When Jilian Rose started practicing zero waste nearly two years ago, she found it easier to take it slowly and simply be aware.
“I still consider myself transitioning into it. I still struggle with some things and sometimes I buy things packaged for sanity reasons,” said the teacher. “Being aware is the first step. Even being conscious of the trash you are putting out. It doesn’t just disappear because you put it on the curb. Being informed and seeing what you can do to reduce your impact would then be the second step.”
Rose started the Zero Waste Facebook page in hopes of finding like minded individuals to discuss different approaches to environmentally friendly practices. The group now has over 1200 members.
“I was just looking for some other people that were into it because everything I found online was about Canada. We are a unique climate and we don’t necessarily have the greatest recycling system. The way we perceive trash is different and given that we are an island, there is a lot of potential for everything from the landfill to end up in the ocean,” said Rose. “I was looking for like minded individuals and I thought I would find about a dozen people who could help me. I didn’t find a small community, I found quite a large one. It tends to be pretty positive. It’s a group of people who encourage each other to do good. It keeps me going.”
The group has steady posts with folks sharing tips on ways to reduce waste or questions about how to make reusable products, such as wrapping paper or swiffer pads.
Rose is an advocate for zero waste and there are small changes she has made in her life that have become part of her everyday. It’s simple movements she says that make huge impact and eventually become habitual.
“I use reusable shopping bags, I am in a long term relationship with my water bottle. Its a stainless steel water bottle that I picked up at clearance sale at Old Navy years ago. It’s beat to hell, the bottom is totally rounded, the paint is peeled off, and covered in stickers. It goes everywhere with me. That way I am not buying water when I am out. Reusable coffee cups too, those things are easy. That’s how you start and get into it, then you change other ways of thinking,” she said.
Pack your water bottle and mug with you before you head out the door and make them as vital as your phone and wallet to eventually become an everyday habit.
Rose made her own reusable produce bags and encourages others to avoid using them, especially when the product comes with a peel. She also suggests looking into reusable snack bags and containers for lunch.
“Change the way you think. Perhaps you shop a bit more local. I buy coffee at bulk barn unpackaged but it comes from South America and it’s roasted somewhere else and I can’t track it. There is a big trail before it gets to you. If you can’t afford to go to bulk barn, buy more local or buy more seasonally,” said the environmentalist. “There is local coffee from Gros Morne and Trinity, it’s roasted in NL. The beans are brought up, and it’s more of a local commodity. I find it helpful to know different alternatives.”
Zero Waste can sometimes get a bad rep as all or nothing, but Rose said there is a grey area for consumers to work within.
“A common misconceptions is the assumption that it’s none, but it’s less waste. If you don’t have a local bulk barn, when you go to grocery store, buy the biggest bag possible because over time you use less plastic if you have to buy packaged. It’s a one off package, instead of many,” she said. “If I really want chips and they come in the foil package, it’s ok. As long as I am not doing it everyday, I am doing all this other stuff that makes up for it.”
If everyone made slight changes that are effective and yet adaptable to their lifestyles, a greater impact will be made overall. Adjust in simple ways that can be easily implemented into your current lifestyle and eventually it will become habitual.
“Eventually it becomes routine. Be patient and forgiving. I saw a quote that sums it up perfectly: we do not need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need everybody doing it imperfectly,” said Rose. “It doesn’t have to be completely zero, but everyone could be conscious of it and everybody starts making a solid effort to reduce in some way.”
Consumerism has a big effect on waste and it’s worth asking if something is truly needed before purchasing it or if there is something we already have that could be used in a different way to get the job done. For those hesitant to practice Zero Waste, there is the benefit of saving some extra cash.
“We are bombarded everyday with so much to just buy buy buy. It becomes ingrained. Even if we don’t have the money, that’s what credit cards are for. In realty, we all have enough.” said Rose. “We should be encouraging people to reuse instead of encouraging people to buy now. Most of the things that I use to bring my lunch to school is containers from food I have already used.”
To get started, there are some local links within the community of St. John’s Rose thinks everyone should consider using:
- St. John’s Tool library. Consider renting a tool instead of purchasing
- Modo Yoga has a clothing swap every year
- The Healthy Vibe has a refill station for toiletry products
- Island Compost is only $20 a month and significantly reduces your garbage
Follow Jilian on Instagram @ecojil
For more information on Zero Waste, join the ZW Newfoundland group
Jilian Rose will be presenting Zero Waste for Beginners at the Marjorie Mews Library from 7-9 on May 16