War on Waste: Is It Ruining Your Life?

War on Waste: Is It Ruining Your Life?
Carly Jacobs

To be clear, I’m all for the war on waste. The more mindfully we consume everything, the better. Our planet is in a pretty dire situation and we need to sort that shit out.

However since everyone has seen War on Waste, there’s a bit of conflict in the air about just how hard core we need to be. For example my mate Woog got ripped a new one the other day for getting a disposable coffee cup and Instagramming it. She somehow missed the memo on how we all virtuously use Keep Cups now, but I can’t help but wonder if those people that shamed her had only recently started using re-usable cups themselves. It’s the advent of new habit forming that makes people go the most crazy so I thought it a good idea to put some ideas out there before we all end up hating each other.

war on waste

Here are some things to consider…

– Did you know that the invention of frozen convenience meals was one of the biggest contributors to women’s equality over the last century? People mistakenly think it was the washing machine but research shows that although washing took up a fair portion of women’s time, they would simply wash less. It was microwave meals that saved housewives hours every night and gave them the freedom to pursue other things in their life. They weren’t invented because people were lazy, they were invented to get women out of the kitchen and into the world, which is really quite remarkable.

– Plastic isn’t evil. It’s a durable and very versatile material. We just went a little bit too far with the whole thing.

– Genetically modified vegetables aren’t amazing but they also aren’t the enemy. The reason why we started messing around with growth hormones and pesticides in our crops is because people were dying because there wasn’t enough food. These modern techniques that everyone is so down on literally saved people from dying in famines. Again, a very remarkable thing. These techniques are also used to grow crops in places they wouldn’t ordinarily grow and help to diversify the local food sources.

war on waste

Things I do

– Take a re-usable coffee jar with me to get coffee.

– Take a re-usable water bottle with me everywhere.

– Use beeswax wraps instead of cling wrap. I still own cling wrap and use it when I need to but I’ve cut down on it a lot.

– I use biodegradable coffee pods.

– I take a re-usable bag with me everywhere and use it for everything. Even if I buy a fancy dress, I say no to the excess tissue paper and fancy bag and just pop it straight in my little tote.

– I try to only buy fresh produce if it’s not pre-packaged.

– I buy as many things in glass as I can.

– I try to buy as much fresh produce at the green grocer because they use less packaging.

– I try to get things mended rather than replace them. I’ve taped up my Uashmama bag with gaffa tape and it’s as good as new!

war on waste

Other things I do

– I buy frozen meals to keep in the freezer for emergencies. Because I’m a modern woman who runs a business and I don’t always have time to cook.

– I shop in chainstores. I try to research to make sure they’re ethical but I’m a curvy lass and getting clothes to fit me well is really hard, so if I find something that fits and looks good, I’ll buy it.

– I sometimes buy non-organic meat. There’s a lot of research that shows how organic meat farming is actually worse for the environment in terms of carbon emissions than larger (but still ethical) meat produce facilities. I do try to limit my meat intake though as avoidance is really the answer.

– I buy packets of heat up rice because I don’t eat rice that often and it doesn’t make sense to cook it for these rare occasions because I always cook too much and I end up wasting food. Which I really hate.

– I occasionally buy bags of spinach at the supermarket if I didn’t make it to the green grocer in time to get their unpackaged spinach.

– I use Tupperware. Proper, expensive, bought it a million years ago and it’s still going strong Tupperware. I’m not getting rid of it just because the world has decided plastic is evil. I’ll use it until it falls apart and that’s the environmental thing to do.

war on waste

Things that baffle me about the no waste community 

– If you’re ready to deal with it, google Zero Waste and find people who produce little to no rubbish at all. It’s fascinating and very inspiring but honestly not super practical for most people. I’m all for bringing a takeaway coffee up with you when you get coffee and they advocate this but the whole community is obsessed with straws as well. They all carry around stainless steel or glass straws. It’s so confusing – just drink through the hole in your face. I’d rather not use a straw than carry one around with me. So weird.

– Mr Smaggle eats a lot of cheese and I was worried about the packaging aspect of cheese and a very lovely no-waster answered my question about this by suggesting I buy a wheel of cheese direct from the supplier, wrapped in paper and share it with my neighbours. This is a very sweet thought but is she for real? Where do you even find cheese suppliers? I don’t talk to my neighbours. What if they don’t like the same kind of cheese as me? It’s just not a good solution to this problem.

– Most ‘no wasters’ seem to be very normal (usually quite model-esque looking if I’m honest) people with no issues that would stop them leading this lifestyle. Buying ethical clothing can be difficult if you’re plus-sized for instance and buying bulk skin care products would be impossible for some people with skin issues. If you have allergies, no waste can be a challenge. If you can barely make ends meet at the end of every month, you’ve got bigger issues than spending an extra $5 on the lowest possible carbon footprint quinoa. Reducing waste is an excellent thing to do and everyone should try their best but not all aspects of this movement are available to everyone.

Bottom line? We aren’t the same people we used to be. It’s lovely to want to go back to the days of churning our own butter and roasting our own hand reared chickens for dinner but that’s just not feasible. Pre-plastic, women’s lives sucked. As an environmentalist and a feminist I struggle really hard with how much plastic wrapped convenience foods and products have made such positive and negative changes in my world. It’s important to remember that making environmental choices doesn’t have to be binary. Do the best you can, plan ahead, make good choices and then don’t beat yourself up when you have 10 minutes to sort dinner out and you grab a frozen lasagne. It’s cool. We’re modern people, living in a modern world and it’s convenience products that allowed us to get here.

Make sure you only use them when you need them though and concentrate on changing daily habits. Replace your daily packaged muesli bar with some homemade healthy slice you baked on the weekend. Commit to taking a re-usuable mug to your local cafe. Choose condiments in glass jars instead of plastic when you can and don’t stress about all the waste from the takeaway you ordered last week. Just remember to tell them not to include cutlery and napkins next time. It’s a process and we’re all still learning.

Having said that, do be hard on yourself. Make a proper effort where you can and do all easy things all the time.

Have you made any War on Waste changes this year? What are your non-negotiables?

P.S Also you should totally sign up for my newsletter. It’s full of cool stuff.
P.P.S Don’t forget Crochet Coach has a free trial offer period at the moment so make sure you sign up!

32 Comments

  1. Missy D 2 years ago

    Yeah, I agree. It’s a tricky one. I do like to do things like bring my coffee cup and I make my own frozen dinners so they’re in reusable containers. But even when you buy condiments in glass jars, they still have plastic around the lid!

    Other things I do: don’t use plastic bags at the fruit/veggie area of the supermarket – I’m about to go purchase those reusable mesh bags. Generally try to buy things that come in recyclable package – but I agree, it’s super hard to be zero waste when you live in a city and work. Apartment living makes it especially hard to do things like composing and growing your own veggies, which is something I did when I lived in a house. But we all just have to do what we can and slowly we’ll make a difference.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 years ago

      I’ve got some of those mesh bags on the way! That way I can always go to the green grocer and not buy spinach in plastic bags. Apartment living does make it hard – I don’t want to waste petrol driving my compost all over the place!

  2. Jennifer 2 years ago

    I’m with you on the glass>plastic but now I wonder about the environmental impact of tonnes of glass being dumped in landfill! Its starting to come home to me that reduce reuse recycle is supposed to be sequential.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 years ago

      Definitely! I keep glass jars to store dry goods in my cupboards but lots of condiments come in teeny jars that aren’t that useful.

  3. Kelly 2 years ago

    I agree … it is hard to perfect and live in the real world. I happy knowing I am doing better than I was last year and I am far from the authority on this stuff but the fact we are thinking more about it, it is a good thing in my book.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 years ago

      Yes definitely and there are some people that are totally clueless about it so it’s important to remind people to bring their own bags to the shops because a lot of people don’t even really think about it.

  4. Clare 2 years ago

    A lovely balanced perspective Carly. I loved the War on Waste series. My biggest takeaway from it was info about saving small plastics and recycling them at a collection point-this has made a massive difference to how much rubbish is in our bin each week. Any movement that gets too hard core though somewhat repels me, so I’m all about making changes that seem manageable, layer by layer. Thanks for your honesty, we need it.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 years ago

      I actually haven’t watched the War on Waste but I get the general gist of it! 🙂 I need to buy a red cycle bin actually, at the moment they’re just collecting on the floor in the cupboard.

  5. Hayley 2 years ago

    I’m very inspired by the war on waste and can totally be that person being like BUY A KEEP CUP!!!!! because I’m in that super enthusiastic starting zone. I’m wanting to research beeswax wraps. I have tons of tupperware and like you will continue to use it until it dies, then replace with glass.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 years ago

      I think Keep Cups are a no brainer personally. It’s so easy to do and it’s available to everyone. It’s bags of lettuce at your local supermarket that’s hard when there’s no alternative and you don’t have time to drive to a farmers market, that’s the stuff that’s hard.

  6. Theresa 2 years ago

    There are companies like KOODA who pick up and recycle food waste and return composted for a small fee.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 years ago

      That’s a great idea! I’m an apartment dweller though and have no need for compost sadly and there’s no where local I can take mine. I looked into it.

      • Louisa 4 months ago

        Carly while I’m sure you have compost these days living in the country, there is a website called share waste (or is it waste share) that shows you on a map people nearby that compost and accept donated waste! I take mine weekly to someone in my suburb. Cheers

        • Author
          Carly Jacobs 4 months ago

          Would you believe when I lived in Fitzroy there wasn’t anything like this available? There were lots of links to people who used to do it but I couldn’t find a single place in inner Melbourne.

  7. KezUnprepared 2 years ago

    I love how balanced your approach is. We just need to work on little things each day – if everyone did it, it would make a hell of a difference. I once read a book called ‘Crap at the Environment’ (I wanna say it’s by a comedian called Mark Watson). I loved his approach at improving his habits.
    My husband just got a keep cup (he’s a coffee addict) and I love that he loves it! I think that in the couple of weeks he’s had it, he’s saved himself from having about 14 disposable cups! I think he likes how good it tastes and how classy it looks in a glass cup too! It’s practical as well – he doesn’t have to keep remembering to clear the cups out of his car each day! I think if we approach this with a sense of practicality thrown in too, we can make a difference x

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 years ago

      The glass keep cups are crazy stylish. I love them, I’m off coffee at the moment but I’ve been loving my coffee jar.

  8. joelleharris 2 years ago

    Well said! I am trying to make changes too, we do need to keep thinking about our behaviours and change what we can. Also, do not call out those people who instagram a disposable coffee cup, none of us is perfect!

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 years ago

      I know! It’s so not the place for it. Gentle, consistent reminders and setting a good example is what works.

  9. kate 2 years ago

    I will never be zero waste, especially while I have a family in tow, but I do try very hard to reduce our waste and single use anything. It is hard and some days it does my head in and I just want to do the easy thing but I can’t any more, bloody guilt. It gets even harder when it involves the budget, distance travelled to get to me, organic v non organic, time I have to research and then shop for said items, country of origin and the list goes on. Add to that teenagers and a husband who are much less concerned about it all and yes to answer your question it is starting to ruin my life. It’s so hard to enjoy anything when the guilt kicks in.
    I want to know I did everything I could to if not the world a better place then at least not stuff it any more, but really I think my kids would be better off seeing me being happy and living a fun life than seeing me stressed and unable to make a decision about which coffee to buy.
    Cheers Kate

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 years ago

      The distance thing bothers me too. I live across the road from a big supermarket so emission wise, it’s better to buy from there because it’s closest. My nearest proper organic market is a half hour drive away. It’s 6 of one and half a dozen of the other.

  10. Skye 2 years ago

    At our local farmers market there is an amazing dairy that sells cheese cut strait off a giant when and wrapped in paper. It’s incredibly awesome but at $90 a kilo, I just can’t justify spending close to $20 for a little 200g slice (that includes the rind) for my husbands daily sambos in our current financial situation. I find the balance tricky (not with the cheese wheels though) and have come to find some peace in the little things that I do that work for us now. I think when you’re keen to do as much as you can, it’s easy to think it’s not enough, when it’s likely it’s more than most others have even thought about…

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 years ago

      Mr Smaggle inhales cheese, there’s no way we could ay $20 for a teeny block. Having said that maybe we need to go back to the days of there being luxury items. Perhaps we shouldn’t have cheap and readily available cheese? Who knows?

      • Author
        Carly Jacobs 2 years ago

        I still buy commercial cheese every week BTW. I just think about it a lot. 🙂

  11. Kathryn OHalloran 2 years ago

    I don’t own a car. When people try taking the moral high ground because for something I do, I mention that 🙂 With toiletries, no animal testing is much more important to me than minimal waste.

    Not many of us can live a perfect life but making the effort and continuous improvements/life style changes are good.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 years ago

      We just got rid of our second car because we weren’t using it! It’s all about the baby steps.

  12. Sheree 2 years ago

    Yes agree it’s so important to do as much as we can but be reasonable about it at the same time. I have made a lot of changes already War on waste just solidified them. Taking my own bags to the supermarket, reuse all my current plastic produce bags (then buy reusable ones), no takeaway coffee cups…I literally banned myself last year if I can’t drink in I’m not having one I don’t believe in shaming just telling people that’s what I’ve done..given them up, however I do feel social media has glamorised the whole takeaway coffee cup..take a pic of your morning cup, get the cafe some publicity etc ( maybe??? I don’t know).
    I take all my plastics to redcycle & hope that the right thing is done with them, say no to straws, try not to use cling film, buy glass where possible (& hope it doesn’t end up in landfill), I compost, I buy some things sec hand, I try to buy 100% Cotton where I can & consume less BUT in reality I have 3 kids we buy convenience things, they have plastic toys, i buy Eco nappies but I don’t use cloth, I do get biodegradable wipes,, I don’t bulk food shop (yet) because it’s 35min drive away & that isn’t practical right now, I made my own crackers but my kids wouldn’t eat them, I do pick up rubbish when out walking always can’t seem to walk past it (& stick it in the pram) & try to instill in them that we can always DO better & more for the environment & strive to be more sustainable. It’s a work in progress.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 2 years ago

      That’s all great stuff – I do the same thing. It’s all about best effort and ACTUAL best effort not just being lazy. I only buy soft plastics if I don’t have a choice.

  13. Jacq Lives Here 2 years ago

    I have these, and they are awesome! I’ve had a few comments from other shoppers, so it’s nice to point them in direction to get some too 🙂

  14. Christina 2 years ago

    I agree that sharing a wheel of cheese with neighbours is completely weird! We get a huge wheel of cheese whenever we visit our friend in Sweden (Norway cheese sucks) and we cut it up and freeze half. You can freeze cheese with no ill effects! Who knew.

  15. Jubilant 9 months ago

    OMG! I just found your website this morning and I cannot stop reading your posts!
    This one is very honest and compasionate. I have been trying to be as eco-friendly as possible, but not everything is possible. We each have different resources and abilities like you mentioned and we also have to be realistic. I like that you are stating to do your best and that we are all learning to be better.

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