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Zero waste: be the change you want to see on the planet

¿What does it mean zero waste?

Zero waste means no residue. The movement to generate a zero waste to take care of the planet.

Gina, from Zero Waste Barcelona Network, has answered some questions so now, we are all more aware of what is happening to the planet and how we can deal with each one of us. In advance, thanks Gina.

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We hope you like it as much as our change from plastic cups to corn glasses.

Gina, what’s happening to the planet?

The planet is complaining and we are not taking it seriously, so it will continue to do so more and more frequently and more brutally. We have contaminated, suffocated and mistreated it to limits that, today, are almost irreversible. We have to do something and we have to do it now. Until a hundred years ago humans did not leave permanent waste in their path or they did not consume resources as if they were unlimited. We are the only animal on Earth that does this and contributes negatively to the ecosystem. Basically, if we do not do anything, soon there will be no ecosystem. You have to get in your head that there is no planet B.

5 easy things you can do in your daily life to encourage zero waste movement:

  • Always carry a cloth/fabric bag. 

This seems very obvious because, now, plastic bags are paid, but I still see many people who ask for the plastic ones because of their lack of foresight. A folded cloth bag does not take up space and is perfect for those impromptu purchases.

  • Take your water bottle with you.

Drinking water is very important for your health (and more with these heats) but plastic bottles are not only very bad for the planet (the plastic, if you get to recycle, is only available once again) but it is proven that it is also very bad for your health. 

  • Go for solid cosmetics. 

Soaps and shampoos in pills last as long as or more than their bottle version, and they are usually natural and biodegradable, they don’t take up so much space and their dry format makes them ideal for traveling. You will save plastic containers to the planet and many unnecessary ingredients to your skin.

  • Strip the fruit!

Is there a more perfect and sustainable packaging for a fruit than its own skin? I do not think so. Get a set of small bags of a light material (cotton or mesh) and buy fruits and vegetables as God brought them into the world. You can also do it yourself. Bet on greengrocers and markets before the supermarket, they are usually much more open to buy with your bags and you’ll also support small business.

  • Contemplate your consumption habits. 

This is, perhaps, the most important of them all. Analyze your garbage to discover what waste you generate the most, if it is really necessary and how you could eliminate or reduce it. In general, it is about questioning our real needs (SPOILER: they are much less than what it seems). Living light is good for the soul, for the pocket and, obviously, for the planet.

Can you tell us three things that we do not think about but are not that hard to do:

  • Change your toothbrush to a bamboo toothbrush. 

The first toothbrush in history still exists, because it is something that is not recycled. One person uses on average 4 toothbrushes in a year (one every three months approximately); do accounts and you will discover the amount of brushes that you will use and throw in the trash throughout your life. The bamboo brushes are compostable almost entirely: you only have to cut the head and discard it, the handle goes to the organic or you can even compost it at home. You can also do as I do and pluck the bristles with tweezers so that the whole handle goes to the organic. But beware, before discarding a toothbrush that is no longer used for your task, use it to clean joints of tiles and dirt entrenched in nooks and crannies.

  • Install a water filter in your tap.

Tap water passes many more daily controls than bottled water, making it completely safe to drink. Even so, the taste (especially in Barcelona) leaves a lot to be desired. A filter like what they have in “Tapp Water” (they do not pay me but I recommend them all the time because they work) improves the flavor noticeably and although it supposes a small initial investment, you’ll recover it, immediately . Not only you’ll save money and save plastic to the planet, in adition, you will not load anymore bottles and carafes of water from the supermarket yo your home.

  • Actually, the residue that horrifies me the most, is the organic one.

Avoiding food waste is vital and very easy: plan your weekly menu to plan your purchase without waste (or with the minimum possible). Be realistic and buy only the foods you can consume or keep in a short term. Store them correctly and look for ways to take advantage of the leftovers and the parts that are usually thrown away (leaves, logs, peels …), wasting a lot of food and very interesting nutritional contributions. Avoid the processed ones: they always come in plastic, their nutritional contribution is very poor (or null) and on top of that, they are expensive.

What would be the “top” zero waste, but realistic one:

Making the majority of our purchases in bulk, in our own containers and bags. That would avoid a significant amount of waste, apart from consuming local and seasonal products. There are other things you can do to reduce a lot your carbon footprint: move on foot or by bike whenever possible (free gym!) Or choose to travel with an electric scooter or public transport. Reduce or eliminate animal products (one of the most polluting industries, without entering into ethical issues). Buy clothes and second-hand items or of local, ethical and sustainable origin, and, above all, ask and ask the people around you before buying, especially things that you will use very little: my favorite example is the drill. Seriously, all of us we do not need to have one at home. In Barcelona, there is an app called Lendi App that is wonderful for lending items.

And the ideal?

The ideal would be for governments to become serious and to completely ban the manufacture and distribution of single-use products and, for citizens, to have consumption habits that do not include them. It makes no sense to invest a huge amount of water, energy and other resources to make something that will be thrown away after being used only once and that will be on Earth hundreds of years after we are dead. Paper, although recyclable or compostable, is not a good alternative either, because manufacturing it consumes a lot of resources.

Will we reach that ideal?

I really doubt it. There is still a very important part of the world and politicians who totally deny that climate change is real. We are going to suffer the consequencues, and much earlier than we think (in fact, we are already doing it). And although it seems our individual actions doesn’t have a great impact, they really have a great impact; and of course I believe that we must not only be responsible for our consumption but we must demand that governments apply measures. Now!

Do you think the people start to be conscious?

Yes. Now there is much more talk about it and people are starting to wake up and look for ways to be a little more sustainable. In addition, through the activities that I organize and promote with my association, Zero Waste Barcelona Network, I can attest that more and more people are becoming interested in the zero waste movement, which makes me keep a bit of hope.

When did you get conscious?

‘I never wanted to become a zero waster, it just happened.’

About four and a half years ago I got the “Konmari” fever after reading “The magic of order” and spent a few days filling bags of things to donate and throw away. When I finished and saw everything that I had accumulated in my short life I felt that I was doing something deeply wrong. From that moment I began to question my consumption habits (I was horrified) and I’ve begun to try to reduce my waste little by little. I never wanted to become “zero waster”, it just happened. Although of course to this day I continue to generate waste, although it is much less than four and a half years ago and much less than what the majority generates. Zero waste is only an objective, not a reality.

What is the most dificult for you?

When I started, I had several stores in bulk one minute away from where I was living, so it did not take me any effort to make the purchase like that. Now I live in a neighborhood where this option barely exists, so when I have to buy to “fill the pantry” (legumes, cereals, nuts, flours …) I arm myself with patience, bags and jars, I go back to my old neighborhood and then I charge everything back to my house. What can I do.

What things that people do could you put on your nerves?

I live at two minutes from the crowded beach in Barcelona. I see how people are extremely dirty, rude and unconscious and leaves the beach leaving their garbage in the sand (knowing that it can end up in the sea or in the stomach of an animal) and that, put me on my nerves. I had to relax with this topic because I ended up shouting and insulting people too often (my friends can attest) and the one that stayed fatal and drained of energy was me, not they.

Do you want to add something so that we are more aware and more zero waste?

Yes. My two star tips, which I repeat incessantly, are: make the changes little by little, without haste but without pauses. If you are overwhelmed you will demotivate and cause the opposite effect you are looking for. And, above all, preaching by example. It does not do any good to get angry at your nearby people for the amount of waste they generate without any charge of your conscience. It usually has a rebound effect creating even more resistance on your part to make no change and it is also not worth living fighting. You do yours (obviously you can talk about what you are doing and why, and more if they ask you) without imposing your way of doing it and may one day they surprise you by following you. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Here we have changed the glasses, we prevent health instead of just curing it when the problem already exists, and that translates to less pills, blisters, plastics, etc. Little by little, each one with his change. Do you dare to begin? Are you coming?


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