CITY : Dublin
COUNTRY : Ireland
This month is plastic free July and we’d like to shine a light on the Zero Waste movement. Zero wasters aim to send nothing to a landfill. They reduce what they need, reuse as much as they can, send little to be recycled, and compost what they cannot. There are a number of great activists and groups in Ireland sharing the ZERO WASTE message such as zero waste Ireland, zero waste mission, Zero Waste Alliance, and zero waste planet. We caught up with Ruth Doyle from Zero waste Mission to hear her top tips on living a zero waste lifestyle.
Let’s start with a little bit about you. When did your zero waste mission start and why?
My official zero waste mission began in May. I’m on maternity leave at the moment and I started becoming increasingly horrified at the volume of nappies in our black bin from my two girls. This was the spark that led me to switch to reusable nappies and ultimately to rethink our household waste as a whole. I’ve worked in the sustainability sector for twelve years in Ireland and San Francisco and have a PhD in sustainable consumption. Having spent a lot of time investigating other people’s habits, I decided to enlist my family in a little experiment! Guided by the zero waste approach, I’m hoping to learn what an everyday person can do to reduce their environmental impact; what’s realistic, what are the biggest challenges, and to share insights along the way through my Instagram https://www.instagram.com/missionzerowaste/
I believe there are many ways to live a zero waste lifestyle and it comes in many shapes and forms. What does zero waste mean to you?
For me, zero waste refers to a journey that our household is taking to reduce our landfill waste to a bare minimum as well as cutting back on all kinds of waste (including recyclable materials and food waste). When I came across the ‘zero waste lifestyle’ concept my eyes were opened to a community of people who could fit their annual non-recyclable waste in one glass jar! I’m a long way from this goal. It takes time to change your habits and to find alternatives to packaged foods, cleaning and beauty products. Plastic has an insidious hold on our society and you have to make a really conscious effort to avoid it. New options are emerging around Dublin for bulk purchasing of dry goods package-free (e.g. Dublin Food Co-operative, Bring Your Own and Minimal Waste Grocery market stalls). I’m also trying to improve my cooking, gardening, sewing and up-cycling skills so that we can become more self-sufficient.
Bea Johnston of Zero Waste Home in San Francisco has simplified the zero waste lifestyle with her 5 R philosophy (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot ) Does you have a zero waste philosophy?
The 5R’s works well as a zero waste philosophy. I don’t think I could come up with something as snappy and succinct! Our general family ethos is to keep learning, try new things and have fun in the process. We’ve applied that approach to our current zero waste mission. With two young kids, much of the journey has been about navigating the line between needs and wants, between what’s practical and impossible, and between harmony and chaos. A key motivation for us is to find a way to live a fulfilled life that’s in line with our values of protecting the environment and promoting social justice.
What do you think of the reusable nappies from Bumgenius. Can you tell our readers a little bit about these and living a zero waste lifestyle with young children?
I love our cloth nappies. I’ve only ever used Bumgenius but there’s tonnes of brands available. I got a trial pack from earthmother.ie which helped me figure out the best option for us. I’ve also switched to re-usable, toweling wipes from cheekywipes.com .The washing adds to the workload but we don’t have to worry about restocking supplies and it works out cheaper in the long run. As a parent, you are responsible for your family’s environmental footprint. When you’re hassled and time pressured, the temptation is always convenience, but this is often synonymous with waste. I’m trying to batch cook and have cut down on single use packaging (such as pouches). I’ve yet to find a package-free alternative to our beloved rice cakes and crackers though! One battle at a time…
What advice can you offer to people interested in living a zero waste lifestyle?
Start rummaging through your bins. See where most of your non-recyclable waste is coming from and make a conscious effort to reduce this. For us, a quick win was moving away from disposable nappies, wipes and kitchen towels. Educate yourself on what can and can’t be recycled. You’d be surprised that a lot of plastics are still non-recyclable, so try to cut these out. Bring your own coffee cup, bags and containers to the grocers or butchers to avoid packaging. Join the Zero Waste Ireland Facebook group for support.
If anyone’s in the Dun Laoghaire area, get in touch as I’d love to meet up and share ideas!