'Zero waste' lifestyle family explain how it's done

Smart shopping and lots of recycling have helped a family-of-four from Girona live a lifestyle of zero waste and go weeks without producing rubbish.

Esther Peñarrubia decided to eradicate single-use plastic from her life to reduce her family’s waste when she moved house.

Bulk buying, reusing old materials, scouring second-hand shops and minimizing products which uses plastic have been the key ingredients to her lifestyle, which sees them send just one piece of rubbish to landfill every fortnight.

For example in the last two weeks, the only things that have been discarded have been a broken toy, an old t-shirt used to clean shoes, a balloon from a party and the backing from a sheet of stickers.

Ms Peñarrubia, 41, has encouraged her five and seven-year-old children to follow in her footsteps by taking them on nature walks and picking up litter, using old packaging for crafts and drawings – which is recycled after use – and using reusable cloths to wrap presents for birthday and Christmas.

“There are already reusable items that we would have to buy once, so it would be a waste of time and money buying the single-use ones,” she said.

“It’s cheaper and you know that the item will continue being used instead of being set aside – so it’s just perfect!

“Each of us play a big role in taking of the environment.

“It’s enjoyable to try to help rather than just keep complaining about the current situation.”

Ms Peñarrubia tries to eliminate all plastic products but if she does purchase any, like olive oil, she will bulk buy in a five-liter bottle and will recycle when finished. This also applies to cleaning products.

Glass jars and containers are repurposed after use and kitchen leftovers go in the compost bin.

The family grow their own tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli and herbs at home and also have orange and mandarin trees, while they buys fresh fruit, vegetables and bread in bulk from local suppliers for the week.

She realized that her lifestyle was called ‘zero waste’ after watching a TED talk in November 2015.

Ms Peñarrubia, who has a PhD in agricultural engineering, believes transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle is easier and cheaper than perceived, but admits the challenging part in convincing others that is can be achieveable.

She said: “If you think and organize your buying habits, consume less things and from better quality, choose reusable alternatives, buy everything you can in bulk and from the second-hand market – then it’s not more expensive and you can save money.

“Zero waste culture doesn’t only comprise of the reduction of our waste, it involves a more conscious lifestyle and way of consumption.

“There are plenty of local enterprises that produce under more sustainable, ethical and social criteria.

“Think and get informed about who, how and where your food, clothes and other items have been produced.”

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