We’re nearing the end of plastic free july already. It’s time for episode 5 of our zero waste series.

Today we have our first Dutch contributor! During her years in college studying product engineering, Juliette became more concious about her consumption habits. She slowly moved towards a more sustainable lifestyle and shares her story about this adjustment with us today!

All photography rights belong to Juliette. Here’s what she has to share:

Hi! I’m Juliette. At the moment, I live in The Netherlands. I finished college here, I majored in Product Engineering. Since I was a child, I’ve always been interested in the environment. The last couple of years the pollution of the Earth became more and more important to me. In these years, I learned that I have the ability to change this. I may not get far just on my own, but I hope to inspire more people with my zero waste journey so we can all do our part.

a portrait of Juliette, our guest writer this week

Reasons behind zero waste

There are a couple of things that got me started being more conscious about my consuming habits. First of all, as a student, you don’t have much money. I had to get creative with and reuse and repurpose the stuff that I had. For instance, my mom would give me some of her clothes (that she used to wear when she was my age) and I would alter them more to my taste, and present day style.

Second, during my college years I learned all the skills of product engineering and how they are used to make new products. This gave me an insight in how this ‘mentality’ at our school is, and most 1st world societies are. I have a feeling that engineers are educated to produce new products and that most of the time the cost is most important (because the customer wants everything as cheap as possible). This usually results in a lack of quality because of poor material choices and the way it is made.

During my years in school I started doubting my major choice. I didn’t want to be a reason (plastic) products were being produced which eventually ended up on the landfill. After I got my engineering degree, I decided I would only work for companies that shared a similar (green) vision as me. I will only use these skills to design and make durable, eco friendly products.

Experiences with zero waste

About a year ago, I decided I wanted less stuff. I not only wanted to get rid of stuff I didn’t use, I also wanted to buy and consume less. With everything we buy nowadays, there is so much plastic involved in the product itself and/or the packaging. I didn’t want this. That was when I started my zero waste journey.

I didn’t want to turn my life upside down and be a hard core zero waster. I started taking small steps. For example, sewing my own produce bags and buying produce plastic free.

I also made an Instagram account (@eco_engineer) where I share my experiences and also get a lot of inspiration from other zero wasters.

A red and blue reusable dopper bottle

Other steps I took since living on my own were:

  • Reusable water bottle
  • Lunch box
  • Fixing stuff instead of buying new
  • Repurposing materials (fabric, wood, metal, leather, etc.)
  • Recycling waste (paper, glass, metal, batteries, lightbulbs, electronics, etc.)
  • Turn off appliances and lights when not in use
  • Switching to reusable gift wrapping
  • Giving sustainable gifts as presents
  • Cloth grocery bags
  • Became vegetarian, on my way to vegan

And many other things!

Difficulties I’ve encountered

Although I really try to buy plastic free, I find it really hard in The Netherlands. In my neighborhood, there are no bulk stores. Grocery stores here sell a lot in an abundance of plastic. So I find it really challenging. I do my best, but sometimes I get frustrated that some product that I need, aren’t available in a non plastic packaging.

I also noticed that if you aren’t prepared, you go for the easier option faster. For example, we’ll go for a hike on the weekend and afterwards we remember that we need to buy some bread, but we forgot to bring our reusable cloth bread bag… We’ll have to buy bread in a plastic bag because we didn’t leave home prepared. I still have to remind myself to always carry a cloth bag with me for these kinds of situations.

My number 1 tip for zero wasters

Start slow! Don’t try to change all of your habits at the same time. If you do, you might get overwhelmed or frustrated and maybe give up too quickly. It’s more sustainable in the long run if you change one habit one at a time.

Grocery haul done by Juliette

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