Diary of a waste free May
Laura is a Melbourne University student who is attempting to go totally waste free for the month of May. She will be keeping us updated throughout the month about the lessons she learns along the way.
As a student studying sustainability, I decided to challenge myself to go “waste free” for a month and to share some of my journey. Over the past year or so our household has become pretty low waste, so as a disclaimer, we do already have some of the systems in place to make life a little easier! The most important thing I’ve learnt so far is to be patient and not too harsh on yourself or others. We’re all living different lives and can each make changes along the way. Here are some of the challenges, new discoveries and changes I’ve found and made for waste free living.
Lesson 1. Bring your own.
It only takes a little organisation to bring your own and I started the month by making sure my bag was packed with a keep cup, reusable cutlery, a reusable bag and a drink bottle. The main challenge is remembering these things EVERYDAY! Since I spend a significant amount of time staring at Buzzfeed articles and Facebook memes I started setting reminders on my phone to bring these things with me, which helped. Plus, I get a discount when I use my Keep Cup at the uni Café, bonus for a broke student!
Lesson 2. Composting
Here’s sustainable Scotty taking our food scraps to the uni community garden. Because we live in an apartment we don’t have compost facilities on site so we collect our food scraps and walk them to uni with us.
Lesson 3. Make it yourself (or attempt to)
As part of trying to reduce my waste I thought I’d also try reusing things before they get thrown away. I gave mum a call and told her to dust off the old sewing machine, we had some old cloth that I had big plans for (sound of music: curtains to outfits type of thing). Having not been near a sewing machine since year 9 fabrics, I stared at the machine like it was going to attack me. Several youtube tutorials later, I’d successfully worked out what a bobbin was. Several more tutorials later, I’m now able to sew in squares and made my own reusable bags for us to buy our nuts and dry goods in bulk, plus I was able to recycle old clothing that was otherwise going to landfill. GOALS!
Lesson 4. Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk is an awesome way for me to reduce my packing. You can bring your own jars, containers and bags. Finding bulk stores that have ALL the items you need can sometimes be challenging though and I found that some of the stores had the items I wanted in a plastic packet but not a bulk option! After some research, I did find places that had the items I needed in bulk, but that means another trip to the shops. It’s been a good lesson in learning to utilise what I do have avaliable to me and has improved my resourcefulness in cooking!
Lesson 5. Unsubscribe
Four days in we received an alumni magazine from Melbourne university in the mail. Not only did we not need this magazine, it was wrapped in soft plastic! Bugger! This made me think about all the ways we unintentionally collect waste in our everyday lives. Rather than getting annoyed, I jumped on the University of Melbourne’s website and found that we could actually select to receive this magazine online! I wondered; shouldn’t this be the other way around? Wouldn’t it be more economical for the university to send all its alumni the magazine online then people can select to receive the hard copy if they wish? In the same week I also received an online order in the post which was wrapped in soft plastics! When I order things online from now on I’ll try and remember to request minimal packaging in my orders. Anyway, here I am with the culprits.
Lesson 6. Refillable oils
ReWine is an awesome company I’ve discovered this week! They sell super delicious olive oil and wine! You buy your first bottle and bring it back each time its empty – they refill the same bottle over and over and its significantly cheaper. If you’re a poor uni student and you also love wine this is one to remember. The staff who work here are also super passionate about wine and sustainability and told me their wine has won a number of awards (which must mean its good!)
Lesson 7. Package free tofu
I’d been wondering if I’d be able to buy tofu this month as usually it comes wrapped in soft plastic – as fate would have it, as I was procrastinating on Facebook last week I saw that the co-op at Melbourne Uni had got its first batch of bulk, package free tofu in! Awesome! This is another super affordable option for uni students too and I can store it in water for weeks so it won’t go bad.
Week 1 Waste: The waste count after week one is pretty good, we have a Panadol packet that cant be recycled or composted, some stickers off a mandarin and the soft plastic that came with the magazine & online purchase – which can be recycled at specific locations, but getting soft plastics out of the equation is the ultimategoal.