Zero waste healthy habits for the distressed and on-call

Zero waste healthy habits for the distressed and on-call

There’s a Daft Punk song with the words “we’re up all night to get lucky.” My neurosurgical buddies and I used to sing that to each other because it some how made going through 72 hour periods of minimal sleep or rest sort of ok, and kind of amusing. I’m not sure what we deemed as “getting lucky”– an extradural haematoma, maybe?

  One thing I get asked about a lot is how I maintain a healthy lifestyle whilst working a job that is definitely not conducive to healthy habits. Picture this- the majority of my colleagues, after years of sleep deprivation and work stress, have survived on caffeine, sugar hits from the nurses’ station, whatever passes as “lunch” from the hospital cafe (hot chips and white bread), 3am on call fast food runs, sugary energy drinks (sometimes for breakfast), up and go drinks (filled with sugar), and have little to no regular exercise regimen. After a few years most develop the “neurosurgical pot-belly”- a combination of chocolate, alcohol, high cortisol levels leading to central adipose tissue deposition- useful for when you run out of hands to hold a head still, not so useful when it means that your life may be plagued with chronic disease.

  I believe that with a tiny bit of planning, eating a mostly healthy and sustainable diet is achievable for everyone. I say this as someone who works weird hours, does on call, works weekends, is up by 5am and sleeps 4-5 hours a night. And has a husband who lives in a different state. If I had a 9-5 job with every weekend off my head would be spinning- I would probably have to get into politics to fill up all that spare time πŸ˜‰


  1. Meal planning is key- I’ve been meal planning for 2 years now and it’s really useful. It avoids food waste, and stops me from impulse buying. I work on the 80/20 (or sometimes 90/10 if I’m feeling pretentious) rule- 80% of meals are clean. That means if you have 3 meals a day, then about 3- 4 meals in a week are not as “clean”- this can range from eating white bread and potatoes to eating fried tasty things at the local burger joint. If you have 2 snacks a day- then it works out to two naughty snacks in a week (see also: vegan chocolate dipped soft serve). I think 100% clean would drive anyone crazy, and you’re more likely to stick to eating well if you actually *plan* to eat something tasty. I black those meals out on my meal plan and I don’t think beyond that! This also prevents you from being that annoying health conscious person when going out for dinner
  2. Keep staples on hand so that in the event of Armageddon (or being on call 4 out of 5 days) you will still be able to nourish yourself. I keep gluten free grains in the pantry, freeze cooked brown rice portions for easy microwaving. I keep some canned beans around, until I can make enough room in my freezer to freeze home made glass jars of beans. There’s always at least some potatoes and veggies in the fridge- it’s not going to be pretty but will feed you. 
  3. Vegetable box deliveries- I’ve written about this habit shift before. Just because I can’t go prancing around at my local farmers market in my vintage sun dress every Sunday due to work commitments doesn’t mean I can’t still eat local, organic produce. 
  4. Be a creature of habit- every week I prep the same things- home made almond milk, protein smoothie for post gym breakfasts, Bircher muesli,  green smoothie, a vegetable soup or stew, a “put together” meal like Vietnamese salad rolls or Buddha bowls, maybe something carb heavy like a grain salad or vegan gluten free pasta dish. This means plenty of left overs for lunches and that I’m not slaving away in the kitchen all the time. Occasionally I’ll make a sweet treat in bulk- like bliss balls, protein cookies, gluten free muffins, vegan raw slices, clean peanut butter cups. I once made hummus- like… 15 months ago πŸ™‚
  5. Have your go to healthy snacks- I always have an apple in my bag and a couple of bliss balls. I’ve started bringing home made pop corn and kale chips, sometimes I’ll have a green smoothie as a snack, or a home made matcha latte made with bulk ingredients. Needless to say my work bag is mostly snacks and a water bottle
  6. Drink lots of water- work is really dehydrating and it’s so easy to forget to drink. Most times when we’re hungry we’re actually just thirsty. Carry water with you and sip it between clinic patients and operating cases- thank me later.
  7. Be unapologetic about eating well. I’ve drunk my green smoothie at xray meetings, bring out my glass container of Bircher muesli at coffee rounds, eat green beans whilst handing over. Getting any micronutrients in anywhere and anytime you can is really important
  8. Pack your lunch. If people at work steal your lunch routinely- put an “eat vegan” sticker on your box to throw them off the scent. Because no body wants to be associated with the weird hippy vegan πŸ™‚ It saves so much money and is so much better for you. Case in point: I’m pretty sure I’ve saved up for my house deposit independently just by making my own food for 1 year
  9. Time your meals better- I plan higher carb meals on days where I know I’m doing a lot of cardio or lifting heavy, because I need the extra energy and also need it for muscle repair.
  10. Eat mostly plants. I’m not a crazy preachy vegan, but including lots of vegetables with every meal and having whole fruit as snacks is so important. I have a colleague who has a coffee to go with a sweet danish or croissant everyday as his breakfast. Don’t be that guy. That guy crashes from all that sugar and refined carbs mid morning and struggles to survive the day and almost dies from stress and fatigue and worries about his exponential weight gain. And then craves greasy burgers and fries and beer. Don’t be that guy.

Most important of all- eating well isn’t all about getting rock hard abs and becoming instafamous. It’s about eating right to fuel the life you want to lead. I know I need tons of energy during the day to get through work and long operating days and repair my brain, I need micronutrients to prevent me from getting sick, I need protein to recover from gym sessions. I want to live for as long as I can before I have to deal with a “lifestyle disease”. I don’t want to be the person who has a heart attack on the treadmill at 40 because I’ve realised too late that I need to “get healthy” for the new year.

Also- my food prep is mostly zero waste so it’s a bit of a no brainer for me. And eating mostly plants makes it pretty easy and natural to eat package free.
May the meal prep be with you,
Lisa x


Boxing Day part deuxΒ 

Boxing Day part deuxΒ 

I find Boxing Day sales somewhat grotesque.

For a number of years now I’ve avoided Boxing Day sales (equivalent to Black Friday sales in the US) like the plague- the hot, sweaty scrum of people in claustrophobic shopping centres being brainwashed that $10 off something you would never have bought not on sale is an absolute bargain- especially if that item is not your style or something that you will only wear a couple of times.

I like reading about the origins of Boxing Day- a day for house servants to go home to visit family, a day for people to box up leftovers for others to take home, or a day to give to charity or volunteer (I famously told my teacher at age 7 that Boxing Day exists so you can punch people and not get in trouble for it– explains a lot.). It leads into this funny little pocket at the tail end of the outgoing year where you can take a bit of time and take a breath before launching into the new year all guns blazing. 

This year I spent Boxing Day revelling in my small summer capsule wardrobe, filled with vintage one off pieces and sustainably sourced silk. I decluttered, spent time with family, and took things really slow. The past few years we’ve tried to include the beach and cockling into our own Boxing Day tradition, as well as a spot of surfing. I went on an email unsubscribing spree, started a podcast on slow living and looked into volunteering opportunities for 2017.

Things to do on Boxing Day (and avoid the sales)

  1. Shop your closet– I think it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate your wardrobe and donate things you no longer love or wear, and to change your clothes to suit the season, and identify things that need cleaning or mending. More often than not I’ll find an item I had forgotten about but that I love and that fills me with more joy than running around in the heat sweating and carrying multiple plastic bags filled with new clothes. I’m not a minimalist, but I create a capsule wardrobe for each season- this helps me identify pieces I truly love and are versatile, and helps weed out things that no longer work for me- it’s a slow mindful process that eventually (hopefully) results in a wardrobe of things I love dearly.
  2. Clean the house, declutter and donate– based on Asian new year traditions, giving your home a deep clean before the new year arrives helps you have a fresh start, and makes room for all the happy vibes
  3. Spend time with family, have long lunches, lazy suppers and all those tasty snack times in between
  4. Take a bath, or go to the beach
  5. Read a book 
  6. Reflect on the year that has passed, and set some new intentions for the next phase
  7. Do some gardening, plan your garden schedule for the year ahead
  8. Watch a movie at the cinema (definitely an Australian Boxing Day “thing” to do)
  9. Have a nap. Or do some yin yoga- which is basically a stretchy nap…
  10. Eat all of the leftover mince pies so in reality there is nothing to send home in boxes with anyone. Because you have scoffed them all.

No pie for you,
Lisa x

Boxing Day De-Clutter- Wishing for less

Boxing Day De-Clutter- Wishing for less

As usual, 3+ months between blog posts seems like a long time. I’ve actually been trying to “unplug” a lot the past few months, so many apologies for not replying to comments on both this blog, Facebook and Instagram. It warms the cockles of my heart that more and more people are choosing a zero waste lifestyle, and are seeking out others on the same journey. Makes me smile every time.

This year I have tried to live more intentionally (as fruity as it may sound), be more sustainable in my choices, and have tried to slow my life down as much as possible (which- if you knew what I get up to on a daily basis and the hours I keep, you’d be laughing right now). For a type- A personality, surrounded by type-A +++ personalities- it is no easy feat. 

Things I have done (or tried to do) this year:

  • Made taking care of myself a priority– I realised that in order to sustain the lifestyle I want to lead, I need to be as healthy as possible- this means that I exercise most days, I eat a plant based diet at home, I factor in lots of protein, I pack my lunch and bring my own snacks to work, and I anticipate my rostered on-calls so that I prep something delicious, “creamy”, comforting and Carby that can be heated in the microwave (hello, vegan mushroom stews)
  • Shopped secondhand first– when looking back at my “new” clothing and shoe purchases this year, I’ve realised that the vast majority has consisted of stuff I’ve thrifted at an op shop or stalked on eBay. I’ve become more and more mindful of where our clothing comes from this year, and have parted ways with fast fashion forever. And the truth- is that if the purchase price of a new fast-fashion blazer is equal to the price of a second hand linen Chanel blazer- there really is no contest for me! I’ve even thrifted my active wear this year (excluding sneakers-well fitting sneakers is a must)
  • Ate a lot less meat– I’m plantbased and gluten free at home with a handful of eggs- which I guess is the way that I can best describe my “diet”. When I eat out I don’t push my dietary preferences on anyone and will eat anything (almost- maybe except offal?!) you put in front of me or wish to share. Diets are quite personal choices, and I haven’t arrived at my own conclusions without doing a lot of detective work- almost 2 years’ worth of working out what food best fuels me for my current level of activity. Unfortunately many people are quick to judge that you’re just following what’s trendy, but many don’t spare the extra seconds to find out that dairy makes you a little bit sick, gluten makes you very sick, and that too much meat makes you really sluggish and saps your energy. Eating less meat has simplified things immensely (no need to go to the butcher with your containers, no need to go through the process of composting bones in your tiny apartment), and of course- the collective environmental impact of everyone eating a little less meat is not insignificant. But I’m not one of those vegan preachers, your diet is 100% your choice and you can make your own conclusions
  • Watched a lot less television– to clarify- the last time I watched commercial television was probably… April (When Game of Thrones was on!). The TV (which isn’t mine) sits silent and black in my apartment most of the time. It gets switched on occasionally to stream presidential debates or to watch a short film starring an old friend, and I watched Breakfast at Tiffanys on DVD the other day. It was an awkward moment the other day when I found out there was a documentary on TV that I really wanted to watch, but missed about half of it because I couldn’t remember how to turn on the tv!! (I’m not entirely boring- I listen to a lot of music at home, and listen to a lot of podcasts- so I’m basically an old lady who likes to listen to the “wireless”)
  • Tried to meditate– this was pretty unsuccessful. I have a small monkey who lives inside my brain and he likes to play the xylophone whilst singing loudly. I lasted about 7 days of cultivating a daily meditation practice and it actually did help a lot with dealing with every day anxieties etc., and I noticed the difference when I had skipped a day.  But I couldn’t keep it up, even though it was just 10 minutes out of my day
  • Practice ahimsa– this traces back to my Buddhist roots and my own upbringing, and is probably one of the more difficult things to do. I feel this is a lifelong process. There are easy aspects like going vegan etc, but there are harder things like dealing with uncharitable thoughts when they crop up or even learning to forgive myself when I fall short of my own expectations. Learning to slow down and practice some kindness, and find joy in others’ joy has been a huge shift, and I hope to keep growing in this direction
  • Stopped preaching zero waste– this is an interesting one. At the moment I quietly go about my days, go to the bulk stores with my own containers, bring my own coffee cup, bring scraps home to compost etc- but I no longer judge others for their plastic use (even internally). This probably is a side effect of practicing ahimsa, but I find no value in actively shaming or pushing my lifestyle in other people’s faces. I have found that in setting an example by your own actions, people who are genuinely interested will ask questions and be inspired to make some small changes in their own lives. And certainly it makes me happy when people I know contact me to tell me they’ve bought some beeswax wraps, used cloth produce bags or are growing vegetables from scraps for the first time- because they’ve been inspired by me to do the same. I don’t talk about zero waste in person much, people mostly find out via proxy on Instagram and it goes from there πŸ™‚

My plans for 2017:

  • Give more— I’d been raised to be generous in both my time and with whatever money or resources I have. I have had a regular scheduled charity withdrawal for many years, but it’s almost a mindless giving activity now. A new Christmas tradition now that we’re married that I look forward to implementing is choosing a different charity or organisation that means something to us to make a donation to, or perhaps surprising each other with a Christmas donation to a charity that means something to the other person. I’m also so time poor at the moment but on my to-do list over the last 6 months is to get back into volunteering in some shape or form
  • Buy less and own less– I’ve been decluttering a lot lately and have finally started to make some headway. I’m so envious of the people who start off with nothing, and can slowly and purposefully fill their homes with objects they truly need and treasure. A work in progress, obviously.
  • Be kinder- because there’s no such thing as too much kindness in the world
  • Try meditation… again! πŸ˜‰
  • Practice every day feminism– not the shouty capitals man-hating brand of feminism that I too find annoying. But after the year we’ve had I find it’s more important now than ever to fill the world with female role models who can show little girls that they can grow up to be smart, strong and independent and go about their daily lives with a bit of grace, and not be defined only by their looks (or the colour of their pantsuit). I was speaking with a good friend recently who has two little girls, and one of his biggest worries as a father is finding good female role models for his little girls to follow. It’s our collective responsibility to make the world a better place for our children, and it starts with our own actions and words.

What are your dreams for 2017?
Still trying to meditate,

Lisa x

Veggie boxes and changing habits

Veggie boxes and changing habits

It’s been a crazy few months around here. Amongst other things I caught pneumonia and then ran away to Iceland on no sleep. In that order.

Because I live alone quite a few people were concerned when I was ill about my welfare- I was offered a hospital admission (twice) but declined (I prefer to die at home wearing my own socks). My boss called me one night and offered to drop off groceries- I declined because I always have a fully stocked freezer and pantry with ingredients for tasty meals (neurosurgery registrar survival skills 101), plus I was due for a fresh drop of veggies from my delivery service. He offered to drop off milk, to which I replied, “I don’t drink cows milk, I make my own milk from almonds”. Unfazed, he then offered to drop off a bag of almonds. I am truly a weirdo.

Since moving to melbourne- the equivalent to a fresh food wasteland- I’ve had to change my expectations slightly. I no longer have access to weekly and affordable fresh produce markets, and now receive the bulk of my fresh produce via a local organic veggie box delivery scheme- Ceres Fair Food. They can either deliver to your home, or to a designated drop off point (a volunteer’s front porch). I’ve been mainly picking up a box from someone’s home on the walk home from work, or on the way to dance class, which makes things pretty flexible, and you don’t have to wait at home for a delivery to turn up. I top up with tasty things at the local grocer during the week, and go to the farmers market once a month mainly for eggs


  • No lock in contracts or subscriptions– you can opt to order a box week to week as you see fit, or set up a regular order. This has been great because if I know I’m going to be away from home I won’t order another box, forcing myself to finish up the contents of the previous box first
  • Forces creativity– sometimes you get some sort of strange fruit or vegetable that you’ve never seen before, and you have to eat it #becausepride. A month ago I received something that looked like a zucchini, but wasn’t a zucchini. I convinced myself it was an exotic Chinese winter melon, and agonised over traditional Chinese herbal soup recipes deciding how best to cook it. 1.5 weeks of indecisiveness later, I cut into it- turns out it was just a smooth skinned cucumber. Fail. I really wanted winter melon soup for some reason!
  • Pretty cheap– I usually order the small fruit and veg box for $40+ any extras that take my fancy. Averages $55 per 2-3 weeks for one person, which gets stretched with bulk grains/ staples- which cost almost nothing. This means more money for that BeyoncΓ© dance course you’ve been eyeing off πŸ™‚
  • Forces you to eat your veggies– my rule is that I have to eat my fridge empty before I order another box. It also gets me meal prepping and planning more to incorporate the veggies, which means overall I eat pretty healthy without having to try very hard
  • It’s fun– there really is something about taking home a cardboard box and opening it and getting really excited to find snow peas. A good reason as any to high five yourself.
  • The company is Eco conscious– you can leave your empty box from a previous order behind to be reused. The veggies mostly come loose, smaller items like mushrooms come in brown paper bags 
  • Supports a local grass roots business with ideals that match your own. Plus it’s an effective way to stick it to the supermarket duopoly by getting your Kiwi fruit grown by a local dude named Fred
  • Their headquarters and farm are 15 mins away from me. They have an impressive bulk store on site- like I said- live your values and align yourselves with businesses who think just like you do. Vote with your dollars for the kind of world you want your kids to grow up in.
  • Makes life a little bit better– yes you can work 14 hour days, on 4 hours’ sleep, and know that you have a box of fresh, local and organic produce waiting for you at the end of the work day


  • Too many white potatoes– really- I have a cupboard full of them. About four months’ worth. That’s a lot of potatoes for someone who doesn’t really eat them at home. I’ve taken to bringing a roast potato with me to work everyday and I pat it like a pet. As if people at work don’t already think I’m weird enough as it is… 

If you would like some potatoes let me know πŸ™„

Drowning in potatoes,

Lisa xx

Practicing mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness

Long time no post!

It’s been a busy few months here. Work consumes most of my waking hours- and sometimes most of my sleeping hours too!

A recent, rather natural habit shift for me has been to be more mindful of everything- and I can definitely say that going zero waste has taught me so much in that regard.

Nowadays I am mindful of what I put in my body, what I put my body through, the words that come from my mouth, the thoughts that come into my mind. I am practicing joy, gratefulness and “ahimsa”. I am practicing kindness- to myself, to others, to the earth we inhabit.

A colleague paid me the nicest compliment the other day- he said, “when Lisa walks into the room she makes everyone happy.” πŸ™‚

Even though my life is a cyclone of chaos right now, I am still trying to stay very grounded, and to find joy in the tiniest things- like finding a box of cleaned glass jars that someone had put out to share with others, as opposed to putting them straight in the recycling bin. A small act of kindness to others and to the environment.

How to practice daily gratitude (3 easy steps). Every day:

  1. Say thank you to yourself
  2. Say thank you to someone else– be it a stranger, lover, friend, work mate, family member. We don’t thank each other enough for being in each others’ worlds
  3. Say thank you to the earth. It sustains us and brings life. Cherish it.

A million thank yous.

Lisa x

Habit shifts: clothes shopping

Habit shifts: clothes shopping

(Racks filled with vintage goodies at my favourite thrift store)
There’s no beating around the bush on this issue- I’ve been dubbed a fashionista for as long as I can remember, toddler diva days included:

(It’s all about the accent details)

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up to spend on clothes, so the clothes that were purchased were well- considered and had to be deemed “classic” by my mum, and things that I’d fall in love with at the shops my mum would try and replicate on our faithful old sewing machine at home. My formal/ prom dress was home made, my calisthenics leotards came from an op shop, a lot of dresses were thrifted or were hand me downs from relatives.

I then spent my university years in a mishmash wardrobe made up of thrift shop finds, discount Dotti purchases, and clothes from the kids section (I was pretty tiny then!), and clothes I’d alter myself with you know… A stapler. People would stop me in the street and ask me where my outfit was from (“the kids section in the Whyalla Target”).

Then I got a proper paid job and things got real- I was stressed most of the time and turned to shopping as my form of escapism. This manifested itself in a bursting wardrobe filled with things that were beautiful but didn’t sit well or suit me, mainly because I was chasing this ideal of being well dressed, but just ended up looking like a clothes horse. I call these years “broke but fabulous”. There was an expensive designer bag purchased for each major stressful life event (hello, exams and job interviews!), and many beautiful shoes and clothes to be had (I once flew to Hong Kong for 5 days with an empty suitcase during their sale season just to shop during my week off while on night shifts).

I then started moving around the country for work, and gradually started to feel more and more burdened with *stuff*, mainly all the clothes and accessories I had accumulated over the years that sat in boxes packed up most of the time. My lifestyle was not of the carefree fashionista blogger, it was one of long on call shifts and dirty scrubs. I didn’t even have time to unpack and sort out all these clothes, let alone wear them out and create fabulous outfits. 

When I started going zero waste last year I really set to work with downsizing my wardrobe. Things got donated and sent to consignment stores, I sold things at a market and even held a garage (yard) sale at home. I gave things away to friends and family. I then went on a self imposed “fashion diet”, prescribed myself a capsule wardrobe and waited it out. I wore the same chambray shirt/ striped t shirt/ black jeans/ grey v neck a million times, and it didn’t kill me. It helped me develop my style and also further weed out things that no longer suited me. I then created a “wish list” of things I would like to have, and instead of going out shopping or browsing the Internet to get them straightaway, I’d keep a casual eye on eBay to buy the item second hand. Buying second hand also didn’t kill me πŸ˜€

With increasing confidence this year I started venturing more and more into shopping second hand at thrift shops, as I now had a more defined sense of style.

It also makes environmental sense- most pieces of clothing are still in circulation, so instead of creating more demand for a “must have” item we should look around and see what is already in existence before asking for another new piece to be made from raw materials. The converse is also true- if you have a wardrobe full of things you no longer love and don’t fit you, set them free so that someone else can look after them and shower them with the attention they deserve πŸ™‚

How to shop second- hand and not look like a bag lady (unless that is your signature look πŸ˜‰):

  1. Try eBay. Dipping your toe into eBay is a great way to start. You can browse at your leisure and not contend with crowded hot musty smelling stores. I mainly use this for “targeted” shopping- I have a wish list of things I’d like to add to my wardrobe, I’ll know the brand and size I’m looking for and will set up a “search alert” feature on eBay- so items will pop up and if the price is right I’ll consider getting them. I’ve bought things like second hand Charlotte Olympia kitty flats this way :  
  2. Know what brands, styles, colours and materials work best for you. This helps you tackle the sometimes daunting task of trying to sift through a packed store to find gems. I found my new never worn hot pink silk Equipment shirt this way- I could pick the silk out of a mound of polyester. It also cost $12.70   
  3. Keep an open mind. You actually often find things when you least expect it, so keep looking and go thrifting often but don’t get discouraged if you leave empty handed. That unique piece is still out there, trying to make its way to you  ^__^
  4. Only buy what you truly love or need. This applies to shopping new or second hand. Just because it’s super discounted or you found it for 50 cents in a bin, doesn’t mean you should automatically bring it home just because it was cheap- it should add value to your wardrobe, not be a dead weight. Mindless spending is what gets us into trouble in the first place, and we’re working on breaking that cycle, not perpetuate it
  5. Embrace it. A few years ago I’d turn my nose up at hand me downs or something I’d picked up at a market somewhere. Nowadays I love being gifted a hand me down from a friend, and love being able to create outfits out of beautiful one-off pieces. 
  6. See the potential in a piece. I’ve learnt to be a lot more creative and my eye has become better trained to seek the potential in thrifted pieces. I recently bought a vintage Japanese kimono not for the usual purpose of displaying it or wearing it around the house, but to wear as an elegant “going out” cover up coat over a dress. I know how to hem, I’ve cut off buttons and 80’s shoulder pads and “frou frou” pieces of ribbon to modernise pieces to fit my wardrobe. You can always enlist a tailor to help you. Don’t limit yourself to just brand names either (although they tend to be good investment pieces).

Do you still buy things new?

Yes, I still do- it’s still a weaning process for me unfortunately. However nowadays I am much more mindful of things that I do buy, and when I do buy new it has to fit absolutely perfectly and I must love it or else it goes back on the rack. I no longer buy for the sake of buying something. Things like pants are something I still need as I find it difficult enough as it is to find things that fit me right (flat-bottomed tall girls unite!)

What’s the next big challenge?

I’m engaged, which means there will be a wedding of some description on the horizon. I’ve spent the last few months perusing eBay and for the right dress and I’m probably 80% of the way there. So far I have a veil, purse (both second hand) and wedding shoes (6 years old). I may still commit to a new dress if I don’t find one that I love that will fit me right, but fingers crossed!


Zero Waste- 1 year on…

Zero Waste- 1 year on…

I don’t remember the exact date of when I officially went “zero waste”, but it would have been about March- April 2015. A lot of things have happened in the time, with a lot of frustrations along the way. I’m happy to say that I’ve come to that point where I’m content with how things are, and that living with minimal waste has become much easier- mainly because things are on auto pilot nowadays!

I am happy to put behind me those days of sweaty, frantic searching for elusive bulk-stores, and the even more elusive delicatessen who would provide me with plastic free cheese. Finding new places to buy things in bulk is still a triumph and I still get a thrill from it, but it certainly no longer fills my head space as much as it used to. I obsess about it a lot less because it’s become more of a way of life for me. I don’t post on Instagram as much as I used to, mainly because the every day nitty gritty now “just happens”, and no longer requires a proclamation of victory to social media πŸ˜‰ 

Now- here is my 12-months ago former self interviewing my current self:

1. What were the hardest things about going zero waste initially?

– For me, it was really laying down the ground work so that I could one day live that life without thinking too hard about it. Originally I used to spend a lot of time researching possible “leads” and driving to these places to set up my own network of places that I could grocery shop at. Finding a deli that would give me cheese in my own container; a butcher who tares my container with finesse; a bulk store that sells body care products; loose eggs/ vendors who would accept old egg cartons back; a fish monger who wasn’t rude about it; a “local” bulk store for everyday items and top ups; a “specialty” bulk store that was further away with harder to find items to stock up with on a 1-2 monthly basis. However once these places were established and tried and tested, things became infinitely easier as the flow had been established in our lives 

2. How did your friends/ family react?

Everyone I knew took it surprisingly well. It ranged from people misinterpreting me bringing my own containers and straws to family dinners as “super organised”, to friends being inspired enough to try and implement some measures in their own lives to reduce their own waste. My partner was on board from the beginning and was very supportive, although sometimes he would just ask “can’t we just get this now in plastic as opposed to driving across town next week to get it unpackaged?” The main effect from me going zero waste was that it started that conversation, it inspired people around me to re assess the amount of daily waste they generated, and if that meant even just one less coffee cup or plastic bag- so be it! I never broadcasted it or pushed my agenda onto people. Some times if I was with people I didn’t know very well I would shy away from producing my own straw at restaurants and would stick to drinking tap water (which is much better for you and the environment anyway!)

3. You must have changed so many habits over the last year- which is your favourite?

I’ve always been a bit of a fashionista and impulse- shopper, and trying to reduce my waste has forced me to be more mindful towards everything that I consume, this includes fashion. I reduced my wardrobe (still a work in progress!), and really re-assessed my own personal style. I started buying more second hand clothes (both from thrift shops and eBay), and have really enjoyed the process. I get complimented a lot on things that I’m wearing, and people are always so surprised when I say that I found them in a second hand store! Everything I buy now is bought with longevity in mind- good quality clothes made of natural fibres in classic styles that won’t date, that have to fit perfectly otherwise I won’t buy it. A friend asked me today if I ever intended to get rid of or sell any of the handbags I have currently- I replied that I plan to keep them for the rest of my life πŸ™‚ I dress better now than I did 5 years ago when I would try out every new season colour and trend, I know my own personal style and what works for my body. When I get the “itch” to shop nowadays I just shop my closet- meaning I’ll have a look in there first and see what new outfits I can create.

4. What did you not expect to happen by going zero waste?

The weight loss- in all honesty I’ve lost about 15-17 kg so far (don’t plan on losing any more!)- and this has arisen from eating more whole foods, less packaged junk, making things from scratch and being able to control what goes in them. Because a lot more effort goes into buying meat, fish and cheese unpackaged, I ended up eating a lot more vegetables (out of sheer laziness). Frequenting farmers markets would connect me with the growers and the food, and I would get excited about the prospect of making meals at home, and planning our meals in advance- avoiding the inevitable work week takeaway run!

5. Favourite item to buy in bulk/ unpackaged?

Tofu! From an Asian grocery store- too much fun πŸ™‚ That, and finding a place that refills essential oils.

6. Any tips for the newbies?

Don’t be put off or discouraged. You don’t need to live in an austere white sanctuary with perfectly matching mason jars filled with grains. You don’t need to be perfect- if it’s one less plastic bag or disposable coffee cup- that’s great! It’s a start. Entry level things to try:

  • Get a reuseable drink bottle (stainless steel is great) keep it filled and in the fridge, grab it when you head out. Rinse and repeat. And no- you don’t have to have a beautiful Klean Kanteen or S’well bottle- any old thing will do. My first bottle came from a camping store!
  • Bring a reuseable shopping tote no matter where you go- I always try to have one rolled up in my handbag, as I never know when I may need it. And using reuseable shopping bags isn’t just confined to grocery shopping- I routinely bring my tote to stores (even when buying new stuff), and have never received a negative comment about it
  • If you’re a coffee drinker- either make a ritual out of it and take the time to sit down in a cafe, otherwise bring a reusable coffee cup. I prefer Keep Cups, because they’re light and transport well, easy to drink from, and come in barista standard sizes which makes their job slightly easier. They’re also an Australian company, so I’m biased πŸ˜‰ Others have had some luck with bringing a standard mason jar with them, some have even knitted a cosy to keep their hands from burning!
  • Find a composting solution- I didn’t realise that my council provided fort nightly green waste pick up until I enquired about it. Others have a compost bin or pile in the back yard, a worm bin, or bokashi system (which I’m using currently). Another option is that some local farmers markets and community gardens accept organic waste scraps- I freeze my scraps and make a trip once every 2-3 weeks
  • Consider the product life cycle. Every time I purchase something I think- how long will it last for? What will i do with the scraps (if it’s food). How will I dispose of the product at the end of it’s cycle? Do I really need it? Can I buy it second hand, or borrow it? Is the packaging easily recyclable?
  • Research some bulk stores in your area- the Bulk App has been a life saver for everyone. I don’t think bulk stores are an essential but it does make things a lot nicer if you have access to a couple
  • Buy fruit and veggies unpackaged, and divorce the big chain supermarkets. Options include farmers markets, organic veggie box deliveries, local grocers. Bring some reuseable produce bags (make or buy some), or you can reuse plastic bags that you already have, netting from onion bags, paper mushroom bags etc. Most fruit and veg don’t need to be corralled in a bag anyway. Use your hands even πŸ˜„
  • Make something from scratch– there are so many fun recipes to try when you go zero waste! Try making toothpaste, hummus, bread, jam, nut milk, anything- with unpackaged ingredients. There will be failures, but that’s part of the fun. Plus you can then use the hash tag #zerowastefail
  • Try something that weirds you out. For some people this can include reuseable menstrual products, washable toilet paper or bidet, using handkerchiefs. You’ll be surprised at what ends up sticking as a habit!
  • Set goals for yourself- I used to keep a list on my phone of zero waste – related things I’d like to do. Things like “make produce bags”, “buy some bigger jars”, “get kombucha SCOBY”, “make beeswax wraps”- kept things interested and goal- oriented 
  • Look to reducing your waste in other areas. I started showering over a bucket and using that water to flush the toilet to conserve water. We looked into getting a solar power panel. My main mode of transport is my legs (walking!) and the tram on occasion. Reduce food wastage by not buying more than you need and ensuring everything gets gobbled up before buying more. Say no to freebies. Reduce how much you recycle by reducing the use of packaging in the first place.

7. What has the zero waste lifestyle taught you?

It has taught me to be more mindful, and also to be more thankful- everyday I wake up and am eternally grateful that I have access to fresh food and water, and that it is the earth we live on that provides life’s necessities. I am no longer a mindless consumer hypnotised by the big companies- I can say no and make better, more ethical choices. I am less selfish- I now view myself as a citizen of the world and that i must do my part to protect the world that we live in.

8. What is your next zero waste goal?

My next goal is taking this juggernaut past the pretty pictures on Instagram and taking it to the streets- namely, being a more active zero waste advocate. I write emails to companies and councils about ideas I have to improve their waste management strategies- for example I am currently trying to implement a pen recycling station at my hospital in conjunction with Terracycle, with the next step being to involve Officeworks (a big stationary retailer in Australia) to add pen recycling as an option, alongside taking back batteries and spent printer cartridges. Wish me luck!
Lisa x