Today we had the pleasure of talking to Minna about her wonderful zero waste journey. Packed full of inspiration and tips we hope you enjoy reading her story about how changing your mindset has such an impact on your waste contributions.

From Oxfordshire, at 45 years old Minna has made massive changes towards making her life and footprint more sustainable in the past three years. She doesn’t put herself down for things she can’t change or isn’t willing to change, but makes up for it in many other ways to create a zero waste life balance that works for her.

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Minna Harkonen our latest zero waste hero

Hi Minna! Thank you so much for talking to us today, it’s great to speak to you more in depth. So, we always ask everyone we interview as it can be a personal thing to everyone and everyone always has a different perspective of it – what does zero waste mean to you?

In a nutshell, it means trying to lead a sustainable lifestyle that has a minimum environmental impact.

Not only is it about reducing the amount of waste going into landfill and recycling more but also about changing your mindset and habits as a consumer – buying less, choosing durable good-quality products when you need to purchase something new (or second-hand), and avoiding single-use items.

I think it’s also important to try to see the bigger picture and consider issues such as the origin and manufacturing process of the goods you buy, where your food comes from, how green your energy supplier is, and how you travel, whether it’s for work or pleasure.

This is why we love asking that question, because everyone interprets it from a different angle and elaborates in different ways but the core message seems to be changing your mindset and attitude. Great to hear. So is this relatively new to you or have you been implementing changes for a while now?

I had never considered myself particularly wasteful but it was a bit of a shock when I realised how much more I needed to do than just dutifully recycle recyclables, bin the rubbish, or compost leftovers!

I started to make more significant changes maybe 3-4 years ago and I’m still very much on the journey. Once you achieve something, there’s always another challenge to tackle.

Water refills on the go – Minna

There’s always something! So, 3/4 years ago you said you make more significant changes, was there something that spurred you to do so, or something that made you stop and re-evaluate the waste you were producing even though you were composting and recycling?

I became interested in minimalism a few years back and was really inspired by blogs such as Becoming Minimalist and Break the Twitch when I was trying to declutter and just get more order in my home.

As minimalism is about removing excess and focusing on what you really care about and need, it felt natural to explore zero waste living as well, especially after stumbling upon Lindsay Miles’s wonderful Treading My own Path and Anne Marie Bonneau’s The Zero Waste Chef  blogs that really opened my eyes. We don’t often think anything of buying items – including fresh food – in excessive single-use packaging, choosing disposables because they make life convenient, or having a huge number of toiletries or cleaning products because we have been told we need them all.

First I got my core set of reusables – a thermos mug, a water bottle, and an extra canvas bag to go in my rucksack – and slowly continued to make further changes

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Zero waste core kit – Minna

They are great inspirations! We follow them too and they’re always great for tips and advice. Would you say living zero waste is difficult?

If you try to do everything at once, yes! A lot depends on your circumstances as well: you may have health, mobility, or budget issues, your council’s recycling options may be limited, or there may not be any bulk stores or markets near by.

However, I think awareness alone is a great start, and we can all do something: refuse a receipt or a straw, take our own shopping bags, limit impulse buying, or pick litter.

If you take baby steps and let the small changes become new habits, a more zero waste life is ‘just normal’.

The power of practising refusal is definitely undervalued as impulse buying seems to be a massive culprit. Accessibility and limitations are some big barriers for a lot of people, but hopefully something that will be remedied soon the more zero waste and bulk stores pop up. You mentioned budget can be an issue too for people as definitely agreed. So do you think living more zero waste is a financial burden?

It should not become one.

Unfortunately plastic-wrapped food is often cheaper than loose produce, local markets can’t compete with supermarket prices, and the upfront cost of some reusables can be high.

My main mantra is often ‘think before you buy’: do I already have something at home I can use, do I really need this, can I borrow an item instead of buying, could seasonal local produce replace a more expensive ingredient in a recipe?

Our circumstances are different and very few of us can do everything even if we wanted to but we can all do something and make progress at our own pace within our means.

Love your spirit and wholeheartedly agree. When you began living more mindfully of your impact and waste contributions, what changes were the easiest to make?

Quite a few have been surprisingly easy, such as carrying a thermos mug and a water bottle at all times, taking a homemade lunch to work, replacing hand wash with soap bars, switching to a renewable energy supplier – and making my own hummus and deodorant.

I’m definitely not a person who naturally enjoys making things so for me to find something like that easy means it’s really very simple!

zero waste food glasgow
Homemade hummus – Minna

All very simple changes! Plus homemade hummus is so much better, dare we be bias. Did you come across any difficulties or do you still find some areas difficult when looking for zero waste swaps and living with less impact?

Some of my staple foods come only in plastic packaging and I’m not ready to give them up.

Having family and friends abroad also means I regularly travel by air although I usually travel by ferry or train as much as possible.

There’s always got to be a balance isn’t there, what will fit into people’s lives to make it a life worth living and as full as possible. So what inspires you the most?

My main concerns are the environment and animal welfare.

Being able to do ‘something’ feels really good too although at the same time I’m always aware of how much more should be done, also by governments and big companies.

Have you done anything else during your journey to becoming zero waste to inspire others?

I have joined a couple of Facebook groups to exchange ideas, started to make some of my own products such as the aforementioned deodorant and hummus, and chatted with friends and colleagues about waste and ways to reduce it.

be prepared zero waste glasgow
Multipurpose reusables! – Minna showing us that containers can be used for most foods, not just the original intention

Getting people involved in the conversation is really important isn’t it. What do you think has benefit you the most since making these changes?

Zero waste living has definitely simplified my life and I have made some great connections and friends both through social media and at the local community.

It has also helped me spend less as I now really think before I purchase any new ‘stuff’. I’m definitely more into experiences anyway.

There’s a real community vibe over this way of living that’s reaching across the world, it’s been great to be a part of it and glad it’s given you so much more in your community and with friends while also saving some money! What would your advice be to people new to changing their attitudes towards waste and plastics?

See what your ‘weaknesses’ are or what you throw away most and start from there.

Instead of trying to do everything at once, make a couple of small changes at a time. If you can get your family or some friends on board, it’s easier and more fun, too, as you can do it together.

zero waste shop glasgow
Zero Waste Shopping from the market, including refills – Minna

We’d like to thank Minna again for giving her time to us to tell us about her life living more zero waste. If you’d like to follow her on Instagram – follow her here @minnamilist 

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