It's all about the journey
Going "zero" or low-waste is not generally something you decide to do overnight. For us it was something that organically grew over time. We are often asked in the store what prompted us to open so here's our why!
Looking for baby gear when we were expecting our first child, Sam, we came across cloth nappies. My mum commented that the new improved all in ones with the snaps were nothing like what she used with us in the 80's! Primarily inspired for the cost savings we got a full set, lashing out around $500. Friends thought we were crazy but we had worked out what money we could save if we used them. A baby in it's first year goes through approximately 4000 nappies equating about $4500 not including disposable wipes. $500 doesn't sound like much then! As we began to use the nappies and cloth wipes we also began to look at the waste associated with disposable nappies. Finding out that they take 200-500 years to break down in landfill was eye-watering. In that sense, every disposable nappy ever used still exists.
The stats are crazy and unavoidable - each Australian produces 2.4 tonnes of waste per year and as a country we are one of the biggest producers of landfill waste, second only to the US. If we kept our waste, the average family would FILL their house in a year with rubbish. Each Australian family throws away 1 tonne of food waste alone and we only have a recycle rate of 30% (however 8% of that is considered contaminated and goes to landfill anyway). In Perth we have thirty, yes 30, dedicated landfill sites. The growth rate of our own rubbish is TWICE that of our actual population growth!
Prompted by my dad, his partner and their climate change activism, as well as what we were reading we realised that we could make a difference to our own household waste. Reusable water bottles and coffee cups followed soon after and were an easy swap. When the children got older I discovered cloth snack bags and then i had no need for ziplock bags. A good set of glass lock containers, recycled jars and a bread bag and I was set! So far, we have been changing our habits and living low-waste for about 5 years.
We have now transitioned our family to only produce a small 8ltr bin bag per fortnight of landfill rubbish. We are certainly not perfect and there are still times when we dash to the shops for a loaf of bread or impulse buy takeout but we have made a choice to live this way. Watching the 'war on waste' on TV saw the conversation about single use plastics and other unnecessary waste become easier and gave those of us who had already made a conscious effort a chance to talk openly about how we have changed and why. No longer being viewed as 'hippies', being eco aware is now celebrated in the mainstream and more and more people are jumping on board.
Reading about a cool little store in Mundaring, Wasteless Pantry, we ventured up there to discover we could refill our regular groceries and not worry about trying to figure out what to do with the packaging waste our regular grocery shops were creating - what a score! The trek was a pain though and so we often found ourselves back at the supermarket for ease of time. That was the catalyst for the discussion about our own similar store. The easier they are to access, more people would use them! With a population similar to Bunbury and an awesome local community we've taken the plunge and opened our own bulk grocery store in Ellenbrook.
It's not all about instagram-worthy grocery flat lays (although I love people who are proud enough to post their shopping!) and it doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. Reducing your waste is a journey best taken slowly. Some of the swaps are easy, hence why we bark on about the top four - water bottles, coffee cups, straws and plastic bags are simple and cost effective, but others require an adjustment to the way you view 'shopping'. Coming to our store and filling up your pantry is easy but you do need to be prepared. Writing a list, gathering your containers from home and karting them to the shops requires time and effort. The satisfaction of taking them home and just putting them straight away with no rubbish in sight does feel good though!
We are so used to having everything cheap and at our fingertips that we have lost the control to stop and consider what we actually need. Living a low-waste lifestyle automatically urges you to live simply and with less. Slowing down is not a bad thing, take a breath and admire the view while you're at it.