Have You Ever Thought About Living a Zero-Waste Lifestyle?

Plastic Free July is a global movement that started in 2011 in order to reduce plastic pollution. Throughout the month, millions of people around the world take steps toward cutting down on their plastic waste by implementing small changes in their lifestyle. These changes range  from buying a reusable water bottle, to  refusing  single-use plastic bags and straws. However, transitioning towards a zero-waste lifestyle isn’t as easy as it sounds.  It’s a journey of patience and effort, as I discovered myself two years ago.  

Juan Castano in action at a beach cleanup.

Juan Castano in action at a beach cleanup.

I was living in St. Andrews, on the East Coast of Scotland, studying Sustainability and focusing hard on lowering my environmental impact. During this time, I discovered that the entire surrounding coastline was littered in plastics and marine debris. It was heart-breaking, but my passion and love for the ocean encouraged me to take action. I began organising beach clean-ups, and hosting film screenings and talks at my University. This was on top of the changes I was already trying to implement in my daily life, choosing to walk the walk while I talked the talk. For me, plastic pollution was more than a dirty beach. This was a much bigger issue and getting to the root of that issue became my personal mission.  So, I decided to go all in and  start a zero-waste trial in order to cut  out as much single-use plastic as I could from my life. As food packaging was my main source of waste, I mostly focused on that as a starting point.   

The first thing I realised about food shopping though is that not all shops are fully committed to reduce their plastic waste. So, I figured choosing the right place to shop was  an important first step. After doing  a bit of research and finding what I thought was the right one, reality began to sink in. Even the most sustainable shops may sell many items wrapped in plastic. Whether buying fruit, veggies, cereal or pasta, it’s still common to find items on the shelves in crinkly little packages. I remained as strong as I could, refusing anything wrapped in plastic. It was difficult enough to resist buying my favourite treats without an acceptable alternative on offer, but I soon noticed that I was refusing to buy so many items that my health began to suffer for it. Suddenly, my trial began to feel impossible, and I was facing defeat. “What about the beach though?” I thought to myself. I knew there had to be a way to properly make positive changes. A few years on, I managed to find the balance that I was looking for.   

So, what’s the answer? Well, first off, don’t panic, and don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Simply by being aware of the available options and eliminating what’s possible for you is a massive step in the right direction. For most, adopting a lifestyle focused on waste minimisation is a whole new thing. Striving for perfection straight away is completely unrealistic, especially if faced with special dietary requirements, or when living in a small place lacking in options. Instead, making tiny, achievable changes, and building from there is a much more feasible approach. This should be a smooth transition, not a stressful one.

So, during Plastic Free July 2020, why not choose one or two ways to minimise single-use waste from your life and see where that takes you? You never know, it might feel good to experience making a positive change. As for me, that trial that I started back in St. Andrews continues on today. Every time I make a change, I feel happy about it, which encourages me to keep going. You can do the same. Just remember to take your time, do what works for you, get creative, have fun, and enjoy the ride!