Julie lives in Wellington with her husband and three children. She attended a presentation by Liam and Hannah in June 2017 and since then has been on a mission to reduce her household waste and inspire others to join her on the journey. She admits that with three kids it is sometimes a struggle, and she certainly has a long way to go before she could honestly say that her household is ‘waste-free’. However, she is proud of the changes she has made so far and looks forward to further reducing her family’s impact on the environment.
We are a couple with three school-aged children. Early last year, our then-12-year-old son came home buzzing about a presentation he had attended at his school. It was all about reducing rubbish and he was keen for our family to make changes to reduce our impact on the environment. At that time, if you’d asked me if I thought we were an ‘environmentally friendly’ family, I probably would have said ‘YES’! After all, I carried round reusable shopping bags in the back of our car (although I might have admitted that I usually forgot to take them into the supermarket), we composted, our lunch boxes were usually package-free and we recycled wherever possible. I thought we were doing ok. However, if I’m really honest, I didn’t think about rubbish too much.
Not long after my son had attended the presentation at school (which I soon learned was called ‘The Rubbish Trip’), a friend invited me along to a public presentation of the same talk. Liam and Hannah were presenting at a community room in Karori and with my son’s encouragement, I went along.
Wow. I was absolutely inspired. I very quickly realised that I wasn’t quite as environmentally conscious as I thought I was. And although I couldn’t quite bring myself to wash my hair with cornflour, or make my own deodorant, I knew there were some big changes that we could make as a family. This was to be the start of our journey of change.
There were plenty of points from ‘The Rubbish Trip’ presentation that really struck me with ‘OMG that’s me!’. Here are a few of the points that Liam and Hannah made and the changes that we’ve since made in our household:
- For some, once the rubbish is ‘OUT’ it is also ‘out of mind’. I really was one of those people that gave little thought to what happened to the rubbish after I put it in the bin. I was in a ‘decluttering’ phase and got great satisfaction from throwing stuff out, without much thought about what happened to my discarded stuff. I am now acutely aware of what goes in the bin and we’ve now managed to reduce our landfill rubbish by about 50%. I now also think more carefully about any new purchases – I’ll ask myself where will this potential purchase end up once I no longer have use for it? Thanks Liam and Hannah – you’re also saving me money by reducing my spending!
- Make a NO EXCEPTIONS rule with your reusable bags – it’ll only take one time having to leave the supermarket without your groceries for you to never forget to take your bags again! I realised that I probably used my reusable shopping bags about 10% of the time, collecting plastic bags the rest of the time. We now no longer collect plastic bags and we don’t miss them at home.
- The Zero Waste Shopping Guide. At the time of going to The Rubbish Trip presentation, I was doing my fortnightly grocery shop online, and my groceries were conveniently delivered to my kitchen bench in a mix of banana boxes and plastic bags. Liam and Hannah presented a big list of places to find everyday groceries AND avoid single-use plastic. Yes, it may take a bit more organisation but our planet is worth it, right? These days I still go to the grocery store, but you’ll rarely find me buying a pre-packaged bag of fruit (I now use reusable produce bags) and I bulk buy large jars of things like olives from Moore Wilson’s and go to the Bin Inn and fill my own jars with flour, pasta, rice, legumes, peanut butter, oats, coffee, tea, seeds, herbs and spices, shampoo, dishwashing liquid etc.
- Be Prepared. Always! Have a container in your bag ready for when you start to get ‘hangry’ and you need that sushi (but you don’t want the plastic container it comes in). Take a cup with you. Everywhere. The kids are obsessed with water filters and now they can quench their thirst in all of those waiting rooms (as long as they’re happy to share my Keep Cup from my bag). Take a spork. Take a spare bag with you everywhere.
- Make the most of Plastic-free July. Habits take a while to form and it’s easy to fall off the wagon, so as a family we’ve pledged to make at least one new change each July and try to stick to it. This year it was making our own bread (we use the Busy People’s Bread recipe). I’ve not bought a single loaf of bread in a plastic bag since July (and I’m not a baker, really!). Among other things we also now make our own crackers, yoghurt, baking, almond milk and chicken stock. There are now whole aisles of the supermarket that I can avoid completely.
Over July I shared our waste-reducing progress on facebook and I talked A LOT about Plastic-free July with anyone who would listen. I figure if one person is inspired to make change with each post or conversation, we’re making a difference.
Thanks Liam and Hannah – you’ve inspired amazing change!
Julie, mum of three, Ngaio
This post is part of our blog series “A Waste of Time?: Preaching to ‘the converted’”. You can read about the origin and kaupapa of this series here.