On a Mission to Reduce Waste

I have no idea where the past 4 months have gone … but I had made a New Year’s resolutions back in January to reduce our waste, so here’s a quick update on my progress.

A few years ago I heard about Bea Johnson for the first time, who lives a zero waste life with here family, and I was impressed by the changes she’s made. While we lived in New Zealand many of these changes were easily implemented, but since we moved to Abu Dhabi things kind of fell by the wayside. So for 2015 I decided to get back on track. I’m reinstating some changes I had made previously, and following some of Bea’s ideas and other zero waste advice you can find online (e.g. Trash is for Tossers). Here’s what I’ve implemented to date:

Reducing Waste while on the Go

– Carry a reusable drinking bottle at all times. This’ll stop you from buying plastic bottles on the go, and it’ll help you meet your daily water requirements. Summer is coming and you can get dehydrated quickly in this desert weather (my husband tells me)!

– When having coffees or quick meals out, don’t take away. Eat in and ask for porcelain cups, dishes and proper cutlery.

– For packed lunches, use reusable plastic or glass containers.

Grocery / Household Item Shopping

– Make a shopping list and stick to it. I’ve been terrible for buying more food than I need and letting it go to waste. If you plan your meals for a week and only buy what you need it will save you money and avoid waste. If you do end up with leftovers, pre cook meals and freeze them. Overly ripe fruit makes great smoothies.

– Shop at the Fruit & Vegetable Market in Abu Dhabi. When you buy fruit and veg at the grocery store they will try to wrap every single piece of produce in an individual plastic bag when they weigh it. If you do shop at the grocery store, ask them kindly to place several different items in the same bag after weighing them separately. They’ll look at you as if you’re crazy, but most of the time they’ll do it. The fruit and veg market in town is cheaper and you can bring your own reusable shopping bags. Other alternatives include shopping at the Ripe Markets, which sell mostly local organic produce, and the various companies that deliver fruit and veg boxes to your doorstep; these are generally much more expensive though.

– Buy in bulk. I’ve yet to find a shop in Abu Dhabi were you can bulk buy and fill up your own containers. But for everything that lasts and that you must buy in packaging or plastic bottles, buy it in bulk. Again, this will not only avoid waste but also save you money.

– Avoid paper towels and sponges. Instead use a microfibre towel, washable rags that can be reused, and a brush for scrubbing dishes/pots. The sponges I still buy are either a metal scourer or of biodegradable materials.

– You don’t need bin liners. If you ended up getting stuck with unwanted plastic bags, use them to line your bin, or line it with old newspaper.

– We buy bulk castile soap that we bring back from the USA (Dr Bronners Peppermint Castile Soap – came across this at Burning Man – a.m.a.z.i.n.g.), as well as paper wrapped soap and shampoo bars (e.g. Lush).

At Home 

– Use alternative cleaning products to avoid packaging and unnecessary chemicals. There’s a lot of advice online about how to use backing soda, lemon and vinegar for all your cleaning needs, and they work a treat.

– Recycle what you can. There’s numerous charities in the UAE that constantly collect items for people who are in need of support. Unwanted clothes, shoes, household items and the likes will always be able to make someone else happy, and help you declutter your home. If you prefer to sell used items,  Dubizzle and community Facebook groups are used a lot in the UAE for advertising used items.

– Joshua changed to a straight razor (most of the time) to avoid the disposable razor blades. As he gets better with the blade these wasteful and ridiculously expensive disposables will be disappearing from our household too.

So that’s all the changes I can think of for now. We’re still nowhere near ZERO WASTE, but these are the first steps which are already having a significant impact on reducing our waste. My biggest challenge is that I am a hoarder, as I love collecting things that may come in useful someday, particularly for one of my art projects that I never have time for. But my excuse is: that counts as upcycling, right?? 🙂 Next step: decluttering. 


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