AS drastic as it may sound, the zero-waste movement is not an all-or-nothing commitment – it’s a goal to collectively work towards, explains husband and wife team Dom and Sam Moleta, owners of zero-waste grocery store The Refillery.
‘The idea is to create no waste,’ says Sam. ‘After you eat or use what you purchase, there should be nothing left.’ Having said that, both Dom and Sam know that this is not quite as simple as it sounds – after, all we live in a society that demands convenience over sustainability, often at the expense of the planet.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Dom and Sam have also had to add home-schooling to their list of everyday tasks, which means zero-wasting can feel daunting. ‘Our favorite quote that we as a family live by is, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly; we need a billion people doing it imperfectly,”’ says Sam. ‘We’re not perfect but we’re always trying. We have solutions for some things and we’re still searching for others.’
Dom’s main piece of advice is to take the pressure off yourself. If you mess up, it’s no big deal. ‘It’s like starting a new diet. Just because you had a slice of cake on Tuesday doesn’t mean you throw your whole diet plan out the window!
Nobody is perfect, and anybody who says they are is lying,’ he says, laughing. ‘This is a journey and there will be hiccups, but if you can strive towards the bigger picture, then that’s the best place to be! Tuesday mornings will happen.’
The Moleta family began their zero-waste journey during a Plastic-Free July while they were living in New Zealand. It started with small changes. Using a reusable cup got Sam a dollar off her coffee and Dom would pack his lunch for work in reusable fabric bags. They swapped plastic water bottles for stainless-steel ones and brought their own Tupperware when they ordered takeout. ‘All that stuff we found easy – all it takes is an ask,’ says Sam. ‘It was the grocery shopping that was hard – and it still is.’ After unpacking her weekly grocery shop, Sam was left with a mountain of plastic packaging.
Today, thanks to shops like theirs, cutting down on waste is getting significantly easier. These stores operate on a ‘weigh and pay’ system so that shoppers can bring and refill their own reusable storage containers. The weight system also means consumers are wasting less food – you buy only as much as you actually want.
It has changed the family’s entire lifestyle. ‘Once you start zero-wasting,’ says Dom, ‘you start looking at other aspects of your life and asking yourself, “How can we simplify this, too?”’
So how do you start? In Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste, she explains the five Rs. In order of importance, they are:
8 easy swaps for a greener lifestyle
In an average lifetime, you could save 300 plastic toothbrushes from a landfill.
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In a year, an average family could save 444m of clingwrap from a landfill.
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