Zero waste

Created: Dec 30, 2021. Last updated: Dec 30, 2021.

Zero waste is a bit of a triggering term, as truly zero waste seems impossible. There is pretty much always some waste along the product chain. But as long as you don't let perfection keep you from trying, the term is at least a nicely aspirational one. People are also starting to simply use the term low waste instead.

That waste is a problem is not under discussion. We've tried shipping our waste to poorer countries, but even they have started pushing back. Then we have these huge islands of plastic in the oceans. And microplastics have entered our food chain, as researchers have found them in things like apples and salt.

Yes, what companies do has a larger impact on all things environmental than what I can do as one single person. But the choices consumers make does influence the choices companies make that sell to consumers. And it simply makes me feel better about my way of living to be a bit more conscious and sustainable in my choices. Biological and local is also preferred.

Most waste is reduced by "simply" swapping out single-use products for things that last longer, swapping out products for similar options with less or more sustainable packaging, and simply stop using certain things altogether.

My favorite reusable swaps

  • Reusable cloth bags; make sure to put them everywhere (e.g. in your car, handbag, grocery bag) so you always have an extra bag when you need it
  • Reusable drink bottles (I prefer glass - tastes better), metal lunch boxes, wide thermos "can" for yoghurt and soup
  • Wax cloths as a replacement for aluminum and plastic foil
  • Mooncup and menstrual underwear (cloth sanitary napkins moved too much for me)
  • Rechargeable AA and AAA batteries
  • Cloth makeup wipes
  • Some basic cutlery in my backpack
  • Toothpaste in glass jars (Ben & Anna has both with and without fluoride)
  • Safety razor (the blades do need to be replaced)

My favorite low-waste products

  • Shampoo, conditioner and shaving foam bars
  • The Good Roll toilet paper - is packaged in paper and available at the standard Dutch supermarket Jumbo
  • Deodorant from Lekker
  • Bread, croissants and rolls from the bakery or the market - they can slice it for you and you can bring it in your own cloth bread bag and put it in the freezer. It is also fun to bake your own bread every now and then.
  • Biological cheese from the market or a specialized cheese store - they cut it off for you and you can take the cheese with you in a wax cloth. At home I put cheese in a glass container from Ikea (does have a plastic lid though)
  • Fruit, veg, nuts, muesli and chocolate berries from Ekoplaza (a relatively common eco store in the Netherlands) - there is a lot you can get there without any packaging. For transport you can put the items in reusable cloth bags in various sizes. I've sewn some myself, but I've also bought some ready made from Ekoplaza.
  • Milk and yoghurt in glass containers from Ekoplaza
  • Tom yum paste in glass jars (Cock brand) (in some asian stores, or online)

There are also many items standard zero or low waste. Honey, sandwich toppings, olive oil and drinks in glass jars and bottles. Rice, eggs and hagelslag in cardboard. Potatoes in paper bags at the Jumbo. Apples, pears, etc. It only requires that you don't go with some kind of default option, but look at what the available options are in the store.

Even though I've replaced a lot, we are still far from zero waste. Some of it is due to personal preferences of the rest of the family (such as liga and cornflakes), some due to convenience (I don't always have the time and energy to go to multiple stores), and some due to lack of availability (noodles are always in plastic; making it yourself is quite time intensive).