A plant-based diet would bring you a zero-waste living style bonus
A lot of people who follow a plant-based diet will also try to follow a zero-waste lifestyle. Even though they have different focuses, they both contain elements that lead from one to another, where having a plant-based diet will link to cutting down on waste. Plant-based eaters aim to consume food primarily from plants, mostly for better health or because of ethical reasons relating to animals, while zero wasters aim to create as little waste as possible due to environmental issues. Plant-based eaters are mostly aware of the global issues such as the numbers of animals being killed from meat consumption and how much waste eating meat could create, as part of the reasons why they started the journey of being a plant-based eater; because of such awareness, they would be willing to take a step further from where they are, for example, they, including me, will purchase plastic-free vegetables instead of the packaged ones because it is unnecessary, or purchase food from some bulk stores.
Say bye-bye to plastic
As simple as it is to purchase meat from supermarkets, it always comes with heaps of packaging and plastic to keep it fresh and clean. Even if you buy it from local markets, they will usually put it in a plastic bag. You barely see people bringing their containers to a meat store and ask the workers to put the meat in it.
On the contrary, plant-based eaters purchase fruits and vegetables with almost half less packaging because they are usually stacked in the vegetable’s racks in supermarkets where you just pick what catches your eyes. There isn't a necessity to have plastic wraps with veggies when they will be cleaned before cooking. Not that the veggies are completely plastic/packaging-free, there are still some packaged fruits in fridges, but you could tell the difference of the amount of packaged meat and packaged veggies. If you are getting your greens from local markets, which is even better as not only do they have better quality and cheaper goods but, almost all of them are package free. Again, you get to pick which exact cucumber you want, and you can just throw your veggies in your recycle bag, and BAM.
We don’t really do pre-cut fruits in a plastic cup/box here in Hong Kong. Not only do we get to eat our fruits freshly, but also NO PLASTIC! If you live in a country that sells that kind of pre-cut fruits in a plastic box, try your very best not to purchase them, because you never know if they are actually freshly cut without adding anything, possibly syrup, in the fruits to make them extra sweet, instead of cutting them on your own and tasting the natural sweet right away.
In this case, it already shows a very obvious reason of how a plant-based diet will help you cut down on getting packaged food because of your food choice. We all know that plastic has always been a killer to the planet earth where “over 90% of seabirds are now found with plastic in their stomachs, and nearly 100,000 marine mammals die every year due to entanglement or strangulation in discarded fishing gear.” Even though some of us are conscious of such an issue, this busy city that we’re living in does not allow us to do much about it even if we try to, while producing so much packaged food at the same time, especially meat products. It’s all about convenience culture and looking for the fastest and efficient way to get things done. Having a plant-based diet will help not only your health but also cut down on plastic use because we don’t need plastic wraps to keep those fruits and vegetables.
I want to try this new snack but what if I don’t like it?
Yes, you’re right, you might probably be thinking some people will say - “you could still produce a lot of waste from having a plant-based diet, like packaged oatmeal, seeds, nuts, etc.”
Here comes two of my top favourite bulk stores in Hong Kong - Live Zero (@livezero.hk on Instagram) and Edgar Zero Waste Shops (@edgar.hk on Instagram).
I’m sure a lot of you have heard of these two bulk stores where they have all kinds of bulk food such as grains, oats, pasta, seasoning, herbs and more. All you need to do is bring your own containers/bags there and, scoop what and how much you need. The food will be charged by how much you take, as easy and as simple as that.
What’s good about that? As in food, I reckon they have more options than supermarkets like dried fruits and pumpkin seeds, and they are organic! If you come across some food/snacks that you’re new to, like I am, such as dried fruits or nuts, you can always just buy a bit of it to try, instead of getting a huge pack which you might not like after.
In this whole process, from scooping your food to your containers, to trying out new snacks, no packaging and waste will be created even if you don’t like it!
Why purchase when you can make/grow your own?
As plant-based eaters primarily consume plant food, sometimes making or growing your own food would be more ideal than purchasing from markets as you can control the amount you need and want. For example, there’re many plant-based milk choices where they could be made at home. My favourite would be cashew milk. Half a cup of cashew milk with 2 cups of water would bring you almost 1L of creamy cashew milk! Easy, yummy, cheap, eco-friendly and no waste!
Other than plant-based milk, you can grow your own green onions, basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, and other herbs, too! Not only can you grow as much and as many kinds as you want, but also it will help save your money. When you need it, you just pick it from the pots/water-filled jars you’re growing from. How convenient! Can you grow meat at home? NO.
Photo from @reducewastenow on Instagram
Having a plant-based diet not only brings good to your health but also a bonus of living zero waste. It’s not that plant-based eaters are definitely zero wasters, but there's certainly a connection between the two where they complement each other and will help the environment as a whole. Being conscious of what you eat could lead as far as to the environment, either you bring it harm, or it brings you good. I suppose everyone would prefer the latter.
If you’re planning to become a plant-based/vegan eater, even though you might not be aiming at reducing waste, just to be reminded that there are more advantages on the side as a bonus that will benefit you, your life, your health, and the Earth.
Written by Cissy So
Edited by Chandni Sacheti
FAQ – Veganism and Zero Waste? https://wastelandrebel.com/en/faq-veganism-and-zero-waste/
TIPS FOR BEING PLANT-BASED AND LOW WASTE http://www.realisticplantbasedmama.com/blog/plant-based-zero-waste-tips/
Zero Waste or Vegan? Do Both.