We stumbled across Tammy’s incredible blog on how to live a zero waste lifestyle. With the world beginning to ban plastic bags at mainstream supermarkets, we thought it was a great time to get Tammy on the airwaves and hear all about her inspiring lifestyle. We won’t lie, this episode is an absolute ripper!

How did she get started living a zero waste life?

Tammy started a blog when she had a deep desire to live a zero waste life, one without the use of palm oil. She started this in 2014 when some wildlife researchers came into her workplace who study seabirds. They presented the problem of how much plastic is having an impact on seabirds, showing a video of the birds being cut open, and plastic erupting from their stomachs. It was the equivalent of about 6kg in a human’s stomach. As you can imagine it was pretty confronting and absolutely shocking making her wonder what she could do about it to help.

It wasn’t until six months later where she stumbled across the Plastic Free July challenge (which is on right now!) and wanted to give it a go. Tammy, couldn’t stop once she started! Her blog has become her way of expressing the changes she’d implemented in her life and helps to amplify the impact of her actions. Now she has followers globally and it’s become a huge passion of hers!

What would Tammy do?

It’s funny because so many of Tammy’s friends have said that they’ve stood in the supermarket aisle looking at all the food products thinking ‘What would Tammy do?’ Admittedly, she’d spent hours in the supermarket trying to find swaps for plastic items and had to learn to shop differently and at different places, discover bulk food stores and local businesses.

There are some things that are just so hard to avoid that are wrapped up in plastic, like block cheese and meat from the butcher. When it comes to the butcher, she would actually take her own containers which is something you might want to ask your butcher about, but nine times out of ten they will be fine with it. Once you find somewhere that’s happy to help out then stick with them! Supermarkets, on the other hand, won’t let you bring your own containers.

A lot of people seem to have an opinion that plastic-free is really hard, and sure the first few months take a bit of getting used to, but it just becomes second nature!

What are some really simple things that we can implement now?

  • Obviously remembering your reusable shopping bags is great, but also pay attention to the amount of fresh produce plastic bags you use. You can avoid these by buying re-usable ones.  Make these out of mesh materials that are lying around the home, like old lace curtains and orange mesh bags.
  • The bread bag is something you can avoid by taking reusable bags to the baker and buying the loaf on its own.
  • Purchase a reusable cup for purchasing coffee or tea.
  • Reusable drink bottles so you can avoid buying any water in a plastic bottle.
  • Refusing straws is a huge one, you can get a reusable straw but really, you can still drink with your lips and it’s no big deal to go without!
  • Making sure you get rid of cling wrap and tin foil. Take advantage of all the amazing food covers that are now available. Use containers or a plate on top of another plate, and just be creative with tea towels and beeswax wraps.
  • You can re-use things like baking paper.  You might be surprised that baking paper can be composted, rather than being thrown out in the landfill!
  • Buy real butter that’s wrapped just in parchment paper so it tends to be no-name brands. This is great to reuse as baking paper!
  • You can swap out shampoo with shampoo soap bars.  Moved onto bamboo toothbrushes, which when finished you can just snap the heads off and re-use the handles as labels in the garden, which also break down in the compost as well.
  • Use package-free soap bars around the house for cleaning, by making up hot soapy water. It’s great for stain removal in the laundry and cleaning the dishes.
  • Bath towels that are made from cotton which is a natural material, once they become a bit worn down, you can cut them down into tea towels. When they get worn down again, then cut them down and they become our dishcloths. After their life is over as a dishcloth, they come out of the wash and start to get really thin, and you can actually pull the fibres apart, which can go straight into the compost and break down into the soil. Even though a paper towel can go into the compost, it’s still a single-use item that you can totally avoid.
  • Composting for the veggie garden, you can consume the vegetables and then the scraps can go into the compost, which is a whole circular movement of items around the house.
  • Use a ziplock bag for your kid’s lunches and reuse them over and over and over. If you do have to use plastic just try and use it as much as possible.

So what can we recycle?

Some people have trouble avoiding plastic and feel there’s a real lack of education around what can actually be recycled. There is a great program called Redcycle which is the recycling of soft plastics like frozen pea bags, grape bags and anything you can scrunch up. They have special bins at all Coles stores now, and a lot of Woolworths stores. This gets turned into things like park benches and boardwalks so it’s a pretty amazing project. It’s all processed in Victoria too rather than offshore!

With bigger items, like chairs, desks or toys that do have plastic parts, Tammy’s focus has always been going for second-hand items. Whenever she goes into an op-shop she gets so overwhelmed with just how much top quality stuff is in there. You can get great toys, clothes and furniture and even fix them up to improve it or customise it. Repairing your own stuff at home is also very important.

It can be hard to fight the battle especially with teenage children and teaching them to re-use items rather than throwing items out and simply upgrading. It’s doing just one thing repeated again and again, that things start to truly add up. A lot of people think ‘Oh what difference will it make if it’s just me making changes?’

You can do a bin audit, and actually, go through your bin and see what’s in there. That will let you know where you can start. Usually, it’s the organic waste. Composting is an awesome thing and reduces your waste to about half. Around 40-70% of what’s in your garbage can go into your compost.

One person can make a huge difference

While it can be overwhelming just how much plastic waste is going on, when we band together, that one individual choice to become better at reducing waste goes a long way. It takes courage to share your plastic-free lifestyle with others, but you can inspire so many people to be better!

Social psychology does show that it makes a huge difference in what you do, as you’re creating a new social norm. The more people we see doing something, the more acceptable it is to us, and the more likely we are to do it ourselves. This is how we create the movement.

It’s so empowering when you begin to reuse simple items around the home, and it allows you to be super creative. Achieving zero waste is all about the micro decisions that we make every day. By taking it one step at a time, you’ll find after a little while that you’ve made a whole lot of changes that are really adding up to a big difference.

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