A question I often get asked is, 'What does being zero waste actually mean?' To which I answer, with an air of confidence, clearing my throat as I flick my hair, 'It means finding ways to repurpose or upcycle the waste I have, living a minimalistic life by drastically reducing the things I own. What I do buy, it’s either secondhand or I take the time to research new items to make sure they’re sustainably made and durable. For the day to day, I avoid single-use packaging. I plan to do this for a year. Yes, that’s right, I’m a saint.' Have I reached zero yet? No, I haven’t. It’s still a transition, but the aim is to go extreme for a year and then review at the end to see what’s practical and what isn’t.
Cutting out single-use packaging is easy in theory but extremely difficult in reality. Cleaning supplies and toiletries normally come in single-use packaging and are often packaged with mixed materials that are non-recyclable. To avoid buying more everyday items wrapped in plastic, I’ve resorted to making my own as a solution.
Here are a few I've tried recently:
Coconut oil toothpaste
Apart from being a shockingly offensive brand with its controversial logo, which is another story altogether, Darlie contains ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate, a common additive with corrosive properties and a pollutant during the manufacturing process. It’s also stored in those frustrating plastic tubes where you can never quite squeeze out the last part. Most tubes are made from #4 plastic that can be recycled as long as you cut it open and clean out the residue.
Simply mix ½ cup coconut oil with 2–3 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda and 15–20 drops peppermint oil. Store in a glass jar and scoop out with a teaspoon. In the summer months, I store this in the fridge to keep it solidified.
It it a keeper?
The homemade version is quick to make, with ingredients that are easy to find. It’s not necessarily cheaper than shop-bought, but actually the difference in price is nominal. The coconut oil doesn’t produce a satisfying foam and the baking soda leaves a salty aftertaste. The peppermint oil definitely helps though. I can see myself making this on a regular basis. It’s a bit difficult to get used to but does the trick of cleaning my teeth.
Nivea Cleansing Wipes
Reusable cotton rounds
Refillable grapeseed oil
vomFASS refillable casks
ecoBibi reusable cotton rounds. Photo credit: ecoBibi
No doubt a convenient way to remove make-up – but also incredibly wasteful and expensive for an item intended to be used only once. If flushed down the toilet, wipes can cause damage to the sewage system.
Just pour a little oil on a reusable cotton round and clean your face with warm water. The oil cleanses the dirt and keeps you moisturised. Try to avoid using high-comedogenic (pore-clogging) oils such as coconut and go for oils like argan, olive or grapeseed from vomFASS. The cotton rounds from ecoBibi can be easily cleaned in a washing machine.
Is it a keeper?
Oil me up, baby.
Blue Diamond Almond Milk (Unsweetened)
Raw almonds (about 140g)
The most common almond milk brand in Hong Kong supermarkets, Blue Diamond is pleasant tasting, but it also has a chalky aftertaste. It was a brand I used to buy often as it has an unsweetened version. However, most almond milks contain less than two per cent almonds, with added stabilisers and preservatives.
You simply have to soak 1 part almonds overnight, rinse and then blend with 4 parts water. Strain through a nut milk bag, muslin cloth or even a sieve if you have neither.
Is it a keeper?
Without a doubt, homemade almond milk is far superior in taste, but it lasts for only 3–4 days in the fridge. You can use the leftover pulp to make dips, crackers, macarons and even body scrubs. Not sure if I’ll be making almond milk every four days, but it's great when I have the time.
Follow Hannah's journey on Instagram @thezerowastechallenge