Sarah is a librarian at Hutt City Libraries. When hearing about environmental issues such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, she decided to reduce her impact on the planet by making small changes.
“My brother told me about the plastic in tea bags and that was my light bulb moment,” Sarah says. “It seemed absurd,” so she joined the Zero Waste in NZ Facebook group and began applying what she learned there to her life and purchasing decisions.
She has a number of tips. “Celebrate your successes!” she says. Firstly, “start small. Just try one thing at a time and keep it achievable. It helps to make a list of ideas and tick off anything you’re already doing.”
Try to “reuse what you have and dispose of things mindfully. Have conversations with friends, family and colleagues about what you’re doing and find people who are on the same journey. I have one really good friend who started about the same time as me and she has been great to chat to – a lot of decisions aren’t clear cut, so talking them over or getting another opinion is great.”
Sarah also found it useful to record her experiences early on. “Over time things become normal and we forget how far we’ve come.” She created an Instagram account and found support by connecting with others.
Sarah also has great support at work. She was able to establish a compost bin in the staff kitchen and encourages others to think about things like doing less laminating. She says the hardest thing to overcome was “the fear of being the one who is different or difficult. Thankfully it’s a lot more normal now than it was even just a year ago.”
Sarah now considers items in terms of their potential waste before buying them. At home try “simple swaps like bars of soap instead of liquid soap, cloths instead of paper towels, compost and grow food where possible, shop at Bin Inn and buy bread from a bakery using cloth bags.”
Throughout this journey, Sarah’s uncovered a few surprises. “It makes you evaluate what you really need. I enjoy new relationships I’ve formed with local businesses. Whenever I buy bread I’m greeted like an old friend. I also find that I’m spending less and I’ve learnt more about food. I would have never thought to try making things like pita bread or crackers, for example, but both are surprisingly easy!”
Her next step is to reduce plastic waste in the garden by buying mulch in bulk instead of in bags or grow plants from seed instead of plastic punnets. While she got a lot of ideas to begin with from the Zero Waste in NZ Facebook group, she found that “a lot of information being shared wasn’t quite accurate. It’s definitely something to be wary of.” There are a few well known people such as Bea Johnson, Erin Rhoads, and Kiwis such as Kate Hall or Hannah and Liam of The Rubbish Trip who are great to follow and learn from. “Or even better,” Sarah says, “see one of their talks when they’re next in town. They are very knowledgeable and their presentations are brilliant.”
Hutt City Libraries also has a great collection of books, eBooks and DVDs about reducing waste.
Sarah’s tips to help you on your journey:
Tip 1: Swap bottles of liquid soap, shampoo and conditioner for bars
Tip 2: Use cotton cloths instead of paper towels
Tip 3: Shop at bulk bins using your own containers