Our journey towards a zero waste home proved to be a difficult one, but also unexpectedly enlightening.
Having spent the first few months weighing all our household rubbish, we first came to the realisation that we, as a family, were producing an incredible amount of waste. Plastic was our number one ‘output’. Having the whole family helping to weigh the bins and track progress did create a real interest in this issue, especially with my son who discovered the exciting process of weighing a bin bag at 6:00am before the bin truck showed up.
My first reaction was to blame supermarkets for their excessive use of packaging. I had to find a way to buy loose fruit and vegetables in farmers’ markets and meat at a butcher. In other words, I was trying to go back in time trying to find independent shops where I wouldn’t have to buy products packed in trays. It turned out to be quite laborious, and particularly demotivating for the family. The independent shops were quite far away from our house and, even more problematic, we had to spend hours cooking at home when both my wife and I work quite long hours. It was simply not working and we pretty quickly drifted back to our old habits, buying all our food from local supermarkets with the unavoidable ready to eat meals.
I believe our mistake was that we only thought of possible solutions looking backwards, remembering how things were before supermarkets took over the whole food market, instead of looking at what new technologies and innovative companies could offer.
Things finally changed because of two main breakthroughs. The first one is when we realized that the local milkman was delivering a pretty good range of food products (and a decent range of organic ones) in compostable packaging. They deliver any liquid in glass bottles that they retrieve at each delivery. And the icing on the cake: the delivery is done in electric vehicles! This is a very interesting adaptation of a very old traditional type of business to the needs and challenges of modern society.
The second breakthrough was when I acquired an amazing food processor that enables us to cook delicious meals easily requiring literally zero cooking skills. Whilst this suits me just fine, my wife was initially sceptical: she enjoys cooking and has done so all her life and worried that the machine was for culinary dummies. Having experienced the efficiency of the machine and its ability to secure flawless sauces and mashed potato consistencies, however, she is a convert. As well as allowing us both to set meals in motion and move away to handle bath time, domestic chores and email inboxes, we have also seen how the machine massively cuts down on our food waste, dish washing and the money we are spending on groceries because it requests specific weights and measurements, and dishes are easily freezable.
That happened just a month and a half ago, and within that time we have reduced our waste weight by a good third.
While my sustainability challenge may look quite anecdotal in the grand scheme of things, I think it gives an interesting example of how our path to a more sustainable way of living often also leads to life improvements and a more relaxed way of living.