little educational and moralising vibe as a bonus and who doesn’t like to feel superior, right?

As I said, I travel a lot and I used to pick up the toiletry kits some airlines would give you for long-haul flights. This means that I have a huge pile of those pencil-case type of little baggies and I was wondering what to do with them. Well one of them is now the proud holder of my previously mentioned kit, upcycling like a boss, me likey!

#3 Food and drinks

Cook and pack what you will need, don’t plan on buying on the go. You will save money, like a lot (airports, train stations and gas stations are expensive places…), you will probably eat better and of course, you will be able to limit the amount of waste you produce.

Now I know what might come up in a discussion about this, especially when flying. How can you bring liquids to an airport? How to overcome security checks? Well first of all, security doesn’t care about food, especially if it is a sandwich and a pack of crisps. When it comes to drinks, water bottles are your friends, as always. Tap water has never killed anybody so bring in an empty water bottle through security and fill it up in the toilet sink afterwards. It will also be handy anytime after that during your trip and will save you from buying quite a few plastics bottles.

#4 No more reusables. No excuses…

Napkins

One of the first habit to change when trying to live a more waste-free life is to switch to reusable napkins. Bring several, as they can get dirty pretty quickly. Get pretty ones and you will look super, super cool on top of it.

Bags

Always, and I mean ALWAYS, have a bag (or better, a set of bags) with you when traveling. There are the easiest thing you can do to limit your consumption of disposable items. Space is limited in luggages, for sure, but the now hyper fashionable tote bag is great for that. It has a lot of space but can be folded and fit in the palm of your hand.

Cups

That one can be tricky, it does take quite a bit of room. What I am experimenting with at the moment is collapsible/foldable cups. Yes, you heard me. There are metal foldable cups and there are ones made of silicons or such. They are great to save spaces and can be pretty handy.

Use your imagination

We all have different habits, only you can design what contingencies would work best to limit your usual production of waste. Take a minute to think about the most common situations where you use disposable items and see what you can bring along in your travels to change that.

 

Never forget, every little thing counts. Just buying a couple reusable napkins is not meaningless and for every paper napkin you won’t use because of that, our planet and our society is forever better for it. Don’t sell yourself short, give yourself a break and just do your best!

So long,

Marty Jeeper

 

 

One step at a time: tips and tricks towards a zero waste lifestyle

The rambling part

I’m what you’d call a concerned citizen. I volunteer a lot and I try to impact the world as positively as I can. That being said, there is room for improvement, like… A lot! So for the new year, I thought I’d give myself a real challenge in my personal life. I decided to try to live a zero waste lifestyle.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s trending. Videos like this one are popping up on social media and it is becoming a new popular concept for the eco-sensitive bunch. I was inspired by that and belonging to the previously mentioned group of hippies, I decided to make the jump.

Opening a small parenthese, I would just like to say how great it is that our societies evolve so quickly in accepting increasingly more extremist practices of eco-friendliness. Shops are popping up everywhere with organic, local products or with no packaging and their growth is exponential. A growing economy is bursting with activity to offer ever more alternatives to be eco-mindful for the average person and this gives me reasons to hope for a better future.

But enough of that, back to the main topic here. I can’t really say honestly that this is a jump, it’s more like a free fall into a black hole. First realisation on the road to zero waste is that you better think this through. It’s not as easy as switching shops. You will soon realise that a lot of your habits need to change, that your mindset needs to evolve. You will have to reeducate yourself, take up a challenge. Exciting, right? The first step towards enlightenment is to become aware of the waste you produce so you can develop a plan to change that. Study first, son, then act!

The first step towards enlightenment is to become aware of the waste you produce so you can develop a plan to change that.

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The challenge yourself part

I have been paying attention to what I consume for a while and I have been recycling for longer, all that to say that I was already somehow careful about the amount of waste I produced. Believe me though when I say that the moment you start focusing on producing zero waste, you start realising there are so much situations where you act in an eco-genocidal way. I swear, I blushed, but luckily nobody was watching, when I started to see all the moments I used disposable items and the easy steps I could do to change that.

I mean, take a minute now and try to think about the things you buy on a regular basis that DO NOT have packaging. If you are the efficient type and do most of your shopping in a supermarket, the answer will be: barely anything… Nowadays, even fruits and vegetables are packaged in cardboard and plastic films or boxes. Don’t even get me started on the plastic bags… I mean, dude, we’re in 2017, bring your own bags to do shopping!

Producing waste has become such an integral part of our lives that we don’t realise it anymore.

Producing waste has become such an integral part of our lives that we don’t realise it anymore. Bringing back that consciousness, being aware of where your waste comes from, what your trash is made of, is the first step in order to change your habits and find waste-free alternatives to your every day consumerist needs. So grab a pen and paper and start making a list of where you systematically produce waste. Take a moment to think what an alternative could be and choose one. Just like that, you would have also made a first step into the zero waste adventure.

Feel proud, feel joyful, if everyone started implementing just one step towards that goal, we would already be reducing waste production by several thousand tons a year. Companies might even get the memo and start reducing the overpackaging of their products and in no time, a shift in behaviours and attitudes will have possibly saved our grandchildren from never seeing a real fish, a proper forest… Tempting, right? All it takes is one first step.

We’ll be back for more insights into this journey soon,

Thanks for your attention,
Marty Jeeper

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