Adapting to zero-waste practices is a process that can be simple, cost-effective and entirely possible for anyone. As with any lifestyle change, the process starts by shaping our behaviours and habits to think sustainably. This could involve consciously avoiding fast fashion, changing not just the food we buy, but also how and when it is purchased, and using reusable kitchenware or recycled bottles to help reduce our carbon footprint. With the leaders of this zero-waste lifestyle movement being young millennial women, we spoke with Jihea, a 25-year-old Sustainability and Climate Change Consultant to understand how young women in London can embrace sustainable living. Jihea explains the incremental nature of the process, the steps she’s taken in her daily life to lead a low-waste lifestyle and shares a few simple life hacks that can kick-start your journey to creating a positive impact on our planet
Has your passion for sustainability stemmed from your role as a Sustainability and Climate Change Consultant or has it always been an area of interest?
My passion for sustainability began when I was a teenager but really blossomed as a young adult. I always knew it was something that I cared about and something that interested me, but I became fully aware of significant sustainability issues during my degree at university when I studied certain modules (Environmental Economics and Corporate Social Responsibility & International Labour Standards). Throughout internships and my grad scheme, I discovered that a role in sustainability was a possibility and pursued the role I am in now.
What does sustainable living mean to you?
First and foremost, it's about being conscious about the impact you are having, e.g. your fast fashion buying habits. Then, it's all about doing what you can in order to lessen your impact. It's not about going zero-waste or vegan overnight but it's about reducing your impact and continuously working on lowering it. Sustainable living means being kinder to the planet, yourself and to others.
What are your top three tips for zero-waste?
- There’s no such thing as perfection and there’s no such thing as truly zero-waste. Do what you can, be realistic, be kind to yourself, and be proud of every small change you make because IT IS making a difference.
- Have an area of focus. Whether that’s the bathroom, the kitchen or your weekly food shopping, by focusing on one area at a time you are not going to overwhelm yourself and you can really invest in becoming low waste. I started in the bathroom with soap bars, sustainable toilet paper, and cruelty-free beauty products.
- Have a low waste kit and take it with you everywhere you go! My low waste kit consists of a bamboo cutlery set, keep cup, water bottle, and reusable bag.
Is slow fashion timeless or just a trend?
Definitely timeless. Slow fashion is all about quality and design, making the pieces timeless as opposed to just offering what the consumer wants for that particular week or month but will not wear again.
Can Black Friday ever be sustainable?
Black Friday is all about excess consumption and excess consumption is not and will never be sustainable.
People often think that one small change won’t create an impact, what are your thoughts on incremental change - will switching to that green t-shirt or sustainable vegan tote bag be insignificant?
Whilst one small change in itself might only create a small difference, imagine the difference it would make if millions of people made the same change. Additionally, one small change might encourage someone to make more significant changes to their lifestyle. We all have to start somewhere, and I am a true believer that any change is an important change because of the domino effect it might have on that person's habits as well as the habits of those around them.
Does conscious consumption mean avoiding purchasing luxury products?
It depends on what you classify as a luxury. Ethical and luxury are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Conscious consumption is thinking about the resources required, the resource intensity, the production processes, the waste produced, the treatment of labour in the supply chain, etc. If a quality luxury product that lasts you a long time can meet these sustainability standards, then I don’t think you necessarily need to avoid it. However, conscious consumption is also about only buying what you need.