Why I went zero waste

In about the middle of 2015 I was coming out of a bit of a tricky period in my life, and consequently a period of intense consumerism. Clothes, trainers, kitchen appliances, cosmetics, stuff, stuff, stuff. Buying things made everything better. For five minutes. Then I read an article about a girl in New York who fits two years’ worth of rubbish in a small glass jar, and I decided it was time to make some changes.

small piles of garbage in a row
One month of rubbish made by Lauren Singer (Trash is for Tossers)

The first thing to go was plastic bags, not just carrier bags but the small ones you put your veg in. I made replacements out of an old bed sheet. I took to carrying a coffee cup with me everywhere to skip the take-away mugs. Same with a reusable water bottle. I changed my shopping habits, going to markets and finding food in bulk package free. I changed my beauty routine, replacing bottled shampoo with bar soap, cotton wool with wash cloths and even swapped my rouge for cocoa powder. The same thing went for household cleaning, using lemons, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda instead endless bottles of detergent. I still love buying clothes, but find a trawl round a secondhand shop equally gratifying. It’s been 18 months since my last impulse buy.

For me, going zero waste was as much a reaction against over consumption and the idea that things will make me smarter, sexier, cooler, happier, as it was against the massive impact consumerism has on the planet. It was a life experiment, to see if all that stuff was really making me happy, or if a simpler more thoughtful approach would be more fulfilling. And guess what? At the risk of sounding like a hippy, I am more content and I seem to need less from having less. Plus, I get immense satisfaction from making a meal with no rubbish to throw away after. Or from the look on the checkout lady’s face as she weighs my tomatoes in their homemade cloth bag.

Croissants and bread bought in my own cloth bags

And all those bottles floating in the sea, the heaving landfills, the puffing incinerators, even the recycling to an extent, that’s just crazy. That’s what made me take the next step and open a zero waste store. Will Gram, all 12 m2 of it with its 180 products, stop the ice caps melting? No, sadly not. But hopefully it will make a few people think about why it’s become so normal to have a new plastic bottle every time we need more soap, or another packet to throw away after we’ve eaten our pasta. Shops like Gram are about starting ripples.