With the masses of people we speak to on a daily basis about zero waste, it’s lovely to know that young people in Glasgow are making a conscious effort for localised change, especially when young people appear to get the blame a lot of the time
We interviewed Laura, one of our amazing sponsors for our crowdfunder a few weeks ago, you’ll probably know her as @lesswastelaura on Instagram. Being a 21 year old and living more zero waste doesn’t have to stop you from living your best life, as Laura evidently shows, it just takes preparation as she rightly puts it.
Like Sophie, Laura also studied Environmental Science and Geography and it opened her eyes to the magnitude of the issues we face as a planet and society. It’s a really gruelling subject that can either depress you thinking there’s nothing we can do, or it can have the effect of making you want to do everything you can to change the status quo, we’re glad she’s chosen the latter.
Laura, thank you so much for the interview, it’s great to have another Glasgow girl to talk all things zero waste with us! So when did this all come about for you? Have you always been environmentally minded or was there a catalyst moment for you?
Throughout my childhood I was always aware of excess waste and junk in my day-to-day life, but it wasn’t until the beginning of 2018 when I realised I had to make the decision to radically remove waste, plastic and unnecessary products from my life.
This time coincides with finishing my undergraduate degree in Geography and Environmental Science from the University of Dundee, where studying and seeing the physical impacts of human actions on both the physical and social aspects of our Earth drove me to accelerate living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.
Ahh another Environmental Science student! It’s hard going isn’t it? But so worth it. Was there anything specific to the start of 2018 that made you want to do more? Like a resolution or was it something else that just really hit home?
This all started because I realised that our Earth is a holy resource which was gifted to us, which we were entrusted with to care for and thrive in, however our actions do the complete opposite, exploiting and degrading so many aspects of this planet – something had to change, and change starts with yourself.
The phrase ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ is a daily motivation, reminding me that, simply put, if you want something done right you’ve got to do it yourself…and encourage people along the way.
I think I would be lying if I didn’t say that the final episode of the Blue Planet II documentaries didn’t move me completely to tears in seeing what degradation of the Earth’s landscapes, resources and living creatures has occurred from our pollution. This series put the images of our Earth’s pollution right on the big screen for everyone to see – and this really got me rattled up to stand up and make a change for our environment, and make it a public one!
This is the reason I started my social media pages for Less Waste Laura, to show others the changes I have made and to inspire other to cut out their waste and be more environmentally aware. It also gave me the opportunity to trial and error a lot of lifestyle changes and products to try to make swaps and sacrifices easier for anyone listening.
We’ve loved following your page, it’s great to see such positivity behind your changes that you’ve been making and with such a great following, there are so many people we’re sure you’ve opened the eyes of many to living zero waste. What does living zero waste mean to you specifically?
Being zero waste to me means being entirely conscious of the waste produced by an individual’s lifestyle and taking substantial steps to mitigate against producing this, avoiding some of the biggest environmental polluters and harmful materials.
Personally this looks like cutting out unnecessary clutter from my life, finding alternatives to excess packaging, plastic and tackling a consumerism culture.
It’s such a freeing experience for a lot of people and there seems to be a theme – less clutter = less stress = less impact on the Earth. Was it difficult to change your lifestyle and habits?
For me, no. Living a zero waste lifestyle can be so easy – with preparation really all waste, plastic and excess waste is totally avoidable. However, amenities, accessibility and availability are key in delivering this.
Of course it is easy to be zero waste when you live in a city with bulk packaging free shops to get groceries, or have enough spare time to explore the options for preparing your daily life to avoid mainly food and beverage packaging – however for many people living zero waste could be near impossible.
I am a 21-year-old individual with no dependants and plenty of spare time to explore independent zero waste shops and all the time in the world to prepare meals and snacks for on the go to avoid daily waste.
With dependants, it’s a lot more work at times, but you get used to it – just readjusting habits and preparing ahead for more than one person really. Access to package free / bulk shops is key though for a lot of people and not always there unfortunately, thankfully more and more are popping up though. What changes do you still find difficult to make, if any?
There are still many aspects of living zero waste which I find difficult to change – snack items in non-recyclable packaging and make up products are two things which jump to mind.
Craving a sweet treat when out and about is difficult – sometimes jumping into a news agent to get a bar of chocolate is easier and cheaper than making your way to a shop which sells loose baked goods or something similar.
The other – make up products – is difficult because there is such a limited choice (almost none) of plastic free make up products which makes it feel like a massive sacrifice. I have ended up almost never wearing make-up because of this – which is not a solution just avoiding the problem
True, sometimes I’ve found myself giving in to the odd chocolate snack because of cravings but felt so guilty afterwards. The make-up situation is something not a lot of people mention though, so very good point there. How do you feel it’s affected you financially?
In short, not really.
The majority of the lifestyle or product swaps I have made have saved me money and will continue to for a long time. However, in saying that, many of these swaps have required a small investment into my future which many people may see as an initial financial burden.
Key examples are products such as reusable cotton pads, a menstrual cup, beeswax wraps, your own reusable bags and a good quality water bottle – all of which are much more expensive than the single use disposable alternatives, however when you weigh up the longevity of these products it’s a simple decision to invest.
One thing to note is that being zero waste, for me, also includes battling consumerism, and going zero waste means not buying the ‘kit’ to have – but looking at what you already have and using these resources fully.
We completely agree! It’s a long term investment that generally people appear to forget, yet when it all adds up, there is a lot more spent. The mindset of grabbing a bargain appears to have been ingrained in our minds as the best option, when really it’s not a bargain for anyone. So, what were the easiest changes to make convenience and cost wise?
The easiest swaps, and the ones that have brought me the most convenience and saved me the most money, would be:
- a menstrual cup
- bamboo toothbrush
- bars of deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and soap
- carrying a food ‘kit’ of reusable water bottle, bamboo cutlery, metal reusable straws and an elephant box lunch tin
- cotton produce bags to buy loose fruit, veg and pantry items.
These swaps have made sure that I am always prepared for any situation to avoid the most common disposable waste.
There are such easy swaps for people to make, just packing a ‘zero waste kit’ of what you need as you said, can eliminate so much unnecessary waste. When you brought your friends to the stall it was great to firstly meet you in person but so inspiring to see how enthusiastic your friends were about it as well – Is there anything you’ve gotten involved with or started on the back of becoming more zero waste?
I have organised litter pick events at the University of Dundee and with Newton Mearns Baptist Church alongside consulting with the Catalyst Conferences to implement more eco-friendly practices.
I organised a week-long Eco Harvest challenge for Newton Mearns Baptist Church which will be running in October and have been working closely with Tearfund discussing zero waste and my personal lifestyle with regards to that.
Wow, so you’ve been so involved with a lot of things to say the least, the radio segment was excellent we must say AND we saw you were recently part of the Big British Beach Clean Up event too, so inspiring to see and hear! With everything you get involved with, what benefits do you feel from living more sustainably and zero waste?
Specifically from the social media community I have found so many like-minded people and met shop and business owners through this who bring joy to my life seeing the work they do and give me so much inspiration to continue living this way and advocate as much as I can.
(Thank you again Laura for your continued support of Society Zero, including your crowdfunder shares and pledge)
Then there are the practical benefits from saving money, increasing my preparedness, and generally slowing down my life – giving me more chance to step back and enjoy our wonderful world.
It’s been a great community to be a part of, including meeting you, as such a great advocate for living more zero waste and also another local for Glasgow (although you’ve now sadly left us for Edinburgh – excuse us while we cry in sadness but excitement for your new ventures) What inspires you to keep going and what tips would you give to new people wanting to change habits and reduce their impact?
My daily motivation comes from seeing all of the good work that is done and shown through social media platforms. Seeing the conservation, litter picks and environmental advocacy work being pushed daily keeps my mind focused on why this is important.
It is entirely personal too – seeing how much waste I can save and how easy it now is that I’m in a routine – I imagine others doing the same and seeing the big picture – hence why I started to post on social media to hopefully promote and influence this lifestyle.
The biggest tip is trial and error – and don’t give up! So many swaps take a little time to adjust but once you’ve got the hang of it – it’s so much better!
Making the time to tackle one swap at a time is a recurring piece of advice from our interviewees and zero waste heroes we will always reiterate – tackle one thing, then move onto the next change you can make.
Good luck Laura in all of your new ventures, you’re not so far away so we hope to see you again soon! Thank you so much again for all of your previous and continued support.
Laura has recently moved to Edinburgh and will be kitting out her new flat with as many second hand items to reduce waste, so keep an eye out on her social media to see what she comes up with! She has already begun shopping at local bulk stores such as at our friends at the New Leaf Co-op.
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