Have you ever heard of the zero waste philosophy? It’s a fantastic movement towards a world without waste through simple techniques you can incorporate into your daily life, and a reaction against the consumption society. This means reduce, reuse and send as little as possible to be recycled and to be composted. For some people, the philosophy might relate to the New Yorker Lauren Singer, one of the first famous zero waste role models out there. She makes her own deodorant and toothpaste, and actually managed to keep 2 years worth of trash in a mason jar!
Whats exciting is that we have our very own zero waste superwoman right here in Europe – more specifically from a small town in Northern Norway. We had a chat with Stine Friis some days after she guested the national morning TV show God Morgen Norge (check the behind the scenes video here), to understand more about this mysterious subject.
Hey Stine! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Sure! I’m Stine Friis, 24, from a small town in Norway/Nowhere. I’m a copywriter and run a zero waste/sustainability blog.
Can you explain briefly what zero waste is, and why is it so important?
Zero waste is about reducing your climate impact through reducing consumption and producing as little trash as possible. Zero waste has us use our resources in a more thoughtful way, and lets resources go in a circle – instead of ending up in an incinerator or in a landfill. Everything we make should get reused or remade into something new. Reuse, repurpose or recycle. Don’t throw it away.
THE 5 ZERO WASTE PRINCIPLES: Refuse – say no to what you don’t really need, reduce – reduce the consumption of what you need, reuse – use things multiple times, recycle – goes without saying, rot – compost your food.
NORWEGIAN TRASH TALK: On average each person in Norway produced about 433 kg (!) trash in 2016 (1).
How did you get interested in it?
I realized that I was becoming vain. Suddenly I was into high-end makeup, and certain labels, with no thought for the person who made it – or what ingredients were in the products I bought. I used to be a politically active teenager and didn’t really recognize myself anymore. So I started researching how I could become environmentally friendly, reduce my carbon footprint and consume without other people having to suffer. Slowly, I started to change my habits, decluttered my life – and got into zero waste.
How does a meal become zero waste?
Buy as many ingredients you can package free, or make stuff yourself. You don’t have to buy those plastic wrapped tortillas, you can totally make them from scratch. Try to choose sustainable brands when possible, skip the meat when you can – and don’t throw out the leftovers. Pop them in the fridge for lunch the next day. Recycle or reuse any packaging.
What are your top five zero waste hacks for the daily life?
- Buy dry goods like beans, coffee, and popcorn in bulk with a cloth bag.
- Always keep a reusable cup in your bag
- Keep a spare tote bag in your purse or backpack.
- Be nice when you ask to have cheese, bread or whatever put into your food containers. If you’re nice it’s so much easier.
- If you find a store with self-checkout counters: use them! It will save you loads of funny looks.
Is it challenging to go zero waste in Norway?
Partially. In Oslo, we have a few stores made for zero waste people like myself, but the products can be quite pricey. I go there for dried goods and opt for my local shop or international food store for vegetables and sweets. Our food budget is somewhat limited, as my boyfriend is still in university.
In some of the bigger cities, there’s been an increase in zero waste/eco-friendly food stores in the past few years. But try staying zero waste in my hometown… it’s impossible.
What are your favorite zero waste products?
My coffee cup, cloth bags, menstrual cup and fountain pen. And my backpack.
Zero waste is a probably a big leap for most of us (authors included) but we really want to strive to follow Stines footsteps, and every small action counts. How about starting with saving your glass jars and use them for smoothies or to store bulk foods in, or bringing your own cup when you buy coffee in the morning? Personally, this is a bit of a barrier, but it will keep your coffee warm longer!
Zero waste shopping can, with some planning, be done in many regular shops, but some specialty stores in Europe are worth mentioning for those interested:
- Mølleren Sylvia, Oslo, Norway
- Råvarene, Bergen, Norway
- Grenen, Oslo, Norway
- Maria Granel, Lisboa, Portugal
- Go Natural, Portugal
- Gran Malmö, Sweden
- FOFI, Zurich, Switzerland
- Super Monkey, Brussels, Belgium
- Casa Perris, Barcelona, Spain
If you need even more zero waste inspiration, Pinterest is a great source!