By Virginia Tapscott
I have a confession. I only started a recycling last year. We used a diesel generator to power the house for two years. And for the first 26 years of my life I threw rubbish out with gay abandon. I thought Chux were single-use wipes. I’m not proud of it. What was I thinking? Well, to be honest, I wasn’t thinking much at all. But then my kids came along and I had to rethink a lot of things. And I’m here to tell you that no matter how checkered your enviro past, you can change.
I live on a small farm in northwest NSW with my husband and our two kids. Our house now runs on solar and a little gas. In the last 12 months we’ve gone from filling two council-size rubbish bins to producing about a shoebox or two of non-recyclable rubbish per week. Want to know the secret? It’s not re-usable shopping bags, it’s not beeswax wraps or refilling your containers. It’s not even recycling more. It’s a change in mindset. As humans we mostly generate rubbish out of habit and convenience, so once we were able to break those habits and come to terms with some slightly-less-convenient-but-rewarding-and-fulfilling changes to the daily routine, we were already there. Our journey is one that highlights how amazing our capacity for change is.
Want to know the secret? It’s not re-usable shopping bags, it’s not beeswax wraps or refilling your containers. It’s not even recycling more. It’s a change in mindset.
It all started with a nappy. One day I realised I was no longer dealing with mild breastfed baby poo but basically storing semi-adult poo in the corner of the room and then lugging the rancid, heavy bags of disposable nappies out to the bin. Something needed to be done on a practical level but the nappies were also the first major thing to really weigh on my conscience. Once you start noticing the sheer volume of waste one baby can generate you can’t go back.
After a few months of deliberating over the initial outlay of cash to pay for cloth nappies I finally took the plunge. I ended up stumbling across a YouTube clip demo of some minimalist cloth nappies. The chick that designed them only ever used two cloth nappies on her son from birth to toilet training. It was a watershed moment for me – I realised that to make less rubbish I would have to have less stuff. Bare + Boho founder Jordan McGregor has graciously tolerated my fangirling ever since and recently agreed to be interviewed for this story.
“I was determined to not excessively purchase cloth nappies,” Jordan says. “I cut up old towels and lay them on top of the lining of the nappy. I would switch out the used insert and lay a fresh one in when needing to change.”
She then took things a step further and designed her own nappies, which raises an important point about reducing waste. You have to be inventive. It’s a constant jigsaw puzzle of working out ways to do things differently in order to produce less rubbish. So what started out as her own personal experiment to tailor an extremely minimal modern cloth nappy system has now influenced tens of thousands of families all over the world to pursue a zero waste, minimalist path.
So after the nappies, my zero waste journey just snowballed, dramatically changing the way I parent and the way we live. I ended up cutting out most disposable items, including baby wipes and excluding toilet paper. We also cut out basically all food packaging to the point where we bought two dairy cows so we wouldn’t have to buy packaged dairy products. All my cleaning products and most cosmetic or personal hygiene products are home made from bulk materials and stored in refillable containers. If I can’t make it using bulk materials I generally don’t use it.
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