Preaching to “The Converted” #11: Beth Walker
Beth has lived a waste-free since 2018. She was inspired to start after attending one of the Rubbish Trip’s talks where she learnt that recycling is an inadequate solution to our global waste crisis. Beth tries to minimise waste in all areas of her life by fully subscribing to the refuse, repair, and reuse ethos. Beth enjoys discussing how to reduce waste with anyone who is interested and actively advocates for it in her flat and at her work.
The idea of waste free living became part of life after attending one of The Rubbish Trip’s talks in 2017. Like many people, I thought that recycling was enough to keep our planet from being suffocated by plastic. Hannah and Liam showed me that this is not the case. Many products we use are not practical or economic to recycle and go to landfill, or they’ll be recycled into lower quality products or shipped overseas to become someone else’s problem. Waste free living appeared to be the way forward and feeling inspired after the talk, I decided to commit.
Upon leaving the talk I decided to simply stop buying anything in packaging whether it be plastic, paper, tin or glass. Finding unpackaged food was easy. I could get flour and other staples from bulk suppliers like Bin Inn or Taste Nature, and fresh fruit and vegetables from the farmers market. When I fancied bread or meat the local bakery and butchery would happily provide this in my own container. As a student, I had a flexible schedule and could happily gather my food from multiple low waste locations at any time of day. I challenged myself to make sauces and stocks that I would have previously bought in packets and experimented with raw baking and using some of the other ingredients that I could get waste free. Setting up a compost wasn’t an option at my flat but a friend was happy to take our compost for their garden.
I enjoyed living waste free in Dunedin because retailers seemed genuinely interested when I explained how and why I live waste free. Some people still eyed my reusable take away container with contempt but it was mostly accepted. Waste free living brought me a lot of joy and unexpected rewards. Sometimes shops spontaneously gave me a discount. Once I went to the bakery after collecting an assignment that recieved a good grade. I asked the baker to put the cheesecake ball on my now redundant assignment. He accepted with interest and after discussing how to reduce waste he gave me 50 cents off! Living waste free made me feel proud of myself and for the first six months I got a real kick out of refusing to buy packaged things and revolting against consumerism.
In 2019 I moved to Wellington to start full time work in the city. It was quite tiring, trying to navigate a new place and find all the bulk suppliers and waste free shops. I am very grateful for the shopping guides that The Rubbish Trip has produced as these were a huge help. They lead us to my favourite place, Hopper Refill Shop & Cafe. I love retreating to the cool calm atmosphere of Hopper, after battling with the constant buzz of the city. Things move faster in the city and there are more people who think that waste free living is just too inconvenient. Luckily there is also a larger community of people trying to reduce waste and work towards a low waste future.
I do sometimes miss things like corn chips and quesadillas. These only enter my house if snuck in by someone else! I am pleased to say I am mastering the art of making corn chips and tortillas. Though, I’m definitely still refining this art, the tortillas often turn out stiff, which makes folding them around the filling a challenge! If I’m offered something in packaging in a social setting I will usually accept it exclaiming, “Oh I don’t get to eat these very often as they come in plastic, I’ll just have one thanks”. This usually starts a conversation about waste free living and gives me an excuse to show off my “take everywhere bag”. My bag contains a flannel for hand drying and cleaning, cutlery and a container. Living waste free I never have to worry about when the rubbish or recycling will get collected. In fact I have become so used to producing very little waste that I find it a real shock when waste does enter my life.
Living waste free can require a lot of energy but it’s important to remember that you are making an impact. I think it is important to find other people striving to reduce their waste and collectively encourage others to start. I would like to commend anyone who makes any effort and encourage you to keep challenging yourself and others to further reduce the amount of waste entering your life.
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.