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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Zero Waste Week: The story of how it began, and the bloggers taking it forward

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Rachelle Strauss began Zero Waste Week back in 2008, being celebrated from September 7 to 11 this year. Now, many bloggers are taking the movement forward.

The origins of Zero Waste Week

Rachelle Strauss and her family were on holiday in Boscastle in 2004, when flash-flooding devastated the village. Extensive torrential rainfall over a short period of time led to a surge in the water, leaving many people stranded and homes destroyed.

Reflecting on the flood, Strauss says it “kickstarted my relationship with a zero-waste lifestyle”, explaining that her daughter “needed a safe and beautiful planet to live on”.

In 2008, she started a blog, detailing her journey to creating less waste. In September that year, alongside 100 readers of her blog, Strauss conducted a Zero Waste Week, documenting her experience through the comment section of her blog.

The feedback from the week was very interesting. Strauss explains: “People said they had fun, which was not a word I was expecting to be associated with having less waste.” 

Since the inaugural Zero Waste Week, Strauss’s idea has grown and expanded, with participants hailing from over 80 countries across the globe. This year, Zero Waste Week is taking place from September 7 to 11. Strauss says participants can join Zero Waste Heroes!, an over 16,000-strong Facebook group she created as a “supportive, engaging and safe space” where people can share resources and discuss their journey to reducing their waste.

Strauss encourages those who are contemplating transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle to find their ‘why’. For Strauss, experiencing the floods in Boscastle opened her eyes to the current climate crisis: “I thought it would happen in 100 years’ time.” It was a wake-up call.

She advises that participants should take one step at a time, adding: “If you were going to run the London marathon, you wouldn’t get up one day and run 26 miles; you would start with a few miles and gradually build it up.”

The zero-waste bloggers

The past decade has seen a rise in zero-waste influencers and bloggers who are determined to spread the message about reducing household and personal waste. An influx of reusable items have inundated shops, offering shoppers shelves stocked with bamboo toothbrushes, shampoo bars and reusable cotton pads.

Kathryn Kellogg jumped on the zero-waste wagon in 2010. After encountering health issues, Kellogg experimented with making her own cleaning products, with the ambition to make small changes over time. In addition to creating alternative household cleaning products, she transitioned to a plant-based diet, explaining that “the changes I was making for my personal health weren’t only better for me, but for the health of the planet.”

 

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She created her blog, Going Zero Waste, to share an insight into her zero-waste journey, as well as creating insightful and helpful blog posts to encourage others to follow suit.

Kellogg has published two books in the UK, Zero Waste Kids and 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, sharing her passion for reusing products and reducing the waste that ends up in landfill.

The top five reusable products she can’t live without are the bidet attachment to her toilet, Thinx reusable period panties, mason jar, French Press (as you can use it to make tea, coffee and homemade nut milk) and cloth handkerchiefs (“Whenever you sneeze or blow your nose into a paper tissue, tiny paper particles usually break off and get inside your nose, which cause you to sneeze more. So, by switching to cloth, not only are you reducing the amount you’re using, you’re reducing the amount you’re sneezing”).

EarthBits was created by Francesca Castaldelli and her husband Jason in 2019 as an outcome of their personal journey to a zero-waste, plastic-free lifestyle. Castaldelli’s zero-waste journey began a few years ago, after she swapped a few simple household essentials with reusable alternatives such as bars of soap, bamboo toothbrushes and cotton bags for supermarket produce.

She explains that despite receiving hostility from family members who claimed she would give them up after just a few days, “as having a newborn was already hard work enough”, she was surprised and didn’t find it difficult at all.

 

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Having always been “relatively environmentally aware” and a vegetarian, Castaldelli explains that after reading an article on recycling, which stated that only 9% of the plastic worldwide is recycled, she experienced a wake-up call. She realised that “recycling was only a last resort of a much more meaningful journey — where reusing, refusing and repurposing are all a lot more important”.

The couple’s company, EarthBits, is a zero-waste and plastic-free shop, selling bathroom, kitchen and personal hygiene products. They are dedicated to transferring their own personal experience and knowledge into the shop, and have a desire to “protect the planet and make it easier for people to find products they can trust, and that are not going to damage the environment”. In addition to the shop, Fran runs a blog, sharing eco-friendly ideas and gifts for all the family. 

She shares her top tips for anyone considering a zero-waste lifestyle: “Don’t aim for perfection. Focus on one change at a time and set clear goals, but make them realistic for you and your circumstances.

“It could be making a sustainable change once a week, or once a month. It could be getting rid of plastic in one room of your house at a time — the bathroom is always a good place to start. Just keep going and be kind to yourself. I still allow myself to fail every now and then. And that’s ok: no matter how small, every step matters.”

Anna
Anna Fox
Anna is a journalism undergraduate at City, University of London, who as a keen sportswoman, is fascinated by the effects a vegan diet has on athletic performance. Motivated by the Netflix documentary ‘Game Changers’, she is keen to continue her research into veganism and its significance within sport. Lover of all things Lush; a kimchi convert, and an animal admirer, Anna’s strong will and passion for the planet, will have you questioning that beefy Bolognese.