Jacqueline Zivkovic, London
Jacqueline, student in London since 2010, has changed her life-style to aim at zero-waste and minimising plastic. In the course of a year, she would have less than one bag of waste. Normally insight articles omit references to particular brands, but these have been left in here, just to show the efforts required for a plastic-free life.
As an avid user of the river Thames and a devoted rower, life on the water led me to be increasingly concerned about the amount of plastic waste that floats in the river and our waterways. Only too often have I observed ducks and geese navigating their ducklings and goslings around an ever-increasing display of packaging making its way down the river. Ultimately, making its way into our seas and oceans.
Often, in some corners of the river Thames, the foreshore will be overflowing with plastic bottles and plastic litter, as in the image above.
It is currently estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in our seas than fish. At the same time, social- and online media have opened up an ongoing stream of images from around the world of how animal wildlife is affected by our own consumer choices.
This led me to a journey of initially wanting to reduce plastic packaging from my daily consumption. The emphasis here is very much on the notion of journey. A journey that has taken me several attempts, and leads me to still encounter new packaging challenges daily. For example, I very much like the Brita water filter, which has allowed me to eliminate purchasing plastic bottled water. However, I have since found that I have no good way of disposing of the actual filters, and so now these are mounting up in my kitchen, because I don’t know in which waste bin they go (the London borough of Ealing collects waste separated). And so, the journey to zero-waste is one of constant trial and error.
On this journey I found that trying to eliminate plastic was often the key to going zero-waste; plastic is so all-encompassing in our daily lives. So I found that once I mastered significantly reducing plastic in my personal consumption, I was left with very few non-recyclable waste items.
As with any journey, there are products for which I still haven’t found a good solution. These are mostly loose items, for example: nuts, pulses, rice, pasta. The consideration in these instances often is budget. I could make a trip to Wholefoods’ dispensers, and often do, with my handmade bulk bags, but the cost of this is markedly higher than buying pre-packaged items at the supermarket. Having just completed a full-time Master’s degree, the trade off between budget and zero-waste was often a real one.
Below is a photo of the cotton bulk bags my friend Lisa made for me, and examples of how I use these. The bags are cotton, made from an old bed-sheet, and easily machine washable.
I use my bulk bags at the dispensers at Wholefoods. Once I have weighed my items, I put the barcode sticker on the bag and take it to the till. The staff at Wholefoods love the bulk bags.
Once at home, I transfer my items to re-used glass jars. I also use the bulk bags for fruit and veg shopping, for example, mushrooms or potatoes. In the case of this photo, for fruit
Whilst my friend Lisa made the cotton bags, originally meant for food shopping, I very quickly found multiple purposes for them and started to use them as gift bags too. These subsequently lead to friends re-using the gift bags and passing them on. The below image is of a gift bag I had given to my friend Margot for her 70th birthday (it contained a bar of soap and a porcelain soap dish), which she then reused for her granddaughter Nina’s birthday.
For general grocery shopping, I am very fortunate to have a lovely fruit and vegetable stand near where I live. It’s a family-run business and has been at the same location on Chiswick High Road for several generations. The family is super friendly. It took them a few visits to understand my obsession with zero-waste, and now they are super good about it. They know I always bring my own bags, even for small items. It is so nice to be able to buy radishes and beetroot in bunches, rather than pre-packaged in plastic.
Not very far from the fruit and veg stall, I am very fortunate that Borough Wines recently opened a small shop at Turnham Green Terrace. They have a refill station, where I can bring my own bottle to fill up with a lovely selection of rosé and red and white wines, which are all under £10. Often, I will meet with friends at Borough Wines on a Saturday evening, where we sit at the small bistro tables and enjoy our re-filled bottle of wine.
It has been very noticeable that an increasing number of retailers have really come to understand the issue of packaging and have created innovative products that offer a real solution to customers. Lush, for example, has created a whole range of “naked” products, which are in solid form and require no packaging. My bathroom generally contains a dish, as below. This is a selection of shampoo bars and solid conditioners. Lush is my go-to shop for zero-waste gifts and has become the fall-back option of my friends when they are looking for gifts for me.
For skincare, I have moved away from commercial products entirely. I will use any oil for make up removal, as well as a moisturiser. I also love using coconut oil, rapeseed oil and raw shea-butter. For cleansing and make-up removal, I apply a generous amount of oil on my face and massage until the make-up dissolves. Then I wipe it off with a hot, damp cloth. I haven’t used commercial skin-care products for over three years.
For general cleaning around the house, I love using soft, green household soap. I use the soap together with a sponge and it makes everything smell really fresh. Unfortunately, Morrisons discontinued the product and I have been looking for household soap everywhere, as my current stock is coming to an end. It has made me even more aware of how, as a consumer, I am being driven to products that are packaged in plastic.
For other areas I use shared services as much as possible. For example, my girlfriends and I get together once a year and do a big clothes swap. Washing I do at the laundrette, and books I borrow from the library. Also, I love buying second-hand books at the Oxfam book store at Turnham Green, which I can then re-donate.
I have often pondered how the teachings of the School have influenced my desire to take a closer look at my behaviour as a consumer. Adopting a meat-free diet has been another example. As our consciousness grows and expands, and as we “remember”, I wonder if there is a desire to “return” to our closest Self. A Self that desires to live consciously in the creation and in harmony with one’s surroundings. For me this journey has been about taking responsibility for my own actions and doing the least amount of damage to our planet.