You know you’re a true zero waster when………

Filed in Blog by on February 10, 2009 31 Comments
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jiffy-bagThere are moments in your life when you suddenly realise you are well and truly the member of a club. Such as the time you know (your parents haven’t noticed of course) you’re officially a woman and no longer a girl when the boy you fancy on the school bus gives you a smile. Or you know you’re the mother of a toddler when you answer the door with food in your hair. Or the time you know you’re definitely well into your thirties when Policemen and teachers seem to be so young and vulnerable.

Today, I officially became a total waster. A zero waster that is.

The declutter fairy came to visit. I’ve been asking her for about three weeks, but she’s been ignoring my requests. As you might be able to relate, there is nothing like a phone call from someone who is making an appointment to come around to your house to get your arse into tidying gear.

I tackled my study with gusto and came across a ripped jiffy envelope. Grrrrrr. It had been reused two or three times already so had had a good innings, but it was in my very home that its life ended. That meant I was responsible for its final resting place.

A few months ago the ripped bag would have gone into the dustbin. And I confess, I was about to do the same, but then I thought of you. Yes, you!

What would you think if, on our weigh-in, you saw that there was a ripped jiffy bag in the bin?

I could picture all the comments now. Could you…….. Shouldn’t you…….. How about……..Why didn’t you……

So I sat on the floor (because by now there was indeed, room for me to sit) and I started to meticulously separate the plastic bubble wrap from the paper envelope. It took me less than a minute and I ended up with some shreds of bubble wrap for recycling, paper to go in the paper recycling and a few annoying strips for the landfill where the bubble wrap was bonded on to the paper.

The strips weigh a fraction of the total envelope; so I’m feeling rather pleased with myself.

What about you? What have you found yourself doing that’s been a ‘Aha!’ moment for you on your rubbish reducing journey? When have you known for sure that the recycling bug has well and truly got hold of you?


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (31)

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  1. Katy says:

    Untying and deflating balloons, and keeping them and the ribbon for future use!

    I didn’t know you could recycle bubble wrap. Is that a local collection thing or a post-it-off option?

  2. John Costigane says:

    Using containers is the best indicator of Zero Waste achievement. Sustainability is the end result of the trend and what can be more sustainable than 100% reusable packaging.

  3. maisie says:

    For me it was when I started making amore conscious effort to buy the same items but in a recyclable container.

    eg. Ketchup – instead of always buying the plastic squeezy, I now buy one plastic once a year and then buy glass and refill the plastic.

    I have also just found on Ethical Superstore some non bleached/compostable totally recyclable paper muffin cases which will be great for using for the baking I do for school bake sales.

  4. Sarah says:

    I always reuse jiffy bags for ebay or business packaging.

  5. Layla says:

    Wow, you de-composited the envelope! 🙂

    I never thought of doing that… And yeah, didn’t know the bubble wrap was even recyclable..?
    (usually it ended with my sis for popping or so..) & I think there are still some still-perhaps-reusable envelopes around..

    Well, I DON’T consider myself a recycler!! 🙂 I consider myself a MINIMIZER!!! 🙂
    mini-mini-mini-minimize it!! 🙂 /How low can you go?/

    But I definitely knew I was comitted to this when I went and bought cheese in a reusable container lol!!
    /And when I switched to cloth pads and no shampoo!! 🙂 and recently experimented with salt-instead-of-toothpaste lol etc./

  6. I knew I was hooked when I started putting off purchases because I knew I would end up buying things in plastic. Of course, then I get desperate, and buying items with plastic packaging anyway. It’s those desperate moments that get me. I’ll have to start planning ahead better.

  7. Karen says:

    Mine must be when I realised I could get a Zero Waste McDonalds during Zero Waste Week. I work a couple of evenings and time had got away with me, so preparing a meal to take with me was out. When this has happened before I have just bought a McDonalds on the way to work but thought I couldn’t possibly do that in Zero Waste Week! Then I realised that if I took a can of drink and my own ketchup (in a reusable container) I would only have paper and card left over from the fries and McChicken Sandwich (which I carefully bought home to put in the recycling).
    I love it when you can combine Zero Waste and convenience!!

  8. Kris says:

    I’m still a novice I think, but I felt really inspired whilst out and about setting myself little challenges during ZWW, so it keeps feeling like you’re winning when something else works out! It’s really that sense of exploring which is appealing, not what you *can’t* have, but what you discover.

  9. Mrs Jackson says:

    @Karen: you could have had a bottle of oj or water from mcdonalds too – shame about the amount they threw away to make it.

    Definitely when we’re out shopping and the reusing of items – such as my new “compost bin” in the bathroom which is an old yoghurt pot.

  10. My “Aha” moments are many at the moment because we have just intensified our green-ness.
    My biggest “Aha’s” at the moment are:
    baby number 3, (when he finally arrives, 1 week overdue now), will be the first cloth nappy one, and I am using reusable wool breast pads.
    I’ve also set up a compost bin for kitchen veg waste.
    I have also just discovered that Ecover opperate a refill programme and I have found my nearest retail participant in the scheme. This means that I won’t be throwing away or recycling any laundry detergent, fabric softener, washing up liquid, surface spray or floor cleaner bottles for 1 whole year!

  11. Mrs Jackson says:

    @Clare Chambers (Clazbear): Oh is that on Ecover’s website please? And could you tell me more about your breast pads – I found the washable ones always got stuck in my machine last time. good luck with the birth.

  12. Sandra Jones says:

    My most recent “a-ha” moment came when I finally converted the neighborhood cafe. They have been using tiny, individually wrapped in plastic, fake butter. These are small enough that you need 2 or 3 for a piece of toast, and I want REAL butter anyway. I finally got them to take large sticks of real butter and slice them, putting a couple pieces on each plate. The cafe owner has agreed that it’s even cheaper than the small plastic pieces. Added benefit being that customers appreciate being treated to REAL butter.

  13. Poppy says:

    Lots of a-ah moments lately. The a-ahness or is it total smugness when I see last weeks un-collected bins around the streets piled high with extra bags at the side of them – my bin barely has 8″ of rubbish in it 😉 (on second thoughts, perhaps that was dispair not smugness 🙁 )

    My young man asking where he can recycle his plastic drink bottle when we were in a neighbouring town this morning – by jove I think he’s got it!!

    The quandry I found myself in last week when faced with a totally unmissable bargain that I knew would add dangerously to our waste total 🙁

    Feeling mad at myself when I couldn’t seperate a window from it’s envelope and still keep it in one piece to pass on to a card making friend!

    Refusing to buy any chocolate or sweets in the supermarket because I couldn’t find any that were plastic-less.

    Buying zero waste faggots at the farm shop 🙂 🙂

  14. Sally says:

    My moment was when i realised my friend and i had spent an hour discussing using up odds and ends of food for meals rather than throwing anything and how we can both revamp our bedrooms without buying more stuff (which always leads to throwing old stuff out), we looked at the plus side of dying bedding and towels to revamp them and ive just purchased some natural pigment to add to the paint i have sat in the shed rather than chucking it and buying more.

  15. Mrs Green says:

    Thank you everyone for joining in with this thread; it was so enjoyable reading about your experiences.

    @Katy: Oh my gawd – the deflating balloons thing is hysterical! The bubble wrap gets sent off, but interestingly something came up this week which required just that amount of bubble wrap, so it’s been reused!

    @John Costigane: I have to agree with you John, sustainable packaging (when I think about 1/3 of the average rubbish is packaging) is the way forward.

    @maisie: Maisie, good call. It’s great when you can find reusable / recyclable solutions everyday items, because then these habits don’t impact your lifestyle so much.

    @Sarah: I reuse too, Sarah, but this one had got ripped somehow 🙁 Great to see you can bring this into your business.

    @Layla: Would love to hear more about the no shampoo route. Are you using nothing or something like bicarbonate of soda? I used no poo for about 3 years, but am back to washing now. The clay was really good. Minimising is the way though – use less, create less…….

    @SavvyChristine: I hear you, Christine. It’s a great awareness though, to even think about these things. And like you say, forward planning is the key. One step at a time 😉

    @Karen: Love the McDonalds story Karen and I too enjoy figuring out ways to combine convenience with zero waste.

    @Kris: Oh yes Kris! We still love it when we find something amazing; like the ground coffee in the ring pull tins in Waitrose the other month. We still get really excited when we stumble on a zero waste alternative.

    @Mrs Jackson: Reuse of items is brilliant Mrs J. It’s fun finding a new lease of life for items we might have thrown away a few months ago. Details for the Ecover refils are on this page:
    My breast pads never got stuck in the machine! Perhaps tying them in something like a sock would work?

    @Clare Chambers (Clazbear): Hey 🙂 Good to see you and good luck with your birth in a few days time. I really enjoyed reading about your Aha! moments and the Ecover refils are a great idea. Let us know how the washable nappies work out for you.

    @Sandra Jones: Sandra, what a wonderful story – well done you. That has made an incredible difference in so many ways. I hope you feel proud of yourself.

    @Poppy: Poppy, your list is great and I can relate to what you are saying. It’s great that you are producing so little rubbish and the story about the window envelope made me laugh 😀

    @Sally: Hi Sally; great to see you again on the site. An hour discussing food leftovers; now that is serious zero waste going on there! Let me know how the natural pigment works out. I looked at the La Tenda ones, but chickened out and bought Farrow and Ball instead. I bet the pugments look lovely if you’re creative with them

  16. Kris says:

    Poppy – you must tell me which supermarket that is… I’m being really bad at the moment because I’ve got all permissive if the packaging is okay! 😉

  17. Hee hee. Mrs G. I love you. I read this post on my phone while I was stuck on the train in Tuesday’s floods. Couldn’t comment then, but was tremendously impressed. 😀

  18. Mrs Jackson says:

    @Mrs Green: I had a special bag for them yet they still managed to escape. Have my bin out today but not because it has much in it at all but my other half is worried that there is 2 week old food waste in there and it may attract rats and smell.

  19. Flippa xXx says:

    Can you tell me where you send the bubble wrap off too? I’ve just moved house (which unfortunately resulted in more waste than normal – although we did make LOTS of trips to the HRC and charity shops!) but I have a box of bubblewrap with no home to go to :o( I was given it by someone else who no longer needed it, but it has plenty of life in it yet so do not want to be sending it to a landfill….

  20. Mrs Green says:

    @Almost Mrs Average: Oh no, Mrs A – was everything ok in the floods? Glad I was there to keep you entertained 😀

    @Mrs Jackson: Oooo, the dodgy little fellas, Mrs J LOL! Even if you did have to put your bin out, at least you had much less waste the normal. That’s fab. I can understand hubby’s concern. Perhaps it’s time for a bokashi bin 😉

    @Flippa xXx: Hi Flippa, good to see you on the site again. The company for bubble wrap is GHS – a red box and arrow should be next to the word, if you click on it, you’ll get more information. I did, however, get rid of loads on Freecycle, so why not offer it on there, or join Snaffle Up and put it on there? I had three people after mine!
    Are you settled in your new home?

  21. I realised my eco-warrier was ‘out’ when I started washing up freezer bags. All the ‘older’ ladies of our local village were already doing this for frugal rather than environmental reasons. Such an obvious thing to do but I’d missed it completely.

    Oh and bringing home doggie bags of jars and compostables from my in-laws!

  22. Mrs Green says:

    @mrsdirtyboots: Hi mrsdirtyboots; welcome to the site! Love your nick LOL! Sounds like you have your eco warrior self up and running well. I’ve started washing out plastic bags too. I can’t believe we used to through them away. Love your site too 🙂

  23. Flippa xXx says:

    Thank you Mrs. Green! I will certainly be looking into the different options.
    Yes, all settled in well thank you. Disappointed with the lack of recycling facilities though (in a brand new apartment, you would expect them to have something, but no…still going to have to take everything myself or to my parents *sigh* That’s Birmingham for you!!!). I’ve just ordered an indoor bokashi though, so will be one step further to zero waste once that’s delivered :o)

  24. Deb from Boston says:

    My a-ah moment was when I threw away a totallu used up pen in my otherwise empty trash bin at work – and realized that there is a better way. Asked for and recieved a refillable pen & pencil set for Christmas.

  25. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Flippa, glad you are all settled, but sad to hear about the lack of recycling facilities. If I remember, from the pledge and win week, you were quite an activist, so perhaps you will be the one to get things moving on the recycling front 😉 I hope you get on well with the bokahi – let us know how you find it.

    Hi Deb – oh, good call. We have loads of disposable biros around the house; all bought pre zero-waste days. Refillables are a much better option.

  26. Poppy says:

    I need to add an ‘oh dear’ moment to the ‘aha’ ones.

    DH said yesterday that he daren’t dispose of anything because he’s bound to put it in the wrong box, bag or container! Sounds as though I’m terrorising them 🙁

  27. John Costigane says:

    @Poppy: Poppy, to me Zero Waste is a normal lifestyle, a complete chill-out. Admittedly, I just have family/friend visitors which makes it easier. Making allowances for others will ease the mood.

    Changing the subject, my aluminium foil ball is now 55g (2oz), consisting of full clean/cleaned foil of all thicknesses. Foil comes from Zero Waste chocolate bars (eg Schogetten), cake bases or thoroughly washed used cooking foil. Is that something you use a lot?

    I cannot recycle it locally, so collecting it and having a competition for the biggest ball is an idea. Otherwise a lot of it is landfilled. What is your view?

  28. Clare Chambers (clazbear) says:

    @Mrs Jackson:

    Mrs J,
    Baby arrived on wednesday 11th @ 3am.

    Re breast pads these are the ones I am using

    And yes about Ecover, if you go to this page on their site
    You can find your nearest participating refill retailer.

  29. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: whoops Poppy; shall we start calling you Miss Whiplash of the recycling world?

    @John Costigane: How weird about the aluminium foil – I wonder why you can’t recycle it up there. i think you should post it to me to dispose of it for you. Just put a sticker on it with my address – that should cause some interest at the post office!

    Oh, I must share that when we posted our yogurt pots to GHS for recycling, I was asked at the Post Office whether my large parcel needed insurance. It was in clear polythene, so I asked him to take a look inside and see what he thought 😀

    @Clare Chambers (clazbear): Congratulations, Clare and welcome to the world, Baby clazbear 🙂

  30. MrsJ says:

    @Clare Chambers (clazbear): Many congrats Clare. How is everything going? Thanks for those links – have added the breastpads one to my favourites. Looking into the lilypadz ones too.

  31. John Costigane says:

    @Mrs Green: The offer of taking the aluminium is fine, Mrs G. I am quite enjoying it as it takes up little room. The reason for mentioning it is that Joe Public probably just dumps the foil carelessly. Keeping it topical, especially for the young, might encourage others. Little effort is required though the ball gets harder to compact as it gets bigger.

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