25-year-old Maria Tan leads a zero-waste lifestyle – that means everything she uses leaves no impact on the earth. She tells us just how she goes about it.
Q: What made you decide to start living a zero-waste lifestyle while you were in London?
Marie (M): As a student living abroad, I started being in control of what I brought into the house (e.g., groceries, cleaning products, toiletries) more. This made me more aware of the unnecessary plastic bags we got at the supermarket, so I started bringing a reusable tote bag where ever I went. Then I watched a video about living a zero-waste lifestyle and that instantly clicked with me.
Q: Moving back to Singapore, what were the hardest adjustments you needed to make for a zero-waste lifestyle here?
M: The hardest adjustment was having to be even more prepared than I was in London because sadly, disposables have taken over our lives in the name of convenience and efficiency here. When I go out, there’s a good chance that the restaurant or cafe will serve their food in disposables, which is very frustrating. Now, I bring a zero waste kit everywhere I go to make sure I am always prepared.
Q: How have your friends and family reacted?
M: Most are very supportive but initially, some had doubts about how this would change society. I don’t preach this to people around me but I certainly share what I know when they want to learn. Going about living my life like this is enough to interest people. They often come up to ask questions, which is great!
Q: What’s a good way for us to start leading a zero-waste lifestyle?
M: The first thing to do is to know your enemy — collect your trash for a week and record what kind of trash you generate! Then tackle low-hanging fruit like disposable plastic bags, takeaway containers and coffee cups. Proceed to other areas of your house like the bathroom (think bamboo toothbrushes, reusable pads or menstrual cups). Then do your wardrobe, (send your “what if” clothes to the secondhand market, and forego fast fashion for secondhand shopping instead) and kitchen (loofahs, tea seed powder detergent, wooden cleaning tools, homemade cleaning products, etc.).
Q: Tell us more about using cloth sanitary pads, what’s that like?
M: I started using reusable pads about a few months ago. The best way to zero-waste your period is actually through menstrual cups, which are essentially silicon cups that can be reused over and over again. However, I was uncomfortable with it so I opted for the next-best option: Reusable pads. I had my reservations about it at first but after doing some research, I realised how horrible disposable pads were with the chemicals in them so I can never go back! I learnt that organic cotton reusable pads were good for both the environment and my sensitive skin, and since I’ve started using them I’ve experienced much smoother and less painful periods. Nope, there are no stains on mine and they are so easy to clean! Yes, I spend an extra 2 mins washing the pads but I save so much money and time too by no longer having to run to the supermarket to buy disposable pads. So yes, the benefits outweigh the cons for sure.
Q: Do you think a zero-waste lifestyle is practical for Singaporeans?
M: I’ve lived this way while having a full-time job and have never felt happier and more satisfied with my life — so yes! It’s just a matter of changing your mindset and taking that first step, because once everything becomes routine, you won’t even miss the “convenience” of disposables.
Maria is participating in the Income Eco Run 2018 as a Zero Waste Runner and is working with them to reduce waste generation during their upcoming runs and pre-events. The Income Eco Run happens on April 29 at the F1 Pit Building. For details, visit www.income.com.sg.