Saturday, July 30, 2016

Another journey: Zero Waste

     Two months ago, YouTube had some kindness and inspiration to suggest me an extraordinary TED Talk that, without any exaggeration, changed my life. Curious? You can find it here. If you watched the video, it has already told you much about what one could say: we pollute outrageously, we do not care about the planet, we take everything for granted. Nevertheless, we have the power to change something And it does not even no matter how many times before you have heard this phrase, but it is the truth.

     I was struck by how much we pollute - although I walk a lot and I use the public transport, I eat healthy, I still throw the trash away. This last one is clearly the problem and I was not thinking about the fact that things could be differently. Otherwise? Sustainably. Thus it was seeded in my soul a boundless affection for the planet, this wonderful Terra we keep destroying.

     There are a lot of things to be said, I could talk incessantly about (1) Bucharest not having a place for composting (2) the fact that I do not think there is any store where you can buy safely in bulk (3) people burning the "selective collection" containers up (4) people looking suspiciously at you when you tell them „no thanks, I do not need a plastic bag because I have my own reusable one”.

     Since I still have not got to the point where I live a zero waste lifestyle, I shall only suggest a few small steps that we can do to minimize the amount of waste we produce, thus reducing the negative impact we have on the environment: it is slightly similar to the idea of ​​minimalism, only adding a little ecology.

Step 1: Identify what you throw away. It is important to know what you have to reduce in order to effectively reduce – plastic boxes, plastic bottles of beer, bags from Mega Image or Carrefour, banana peels or egg shells.

Step 2: Eco-bags! We all go to the supermarket, to farmers market or shopping in a mall. We all take at least one plastic bag each time. Would not it be easier to take our own bag with us?

Step 3: Compost! I assume you eat eggs, fruits and many other organic products that happen to end up in a large and black plastic bag, becoming unable to decompose. If you are lucky and there is a composting center in your town, a bike ride up there would not hurt. If you live in Romania, it might be scarcely difficult. Personally, I convinced my parents to make a compost place in our backyard. I have recently read an article, and the author stated she has a compost container in her balcony – I am highly skeptical regarding this option as long as you are not totally sure there is no risk for a bacteria to spread all over the place. My only suggestion is to do a short research on the possibilities and to find the most suitable one for you.

Step 4: DIY! Most products we buy - creams, shampoo, soap, perfume, makeup, lotions - contain many chemicals that are harmful for our bodies on the long term, so the best solution is to try and do them yourself. For example, I do not use toothpaste anymore- I brush using a "mix" of salt powder, baking soda and mint essential oil, I used Aleppo soap (now I use a Romanian hand-made one made out of honey, chamomile and calendula) instead of Dove or Nivea, I made my own deodorant: it smells like lavender essential oil. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube for countless DIY products - all you need is a little curiosity and (a lot of) patience.

Step 5: Bio products! Dishwashing products are toxic, as well as laundry detergents, not to mention the cleaning ones. As alternatives – I use for dishwashing Castille soap from Dr. Bronner, also with lavender because you can never smell enough of it, and when it is time for cleaning my home - reusable cloths and water are the most reliable, mum also used alcohol, and I tried hydrogen peroxide as well, which seemed pretty much effective. I read there are people who use white vinegar too, but find what works for you and your home. For laundry I tried a combination of washing soda, baking soda and Castille soap (although I support this formula, mum does not agree with it...)

Step 6: Recycle! As I said, in Romania there is no store where you can safely buy in bulk. I discovered one in Bucharest, near my home, but I noticed that the containers (with flour, rice, goji, etc) are not fully covered and you might eat as well some dust and harmful microorganisms. So I do not want to take the risk and I buy from shops with organic stuff where most products are packed in plastic, but I recycle. I know plastic cannot be 100% recycled without any noxious effect on the environment, but.. I make an effort.  Also, I have at home three separate containers: one for paper, one for plastic and one for other products. I usually find another purpose for those which do not correspond to the first two categories. For example, I turned a mason jar into a pencil holder, I wrapped in double-sided adhesive paper a cardboard box from when I got a delivery and now it looks like a fancy marble box. Just use your creativity.

Step 7: Water, towels & handkerchiefs! Water in glass bottle is the key!  I also use a water filter - I just do not trust tap water, but it is certainly an amazing alternative. A filter is a good long-term investment that I wholeheartedly encourage. Handkerchiefs and towels are super-useful - says someone who used to throw away at least 5 napkins/meal.

     I feel like there is so much to be said, but I have already written a short story.. I strongly (and fiercely) believe it is easy to live like this, and you also get the feeling you do something meaningful, not to mention that you become more aware of what you do and how you do every single thing. If a certain „step” does not work for you, do not give up, do not say “it is not worth it ", search for alternatives because there are plenty of them. Please, just don’t give up!

     Terra is such a beautiful place and we destroy it. Let’s... stop.

     P.S.: If you are thinking "Why does it matter if I change? I am one person! There are millions out there who do nothing and do not care at all” Frankly, it matters. You have no idea how much. 

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Maira Gall