The Zero Waste Challenge

Written by Zoe Hertelendi, Sustainability Expert and Founder of Edamame Eco.

My zero waste journey started with a simple takeaway coffee cup. I’m a self-proclaimed coffee addict, two espressos in bed before I wake up, followed by an americano on the way to work and a couple of oat milk cappuccinos to sweeten my afternoon. I love it. But one day, seven years ago, it just hit me. The amount of takeaway coffee cups that I alone used was insane! So, my journey started there, promising to myself and the world, that I would never ever use a takeaway coffee cup again. Looking back, it really was a small step that inspired me to do more and take things a step further. I really, really wanted to cut down on waste, my own waste primarily and then our business waste as well. Searching for solutions one day, I found this brilliant infographic of ‘nine tips living with less plastic’ and a great start to the zero waste challenge.

It looked simple and achievable, so my real mission started there. And before I knew it, our household but also our restaurant business went on a zero waste journey banning plastic straws and all takeaway packaging and cups. That was back in 2016, when compostable takeaways and reusable cups and bottles were not readily available in most shops, and searching for solutions for our restaurant business I found it incredibly hard to find eco-friendly alternatives. Hence my obsession grew into a business, so I started my own brand of eco-friendly reusables and alternatives such as eco-friendly straws, bags, water bottles, cups etc. Eco-friendly reusable alternatives to save the planet.

Without overthinking, I have learnt that it is all just so simple and easy. All it takes is making time to care, to plan ahead and to celebrate small wins with the people around you. Your energy becomes infectious and you soon realise that your close friends and family also start caring about creating less waste, committing to less plastic and less single use. All of a sudden you build a little community of eco warriors around you and your small changes start making waves. You start exploring options to reduce waste, reuse what you have, and recycle as the last option.

Below are some of the small wins you can do to start your zero waste journey:

FALL IN LOVE… WITH YOUR REUSABLE CUP

Whether you’re a coffee addict or a tea drinker, we are all guilty of those takeaway cappuccinos, teas and little pick me ups in the morning. Up to 200 million single use coffee cups are thrown away every year in Ireland, and cannot be disposed of in recycling bins. These cups are lined with plastic polyethylene which is fused to the paper making the cups waterproof but also non-recyclable. The only way to combat this waste is to stop using takeaway coffee cups and replace them with reusables. “More than 1,000 cafés in Ireland are now giving a discount to consumers with a reusable cup so long term a reusable cup can make environmental and economical sense. Participating cafés are geo-tagged on www.consciouscup.ie,” says Pauline McDonogh, Waste Prevention Officer with the Southern Region Waste Management Office and Recycling List Ireland. (source Mywaste.ie)

REFILL AND REFRESH: START USING YOUR WATER BOTTLE

And that doesn’t mean, buying a plastic one and reusing it a hundred times. Plastic water bottles contain harmful chemicals that slowly break down in your drink, so you are not doing your body or the environment any favours. Invest in a reusable water bottle and don’t part with it. Ever. There are so many beautiful stainless steel bottles on the market. Most of them are not only cool looking but also insulated so they keep your drinks cold or hot for hours.

GET EXCITED ABOUT YOUR BATHROOM AND KITCHEN

Small sustainable swaps will make so much difference in your everyday life and, I promise you, you will inspire your family and friends with those small changes. Ditch the clingfilm and invest in silicone or beeswax covers for your kitchen. Trust me, it is the best decision you will make! Replace the shampoo and conditioner with shampoo bars, invest in a bamboo toothbrush, bamboo cotton buds, and toothpaste tablets. Simple and easy solutions.

PLAN AHEAD

Going shopping? How many reusable bags do you have at home? There is really no need to buy that plastic carrier bag. Plastic bags take 1000 years to decompose and even then they don’t break down completely. Gradual breakdown of plastics results in tiny micro plastics which negatively impact our natural environment. Not only can they be ingested by animals, but chemicals are potentially toxic for humans too. Ditch that bad habit and bring your own bag.

REUSE

Glass jars from your jams and pickles are the perfect example. Don’t bin them, reuse them for storing your food. They look great in your pantry full of flour, nuts, oats etc.

SHOP IN ZERO WASTE REFILL STORES

There are many beautiful local businesses around us, here are just a few recommendations around Dublin City: Small Changes, The Source Bulk Foods, The Good Neighbour, The Dublin Food Co-op, Reuzi, Veganic. Say no to packaging, bring your own, refill, and reuse.

TAKE PRIDE IN PRELOVED FASHION

The fashion industry accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions. In the UK an estimated 350,000 tonnes of clothes end up in landfill every year. Think before you buy and when you do buy, check out the amazing local charity shops, and preloved websites such as Depop.com, Vestiairecollective.com, Therealreal.com, Beyondretro.com, Hardlyeverwornit.com.

First steps are always the hardest, but oh so rewarding. You don’t need to tackle it all at once, start small and build up. Zero waste is not about one person doing it perfectly. It’s about millions of us doing it imperfectly. What will you start with today?

Written by Zoe Hertelendi, Sustainability Expert and Founder of Edamame Eco.

Zoe’s mission is to clean up and fix the dirty traditional promotional products industry, change habits and educate people on the benefits of sustainable living via talks and workshops.

To get in touch, you can follow Zoe on LinkedIn or check out their website edamameeco.com



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