Zero waste is a bit of a buzzword at the moment – and for good reason. Our planet has a pollution problem, and a catch phrase can help. Anything that becomes talked about has the potential to motivate more of us to change. In this case, highlighting the everyday ways we can reduce, reuse and recycle so we have a lighter touch on the planet. Buzzwords like this are great for focusing on an issue and inspiring us to question our daily habits. Often we just don’t know to question something, or how to change.
One problem is plastics. They come in many forms and packaging is a big culprit. We are under no illusion that the things we do at CONTENT are small considering how many of the products we sell have layers of packaging. Due to hygiene compliance and labelling rules around skincare, it’s a long road before we can offer ‘pack your own’ or refillable skincare. However, this doesn’t mean we should stop questioning the choices we make and how they affect people and planet. It is only by questioning that we might find some solutions – after all, it is how CONTENT was created.
We continue to make an effort to cut down our plastic footprint. Online, all our orders are delivered in recycled (and recyclable) card boxes. Items inside are protected in recycled (and recyclable) green bubble wrap or biodegradable corn packing peanuts. Your package is then sealed up with water activated paper tape – not plastic tape! Our Marylebone store also has its own story. The walls are coloured with non-toxic paint. The floors have been restored or repaired using reclaimed flooring and fixtures that have either been handmade in London or found and reused. We have reused items to create a unique interior, filled with curiosities. The light fittings, stools and collection of vintage hand mirrors are all second life. Additionally, we opt to pay to recycle our waste. The London Council recycling scheme could not guarantee they would recycle our recyclable materials (true story!) so we pay to ensure it will be.
But there is always plenty of room to improve and learn more. So we reached out to experts of the zero waste movement to share their tips for creating new daily planet-friendly habits. Bea Johnson went zero waste in 2008 with the goal to prove a zero waste lifestyle can be not only stylish, but also benefit your health and wallet too. Her bestselling book Zero Waste Home has been translated into 17 languages and the New York Times called her “The Princess of Waste-Free Living”, so you could say we were pretty excited to speak to her on how to get started. We also caught up with London-based TV presenter, Kate Arnell. She’s long been on our radar for her organic beauty advocacy and having been zero waste for over three years after discovering Bea’s book, Kate let us in on some of the zero waste lifestyle hacks she’s honed for city living.
Often its the getting started that can be the hardest part and the most daunting. We asked our two experts for their tips:
“The zero in ‘zero waste’ makes it sound scary and hard to achieve. It is actually not as hard as it seems. Give it a try! You’ll be amazed how much stuff you’ll be able to stop from coming in. The most important thing one can do to stop waste and clutter from entering their home is to simply say no!” — Bea Johnson, Zero Waste Home
“Just start. It’s not about being perfect or fitting your annual trash into a jar. Quit thinking of the reasons ‘why not’ and start making one change. Once you got that down, try the next thing… And then the next. It takes time to swap from shopping online to visiting a local independent store or finding places that sell items loose from bulk bins. But now I don’t even have to think about it. I recently challenged a fellow YouTuber to make a few simple swaps over the course of a week (swap to reusables, cook more from scratch, buy produce without packaging etc.). He managed to halve his rubbish in that one week. Not bad for a few simple habit changes.” — Kate Arnell, eco boost
Expert Tips For Going Zero Waste
1. Refuse What You Do Not Need
“Refusing is the first rule to living zero waste,” says Bea. “Turn down flyers, freebies, party favours, business cards, single use plastics (such as plastic bags) and fight junk mail. Accepting these things not only creates a demand to make more, they are a waste of resources and once they are brought into our home, they add to the clutter and require effort to dispose of them later.”
2. Plan Ahead
Think you might want a latte today? Pack your reusable coffee cup. Off to the shops? Keep a spare canvas tote bag in your bag for anything you might pick up throughout the day. Kate recommends, “Always leave the house thinking phone, wallet, keys, cloth bag, reusable water bottle – GO!“
3. Build Your Reusables Arsenal
This way you will be less likely to get caught out having to accept single use and disposable products. We’ve put all reusable products at CONTENT in one handy place to help you get started. Don’t forget that buying secondhand too is always an option too!
4. Buy In Bulk
Think about the amount of items in your weekly shop that come wrapped in plastic. Buying in bulk cuts down on waste and packaging. Cloth bags, jars and bottles, as Bea suggests, will be your best friend here. And it means fewer trips back to the shop too!
5. Get Comfortable With Composting
As laid out in Bea’s book Zero Waste Home, Kate too follows the 5 R’s Method – refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot, in that order. And she even proves you can compost (rot) in the city! “Some boroughs are lucky enough to have a compost collection,” Kate explains. “Use it! Mine doesn’t, so I have had to start a small worm bin on my balcony, and I love it. I’ve learned so much from composting at home. It might not sound glamorous but it is super cool. Trust me!”