By Klaudia Miklus
Every now and then I hear “You kids these days. Your life is so easy and you’re so bored that you’re coming up with those crazy ideas like zero waste or being eco-friendly. Nobody had time for that when I was your age.”
First of all, I’m in my mid-thirties, so I will take calling myself ‘kid’ any time, any day! It gives me the same boost as being asked for ID when buying alcohol. As for the latter – oh hell no!
My grandma was an eco-warrior.
Don’t get me wrong – if you told her that, most likely she would be like “Say whaaat?” Grandma survived the war, then she survived communism. Being thrifty runs in her blood even though she has probably never heard about a Zero Waste approach, which is the true beauty. She was helping the planet through her way of living without putting any labels on it.
Grandma will be making an appearance here regularly, but today I will focus on three very simple steps from her life that you can introduce to your life, probably without even noticing it, and for sure with no real effort.
Grandma was buying big.
She wasn’t splashing the cash recklessly. On the contrary, she went through some hard times, so even when life improved, she was conscious of unnecessary expenses. When she was doing her shopping, she would always go for the biggest packages available. A prime example is sunflower oil, which she always purchased in a 5litre bottle. “That’s not really handy for everyday use, is it?” I hear you thinking. Well, there was always a regular size bottle in the kitchen. When the oil was running out, Grandma would top it up with the big bottle that was stored in the pantry. Now I do the same. I got myself a glass container with one of those crazy tops that keeps the glass clean and prevents the spillage (or considering my capabilities – helps not to set the whole kitchen on fire).
Why was Grandma buying big? It costs less. Every product has its value which we had to pay. However, to this figure, you need to add the price of the packaging. It is a fact that producing small packages is always more expensive than big ones. So effectively, you pay more for the product. The difference may not be massive looking at the oil (although hey – every penny counts!), but the other products may be truly surprising. I was astonished looking at the sugar in one of the major supermarkets. If you go for a handy 500g, you pay twice as much as you would pay for the same sugar from the same brand that comes in a 2kg bag.
Why would that even matter? Less packaging naturally leads to less waste. Isn’t it amazing that you can save money and the planet at the same time? The extra effort required: zero!
Pantry to die for.
If you had opened my Grandma’s pantry you would have seen everything. There wasn’t a single unloved product hidden out of sight, trembling in worry about the fast-approaching expiration date. Everything was visibly displayed and clearly marked if not in original packaging.
Was Granma a victim of OCD? Nope, she just valued her time. One look inside the cupboard and she knew what was running low. It made creating shopping lists super easy and it was impossible to stock up on unnecessary products. For me, having everything in plain sight is also helpful when struggling with the lack of inspiration while planning culinary adventures.
Why would that even matter? Again – avoiding unnecessary waste. If you know exactly what you have, you won’t buy too much and risk binning products afterwards as they perished. The extra effort required: minimal – once you get your pantry organised, there are no vicious pixies that will come in the middle of the night to mess it up.
Grandpa comes to the story.
I remember vividly, Grandpa going for morning strolls to the bakery and bringing a freshly baked loaf. Always in a green linen bag that, as the time passed, received a Kermit the Frog patch fixing a small hole. I’ve travelled the world, sampled various foods from food trucks to fancy top-end restaurants, nothing ever tasted as good as that still-warm bread.
Why is that even relevant? Grandpa had this Kermit bread bag, that when folded would fit his pocket. Grandma had several fabric bags with some floral patterns and light wooden handles. What they did not have was this infamous drawer that supposedly is in every household bursting with plastic bags.
There is no question why that would even matter. The extra effort required: minimal. Get yourself a reusable bag that you love. With a badass print, vibrant colours, hilarious slogan – anything that you would wear proudly. If you’re forgetful create an association with something nice, like my bread nostalgia or memories of some sweets unexpectedly appearing from Grandma’s flowery bags. Just make a point of always keeping at least one in your handbag or backpack. Even if you don’t plan on doing any shopping. You know, just in case. Evil never sleeps. Nor does the single-use plastic bag.
Ain’t nobody got time for that!!!
Start small. Start with Grandma’s three little steps. Start to reduce the waste. Start saving some extra money. The only positive change is possible with little changes in our way of living. Start small.