We interviewed Julia Degerth, who writes Grön i Åbo -blog in Swedish and English. Here are some of her thoughts on living a zero waste life! We got really inspired by her, hopefully you’ll get too!
What made you go zero waste and how long have you pursued the lifestyle?
I have always been very conscious and wanted to make a difference in the world – on many different levels. When I was 11 years old I hear about climate change and global warming for the first time and ever since that I have wanted to save the planet. For many years I just did “average” things to live sustainably, but in 2016 I decided to try out the Zero Waste lifestyle just to see if I actually could make it – and I did.
Do you think anyone can live according to zero waste principles?
I don’t think anyone wherever in the world can live a Zero Waste lifestyle but I do think that most people could have very little waste! It is easy to say that you can live Zero Waste if you don’t need any kind of medication or if you aren’t allergic to many foods and so on, but if you do need medication then it definitely gets harder. Also, I think you have to be kind of happy and energetic to be able to live a Zero Waste lifestyle through everything in your life – I don’t know if I could wash reusable baby diapers as a stressed-out mum, for example. So no, it probably doesn’t work that way but everyone can have a very small amount of garbage, however. That I am sure of.
Should society do more to support the circular economy? In what ways?
I think we should have more repair shops, for example. The society tells us that it is easy and cheap to throw away and buy new, instead of fixing what can be fixed. We make trash normal and we make it OK to just throw away our stuff. No one is talking about what actually happens to all the things that are thrown away, and that is a serious problem.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out with zero waste? Where should one begin?
Well, the advice I got myself was to look into my own trash and figure out where it all came from. For me, food in plastics were a really big part of my trash. And when I saw that, I had to think about how I could change that. Where could I buy vegetables without packaging? Where could I buy meat in my own jar or box? Where are there spices in bulk for sale? It took me a long time (and actually it is a process that is still going on) to find all these Zero Waste ingredients in Turku. I have been surprised how many Zero Waste options there are in my hometown!
What kind of challenges do you face?
I think one big challenge has been the attitude of other people. Some laugh at me, think I am crazy and others want to find flaws in what I do. I think that is so unnecessary! My goal is not to make the world Zero Waste or be the perfect human being, my goal is to show people alternatives and help them produce less waste. So sometimes I am very afraid of failing since I feel that people are watching me. Another difficult thing about Zero Waste is living according to it when you are feeling down or are in a bad place in life. You might find it harder to go Zero Waste food shopping and overall I think living sustainably for the environment is really tricky if your life is upside down. So you have to remember that maybe at those points, it is more about living sustainably for you and not the planet.
How has zero waste altered your life or made it better?
Zero Waste has changed my life in crazy ways! I have become very independent partially because of all the opportunities it has given me, like participating in different events, helping companies and organisations to create Zero Waste reputations and happenings, all the lectures and workshops I have held to spread the word… so many things have happened! But if you look at the lifestyle itself, I would say that it has given me perspective on life. I have started to see things I didn’t see before – I have tasted vegetables I didn’t even know of a few years ago, I have given myself a good feeling by not throwing anything away, I have found new ethical companies and started questioning the “normal” lifestyle and started to think that being different is valuable! Zero Waste has also saved me a lot of time since I don’t stress about going shopping or finding thousands of Christmas gifts for my friends and relatives. Zero Waste has also given me new friends through all the collaborations I have done and I am extremely grateful for that.
Check out Julia’s Grön i Åbo -blog.