Zero Waste Living With Miriama Kamo

Through our Waste Free Living series we want to help to inspire and educate as many people as possible to choose a more sustainable way of living and choose zero waste in their own life. We want to try make it as simple as possible for as many kiwis to choose a better option, helping to contribute to a better, more sustainable future for generations to come. 

Through our series we will be chatting with inspiring humans and organisations who are on their zero waste journeys and we'll be sharing their best tips and advice to help to inspire our customers who are trying to reduce their own waste.

We're super super excited to kick the series off with a chat with Miriama Kamo who has become such a leader in the zero waste movement and has been a huge inspiration for us and a lot of kiwi's aiming to reduce their waste and normalise living waste free.

We chatted to Miriama on her best pieces of advice, her best tips and more insights into her zero waste journey. 

How long have you been on your zero waste journey and what triggered you to start living more sustainably and choose zero waste?

I started Jan 1, 2019 - it was a New Year’s resolution which I planned to do only for a month. I even called it #themonthofjan. But then I got to the end of the month and realised I ‘knew’ too much and had learned too many amazing things.  Most of all, I loved it, it brought me such joy, so there was no question of stopping. I kept going and I’m still learning everyday. As to what triggered it, it’s been a long slow burn. I’ve always been green-minded but probably a bit of a fair-weather friend to those values. So, the ‘month of Jan’ was meant to be a challenge to see if I could adhere strictly to them, but as I say, it continued. My husband and I had bought electric bikes two years previously and got rid of our four wheel drive - and so things like that, most likely, helped us toward this lifestyle too.  

What resources have you found helpful along the way that our customers might find useful?

Liam and Hannah from The Rubbish Trip have been enormously inspiring. Also listen to the 'How to Save the World' podcast with zerowaste warriors Waveney and Tim - they’ve been following this lifestyle for at least a decade now. Any time I have any questions I ask the Facebook page Zerowaste in NZ. Plus there’s a couple of really great freecycle sites on Facebook too. There are quite a few brilliant bloggers, WastefreeKate and EarthSavvy among them. And recently I met Josie Adams, a Spinoff writer whose columns have been both hilarious and helpful. As to products, beeswax wraps are great, reusable cups, and I bought a portable tea brewer recently which means I can have hot tea with me all day.

What factors have you found the most challenging along the way?

All the challenges came in the first month, finding alternative places to shop for needs and wants. But once all that was set up I’ve found this lifestyle super easy.  I wish the refilleries were a bit cheaper, but that will come as more people shop there. Otherwise, the only challenge at home is when my husband buys food in plastic, or my daughter wants lollies - lollies are so hard to find unwrapped at diaries.

What are the best pieces of advice or tips you have learnt along the way that you wish you knew at the start of your journey?

That it’ll only be hard for the first few weeks, then its really easy. Also that you’lll gain more than you lose by following this practice. I really think of it as a form of mindfulness. 

What's your favourite zero waste product or new item you have switched out that you love now?

I never throw a jar away, I love using them. They’re great for everything, including as drinking glasses. And milk bottles - so thrilled that they’re back! 

If you had to choose one, what is your favourite zero waste hack or tip that you have either been told or learnt yourself throughout your journey? 

I’ve learned that you don’t really need any products or stuff, and that’s probably been the greatest discovery - how much we think we need but don’t. Oh, and no more cleaning products. I have white vinegar and baking soda but I rarely use them - I’ve discovered water and elbow grease is usually enough.

Wha3 items do you wish you could access plastic and package free that you haven't found a waste free solution for yet?

Dried spaghetti was the hardest one, but it looks like you guys have that covered now! And if you don’t grow them, then fresh herbs can be tricky to find. Cheese can also be difficult to find.   

What products do you now make instead of buying? 

I made toothpaste and all sorts of other things at the beginning, but I’ve settled into a bit of a routine now where I have been able to source zerowaste alternatives for everything. 

What is one piece of ‘zero waste’ information or research that has startled you along the way that you want to share with our readers to help to increase the awareness of the problems we are all facing if we continue doing what we have been doing without change?

Around 50% of our household waste is food. Look for how you can better use the food you buy and grow. Embrace leftovers, make new meals from old ones, use vege cutoffs to make vege stock. And, set yourself up a bokashi, compost or worm-farm.

Whats your one piece of advice that you would give people who are in the early stages or starting out on their zero waste journey?

Don’t beat yourself up. If you slip up, dust yourself off and keep going. And, don’t think you can become zerowaste overnight, it can take weeks and months to get everything in place. And look out for the joy - the connection that this practice inspires is pretty wonderful.

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