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Four tips towards a zero waste lifestyle

Date:22 July 2022
Author:Green Office
Author — Mattanja Gerritsen
Author — Mattanja Gerritsen

As a part of Plastic Free July, Matanja has written a blog with four tips on how to move towards a plastic free lifestyle. For her final blog, she elaborates on how to think, shop, and store products with more care and less waste. Read along, and learn how to reduce your own waste output!

My time at the Green Office has sadly come to an end: I’m leaving Groningen to continue my studies elsewhere. Therefore, this will be the last blog that I write for the Green Office. In this blog, I want to give you four small tips that have helped me and might help you towards a more zero-waste lifestyle.

1. Reuse paper and packaging

This might sound obvious, but things like library receipts, envelopes, or gift wrapping are often thrown out without giving it a second thought. However, these things can very well be reused as grocery lists, to re-wrap gifts or to send cards and packages. And perhaps, the person you send your package or card to might reuse it again. Of course, this is not an endless cycle. But try to be creative with the things you have and think twice before you throw them out. 

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Paper scraps

2. Only buy what you need

It might be very tempting to fall for discounts during (grocery) shopping, especially when it concerns buy-one-get-one-for-free offers. But if you only need one cucumber, what will happen to the second one? It will likely waste away in the fridge for a week or so until you eventually throw it out. You can easily reduce your food waste just by planning your meals and by shopping consciously. I have mentioned this before, but the key question for zero-waste living is and will always be: do I need this?

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Package-free bread

3. Buy package-free groceries 

This one takes a little more effort but, in my experience, it’s very rewarding. In almost every Dutch supermarket, you can find the so-called verszakjes: small, reusable bags that are cheap and fit into every pocket. I make sure to always have one with me wherever I go. I use them to buy fruit and vegetables, bread, and my personal favorite: boreks. Even better still, is to make your own reusable bags from leftover -or second-hand fabric. 

If you’re a true (converted) Dutch person, you will eat several sandwiches a day, preferably with cheese and/or peanut butter. For the perfect boterham, you can get around the plastic packaging of supermarket bread. Once a week, early in the morning, I go to the supermarket with my reusable bag. It is important to go in the morning because most of the bread will not be packaged yet. If you ask kindly, the staff will be more than happy to give you a loaf of bread in your own packaging. But be aware: don’t provoke a confrontation by bringing a reused plastic bread bag from one supermarket to the other if you don’t want to start a local supermarket war (I speak from experience).

4. Be optimistic

This is the most important tip I can give anyone who aims at living a more sustainable, zero-waste lifestyle. Believe in small changes, because if you don’t, the road towards sustainability will be bitter and long. Think of every sustainable change you make, every plastic bag that you refuse, as a win. You don’t have to store all your trash in a glass jar in order to make a change. Believe in the little things, because it can inspire your environment to do the same. From my experience I can tell you that it works; I have contaminated multiple people around me with my reusable bags and rejection of plastic. 

So, believe in the change you can make, and others will follow!

Hi! My name is Mattanja, I am a third-year Dutch student of the Art History Ba. I try to live as much of a waste-free, sustainable lifestyle as possible, and through my love of writing, I aim to share this lifestyle with others!


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