This February I will be exploring a zero waste approach to my Dubai life. Though I already try my best to use less I am interested to see how much I actually waste in a month. The end goal though is to waste as little as possible and keep a record of it.
Who am I? I am a 29 year old woman living alone in Dubai. I already use reusable produce and grocery bags while shopping. At home I use clothe towels instead of paper towels, bar soap instead of liquid soap etc. I have also started making my own oat milk (next step is rice milk!) and breads but I feel like I can do more. This month I want to make even more zero waste changes to my Dubai life.
Zero Waste Lifestyle Step 1 – RESEARCH
The first step in my zero waste lifestyle was to research. What does zero waste even mean? Does recycling count towards a zero waste lifestyle or is that verboten?
As defined by the International Zero Waste Alliance it is:
“Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.
Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.
Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”
Okay so it looks like I can recycle but the best it so be able to reuse or just plan reduce items. Perfect.
Zero Waste Lifestyle Step 2 – ANALYSE + PLAN
The second step is to figure out where you can improve. For myself I know what I am doing correctly but I also know there is room to improve. For example I am not composting though I am saving scraps for my future vegetable stocks. Citrus peels, apple cores and the like are currently going into the rubbish bin but these can be composted. So my goal for February is to figure out a compost solution.
Another part of my plan is to set aside two bins/large paper bags for recyclables. One will be for paper recycling and the other for plastic recycling. Glass jars can be reused and I will cut out tin cans. At the end of the month I will also see how much recycling I produced and see what items can be reduced from there.
I will also need to plan my meals better to ensure that there is no food waste. This weekend I will be making a large soup and putting the scraps to the side for making my first vegetable broth. Some broth recipes call for using fresh whole vegetables but with a bit of patience and room in the freezer you can make a broth out of scraps. You should not use mouldy scraps just the bits or peels that are leftover when making your other meals. Here is an excellent “recipe“, more like guide, for making your own broth.
I had mentioned before about composting and seeing as I live in a flat, albeit with a decent balcony, this will be the most challenging part. This part was a blend of research and planning and thankfully, because of google, it was not too difficult to do this. This website gives three options for balcony compositing; my preference is for the second one. Another options is to add Eisenia fetid, or red worms, which is shown here. Will this make me a crazy worm lady?
Zero Waste Lifestyle Step 3 – EXECUTE
After all the research, analysing and planning comes the executing. By properly executing your zero waste month you will also make it easier to follow through with it. Here is a check list you can follow to make sure you are prepared for your zero waste month. Depending on your life style you may add or subtract some items so be flexible. This is a starting point.
- use reusable produce + grocery bags and make them accesable
- keep a small reusuable shopping bag in your purse
- shop your closet instead of the store or swap clothes
- buy books second hand or get the digital version
- save your glass jars and use them for storage and taking meals with you
- use natural bristle brushes and wooden kitchen items
- avoid prepackaged produce, grocery items and meals
- refuse plastic and paper straws, cutlery and plates
- use a water filter instead of buying water bottles
- take a reusable water bottle with you
- use lose leaf tea instead of tea bags
- make your own coffee or bring a coffee mug
- produce your own grocery items, make oat milk or granola instead of buying it
- make your own facial cleansers, google is your friend when it comes to this one
- create your own cleaners, vinegar, water and essential oils work just as well as store bought cleaners
- stop using paper towels and invest in clothe towels, same goes with napkins
- save vegetable scraps for homemade broth
- create your own compost or find out where you can compost
- visit a farmers market to get local produce, yes, even Dubai has a couple
- eat in instead of out (and if you want to have a restaurant meal eat it there)
- support restaurants which offer filtered instead of bottled water, Tom & Serg is ace
- bring your own take away container, restaurant portions are usually massive anyway!
- reduce your meat consumption, and no, you don’t have to go vegan
- learn to meal prep and bring lunch to work
- soups are great for this. Make a large batch and freeze portions
- weekly portions of hummus make for a great snack
- a large batch of quinoa or whole wheat pasta makes for a great salad base. Customise with fresh cut vegetables, seeds and nuts for a daily healthy salad
- pack an apple or orange in your lunch for a sweet snack
- make granola bars for your coffee break or snack time
- the list is endless it just takes a little bit of planning
Some zero waste bloggers and youtubers I have seen advocate getting rid of everything that is not zero waste and buying your zero waste items new. This goes against the point. You should either use up what you already have or give it to someone else who can use it before throwing it away. Throwing things away in the name of zero waste is counter productive. Another important thing to note is that you have to do what works for you. We are human and thereby not perfect. Focus on improving yourself and making small changes instead of throwing yourself into the deep end. Congratulate yourself on your successes while keeping an eye on what you can improve.
I am keen to know what you would add to this list? Are there any zero waste hacks that have worked well with you? Tell me what has worked, and not worked, with you. Cheers!