Zero Waste Week: What is zero waste and what does it mean to us at Incredible Bulk?

Today marks the start of Zero Waste Week set up by Rachelle Strauss in 2008. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the environmental impact of waste and looks to empower people to reduce their own waste. We thought it was a good opportunity to take a step back and look at our own zero waste journey and what it means to us as a business.

Zero waste has become a hot topic over the last decade and since that impactful final episode of Blue Planet 2 earlier this year, reducing waste (particularly plastic) has been on everyone’s mind. Our zero waste journey started 5 years ago while travelling. In a small café in Luang Prabang we were lucky enough to come across a viewing of Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man, originally released in 2009, based on his book released in the same year. The documentary followed Colin on his year long experiment with his family in New York to have zero impact on the environment. The documentary was honest and real, not polished or heavily edited and Colin’s passion and determination was an inspiration. We had both started to see the impact of plastic waste first hand, particularly when we were travelling to remote, seemingly ‘unspoilt’ islands in Indonesia. The combination of this experience and seeing this movie made the issue of waste and our impact on the planet real and tangible for us.

For Colin, the idea of zero waste for his experiment was ‘to go as far as possible and try to maintain as close to no net environmental impact.’ ‘Zero carbon - yes- but also zero waste in the ground, zero pollution in the air, zero resources sucked from the earth, zero toxins in the water…no environmental impact.’

He asked some difficult questions of the choices we all make that were hard to ignore:

‘How truly necessary are many of the conveniences we take for granted but that, in their manufacture and use, hurt our habitat? How much of our consumption of the planet's resources actually makes us happier and how much just keeps us chained up as wage slaves?’

And by analysing his waste, uncovered the issue of single-use packaging, which made us look at our own waste and packaging:

‘It was not trash per se that got me. It was the throwing away of things used for less than five minutes without so much as a thought before reaching for the exact same product to use for another five minutes before throwing that away, too.’

Following the documentary, we went on to read the book and from there more research followed. We came across Lauren Singer, found on Instagram as her famous handle Trash is for Tossers. Having a visual guide through Instagram was great and acted as an awesome reminder whenever scrolling through! Lauren defines zero waste as ‘No sending anything to landfill, no throwing anything in a trash can, nothing.’ Lauren also came to zero-waste living by becoming conscious of waste, seeing a fellow Environmental Studies classmate come to lunch with disposable water bottle, takeout containers and single-use bag, unintentionally harming the planet they were there to study and protect.

A further resource and inspiration came through Lauren as she sites Bea Johnson as an inspiration and resource on her own zero-waste journey and we’re sure if you’re interested in zero waste you would’ve heard of Bea and her famous 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot; that helped her and her family reduce their waste year on year. In her first blog post on the 24th Dec 2009 she writes  ‘I am inspired to share my experience and open ground for discussion, after all we all play a part on this (endangered) earth. I have put my family on a waste diet for the past 12 months, analyzing whatever comes in contact with the bottom of our one home trash can and slowly trying to get it as close to zero waste as possible. In this past year, I have learned to shop, refuse (what is given to me), reduce, reuse, and recycle as little possible (for only such a small percentage of our trash is actually recycled).’

So it was these 3 that became our founding mentors of what it means to be zero waste and how we came to implement changes in our personal lives, starting where they all started – becoming aware of our waste and looking for ways to reduce it.

We created Incredible Bulk to give people an easier option to reduce the amount of waste they create – that’s the front end of the business.  Equally the back end of the business also needs to be in line with these values. We are very aware of how we manage the waste that the business creates (when we buy our products from our suppliers for example) and make sure that where possible nothing gets discarded or goes to landfill.  It often takes more time, more money and is definitely not as easy or convenient – many people on a zero waste journey will be able to relate to this, but as Colin says in No Impact Man - ‘whether it’s human nature or industrial systems that need to change, when it comes to saving the world, the real question is not whether I can make a difference. The real question is whether I am willing to try.’

To take part in zero waste week and for more info head to the website where you can pledge your one step towards reducing landfill waste.