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14 May 2019

How to live a truly zero waste life

Anita Vandyke didn't grow up with a hippie mother or a passion for the environment; she was just a person trying to find happiness in all the usual places – money, power, and status. But this idea of success didn’t provide her with the happiness that she expected.

At age twenty-six Anita was a qualified rocket scientist and a manager in a large engineering firm, earning more money than her Chinese migrant parents ever had. On paper, her 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,” she said. It was a supposedly a picture-perfect life for Anita, but it all changed in an instant when in 2015 Anita has an epiphany.

“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,” she recalls. Anita realised then that if she kept going down this path, all her hopes of living a life that was truly hers, one that wasn’t bound by golden handcuffs, would be lost forever. These questions haunted Anita, and the doubt started to make her miserable. “My husband looked me in the eyes and said, ‘You have to quit your job – it’s killing you,'" she recalls. Anita knew then that if she didn’t do something about her everyday misery, she risked losing him. Anita quit her job the next day and since then has transformed her life.

By embracing a zero-waste life, Anita has been able to go back to university to study full-time to become a doctor, move out of her in-law’s house into a 59-square metre apartment, and has dedicated her 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,” Anita said.

The zero waste living movement is centred on reducing the waste you send to landfill and reducing the amount of plastic used in your life. But Anita wants to show people that living a truly zero waste life also means 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,” she says.

In her book, A Zero Waste Life in Thirty Days, Anita provides simple ways to live an eco-luxe life, one in which everyone can be zero waste activists without depriving themselves of the modern luxuries of life. “In living a truly zero waste life, you actually gain more – more time, more money and more life,” says Anita. “Isn’t that what we all want in the end: a life of happiness, a life of luxury, a life that isn’t wasted?”

How to live a truly zero waste life

Extract from A Zero Waste Life in Thirty Days ($21.99)

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, 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 second-hand your first choice - whenever you need to buy something, try to see if you can buy it second-hand first. Look at local thrift stores, ask neighbours and friends, try eBay - make a good effort to try to buy second-hand 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.

Author & Editor

Tracey Bailey is the founder of Biome Eco Stores and mother of two. After working in corporate communications and starting a family, she made a choice to be part of the solution to our planet's future and started Biome Eco Stores. Tracey is passionate about educating the community about living eco-friendly and sustainable lives through her extended product, chemical, health and environmental knowledge.


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