The idea of going Zero Waste can seem seriously daunting. Before I started this journey the idea of zero waste I had in my head was vloggers with 5 years worth of rubbish in one mason jar, something that just didn't seem like a realistic way to live. And for most people it isn't.

Since then zero waste has see a big boom, a huge shift! More and more people are hearing about the idea and it's also becoming more accessible, with lots of resources available online (like this one) as well as zero waste shops opening across the country. But even with all of this new stuff coming out, it can still be a really overwhelming and daunting thing to look into. Which is why I'm introducing it it here, and also giving you 10 really easy swaps to help inspire you!.

This piece is written to accompany (and give info to those who can't attend) my talk at Arkwright Community gardens on zero waste living. If you were there for that then hello again, thanks for coming! And if not then welcome! Let's get down to business.

What is Zero Waste?
When I personally talk about Zero Waste and how I'm trying to live a zero waste life, I don't mean that I never throw anything in the bin, I don't just have a mason jar full of non-recyclable plastic. Honestly to me the definition of Zero Waste, or at least trying to live Zero waste does not mean  ditching all forms of plastic or one use packing, immediately or in the near future. It means trying your best to cut out as much as possible for you. Some people might disagree with this, but even they probably did not go zero waste over night. Which leads me onto my tips for doing zero waste realistically.

How Do I start?

Tip 1: Start Slow, Start Easy
We've established that zero waste is daunting, especially when you're looking at people who are a lot further along the journey than you, so we're going to look at starting with just one thing. One item, pick something that you've found somewhere in your house, or focus on one area. Start there with this one item of waste that you know you can tackle.

Once you've got that one thing, or that small area sorted and into your routine, then move onto the next one. This way you don't get ridiculously overwhelmed by trying to change every aspect of your life and the changes you do make are more likely to stick!

I'm three years into my journey and I am still in this process of implementing one new change and then trying something new. Remember some progress is better than no progress.

Tip 2: Do what you can within your own life
So Mary down the street goes to the zero waste shop every weekend and weighs out her pasta, then she goes to her green grocers to buy her plastic free veg, and then she goes to her small local supermarkets to get her fridge items. But you work a lot, or have kids to take care of, are busy studying most of the time. Whatever the reason is you don't have time to go three or four different shops to get all your shopping done. That's fine! Do what you can within your own weekly shop, whether that's by taking your own produce bags to fill up with loose veg, taking your own pots to the deli counter. Whatever you can do within your own routine implement it. Not everyone is able to make the same changes and that is ok.

One thing I would definitely recommend for people who can't switch supermarkets, or are stuck with plastic from a particular brand you rely on is send out some strongly worded emails! Or say something (politely) to the staff at the shops you're in. The more people that say to supermarkets and other retailers "Hey, I don't want this plastic" the more likely they are to listen to us, and then zero waste shopping becomes more accessible to everyone.

Tip 3: You'll never be perfect.
As you progress on your little zero waste journey it can be very easy to get frustrated at the world and feel like no matter how much you do it's not going to be enough. You may well compare yourself to others and think they're doing so much better, but try not to! You will never be perfect and you don't have to be perfect, you just have to do your best.

If more and more people at least try zero waste, industry and big commercial brands will have an incentive to make their practices more environmentally friendly and zero waste and that is where a lot of the magic happens. The quote below sums it up perfectly:

We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly. ~ Anne-Marie Bonneau

Where do I shop?
So  you've got a bit of an idea of how to approach things, but where can you go to start your journey? If you're stuck with your supermarket that is fine, do what you can within your own life, but it's always nice to go to a zero waste shop every now and again (in person or online) just to see what they have and give you some inspiration and ideas.  They have items you'd never have imagined existing, and if you've never been inside a zero waste shop I highly recommend it!
Images: inside Ripple Living in Cardiff
In Nottingham                      
Nottingham Zero Waste .       
Dash Vegan .                         
In Cardiff
Ripple Living
Foxy's Deli
Jo's Organic

Elsewhere in person
Pebble Magazine: 88 of the UK's best Zero Waste Shops
The Zero Waster: Local Plastic-Free/Bulk/unpackaged/refill/zero waste projects and shops UK

These "elsewhere" lists are both a little out of date, but should give you an idea of where to start shopping if you're not from Nottingham. New zero waste shops are popping up in towns and cities all over the UK!

Ethical Superstore - Groceries, cleaning and home products, and even more. With "plastic free" categories for all of it.
The Plastic Free Shop -  A wide range of plastic free alternatives.
Zero Waste Club - Online plastic free groceries, and other kitchen and home items!
Plastic Free Pantry - Nottingham Based online store selling zero waste food and necessities
Low Tox Box - Gift boxes and more, perfect for if you want to get a meaningful gift!
Anything But Plastic - Small shop with lots of great alternatives.
Worthwhyle - Helping you live a low waste life with small changes
Zero Waste Path Shop - Soap, Shampoo, Lotions, and even Doggie cleaning products.
The Kind Store - Vegan Zero Waste Store
Plastic Freedom- Huge range of plastic free and Vegan goods

There are so many more online shops than this, but there is a good variety of British brands in the list above.

The most sustainable thing is what you've already got
So I've given you a load of suggestions of shops above, And there's plenty of swaps below but remember that the most sustainable items are the ones currently in your home. So before throwing out all of your plastic items to replace them with something new, stop, take a minute, and remember to keep using what you've got until you can't. Then go out and buy a sustainable alternative.

10 Easy Swaps
 I've given you an idea of  how to approach things, and where to shop, but what sort of things are worth starting with? Honestly, anything you like, but below is some inspiration from some items I have swapped out in my life. There are always lots of different alternative products for any plastic filled things, so you've got to see what might suit you!

1. Water-bottle
This may seem like kind of an obvious one, but it's also a pretty easy one. Whether it's big or small, carrying a water-bottle around with you can really save a lot of plastic, and some money. And it means whenever you are on the go, you just have to find a place to refill. And it just so happens there's an app for that.

2. Coffee Cup
Another pretty easy one, as long as you remember it. Whether you want to save money by taking your own coffee to work or are an on the go coffee addict it's always helpful to have a coffee cup or flask. Plus most chains and small coffee shops offer discounts to customers bringing their own cups.

If you don't have much room to carry one, don't worry about that either! There's even collapsable cups on the market nowadays.
3. Straws
Straws seem to have become the poster child for plastic free living. Images of turtles with plastic straws up their noses has flooded the news. Though they're not the main issue, and are still a necessity for many disabled people, there are a lot of alternative options on the market for those who want to swap to reusable straws. From silicon, to metal, to bamboo and more!
4. Produce Bags
These are probably my most used zero waste item, It's so satisfying to come back from a big shop with all of these bags full of fresh veg than I then put in my fridge and cupboard rather than having countless plastic bags to throw away. Such a nice feeling.

They're really versatile too, whatever you want to use them for, I sometimes put my lunch in them, or use them to buy pasta at the zero waste shop. And if they get dirty you can just put them in with your washing and they're good to go again.
5. Wax Wraps
No more cling film for me! To be honest I stopped buying it years ago and there was just a bit of a void in my life, I just avoided making stuff that needed cling film to store and instead used Tupperware to store all food. But then there are wax wraps, I would've bought some ages ago but they are quite expensive to buy and there's limited vegan options. So when my mum made some out of beeswax and found to super easy I then asked if she'd help me make my own, and now I have my own set! The great thing about making your own is that you can customise sizing, and even make small bags and other things out of them!

These aren't cooker safe sadly but there are companies selling 100% recycled aluminium foil if you want something that is cooker safe, they're just not as reusable.
6. Sponges and Brushes
Almost everything commonly used to wash dishes contains plastic, from throw away plastic sponges, to plastic scrubbing brushes. But these can easily be replaced by wooden, linen, or other plant based counterparts. With scrubbing bushes you replace the heads on, washable sponges, or even something as simple as a small flannel. It's really easy to remove disposable plastic from your kitchen sink.

These products do seem more expensive in the short term, but they are designed to last longer than your standard plastic brush or sponge so can really save you money long term. Though remember to make sure you use your current ones as much as possible before switching to an alternative longer term.
7. Soap, Shampoo, and more! Bottles -> bars
Personally I'm not a huge fan of shampoo bars, but they work for some people and reduce a lot of waste, one thing I definitely use is bars of soap though, and I've even recently switched fo mars os moisturiser instead of buying plastic bottles of the stuff.

Bars can save a lot of plastic, they don't need to be kept in anything but a tin, pot, or paper bags. And I find that bars of soap and other things last a lot longer compared to bottles of the stuff so end up being cheaper longer term. There's a growing range of products available in bar form, including dog shampoo!

Even if you don't want to switch everything to bars, then refilling is also an option. Lots of zero waste shops have soap, shampoo, and other refills!
8. Makeup Wipes
Almost all wet-wipes contain plastic, and wreak havoc on our sewage system (don't flush them) and the environment.  Wet-wipes are one of the most common objects found in beach and river cleans, so switching these out wherever possible really does make a big difference. Plus it can save you money long term too.

I use a ditzy cloth to get all of my makeup off, they claim to be able to be used without any cleanser of makeup remover and that claim is pretty true. I use mine with a bit or makeup remover though, it's super soft and pretty big meaning I can clean my whole face multiple times with it. Plus having a black one means you can't see my eyeliner stains on it! I pop it in the wash every week or so and voila, ready to be used again.

Lots of companies also sell small makeup remover pads which are basically the same concept and can be used for all sort of facial things. Just wash them after use and you're good to go for more cleans.

9. Menstrual Products
Luckily for you, if you're looking to zero waste your period, I've written an entire guide on it! From cups, to reusable pads, period pants, and just plastic free disposables. There are a lot of things that you can do. I won't add too much onto this post, because there is a lot, but read my guide if this interests you!

10. Containers!
These have versatile uses, and there's a lot out there.  Whether you're at your local zero waste shop or your supermarket there are always ways you can find to use a Tupperware container, jar, or metal box instead of one use packaging. Also if you find yourself using a lot of plastic on convenience lunches then cooking or preparing food to take to work in your own containers saves money and plastic, so it's worth a try at least now and again.

Basically making sure you're using a reusable container, whatever that may be, rather than something you're going to throw away straight after using it makes a difference!

To close

Whew, that was a big post wasn't it? But I wanted to make this as comprehensive as possible so hopefully I managed that!

Yes there are even more things than you can do just on this list to reduce your waste, the world of zero waste living is a large and fascinating on. Even I was surprised while making this post at the amount of online stores selling items I'd never heard of, but I don't want to overwhelm you all too much. Hopefully this guide was of some use to you and you can now go forth and help save the environment! And remember be kind to yourself while you're being kind to the planet.

If you have any questions, or some parts you want me to go further/more specific about, than let me know!