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How to Start Your Zero Waste Journey

September 1, 2018

I want to start, but I’m not sure how? Cutting out waste seems very overwhelming… How do you minimise waste in a country like Singapore?

Recognise this?

Well, you’re in luck. We have created your beginner’s guide on How to Start Your  Zero Waste Journey in Singapore, where we’ll help you minimise waste when shopping AND in your home.

HOW DO I AVOID PLASTIC WHEN I SHOP?

Singapore is catching up on the ‘Bulk-fashion’ and stores are now popping up where you can bring your own container, fill it up and avoid the plastic. Also, supermarkets like Cold Storage have introduced nuts and seeds in bulk + storing more fruit and veg out of plastic wrappings.  And of course, most stores have a deli, where you can ask for your meat and fish to be packed in the containers that you’ve brought yourself.

FOOD BULK STORES

  • Unpackt (Ang Mo Kio + Shenton Way) – see more on Unpackt here

  • Scoop Wholefoods (Tanglin Mall – 2 more opening in Jan ’20)
  • The Source Bulk Foods (Cluny Court – 2 more opening soon)
  • Eco.Le (Bukit Timah Shopping Centre)

  • The Zero Ways (pop-up)

  • Teck Sang (Hong Kong St.)

  • Two Sisters (Roxy Sq.)

  • Tangs (Orchard)

  • Pat’s Oven (Various)

  • Alison’s Pantry (Selected Cold Storage outlets)

REUSABLE PRODUCT STORES

You now know where to go – but how to go about reducing waste in our everyday lives is a different matter. We’ve put together a tool kit for you to get started – on the go and in your home.

ON THE GO

  • Restaurant/Cafe: If sitting down – ask for proper plates, cutlery or sticks if not obvious.

  • Take away: Bring your own cup and container for food.

  • Straws: Avoid or use your own reusable straws.

  • Snacks: Use beeswax wraps, reusable silicone food wrap or cotton bags for snacks.

  • Water: Always have your own reusable bottle with you.

FOOD SHOPPING

  • Choose a market, bulk store or supermarket that sell in bulk (see above for locations)

  • Bring your own bag

  • Buy unpackaged fruit and vegetables not packaged – bring your own reusable nets or non-plastic bag.

  • Buy meat and fish over the counter – bring your own containers.

  • When buying sweets – use ‘pick and mix’ (ask the owner to weigh your own bag first). In supermarkets, try avoid bagged sweets with little bags inside them or wrapped sweets.

  • Cleaning detergents are available in bulk stores and some reusable product stores.

HOW DO I AVOID PLASTIC AT HOME?

Avoiding plastic in the home is very much a process and it takes time. Finish up all your existing products, see if they are recyclable and then start to look at how you can minimise and exchange some of your products in the house. You probably know most of these already:

  • Take brief showers
  • Turn off all electronics when not used
  • Use energy saving lightbulbs
  • Use rechargeable batteries
  • Refill printer ink
  • Reuse paper for lists and kids drawings
  • Get documents sent to you online
  • Refuse at all times, and recycle when you can – understand the blue bin
  • Live minimalistic – less stuff is liberating

Going through the house room by ro0m is a good way to start. The bathroom is one of the easier places to start.

THE BATHROOM

  • Use soap bars rather than liquid in containers – shampoo comes in soap bars too.

  • Use flannel facial rounds instead of cotton and kleenex

  • Use refillable and biodegradable dental floss

  • Invest in a chrome razor or electric razor, rather than disposables

  • Reduce skincare and beauty products to a minimum

  • Use menstrual cups instead for pads and tampons

  • Exchange your toothbrush with one of bamboo (only if you compost and the brushes are 100% compostable – in Singapore, toothbrushes get incinerated)

THE CUPBOARD

Declutter

  • Go through your items & throw

– if you haven’t worn it for a year 

– it’s the wrong size 

– the style is not trendy 

– you have more of the same item. 

  • Upcycle or repair – if stain won’t come off
    or your wear has a tear. 
  • Sell, pass on, donate or swap your
    disposed items. 

Buying new?

Get more tips on how to declutter your wardrobe and your kids in more detail.

THE KITCHEN

  • Minimise disposables (towels, foils, plastic plates), – instead, use reusable rags, kitchen towels/beeswax wraps for e.g. sandwiches and stainless containers.

  • Drink  tap water – get used to the taste or filter it

  • Soaps: Castille soaps can be used for both hands and dishes – to make it more effective, you can add baking soda and create a scrub

  • Avoid food waste – keep and eat leftovers wrapped with a lid or natural cover, e.g. beeswax.

  • Keep a basic food pantry with grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, flours and sugars so you can stick to buying simple fresh ingredients and get less tempted into buying take-away + junk food

  • Reduce your service, utensils and appliances to what you really need.

ALWAYS REMEMBER:

To REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE and ROT

AND these great bullet points by Lindsay’s Miles from *Treading My Own Path”

  • It is about choosing products that are well-made and built to last, that can be repaired, and won’t end up in landfill once life-expired.

  • It is about choosing reusables over single-use items.

  • It is about favouring second-hand over new, and valuing resources.

  • It is about refusing anything unnecessary.

  • It is about asking questions.

  • It is about embracing creativity: thinking of solutions, problem-solving, and discovering new and better ways of doing things.

  • It means thinking about the end-life of a product before I take it and bring it home.

Now, for many of us and you, cutting out waste seems like a big task, but it’s important to say, that when you start your journey to zero waste – or less waste as we prefer to call it – it will most probably remain a journey for all us – as you could see, not even Zero Waste guru Bea Johnson could make it to zero. 

However, if you make a pledge and have a goal – and you make a new goal when you reach this goal, you will both make an impact and make a statement that will help to create a global change, free up your own space and your mind. Perhaps this will inspire your neighbour, your friend, perhaps even your mother to do the same. And then we have a movement, that will matter and we can see the change. Good luck!

Thank you to Journey to Zero Waste Life in Singapore tips on Bulk Store locations & Bea Johnson for kitchen tips!

See more tips on zero waste and decluttering HERE

See how you recycle in Singapore HERE

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