First of all, let’s be clear: there no such a ZERO WASTE thing. As clearly explained by a lot of articles about our economy, we are living in a disposable world so basically there is no way for us to actually live a completely Zero Waste life.
I won’t go in details because you can easily access to a million of articles (academic and not) about the toxicity of landfills, plastic consumption, overfishing, low wages (because yes, everything is connected in our world). I will just say that to be really Zero Waste we should reconvert our economy into a circular economy, that is not exactly feasible at the moment. Circular economy means that there are no residual things that couldn’t be reused, so that everything is conceived to last and to be recycled once its life ends. European Commission is working on this through the implementation of a “Circular Economy Action Plan” and, for example, by 2030 all plastic packaging must be recyclable by law.
Nevertheless, it’s true that even in our present economy we CAN DO something to at least reduce our footprint, because we have just one planet and no option B is accessible (for now at least). There are a lot of blogs, associations, people in these days that loudly speak about their experiences on how to become a responsible consumer and a free plastic citizen. Here, I just want to give you our experience as a family that has changed four countries since the start of the journey (towards a Zero Waste or less plastic life). Thanks to this crisscrossing experience, we have removed all the fancy schmancy rethoric from the discourse and we just (try to) act normally and in the easieast possible way following this decision.
All started with the Fashion Revolution almost five years ago in Rome.
I always preferred to buy second hand because I love to go flea market shopping and I like to wear stuff that almost none has. Being in this flow, I gathered more information about the cost of low-cost clothes production thanks to the most well-known documentary on the issue “The True Cost”. The Fashion Revolution is a movement of citizens asking for more transparent information about the real cost of clothes. After the accident on the 24th of April 2013 in Rana Plaza building in Banglashed where 1138 people died and many others were injuried, a global movement of citizens raised. There are campaigns every year in which people can ask to the major clothing companies through social networks and public protests “who made my clothes?” meaning which are the environmental, salary and insurance conditions of the workers in the fashion industry?
I started to reduce my visits to H&M, C&A and Zara.
Then we moved to France where the flea markets are one of the biggest occasions to get to know your neighbors. Basically the “brocante” as they call it in French are a one day market where private citizens have their spot and stall and sell their stuff (often they declutter&clean their basements/wardrobes) for ridiculous prices.
A lot of moms sell baby and kid clothes, accessories and toys that are still in good conditions. The prices vary from 0,50 euro to max 5 euros for the bigger toys. I remember I bought for Gea’s birth a lot of handmade wool cardigans, super nice onesies, socks and all sort of baby clothes for less than 40 euros. If I knew I should have bought even the stroller there! Of course you can then sell your own stuff once you don’t use them anymore. These markets are seasonal so they usually are held at the end of the summer and in the spring. In Belgium is the same and I still buy the most of my and Gea’s clothes and shoes in those markets (or in second hand shops).
It’s true that it’s a bit more complicated to find decent stuff for men in those markets and it always depends on which kind of job you have (if you need to wear suits all days it’s not recommended to buy them there). But still for jeans, t-shirts and sweaters is ok.
In Poland we struggled a bit more to find decent second-hand shops because they have a lot of them but the quality of the clothes there is quite poor. I finally found a place in Krakow where to buy very nice second hand clothes for adults (Flamingo Second Hand Shop in Kalwariska) but found nothing for kids. Thanks to the Instagram algorithm (!!) I found a lot of profiles managed by moms of kids a bit older than Gea who actually sell their kids’ clothes and where you can pay with Paypal. Amazing, isn’t it? So I started to buy second hand clothes for Gea in this way, that is actually more expensive than the brocante but I found delicious and almost new clothes, dress and shoes for Gea.
Besides, I actually found out an entire platform called DEPOP where you can buy vintage clothes online.
Now our second-hand shopping routine is almost set up completely and I know that I will go shopping seasonally at the brocante markets in my neighborhood when I need something. For Gea I do the same even if, being a child, she grows up very fast and I need to change clothes more often for her. So, i decided to buy less clothes, nice but basic (t-shirts and leggings to be always comfortable) and I usually go to a kids second hand shop in my neighborhood in Brussels, where I can then resell the clothes when they are not more the size for Gea.
I acknowledged that there no “immediate need” for nothing because let’s be honest, we already have A LOT in our wardrobes. Another thing I’m doing lately is to swap clothes with my sisters and cousins (we have more or less the same size) sometimes even for one season or two and then we swap again. This is a very nice way of not getting bored of your clothes and at the same time use them!
The last step for a very used piece of clothes can still be without waste. A cotton shirt, blouse or t-shirt can be cutted in squared and become dust-cloths or rags to clean the windows/furnitures.
If you cannot do anything more with your piece of clothes than just look for those big containers for used clothes where you can just deposit your closed bag full of not-anymore-usable clothes and they just go to a special landfill to be recycled. Don’t put them in the trash bin! They can still become something else!
I hope this can help you to find your own way to buy less, consume better and waste the least possible amount of things. Any comments or questions are more than welcomed and on my Instagram account I will be soon organize a Flash Flea Market on my stories!