Beauty Kitchen: - What does ‘zero waste’ mean to you?
Kate Arnell: For me, the term zero waste is something to work towards but currently it’s impossible to actually produce ZERO waste. It means, refusing what I do not need, reducing what I do need, reusing and repairing before buying new and only recycling as a last resort. It’s a lifestyle and it’s not about being perfect, but it is about taking steps to get close to “zero”.
BK: Was there a specific moment or event that sparked your interest in a zero waste lifestyle, or has it always been ingrained in you?
Kate: I think I’m naturally interested in topics such as being kinder to the environment, soil health, choosing organic etc. so when I discovered that I didn’t HAVE to contribute towards our growing waste problem I felt empowered and it really aligned with my values. The specific moment that changed everything was my husband bringing home one of the free newspapers they give out on the tube in London, and he pointed out an article about a family of four in California who produce one jar of trash annually. I just thought “wow, how is that even possible?!” And they didn’t look like a crunchy hippy family either! Almost overnight I decided to start embracing reusable alternatives, refilling where possible and saying “no, thanks” to freebies.
BK: How has your sustainable routine changed since giving birth to gorgeous little Arthur and how important is to pass on your planet friendly choices to him?
Kate: Well, we certainly create a little more waste than we did, but for the most part it’s been about discovering what reusable and eco-friendly options there are for everything baby-related. Whilst I usually buy second-hand where possible, having limited time with a newborn in the early days meant I prioritised buying sustainable and non-toxic new options instead. I believe in supporting brands who are making a positive change so feel it’s often a good thing to buy new in some cases. I also really struggled with breastfeeding in the first month (I got there in the end, but my goodness it was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced!) so ordered everything from nipple shields to breast pumps. There was definitely some panic-ordering happening in the early weeks. And now, we’re introducing solids and trying baby-led weaning which has meant there’s a lot more food waste these days. But I know it’s all just a phase and I’m fine about it.
Arthur has only ever worn one disposable nappy which the hospital put on him straight after the birth and I didn’t have the energy to instruct my husband where I’d packed the reusables and how to put them on! We love using reusable nappies and wipes (I chose a brand called Babee Green which is made from organic cotton and hemp with wool soaker outers). We do about 3 extra washes a week for the nappies which actually isn’t a lot.
Kate: His clothing is either second-hand or from sustainable brands such as Frugi, Dilling, Little Green Radicals, Engel, Piccalilly, he has second-hand wooden toys and his non-toxic playmat is entirely plastic-free and made from tree-foam and cork by Little Earth Baby. His mattresses and bedding are made from organic wool and cotton by Naturalmat and I managed to find the nappy changing table, wooden highchair and co-sleeping crib all on eBay!
My hope is that the way we’re living will just be his “normal”. I’m extremely aware that the future generations need to understand and appreciate our natural environment and treat it with respect, so starting that early is super important. I want to lead by example and hopefully he won’t think I’m too weird or embarrassing - although perhaps that’s inevitable! Ha!
BK: You recently launched your book “Six Weeks to Zero Waste: A simple plan for life” – We love the title – and appreciate that transitioning into a zero waste lifestyle can be difficult, so this is perfect. Without giving too much away, please tell us a little bit about it!
Kate: I have a lot of friends and family members who are really keen to start making changes to work towards zero waste but they either felt overwhelmed by the idea and didn’t know where to start so my brother actually suggested breaking it down into week-by-week tasks/suggestions so that it feel more manageable. And so, Six Weeks To Zero Waste was born! But, as I say very early on in the book, whether it takes six weeks, six months or six years, every swap counts and it’s really about figuring out what realistically works for your own lifestyle and budget. I simply provide various options and you can pick and choose what you like.
I also wanted to show how zero waste can work in situ, so the second part of the book gives examples of what to do for events, at work, when travelling, etc. Finally, there’s a recipe section at the back featuring some of my favourite simple food, cleaning products and beauty recipes. I’m actually terrible at DIY-ing my own products so I’ve kept it super simple and am very much in favour of supporting brands who make amazing products and offering refills (like Beauty Kitchen!).
BK: Of course, we have to ask you about sustainable beauty! Do you tend to gravitate towards natural and organic products whilst keeping zero waste in mind? You’ve also tried a few things of ours too – do you have any favourites?
Kate: Finding zero waste beauty products has actually been the most challenging part of a zero waste lifestyle. I found it fairly easy to find loose or refills for food and cleaning products but personal care and beauty items have certainly been a challenge but I feel that brands are finally starting to realise that there’s huge potential to offer refills or plastic-free and reusable alternatives. Shampoo and conditioner was super tough to find and I found that most shampoo bars really didn’t work very well on my hair so I was thrilled to find that you have included them in your The Sustainables range. I love them!
Personally, I like to choose brands that use organic ingredients too, as I like knowing that the production of those ingredients has helped to protect wildlife and work with nature, not against is.
Make-up is still a bit of a tricky one, so for the time being I have reduced what I use and looked for multi-purpose products that come in easy to recycle metal or glass containers. I’m hoping that refillable and organic make-up will become more mainstream soon!
BK: Do you find it easy to live a zero waste lifestyle living in London? Speaking of London, we don’t suppose you’ve had the chance to check out our refill machine yet in Covent Garden?
Kate: Oooh, I didn’t know you had a refill machine in Covent Garden! I must check it out! That’s a little day out for me and Arthur sorted (lucky chap!)
I think I’m super lucky to be living in London when it comes to living a zero waste lifestyle. There are SO MANY new zero waste bulk refill stores opening up almost on a weekly basis now which has been really exciting to see and there are so many places to buy loose fruits and vegetables from - London has a great network of farmers’ markets that pop up every weekend. I think whilst a city can be a huge cause of waste thanks to our convenience-led culture and busy schedules, I also feel it’s somewhere that drives change.
BK: You’re of course a city gal living in London, but would you say you’re an outdoors person and enjoy being in nature?
Kate: Oh man, I love being in the woods! I secretly dream of owning a log cabin in the woods one day so I can escape to it for the summer or hunker down for a few weeks in the winter months. But yes, I’ve always lived in the city. I grew up in Portsmouth and then moved to London fourteen years ago but we’re lucky to have family based in Cornwall, so we often go there for a few weeks several times a year. I would love to do some foraging courses and learn more about our native species. I’m definitely keen to explore more of the UK this year and of course, visit Scotland again! It’s just so beautiful and wild.
BK: We’re also big advocates of being mindful of yourself as well as the planet. What are your favourite ways to relax and forget about the hustle and bustles of life?
Kate: Oooh, good question! Well, before a baby (when I had more time), I loved getting an organic massage at Neal’s Yard and I tried some meditation sessions at Re:Mind studio too - but honestly, even just enjoying a hot cup of tea, a walk in the park or relaxing by a fire with a book work just as well for me. Right now, a cup of tea (and slice of cake if I’m lucky) are all I seem to have time for but I make them a priority each day.