Ways you could be sustainable and not know it

[featured image from KeepCup’s website]

So you’ve heard a lot about this newfangled thing called Zero Waste and you really want to start it, but you’re intimidated, and are worried about the lack of access to bulk food stores and whether making your own makeup really works for you. I’ll be the first to say I’m not fully Zero Waste yet, but here are some of the things I’ve observed from my parents and people around me that are surprisingly sustainable and eco-friendly. (Hint: if you’re budget conscious or trying to lead a minimalist lifestyle, you’ve probably already done some of these).

You bring a bottle of water everywhere you go.

Not because you’re cutting down on plastic bottle use but because you’re thirsty. All. The. Damn. Time.

Make it Zero Waste: Reuse a glass bottle. It doesn’t have to be a water bottle, although glass carafes would work. Otherwise you could also use an aluminium bottle or a mason jar.

You research alternatives for your menstrual cycle.

Because your period is Superhuman and needs a whole Justice League of items to keep the Crimson Tide at Bay.

Make it Zero Waste: Use reusable pads, period underwear, organic tampons and/or menstrual cups.

You don’t eat beef.

My in laws and husband don’t eat beef at all because of they’re Buddhists. It is apparently pretty good for the environment too because it reduces your carbon footprint quite significantly.

Make it Zero Waste: Eat more vegetables and plant-based foods, but even eating more chicken than beef can make a lot of difference.

You store all your food in Tupperwares…

or the plastic containers you get when you buy takeout.

Make it Zero Waste: Get a few glass containers instead to store your food. You could also get a tiffin carrier or stainless steel lunch boxes to hold them in.

You bring a tumbler to hold your coffee…

Not because it’s sustainable but because the tumbler is pretty…and you can get some savings.

Make it Zero Waste: Get a Keep Cup, or some compostable alternatives like these:

You bring a reusable bag…

Because the supermarket offers you 10cents off your purchase #kiamsiaplife (kiamsiap means “stingy” in dialect)

Make it Zero Waste: Get cotton bags to store your fruits and vegetables as well (which is often one of the few things that come mostly unpackaged).

You bring all the plastic bags home…

and neatly fold them away so you can use them to store wet clothes and umbrellas. We used the triangle folding method which my dad initially scorned but can be found folding it sometimes.

Make it Zero Waste: Start refusing plastic bags when offered. You’ll get some flabbergasted/horrified looks.

You repair items instead of throwing them away

(I usually stitch stuff back together, but then decide I did a shit job and toss the top anyway). My dad used to bring our shoes to the cobbler or superglue them back into shape. The cheap ones never lasted long despite his efforts. I’m looking to try and repurpose items that I have to make them look chic or do a Thrifted Transformation like Coolirpa and WithWendy.

Make it Zero Waste: If your skills aren’t up to scratch, you could always get a tailor or cobbler to make the necessary amendments for you. It’s likely to be a lot cheaper than buying a new pair. Also refrain from fast fashion, and buy items that are more likely to last a longer time (thereby giving you a reason to spend on the Timberland boots and the Levi’s jeans as opposed to the cheap H&M flats and Cotton On jeggings)

You take public transport…

because it’s too expensive to own a car. And when you do drive, you carpool to work with all your siblings.

Make it Zero Waste: Since I moved, I’m now within walking and cycling distance to my office. Lower your carbon footprint (and get in some exercise) by using these options instead! You can easily rent a bike from ofo, Mobike or oBike in Singapore.

You meal prep to hit your fitness goals…

and pack your own food in reusable containers. This helps save on packaging in the styrofoam containers, as well as disposable cutlery, and also helps you eat healthier meals.

Make it Zero Waste: Use glass containers where possible (you can find cheap ones at IKEA), and shop at the wet market to reduce packaging. Otherwise you could also buy stuff from this bulk shop in Kuala Lumpur (ships to Singapore and Malaysia)

You keep the plastic bottles…

that you’ve drunk green tea or lemon tea from and repurpose them as water bottles.

Make it Zero Waste: Cut down on the bottled drinks and brew your own. Or just drink copious amounts of water every day.

You turn old clothes into rags…

that you use to clean the house. Towels have different ranges and once they outlive the general wiping around the house, they’re relegated to rag status.

Make it Zero Waste: You can also make your own non-toxic household “detergent” by combining Castile soap with water (I love love love the citrus Dr Bronner’s–it smells like I’m surrounded by a hundred oranges, which I can’t eat anymore) or by using baking soda and vinegar. You could also do the Japanese way and use the cloths to mop the floor.

You sweep the floor instead of using a vacuum…

saving you money on your electric bill. Also this means you don’t have to drag it all around the house and continually plug and unplug it, since there are no cables long enough to reach every corner of the house.

Make it Zero Waste: One of my favourite bloggers doesn’t use her vacuum at all, and she just uses a flour sack towel with a bit of cider vinegar to clean the whole house. I just checked and they have cute ones on Carousell.

You’re too lazy to put on makeup on regular days,

and consider them to be “special occasions” only. You’ve just reduced unnecessary spending and also saved at least five to ten minutes of time. Also you couldn’t care less about the latest contour by Kim K or whoever.

Make it Zero Waste: There are a few recipes you can search online to make makeup, otherwise you could purchase what you need from Etsy shops; or sustainable brands like 100% pure or Burt’s Bees.

You secondhand shop because you can save money on luxury items like leather jackets.

Make it Zero Waste: Look for ethical and sustainable brands like H&M Conscious, Etrican, or, to my surprise, even Levi’s. I actually found a pair of jeans that I used to own on Carousell… still haven’t decided if I’m going to get it.

You shop in bulk at the supermarket and buy the biggest sizes of everything because of cost savings.

This is something my parents have done for years, mainly because there are seven of us in the house and thus everything has to be supersized.

Make it Zero Waste: Get the largest size of things like rice and chips and oatmeal, preferably things which can last a while. You can then transfer them to smaller glass containers and store them.

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