If you are part of the Instagram community you will know of the trend to post a collage of your top nine ‘liked’ posts for the year. Instead of doing this I thought I’d choose nine photos which best represent where my energy was spent in 2016. So here goes.
- I was a doer not a buyer. I did lots of making, upcycling, reusing, and repurposing things I already had. There were only a couple of items like the Santa sacks which were made from a few pieces from the op shop. This has saved me a lot of money, prevented a lot of waste, and meant that I bought nothing but food, some experiences and some gifts. DIY everything is not essential for zero waste living but my waste would definitely be larger if I was not able to salvage some items. And, what’s the point of shopping sustainably if you’re still addicted to consuming.
- I cooked real food by making more from scratch with quality ingredients. I did this not just to reduce waste but because of the many health benefits for my family and the planet. I’ve had to relearn a lot about ingredients and cooking, participating in workshops to help me along. I still find cooking from scratch the hardest thing to consistently achieve, despite all the benefits, so I’m thinking about strategies to make this easier in 2017.
- I found many ways (outlined throughout this blog) to significantly reduce waste inside and outside my home, meaning that I can comfortably fit all my waste for 2016 in a jar, and for the whole family, in one shopping bag. I also learnt a lot about recycling.
- I worked on turning my gardening hobby into my dream of being self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables. This has involved a commitment to myself to prioritise time in the garden when faced with competing demands. So far so good.
- I spent a lot of time repairing items and mending clothing, often teaching myself how and learning from others. For example, my Dad tried to weld handles back onto my steel pots (bought cheap with plastic handles when I first moved out of home to go to university), but we found the steel too thin and the welder kept blowing holes through the pots. They’ve gone to the steel recycler and I’ll be sure to purchase much better quality next time.
- I upped the ante in the composting department, composting anything made from organic matter that had no further use. Composting is essential for achieving zero waste.
- I took action! I wrote letters to many organisations about palm oil, waste, plastic and climate change. I wrote blog posts every week and magazine articles. I signed petitions, had conversations, shared information, and changed my own behaviours.
- I spoke up. I gave 22 presentations to all different age groups and 10 radio interviews. I’ve met and befriended many wonderful people along the way who are all doing their bit for a sustainable future.
- I practiced being a better parent. There’s always room for improvement and it can be hard not to fall back into old habits. I worked on modelling the values I want to instil including slowing down and being in the moment. Have you tried slowing down, to stop being so busy? It’s harder than you might think. I also worked on developing in my children the skills and knowledge I believe they will need to thrive in a rapidly changing world.
There were plenty of peaks and troughs throughout 2016 but it was all worthwhile. It seems appropriate now to share how much waste we are sending to landfill this year. Let’s start with some things applicable to the whole family. These are the items we were unable to avoid for pet care and food shopping.
Now here is my waste for 2016. It includes straws I did not ask for, a PVC packaging sleeve, paracetamol and ibuprofen blister packs, toothbrush bristles, band-aid waste and sports tape, part of a vacuum cleaner hose, broken dressing pin case, plastic packet which contained sewing machine needles, netball membership card, armband tape from indigenous round of netball, and contact lens cases. There’d be a lot less waste if I didn’t play netball but being zero waste is not about not having a life. It’s about being responsible consumers.
Shannon’s waste didn’t fit into his jar but you can see that he has actually done very well (mostly because I do the majority of shopping for the family). The large stickers are off his motorbike and clearly there is some pain management going on there. I’ve decided to spare you the visual of a small amount of medical waste.
Alby and Ainsley’s waste is very similar but Alby also had some medical waste not shown because he burnt his hand. The kids obviously don’t have a huge amount of control over what comes into their lives but it began to amaze me how often treats are offered to children. Their waste came from birthday parties and a little from gifts, school and home life. I’ll be taking all the chocolate and confectionary wrappers to a REDcycle drop off point so they won’t go to landfill. We’ve also added the iPod cases to the craft box for reuse.
I begin 2017 with an injection of energy from the Summer sunshine and the natural vibrations of a new year. I have events starting this week, we’ll be taking a family holiday to Vanuatu in a couple of weeks and we’re moving house in March so I’ll be sure to give you a look around. The nine focus areas listed above will continue to be important to me in 2017 but I have not spent as much time in nature, camping, reading, or playing sport as I’d like. I’m hoping to do something about that. Thank you for following our journey so far and I hope you stick around for more. HAPPY NEW YEAR!