Zero Waste Week Gathers Momentum

It’s that time of year when the conscious collective comes together to talk about rubbish. It’s quite the topic, given that in the UK we accumulate over 200 millions tonnes of stuff every year.

If you’re new to all this, let me give you a little overview: Zero Waste Week is a national awareness campaign which takes place in the first week of September. It’s an opportunity for you to reduce your landfill waste, win prizes and get to know other Zero Waste heroes.  It was an initiative set up by Rachel Strauss back in 2008 literally from her kitchen table. She’s gone on to inspire millions of people across the UK and beyond, to think about their household waste and help prevent more ‘stuff’ that wont biodegrade going into landfill. But it’s not just food, and whilst many of us think that zero-waste is about trying to live a minimalist life and produce a jam jar of waste every year – it’s not quite that extreme.  Zero Waste covers everything from food shopping, every day activities, clothes and transportation. 

Zero Waste Last Year

Last year I jumped on-board to support the campaign and did a series of rather funny Facebook lives. Two of them are listed below if you want a laugh and to be inspired to be more sustainable with your wardrobe. Have a peek.

  • Five Tips For Getting Started With A Sustainable Wardrobe
  • What To Expect From Zero Waste Week
Last year was really my first step into thinking about what impact all my actions make across the whole spectrum of my life, not just my wardrobe or where I shop. I started to explore going plastic free and looking at ways to decrease the single-use and non-widely recycled items from coming into my home and then going into the bin. To be honest I was really just dipping my toe in,  and whilst I was researching it all – I wasn’t actually putting much of it into practice.

Zero Waste This Year

My Zero Waste Journal - by Roberta Lee
My Zero Waste Journal – by Roberta Lee

At the start of this year I started working on a journal that explored how much waste I created over 12-weeks.  I was insanely busy and I knew that convenience and availability were going to be factors that challenged me when going about my usual activities, such as grabbing breakfast after my commute into the city, grabbing a healthy lunch and stopping off for drinks along the way.

Because I was multi-tasking and doing so many things I knew bad habits would creep in, so I kept a  12-Week Zero Waste Journal. It’s incredible how much waste one person can generate in 12-weeks by just not thinking, being unprepared and functioning on auto-pilot. For me the journal was an eye-opener and it really shocked me how so many unconscious moments can add up in a day, week, month etc. This was a powerful exercise – as I was able to see the positive impact I could make by altering my daily habits, being prepared and consciously going about my day. 

Plastic Free July

In July, our blogger Claire shared her Plastic Free July challenge which I participated in – which encouraged us to put any plastics that would end up in landfill and possibly the ocean into a plastic bottle (I still have no idea what to do with my Coke bottle stuffed with plastic) that would then be used as an eco-brick for something else. In other countries, we’ve seen locals be resourceful and creative – using these eco-bricks to make walls and create buildings, showing us that waste is only waste if we waste it.  During the challenge, I posted in our FB group (EBD Conscious Consumer Club) about how hard it was to go shopping in Tesco and go ‘plastic free’.  The truth is everything is hard at the start, but you have been willing to make an effort, shopping gets easier when you know where to shop and you’re more prepared  [watch this space our zero-waste stores London map will be launching soon!]

So what have I done for this week’s zero waste 2019? Well, I have to confess with the sudden growth of EBD (again) I haven’t really had a chance to think about it. Luckily for me, my friend Carl over at Future Planet organised an event entertainingly called ‘Adventures in Zero Waste’. Myself, Julie from AmaElla and Sveta from Fresh Lifestyle decided to go along and soak up all the inspiration because frankly living a zero-waste lifestyle is super hard and we all need every bit of encouragement we can get!

Future Planet Presents: Sustainable Living ‘Adventures in Zerowaste!’

Image credit Darnell Ibraham, source: Future Planet

The event kicked off with a short Introduction from Carl about Future Planet’s mission (which I totally love). It’s so aligned with EBD and why working with Carl in July for our collaborative Sustainable Fashion event was so perfect.

Future Planet Presents runs a series of events profiling talented pioneers shaping our future planet. People can come from across the sustainability spectrum with a focus on anything from oceans, plastics, cleantech, energy, fashion, zero waste, sustainable living, food, travel, transport, health and last but not the least – beauty.

Carl believes if just 1% of the population were to give just £10 per month we could solve many of the crisis our planet faces. There isn’t a single organization out there that will take responsibility for it as a worldwide problem. He firmly believes if we were to come together as a collective, we could raise the funds, mobilise and deliver the solutions needed – and do so in a timely manner which will essentially cut through the red tape and just get $h!t done. I always love hearing Carl’s speech on the 1% and the power that we hold to change the world – I couldn’t agree more.

Zero Waste Hero Kate Arnell

Image credit Darnell Ibraham, Source: Future Planet Roberta Lee & Kate Arnell catch up after the talk

First up to the stage to talk about Zero Waste was TV presenter and blogger, Founder of Ecoboost and my new #zerowaste lifestyle hero Kate Arnell. She shared her journey and the struggles and showed the easy swaps we could make to help reduce our waste. An important part of Zero Waste living is that you define what that means for you and you make those changes that you can. Kate chatted about the easy everyday swaps, such as bees wrap instead of cling film to taking your own glass containers to bulk buy stores.  

Image credit Darnell Ibraham, Source: Future Planet – Roberta Lee asking Kate a question
I asked a burning question about being eco-friendly but not sacrificing on nice smelling clothes when it comes to laundry. Both Ecover and the laundry egg have not turned out to be as effective as I hoped, so I asked Kate if she’s experienced anything like it in London with her laundry too. It turns out the hard water in London makes it a bit more tricky, the solution is a hotter wash and adding some drops of essential oils to the wash if you’re looking for that just out the machine smell.  It would seem that even Zero Waste experts like Kate, still run into eco-conflicts too! Having switched from a 30-degree wash up to a 50-degree one, I can confirm it makes a difference – bed sheets still need to be washed much higher though for the best results with Ecover.  If going Zero Waste feels daunting for you, simply start by:
  1. Ditching plastic bags and carrying an eco-tote.
  2. Then swap out single-use plastic bottles for a reusable one.
  3. The same for your coffee cup, grab a re-usable one 
  4. And finally, if you love food on the go, consider carrying your own knives and forks. 
These small changes really can add up. In my home, these things have had a major impact on the volume of waste I create now as well as minimizing those wrappers that nobody knows what to do with (#singleusewrappers are the worst!) before throwing them into the bin, consider holding onto them and making an eco-brick with them instead. 

Unpackaged & Planet Organic

Next up was, Catherine Conway, Founder Unpackaged. A true pioneer and superstar of the zero waste movement. Unpackaged work with organisations like  Planet Organic to provide zero waste solutions, and joining her was Al Overton, the Buying Director from Planet Organic.

Catherine spoke about how she went from working for free to working with stores like Planet Organic and has accepted that in order for large-scale change, it is in fact places like Tesco and Sainsburys that really do need to look at reducing their waste if we are going to make an impact with this movement.

Al mentioned that it was, in fact, the Muswell Hill brand that led the way with its zero-waste aisle and started stocking products to help customers on this journey; from refillable bottles to the female hygiene products (the trusty menstrual cups). Women are waking up to the amount of waste sanitary products create, over 200 billion every year.  These eco-friendly options are now one of the best sellers in their zero waste section of their store.

I’m definitely a beginner at all of this. I have to say my goal is to have an 80% plastic free and more sustainable bathroom by the end of the year though. Which will mean a lot less waste.

Spacehive & Veolia

Next up were, Chris Gourlay, the Founder of Spacehive, a funding platform for projects that make local places better and Rachel Jay, Communications Manager, Veolia and project lead for the Recycling Fund for Communities’ talking about their support for local communities.

Chris explained a bit more what the SpaceHive platform was about and what type of projects they support. From small garden clean ups to larger community projects, it would seem the platform is very open to creative ideas and worth checking out if you have an initiative you want to get started.

Rachel then spoke a bit about Veolia which is the UK leader in environmental solutions, They provide a comprehensive range of waste, water and energy management services designed to build the circular economy and preserve scarce raw materials.

Currently, there is an open call for plastic reduction projects in the London area with London projects Veolia.

You can find out more about Veolia by watching this short video:

Stuffster & Buy Me Once

John Atcheson,  the founder of Stuffstr and Tara Button, the founder BuyMeOnce then closed the evening talking about the amazing success they’ve experienced with their companies and what impact that is having on major retailers and the future of the retail market.

John founded Stuffster, a platform that lets you capture the value of your used items, regardless of the condition. It’s all done during the purchasing process so right from the start your buy-back potential is a cash prize ready to reward you for trading in your unwanted items.  I have to confess the data that John shared about the successful pilot programme at John Lewis was rather promising. I can see this model being very motivating for shoppers.

He talked us through a buy-back-scheme that created a new value for old things and how this could prevent so many unwanted things ending up in the landfill. The concept of having a buy-back scheme not only showed greater customer loyalty but it emphasises a more conscious decisions making process for the buyers at the onset. The buy-back market preloved, second hand,  used is one that is certainly gathering momentum. I’m excited to see where this goes.

Tara Button, the founder of BuyMeOnce spoke about her story and why she set up an online resource to help people buy longer lasting items. She was frustrated with all the cheap crap that breaks on the market and decided to search what was out there that would stand the test of time. Ethics and sustainability were both high criteria for any brands being listed and sure enough, something that all of us at EBD can relate to. To cut a long story short, Tara was featured in the media and things just went boom! The directory she created became an ecommerce platform and she was able to quit her job and work on the project full time.  

Take a look at her online shop that sells the most durable long lasting products available hereTara and I will be meeting up soon so I can soak up more of her journey and learn from her experiences. EBD is going through a major growth phase right now and meeting her couldn’t have been at a more ideal time.  

Image credit Darnell Ibraham, Source: Future Planet – Kate, Carl, Roberta, Al, Catherine & far left Tara

Well, that rather long blog post just about summarises the Zero Waste Week and the Adventure in Zero Waste event by Future Planet. As always these kinds of events are a good crowd and a lot of fun for getting started or even if you’re a veteran sustainability hero. If you’re London based sign up to future Planet updates here and if you’d like to stay in the loop with Ethical Brand Directory’s updates, online and London events sign up for alerts here

Have you got some zero waste tips? We’d love to hear yours in the comments below.


Roberta is the founder of Ethical Brand Directory and Roberta Style Lee. She is a speaker, coach and sustainable stylist. You can connect with her on Instagram: @robertastylelee @ethicalbranddirectory and on Facebook: @robertastylelee @ethicalbranddirectory


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