Living Low Waste

Today we have a guest blog for from Sarah Sauvé, a PhD student at Queen Mary University of London. Sarah is trying to lead a zero waste lifestyle, she blogs about it and also contributes to the Gr’EECS monthly Green Mary newsletter to encourage others to follow in her footsteps! You can find more about Sarah here. Today she has written about living low waste and offers her top tips on how to lead a zero waste lifestyle – read on to find out more.

Did you know that 1.3 billion tons of garbage are produced in the urban world every year?  That’s 1.2kg for every one of the 3 billion urban inhabitants on this planet.  That’s gross.  We can make it less.  Granted, the biggest waste producers aren’t individuals, but industry, which makes our waste issue two-fold.  But, for now I will address what we can do as individuals to reduce our waste.  It is possible to lead a zero-waste lifestyle – look up Lauren Singer! – but, the amount of changes involved can be overwhelming.  The trick is to start small, and as you get used to doing these low-waste things, you can gradually do more and more.  I try to live a zero-waste lifestyle, though right now I’m stuck at low-waste (less than a bag of trash a month), and I’d like to encourage you to also reduce the amount of waste you produce in everyday life.  Seriously, every little bit counts! In this intro article, I’ll start with three tips, one for each of the three major waste categories in everyday life: food, household and personal care.  You can find more details on my blog, or for a [tl;dr] version, check out my tips list at  And you can always go to trusty Google for more info on zero waste!

one month waste
Sarah’s latest one month waste total!

Food: Bring your own bags when you go food shopping.  It seems obvious, but not using any plastic bags is an easy transition, and it’ll save you some money in the long run since this new bag charge came into effect.  It only takes the tiniest bit of forethought (if I don’t have a bag I don’t buy so no spontaneous buys – money saver!), though the easiest thing to do is to always carry some sort of bag with you like a large purse, backpack, shoulder bag; basically, something you probably bring to work anyway so no problem!

Household: Buy soap nuts to replace all your cleaning needs.  They are good for dishes, laundry and all-purpose cleaner, they’re dried fruit so completely natural, and they’re shipped not flown.  Plus, once you run out of your usual cleaners, you don’t have any packaged or likely chemical-y household cleaning stuff left and you only have to buy one product – no waste and cheaper!

Personal care: Make your own toothpaste! You will need: coconut oil, baking soda.  That’s it.  Mix 2:1 parts (I usually do 2 tbsp and 1 tbsp respectively for a batch), add some essential oil (I use peppermint) to taste if you want and voila!  Heads up, it’s a bit salty because of the baking soda and it doesn’t foam up the way commercial toothpaste does but I find I’ve felt my teeth feel cleaner and my gums healthier since I’ve made the switch.  Plus, super cheap!  .. Notice a pattern on the money side?!
Sarah’s low waste kitchen kit!

So these three are probably the easiest transitions to make in each category.  Give yourself a specific amount of time to achieve and adjust to these, and then move on to more transitions!  Many changes aren’t difficult, they just require a bit of thought and conscious effort.  We live in a society where we’re so programmed to consume and encouraged to demand convenience, it can be hard to fight back.  I started consciously thinking about lowering my waste over a year ago and it’s hardly changed my day to day life in the grand scheme of things – I haven’t had to give up anything major, I still do what I love, and making a positive impact at the same time.  I try to spread the word as much as I can too because I truly believe that every person can make a difference!


PhD student and member of the Gr’EECS team


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