I try – probably just like you – to take steps towards a lifestyle that harms the Earth as little as possible. Living in a self-sufficient Tiny House was a seven-mile step, but of course it doesn’t stop there! :) Another area where I would like to develop some more eco awareness is in how I deal with waste. That is a process I take my time with. The pursuit of perfection is counterproductive for me, so I really take baby steps and that’s good enough for now.
In a Tiny House you usually produce less waste than in a house of a larger size. Because you simply have less space for things, and therefore make conscious choices about what you buy new. Buy less = less packaging material; it’s that simple. Most of my waste comes from the weekly grocery shopping. There is so much to gain in that area, when it comes to reducing my waste! So that’s what I focus on. You might like to read some of my best practices, so here goes!
Where do I get my zero waste groceries?
By now, I have some personal favorites. I consider myself lucky to live in Alkmaar and therefore do not have to look far for most necessities. But nowadays there is also more than enough choice online.
You just don’t need that much in a small house. I mainly use green soap, and one bottle lasts as long as about one year. I recently learned that I can even get green soap in my own bottle at Boom Ouderwetsewinkel in Alkmaar, so I will do that in the future. At Dille & Kamille, I get coconut fibre scouring pads.
I (almost) only use biodegradable care products, because I am not connected to the sewer but have a helophyte filter to purify my waste water. But it’s a very good idea to use only biodegradable items anyway. For your skin and for the environment.
So, I also have a sustainable hairdresser. Her name is Rosie de Haas and I can buy the most delicious natural (and effective!) hair care products in glass bottles in her salon, which I can also have refilled.
The bamboo toothbrush: a review
OK. About toothbrushes. Plastic toothbrushes in glaring colors that disappear in the trash after about three months. We can do better than that, don’t you agree? Nowadays there are excellent alternatives that are available even in some grocery stores. Still, I found myself to be reluctant to try them out, to be honest. I don’t even really know why, isn’t that weird? But I was given the opportunity to test one of the Paper and Boo bamboo toothbrushes for you, so I went for it!
What can you tell about a toothbrush? It feels great in your hand? It has a nice balance? Haha, it’s as if I’m writing a review about a sword! It’s just a fine toothbrush. It does lay rather comfortably in my hand, truth be told. The head is not too long or too short, too wide or too thin. Just about right. I particularly liked the stiffness of the hair. Not too hard and not too soft. But especially the idea that at the end of its lifecycle I can just throw this toothbrush onto my compost heap, where it can slowly decompose without harming the Earth, that is what I like most about this toothbrush.
It is made from sustainably-sourced bamboo and the packaging is also 100% biodegradable. Have you ever had bamboo in your garden? Then you know how fast it grows. Before you know it, it has taken over your garden. Bamboo is therefore an excellent material for making toothbrushes and other consumables, because the felled wood quickly grows back. The bristles are currently still made of nylon. Unfortunately, there is no sustainable alternative for this yet. They are also honest about that at Paper and Boo, which I appreciate. Therefore, you have to remove the hair and dispose of it with the plastic waste before you throw the brush on the compost pile. But still, this is big step in the right direction!
The weekly market is an excellent place to get vegetables, fruit, bread, fish, cheese and herbs. Feel free to bring your own net, bag, tray or bottle!
I regularly order from De Buurderij. This makes it easy for me to order responsibly produced products from local farmers and companies online, which I can then pick up at a collection point nearby. And immediately have a chat with the producers, although at the moment this is not possible due to Corona. I really recommend it! De Buurderij is located in various places in the Netherlands.
At Vers eten & drinken and at Kropsla in Alkmaar you can buy legumes using your own packaging.
At the restaurant Vers eten & drinken in Alkmaar you can buy legumes, vegan burgers, granola and many more goodies and bring them home in your own packaging. They also have legumes at the Kropsla greengrocer in Alkmaar, and not to be missed: delicious fresh smoothies that they like to give to you in your own cup with your own straw if you have one. This immediately reminds me of another tip! Make sure you have your own cup and steel or bamboo straw in your bag. You can buy those bamboo straws in the El Kombi SUP webshop or at Soulstore Alkmaar.
Pieter Pot delivers packaging-free groceries to your home; you can return your empty glass pots via the postman. They have a waiting list – they are that popular! Fortunately, I was in early because I supported them when they launched their crowdfunding campaign, so I can already order. But put yourself on that waiting list; it will be your turn soon.
At Dille en Kamille you can have your own container or bag filled with loose herbs and spices.
Left: my first Pieter Pot order in April this year. Right: you can buy loose herbs and spices from Dille en Kamille.
Tip: learn from the experts and from each other.
Zero Waste has become quite a movement and there are several books from experts that can help you a lot in the process of reducing your waste. There are books about zero waste shopping and making your own household and personal care products. To clear up the waste that has unfortunately already ended up on the street, “trashwalks” are organized all over the country in which you can participate. This way you get to know people who are also working on a zero-waste lifestyle and you can exchange tips.
Nanda van der Ham is such a zero-waste hero and I am proud to call her one of my dear friends. With her company El Kombi SUP, she organizes “SUP it ups” with which she generates national attention for the problem posed by plastic and other litter. During the Sustainable Week in September, “zero waste walks” were organized throughout the Netherlands. I joined the walking tour through Alkmaar that Nanda organized in collaboration with Zero Waste Nederland and Firma Opgeruimd.
Such a walk is not only super fun to do, but also very educational! In Alkmaar there are many shops if you do not want packaging but want to take your groceries home in your own containers and bags. Nanda has released a sticker that stores can stick on their windows, to indicate that they are open to this. She also has a map on her website where you can easily find these stores. Isn’t that convenient?
There is so much to write about on the subject of dealing with waste. There are so many alternatives that work just fine. You just have to take the first step and try out what works and what doesn’t work for you. The Zero Waste Project is a good starting point, and also for an overview of stores where you can buy packaging-free in bulk.
And please let go of perfectionism. It does not help you and it does not benefit anyone if you give up because you cannot meet your own standards. Every step is important – no matter how small. In this way, we unite in sending a strong message to the industry that we no longer want it, all that waste. All that plastic. All this nonsensical packaging. With our euros, we are voting out waste and plastic and creating a better way of life. How beautiful is that!