Durban’s Colleen Black adopted a zero waste lifestyle in 2015 and has never looked back. Picture: Life Lived Simply
Durban’s Colleen Black adopted a zero waste lifestyle in 2015 and has never looked back. Picture: Life Lived Simply

Waste not, want not

By Marchelle Abrahams Time of article published May 18, 2017

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DURBAN-based blogger and zero waste warrior Colleen Black never imagined she would be promoting the lifestyle she is living now. 

“I stumbled upon the term online and googled it, only to discover the story of Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home, and how her family of four produce one teeny jar of waste per year,” she said.

Black was inspired, spurring her on to do her bit. “My main inspiration for striving towards zero waste is to care for God’s amazing creation. We only have this one planet and we need to preserve it.

“We stopped buying processed and packaged food; we stopped shopping unnecessarily; we cut out unnecessary toiletries and cleaning products and shopped with reusable containers and bags.”

Black was then able to see how much waste her family had been producing every day, and whatever couldn’t be recycled or rotted was placed in a large jar.

Her blog, Life Lived Simply, is her pride and joy, giving her readers a look into her life and sharing gems on how to pursue this way of living. “Living this lifestyle truly does give me more time to do the things that are important to me – looking after my home and family.”

Black says the mistake many people make is referring to her as a recycling guru. The zero waste lifestyle encompasses the ethos of living a life filled with experiences and creating less waste. People think it’s all about recycling, but it’s quite the contrary. 

“We should be recycling less, not more,” she says, before explaining that just because something is recyclable does not mean it will be recycled. Many people are not aware that many resources are used to make that packaging.

Making the transition is a lifestyle choice – one that should be integrated into everyday living. Black suggests using Bea Johnston’s 5 Rs as a starting point and asking yourself questions like: Do I need it? Do I want it? What will happen to it when I’m finished with it?

The biggest things you can avoid are all forms of plastic bags, disposable coffee cups, plastic bottles and plastic straws.

Keep reusable shopping bags in your car, at the front door and keep a smaller one in your handbag. If you’re a big coffee drinker, get a reusable cup and ask the barista to make your drink in it. When it comes to bottled water, rather use your own reusable bottle. And say no to straws when ordering a drink.

Black also suggests taking your own container to the meat and deli counter when shopping: “Just ask them to take your container and place the product in it.”

Keen zero wasters tend to make their own cleaning products and concoctions when it comes to household remedies. Black says she used to make her own lotions, but now uses body oil, and only when she needs it. When it comes to toothpaste, use straight bicarb from a reused herb shaker. And cleaning products? She uses one multi-purpose cleaning agent for all her surfaces. Even cosmetics can be repurposed by making your own.

The zero waste following seems to be catching on in South Africa – Black’s Facebook group called Zero Waste to Landfill South Africa now has nearly 900 members. It’s a space for like-minded people to share ideas and motivate others. 

If there’s one thing she wants people to take away from her message, it’s that you will find yourself saving time and money, and living a healthier lifestyle. 

“You will be surprised at the effect it has on your outlook, and your bank balance.”

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