Could you reduce your weekly waste stream so small that it fits into a jam jar?

These champions prove it’s actually possible – find out how

Zero Waste Week’, an annual national campaign, just happened. It sounds simple, but in practice it maybe challenging for some – read on as we break it down. In a world where huge corporations throw around money to confuse consumers, it’s vital that we understand our own capacity to change the world by reducing the harmful impacts of our consuming!

‘Zero waste’ - is an aspiration, a motivator, something to work towards. It means that your lifestyle creates as close to ‘zero waste’ as possible. In a four person house it’s not unusual to empty a large kitchen bin – plus recycling – more than once a week. Compare this with the waste campaigner whose entire family produced just one jar of waste – in a year!

This is not all down to recycling (which is not a true solution) – the process starts with refusing things you don’t need; the plastic bag, the straw, the napkin. The next stage is to reduce the amount you buy! Do you need it? Can you borrow it? Can you make it?!

You may start refilling your old washing liquid bottles from Earth, saving huge amounts of plastic going to waste over a lifetime. You might have already switched to buying from more ethical brands – and if so well done for making the change. Before you know it you might be washing your hair less, switching away from animal testing brands like Dove, Simple and Sure - and drifting towards Lush, Faith in Nature or better still, your own creations!

The big corporations, tax evaders and fossil fuel champions are doing their best to cloud the picture by giving their image a quick green wash. Sorry to break it to you folks but EcoZone and Method are owned by Johnson & Son who test on animals and are part of the ‘old world’ thinking. They are at the top of their Green Wash game – and it’s the planet that is paying. EcoLeaf is an ethical alternative.

The Hive Tyre Chair

Next is reuse – can you give something a new lease of life? Tyres as a garden chair? An old t-shirt as a tote bag. A fork as a door handle? Go wild with it – get creative! Tin cans can become lanterns, or pen holders, or even an insect hotel! Then we get to recycling…

This can be a bit of a headache. Different councils have different systems – and do you clean things first or is that a waste of water? Not ideal if you find yourself in unfamiliar territory, making an optimistic bag of recycling and leaving it somewhere that seems sensible, not fully convinced that it’s even in the right bag! At events, proper recycling almost always goes out of the window unless the venue has a pro-active policy.

Upcycle old containers into a biodiversity boosting insect hotel

Author disclaimer; I have not yet committed to zero waste, but I’m slowly working my way towards it and enjoying the process. It is also hugely inspiring to work with artists and community leaders who consider their materials from source through to end use and beyond. The constraints placed on art by the need to be sustainable has forced fresh thinking and a torrent of talent has taken up the challenge.

Those who have profited by shafting people and the planet for their profit margins, have the resources to leap on board the ‘environmental train’ and pay to push their brand to the top of the search engines – and the forefront of our minds. Green washing is a very real threat.

On top of this, the campaign to hide human exacerbated global warming means there is a LOT of confusion around the issue.

Buddhist monks in the Sisaket province of Thailand have constructed a temple out of over one million recycled Heineken and Chang beer bottles

But around the world people are getting it right. From the temple made of glass bottles – incredible - to the people working quietly but firmly towards their zero waste ambitions, we’re starting to get it right. Yes we don’t have a particularly long time in which to adjust to this new lifestyle – but we do have everything to try for. If you’re going to have any chance of fitting even a week’s worth of waste into a jar, you’ll also need to get onboard with composting - but by this time you might even have started growing some of your own food, so the fertile free compost will be an extra bonus!

Initially all this zero waste stuff might seem like quite a lot of effort - but here’s the surprising bit – it feels really good! It feels good to do something for the planet and our fellow creatures, but perhaps even more important at this stage of our development – is that it feels empowering and fulfilling to learn how to be self-sufficient.

Refusing and reducing the unnecessary clutter in our lives feels great. As does learning practical old wisdom about how we take care of ourselves and our homes. It might even be the thing that can pull us away from our increasing tendency to suffer mental health issues. It’s surprising how the brain reacts to a lifestyle that makes us feel capable, creative – and like worthy residents of Planet Earth!

A fork upcycled as a door handle