I recently joined Instagram as @nowastebee, and I think this is one of the best decisions I have made! The insta zero waste community is so supportive and creative, always sharing new ideas on how they cope in different daily situations without plastic. Not only has this group united plastic-free people around the globe, but it has also put me in touch with other locals who are also embracing the zero waste lifestyle.
This brings me to the heart and soul of this article: a fantastic zero waste instagram account called @lesswaste_lessworries. When I reached out to other zero wasters, and Laura very kindly agreed to answer my interview questions. Like me, she is also based in south-west Germany, and she focuses on living as a zero waste minimalist.
I find Laura really inspiring- she currently has 18.6k followers on Instagram- that is a lot of people she is encouraging to live zero waste! She also runs her own website, which is equally full of exciting and novel ideas and blog posts about taking on waste-free minimalism. To me, she is a local hero!
You can check out the interview with Laura below:
1) Tell me a bit about yourself.
l live in Saarbrücken, in the south-west of Germany with my husband and I’m interested in all things related to
waste reduction, environmentalism and minimalism. I studied to be a teacher and linguist and I’m literally about to start looking for a job.
2) When or how did you become conscious about environmental issues, plastic and producing less waste?
When writing my thesis on the language of television cookery shows to finish my teaching degree in 2012, I started to become interested in the environmental impact of our dietary choices. Research in this field somehow pretty quickly lead me to discover the plastic-free movement in form of Beth Terry’s blog “My Plastic-free Life” which I read within a few days. I had not really put any of my newly gained knowledge into practice, until I found myself standing on the top of Wadi David at Ein Gedi in Israel looking down on the Dead Sea a few weeks later. I realized how small the Dead Sea had become and that the spring of the David brook was diverted elsewhere so that the water could be used for agriculture and to be bottled and sold in the cities. This made me realize how precious the resources on earth actually are, even though this is something we don’t often realize in northern Europe. During the same holiday, I also found a good amount of plastic trash on the beach after a more stormy night and I realized that I had to start implementing some changes in my life.
3) Can you tell me more about your key values of waste-free living and wanting to become a minimalist?
Minimalism very important in my life and for the longest time, I thought I only did it because owning fewer items and keeping them for a long time meant that I was using less resources. I only realized very recently, or better said, my husband (not so) kindly pointed it out to me: I have to be a minimalist, because I’m super messy. I tend to never put stuff back to where I took it from, I pretty much put it down wherever I am at that moment. I never close cupboard doors and I really like “storing” things on the floor. This means that I was often running around the flat looking for my keys for ten minutes and having someone over required an entire day of tidying up before the flat was presentable. Significantly reducing the amount of stuff I own makes tidying up and finding stuff so much easier.
When it comes to zero waste, I try to look at the bigger picture. It’s very easy to be so focused on the amount of tangible plastic trash a product creates and to forget the other bigger environmental implications of that product. For instance, is it really a good idea to try and avoid the last bit of plastic your recycling toilet paper comes in, if your alternative not recycled option in the cardboard box has to travel to you all the way from China?
4) What made you want to start "lesswaste_lessworries"?
I started my Instagram account in 2015, because I did not know anybody in real life who tried to drastically reduce their trash. I felt and still feel that being part of an online support community makes it easier to bear the stares I still sometimes get when I ask for food to be put directly into my own container. Of course I also want to use the account to make others aware of and inform them about the zero waste lifestyle.
5) What are your best tips for waste-free living?
When people ask me how to best reduce the amount of waste they create in their household, I always tell them to transition slowly. The transition can take a lot of time and it’s important not to get to frustrated in the process. I tell them to use each product or object in their home until they have used it up or it is broken, then do their research and buy a waste free or waste reduced alternative, or no alternative at all. Going out and buying “zero waste essentials” in the beginning of a journey towards zero waste makes little sense to me. It’s better to use what you already have and then, once you are a bit further along the journey and you have gotten a feeling for what you really need, you can still go out and buy whatever you feel is missing.
6) What is your essential "thing" that helps you go waste-free?
Uh, that’s a difficult question, there are lots of things helping me to live waste-free. I would say that keeping the 5Rs of zero waste in mind when going grocery shopping helps me a lot so that I’m not tempted to buy useless products with ridiculous packaging. In terms of objects, I find that a simple cotton produce bag and my old stainless steel container really help me to reduce the amount of waste I bring into the household.
7) Can you tell me more about your workshops? I saw you gave a make-up tutorial at the beginning of last March!
I never thought that I’d be doing workshops on zero waste living, but I’ve always enjoyed giving talks and having studied to be a teacher, I also like guiding pupils or participants through the different whys and hows of completing a task or making something. So when I commented on the newly created Instagram account of the first unpackaged shop in Luxembourg, OUNI, telling them that I was looking forward to visiting them one day, they asked me if I’d like to give a talk or workshop at the shop. And that’s how I got started. I have since given a few talks and workshops, most of them on how to avoid waste in the bathroom for the sake of our own health, but also for the sake of the environment. I give a short talk about the underlying principles, introduce some alternatives and then we make body butter and deodorant, or lipsticks and mascara, depending on the audience.
8) Do you have any success stories where you feel like you have impacted other people's lives, made them more aware of the plastic problem, encouraged others to move away from the throwaway lifestyle?
I have a lot of small anecdotes that make me realize that I must have some impact on the people around me,
although most of the time it does not feel like it. From time to time friends will proudly tell me when they’ve gotten rid of their single use nespresso machine, bought a lunette menstrual cup, baked a bread only using a bag of paper, stopped using google etc. On Instagram, several people have thanked me for inspiring them to switch to a renewable energy company or tag me when they’ve managed to buy a meal in their own container for the first time. I love when things like that happen, because they easily make up for those times when people tell me that what I do does not make a difference.
9) What do you think is the best way to spread the message of waste-free living and to encourage others to do the same? We seem to be living in a world where people are conscious about the problems but don't actually want to do anything about it.
For me, the best way to spread the message is by living by example. Every time a customer in an organic store or on the farmers market sees me shopping with my cotton bags, jars or containers, they are exposed to the idea of waste reduction, even tough they might not be aware of it yet. This way, you might reach people who are completely new to the idea and who you won’t reach if you give a talk about zero waste living, for example. In my experience, the people who attend talks and workshops are already pretty aware of the environmental impact of their actions. People often ask me about the produce bags when I’m out and about and then I tell them where I got them from, why I use them and what I use them for. However, I don’t tell them that I try not to produce any trash whatsoever. I feel that that would be too intimidating to them and that going completely zero waste is not what most people really want to do. I tell them that I try to avoid the thin plastic bags for produce and most of the time they tell me that they think that’s a great idea. I feel that they then have a relatively simple first step they can focus on.