A local's zero waste journey

Posted on 03 April 2017

Looking to cut back the amount of rubbish you toss? We asked founder of Zero Waste Sydney and local Second Nature Champion, Madolyn Garnham, about her last 12 months in trying to do just that.  


What made you embark on your zero-waste journey?

I started to think about what happened to the stuff that I used daily once I was done with it. That old toothbrush, the empty coffee cup, that chip packet - where did it all go after I threw it in the bin? After some research, I was shocked that these things will take more than my lifetime to break down in landfill. It's a pretty scary thought.

What’s been the easiest thing to cut out of your life?

The big four of plastics: plastic bags, straws, water bottles and takeaway coffee cups. They are so prevalent in our daily lives, and there are simple go-to alternatives. I always carry my ‘zero-waste kit’ in my backpack; a fold up bag, a metal straw, a glass bottle and a reusable KeepCup. I also try to buy food from markets and bulk-food stores.

What’s been the most challenging?

Cutting down what I buy in the first place. Being zero-waste isn't just about reducing disposables or plastic packaging - it's about shrinking overall consumption. Whether it's a new clothing item, or something for the house; I try hard to cut back on anything that isn't useful, or an absolute necessity. Plus I try to choose quality items that will last longer.

The most surprising?

How supportive other people have been.  There is a growing zero-waste community in Sydney, and it’s constantly inspiring to hear about others’ journeys and tips in making positive change happen.

Is there anything you’ve sacrificed that you really miss?


What’s next on the cards?

My 2017 challenge is to start making and growing as much of my own food as possible – making my own bread, growing vegies and hopefully a chicken coop out the back.

What are your three top tips for people who want to start cutting their waste down?

1. Start with one thing. Look at your habits at home (e.g. in the kitchen, the bathroom), then try to add or remove one thing from your routine.

I found that a lot of my plastic consumption was in the bathroom. I replaced my plastic toothbrush with a bamboo one that’s compostable, and I now make my own toothpaste (my sister’s simple DIY recipe). Just like that, this daily routine has become zero-waste!

2. Be prepared! Put together a zero-waste kit of alternatives (e.g. reusable bag, bottle) to take with you everywhere. Be creative and reuse the things you already own. One of my favourite tools in my kit is an old cloth drawstring sunnies case to carry loose groceries (e.g. nuts, cherry tomatoes).

3. Don’t be hard on yourself! Your journey is your own, so don’t feel disheartened if you’re only just starting out. Every small bit counts.


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More info:


Homemade Toothpaste Recipe (keep in a glass jar):

  • 2 tablespoons of Coconut Oil
  • 2 tablespoons of Baking Soda
  • 10 drops of Peppermint Oil


As published in the Beast magazine - December 2016

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