This is a story of how I became an accidental environmentalist. I didn’t grow up with a hippie mother or a passion for the environment, I was just a person trying to find happiness in all the usual places – money, power, and status. But this triumvirate of success didn’t provide me with the happiness that I expected. I was wasting away my life.
At age twenty-six I was a manager in a large engineering firm, earning more money than my Chinese migrant parents ever had. On paper, my life was the epitome of success. I was the one my parents didn’t have to worry about: the daughter who graduated high school with a near perfect UAI had a well-paying corporate job and the latest Givenchy boots in my closet. It was a supposedly a picture-perfect life. That all changed in an instant.
I remember sitting in that Board Meeting on Level 6, looking at my boss, my boss’s boss and the big boss, thinking Is this it? Is this who I will become in five, ten, fifteen years’ time? I realized then that if I kept going down this path, all my hopes of living a life that was truly mine, one that wasn’t bound by golden handcuffs, would be lost forever.
These questions haunted me and when the doubt started to make me miserable, my husband looked me in the eyes and said ‘You have to quit your job – it’s killing you.’ I knew then that if I didn’t do something about my everyday misery, I risked losing him.
I quit my job the next day.
Since that day, my life has transformed. By embracing a zero waste life, I have been able to go back to university to study full-time to become a doctor, I’ve moved out of my in-laws’ house into a 59-square meter apartment and I’ve dedicated my life to something greater.
Working in corporate Australia didn’t reflect who I was, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right for everyone: you certainly don’t have to quit your corporate job to live a more eco-friendly life. But you do have to find what works for you.
The zero waste living movement is centered on reducing the waste you send to landfill and reducing the amount of plastic used in your life. But I want to show you that living a truly zero waste life means also not wasting your life away. Quite simply, plastic is Mother Nature’s non-renewable resource, and time is ours. We shouldn’t waste either one.
I want to show six simple ways to live an eco-luxe life, one in which we can all be zero waste activists without depriving yourself of the modern luxuries of life.
TIP 1: Replace your disposables with reusables
Replace items such as plastic bottles, paper napkins, plastic grocery bags, disposable coffee cups with reusable options. Make yourself a zero waste kit to take everywhere. A zero waste kit can include; a reusable water bottle, a reusable coffee cup, cotton bag, stainless steel drinking straw and a spork!
TIP 2: Set up a composting system that works for you
Food waste is a major issue! Food sits in our landfills and emits toxic greenhouse emissions. It’s time to compost food scraps instead of sending them to landfill. This might be as simple as sharing a compost bin with a community garden or even setting up your own. Shareapp is a free community app that allows you to see what compost bins are in your local area.
TIP 3: Shop the outer aisles of the supermarket or at bulk stores
Shopping the outer aisles of the supermarket means that you are buying package-free food. Not only is this better for the planet, it’s also a healthier option for you and your family!
TIP 4: Make secondhand your first choice
Whenever you need to buy something, try to see if you can buy it secondhand first. Look at local thrift stores, ask neighbors and friends, try eBay – make a good effort to try to buy secondhand before buying new.
TIP 5: Be mindful of your time and money
Put yourself on a spending ban, eliminate unnecessary engagements from your calendar! Money is a renewable resource that we should not waste, time can never be gained back – we should be mindful of how we use both these resources.
TIP 6: Head outside!
By enjoying the outdoors and seeing how amazing Mother Nature is, we can learn to appreciate that every step, no matter how small, is important in helping our planet.
In living a truly zero waste life, you actually gain more – more time, more money and more life. Isn’t that what we all want in the end: a life of happiness, a life of luxury, a life that isn’t wasted?