Speaking to the wonderful Bianca and Giulio behind some of the best zero waste soaps and deodorants in the UK, about living zero waste was always going to be amazing
Bianca behind Zero Waste Path and together with Giulio the founders and creators behind the amazing Zero Waste Path Shop, spoke to us about their amazing journey in living more zero waste. Both having studied or studying Environmental sustainability, they know what they’re talking about when it comes to becoming environmentally aware.
Starting in February 2016, they have reduced their waste bit by bit, all while building an amazing business that is built with ethics, love for environment and zero waste through and through.
‘Bianca and Giulio, thank you so much for speaking to me about your journey to living more zero waste, and being such a lovely people! I can’t wait to hear your story, please tell us what got you started on your zero waste path?’
Bianca – It all started from an article about Lauren Singer (Trash is For Tossers), I read about her and decided to research more into this zero waste concept, and I immediately fell in love with the idea of having practical tips that you could actually do!
It made me feel empowered and like if my actions, even the daily basics one, had a meaning, and potentially, an impact!
Giulio – I started changing my own lifestyle when Bianca became more careful when it came to single use plastics. In my case, there was no single event that inspired me to change my habits and lifestyle, and it was more of a progressive learning experience, where I became interested and started reading about the problems related to waste.
I do know however that several documentaries and tv shows have had major impacts in terms of raising awareness, especially in the UK, where the zero waste movement has grown exponentially in the past 2 years.
‘Bianca, I felt the exact same when I started making changes, very empowering and feeling like I was making a difference – something others hopefully recognise in themselves. It certainly has taken off in the UK thankfully! What does zero waste mean to the duo behind Zero Waste Path Shop though?’
Giulio – To me, zero waste means trying to do one’s best to reduce waste creation. This does not mean reducing completely the waste we create but rather, put an effort into doing what we can.
I am convinced that it is important for individuals to play a role in driving environmental change, and adopting a ‘zero waste’ mindset is a way to send a message and communicate my preferences to the relevant industries.
Bianca – For me it was a starting point that then lead me to reflect on other aspects of trying to live sustainably.
But if talking just about zero waste it means trying to reduce the waste you produce, firstly the non recyclable one, then the recyclable and compostable waste – while also trying to waste less in general. So it’s a mindset in which you give more value to the resources, food, energy, materials, all of them!
That said, human sustainability plays a role too, not just towards the rest of the world (for example by buying ethically produced products) but also towards yourself, the zero waste lifestyle should not be perceived as something strict, but more like a guideline for your daily life that can be shaped around your needs and possibilities.
‘I think that’s a really good point actually, that it’s not just what other people are doing and that there are other approaches to it – also the not being just about physical waste. Was it a difficult transition for yourselves or were there resources readily available around you with just small things you could change at least?’
Bianca – It depends, it definitely requires an adjusting period, like for all new habits.
I think that if you don’t take it strictly, it’s not. I research more before buying new products, but that has led me to buying less and better things that I truly love. I often go the extra mile, sometimes literally *laughs* to be able to do things zero waste or more sustainably, but it’s not something I do every single time, and when I do it’s an exciting thing, a sort of little trip!
When I can’t, am too tired, am craving something or simply don’t have other options, I do things the standard way, and that’s fine too, it doesn’t eliminate the “good”!
Giulio – Initially it’s difficult, yes. When you start realising how much waste we create in our daily lives, it can be overwhelming. In my case, I remember how we tried to minimise the use of plastic in every way we could, often spending more for zero waste options, and travelling to the other side of the city just to shop ‘zero waste’.
Over time, you learn where the best places to shop ‘zero waste’ are, and you also learn when it is time to give up on some small things, and to accept that sometimes, waste is inevitable.
In the long-term, I have to say that my lifestyle now is a lot simpler, I use less without compromising on the quality of my lifestyle. I am happier, with less.
‘This is going to sound really cheesy but there is such a simple, yet wholesome and humbling feeling when it comes to reducing waste, and it seems to be recognised by so many who have begun their journey to zero waste.
It’s great to hear more people agree that it’s ok to have slips and cravings too as long as we’re working for the greater good in the long run with everything else. So, on that positive note, what has been the easiest areas in your lives to change?’
Bianca – Making my own toiletries, that’s where I started. The reason I find this easier is that a lot of times you can use pure ingredients (that’s what I do for face and body moisturisers and makeup remover) and the DIY’s are usually very simple and don’t require crazy ingredients.
I love making my own products for many reasons, I save money while having the best quality products I’ve ever had, I have learned a lot about natural ingredients and how to recognise natural products, and because my toiletries are so basic and don’t depend on a specific brand, I can find the ingredients and make them anywhere in the world!
Giulio – Definitely stopping to buy water in plastic bottles, buying a reusable stainless steel flask. This small swap as huge implications in terms of plastic waste, and you also save a lot of money doing it!
Another big, easy swap is stopping to buy plastic bags in supermarkets, and always bringing with you a couple of tote bags in case you need to buy something. This may seem small, but in the long run, it pays off!
‘We obviously love the products you make and can’t wait for our customers to try them out! Also, these are such simple things people can reduce so it’s a bit puzzling as to why there are so many people still buying these products. Do you think it’s a financial thing that stops people from reducing their own waste?’
Giulio – This is a very complex question, as it really depends on your vision of zero waste. In some cases, buying zero waste products may be more expensive in the short term, but way cheaper in the long run. Most of our zero waste buys are durable, high quality stuff that we have had for years. For example, buying a £25 stainless steel bottle may sound expensive, but then when it last for years, you realise that you are in fact saving money.
In my personal experience, living zero waste, we realised how most of the things we used to buy were in fact useless, and we greatly reduced the amount of products we use in our life, and if you do that, living zero waste will be way cheaper. But still, if you want to replicate your lifestyle, having lots of products of all kinds in your house, just zero waste, may end up being more expensive.
Bianca – Mmh not completely. I think that you learn to spend money differently when you live more zero waste.
In the daily life I spend more for food but almost nothing for cosmetics, cleaning products, new things and clothes. This past year since I was studying I was living with £850 per month (of which ~£450/500 of rent+bills), so well below the living wage, and I was still able to live mostly zero waste. The past few months I had an even stricter budget due to investing some money on our company, and that made it more challenging, but still not completely impossible!
I found a lot of loose products from Sainsbury’s (the large ones), I choose a few things on which to spend a little more because I really loved them. Even if I was buying some plastic packaged food, there were still a lot of one-off things that were zero waste no matter what I did, like the fact that we clean just with vinegar, or the fact that we make our own toiletries!
That said, the “ideal” close-to-no-landfill-waste lifestyle is not accessible to everyone, you need to have zero waste friendly stores, you need the extra time or money to meal prep, make your own bread and so on. Sometimes zero waste options are more expensive. As I was saying earlier I think that money-wise it mostly offsets, but not everyone has the opportunity to wait for it to level itself!
‘This is why we are committed to making it accessible as there are a few barriers when it comes to living more zero waste and let’s face it, if there isn’t the infrastructure there, then nobody can no matter what their situation. What barriers do you still have nowadays?’
Bianca – Food is definitely the hardest, and simply because it’s something you need to buy continuously, and few places have access to zero waste option. Even the cities that have them usually only have a couple, and they may be very far away from where you live!
Now that we’re back in Cambridge we’re definitely producing more waste due to not having any zero waste shop nearby (the closest one is in London!). We intend to start buying some things in bulk, this way we’ll reduce the overall packaging!
This is something we’ve always done for what regards pasta (we buy it in 5kg bags), it’s a great way to solve the waste problem, but it requires a little investment or a group of people willing to share the costs!
Giulio – We all have some things we can hardly live without, and for me that is Italian coffee. We have now found a solution, as we buy loose coffee at the market (it still comes in big plastic bags), but sometimes I do still buy some Italian coffee, as I really miss it!
‘Our friends at Full Circle Shop should hopefully be able to help you soon with that aspect! We all have our bits we cannot give up, for me it’s tea at the moment (NB for our customers – we’ll be stocking loose along with our food stock soon).
While we allow ourselves these little things, what else keeps you going along your zero waste path?’
Giulio – I have started mainly for environmental reasons, but over time I have come to appreciate other aspects, such as the money aspect (we save a lot living this lifestyle).
I feel much better about my lifestyle, it led me to set up my own business, and indeed I save money, so lots of benefits!
Bianca – I think the fact that it makes me feel good. As someone that has struggled with depression her entire life, being able to have these tiny happy moments for everyday things like brushing my teeth or going grocery shopping (when I can do it zero waste) is pretty amazing!
I also feel more independent, more self-sufficient as now I am able to distinguish a sustainable company from one that is doing green washing, I can rely on simple ingredients to make a lot of things, and overall I’ve learned a lot.
The happy feeling comes from knowing that I’m doing my share into trying to make our way of living and consuming more sustainable. For the planet, yes, but first of all, for the people that would be impacted by things like climate change.
Lots of benefits for me too – I am able to spend very little, no matter what my budget is, I feel happier, I’ve learned many things about recycling and generally ingredients, I have met like-minded people and made new friends! [And held a TEDx talk!]
‘I’m so happy to hear this and happy you’re both happier and you’ve built such an amazing community and business from it all too. So to continue the positivity of our interview together, what advice would you give to people just starting their zero waste journey?’
Bianca – Give yourself time to make the various changes, don’t feel overwhelmed and don’t judge yourself for what you can’t do.
Always remember that the economy and society we live in are not designed for this lifestyle, so anytime you can do things zero waste you should truly celebrate it, and when you can’t do things “perfectly” remember that it’s not your fault and doesn’t eliminate all the great changes and successes you’ve had!
Giulio – Do start! The first step is always the hardest, but things get easier as you go!
‘Thank you so much for your interview! It’s been wonderful to hear and speak with you both.’
You’ll be able to find their products within our online shop and at markets very soon as they’re arriving with us any day now! We’re so excited to stock their ranges!