Fallen off the Low-Waste Wagon? Heres how to recover…

By Amy Molloy

Forgive me Pachamama because I have sinned. Yesterday I threw out half a fridge of mouldy food – and that's not my only confession. I also came home from a weekend away to find half the lights in the house had been left on, I've lost my Keep Cup and keep buying takeaway coffees and last week I actually asked for a drinking straw for my smoothie.

I say this with shame because, only a few months ago, I was as close to waste-free as I ever thought possible: the master of my composter and a sorceress of food scraps, the person who tutted when they saw someone carrying single-use plastic.

But then – due to a number of extenuating circumstances – I fell off the waste-free wagon and just kept on rolling. I could blame my wedding, and the six relatives living in my house all food shopping individually and haphazardly. But, the truth is I simply lost my eco-mojo - and since then I've fallen into a cycle of sustainable self-sabotage.

If you've ever attempted to diet you might know the feeling. You eat a slice of your colleague's birthday cake, you've broken your resolution anyway, so why not have another slice – and another. It's been dubbed the 'what the hell effect' by Doctor Janet Polivy at the University of Toronto – you've already let yourself down so why not keep sliding further. What the hell, if I don't properly sort my recycling. What the hell, if I just buy one outfit in a fast-fashion outlet. Before you know it, you're a shadow of your sustainable self.

But, the truth is that none of us are perfect – even your amazing zero-waste friend who makes her own toothpaste and doesn't use toilet paper. As women, we load enough guilt and shame on ourselves, without adding sustainable living to the arsenal.

Which is why I've decided to put this blip behind me. I'd like my seat back on the wagon please, and this time I'd hang on more tightly. If, like me, you've had a momentary glitch, then don't despair. Here are 5 tips to pull yourself back.

Remember your Reasons.

Apart from the obvious reason (you know, saving the planet) remember why you love living sustainably in the first place. The everyday waste-free wins that give you a sense of pride. For me it's having an empty red bin at the end of the week, being on first name terms with stallholders at the farmers market, and nodding companionably at a stranger in a café who has the same reusable coffee mug as I do.

Start your Day the Right Way.

Research shows that if you start your day with a healthy breakfast you're more likely to eat healthily for the rest of the day – not only because you feel fuller for longer but because you're emotionally resigned to. The same comes to sustainable living. Cycle to work or car-share, skip the single-use coffee cups. My favourite morning ritual used to be walking on the beach, Taking 3 for the Sea. Start as you mean to go on.

Image via @amy_molloy

Find a Happy Compromise.

My good friend Laura Wells – a model and environmental scientist – recently posted a Instagram photo from the Boost smoothie stand at Sydney airport. "When you forget your reusable mug ask the server for no lid," she wrote, "That way you avoid the plastic lid and you don't need a plastic straw either." She also pointed out that, although she was about to get on a plane, it is a "necessary evil" of her job and that she offsets the emissions by purchasing carbon offsets through certified reputable providers. Sometimes, you have to stop aiming for perfection and instead focus on reducing wherever you can.

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Image: @iamlaurawells

Make a Date with a Role Model.

We all know the power of positive, inspirational people to lift us up and put us back on the straight and narrow. When I start to ethically slip, I make an effort to spend time with my friends who are particularly eco-minded. For me, it's my wonderful friend and change maker Avis Mulhall who recently organised the #LetThemStay installation at Bondi. We all have people in our lives (hopefully) who inspire us to be better. Pick up the phone and schedule a shot of inspiration.

Let it Go.

So, you slipped up. Accept it, don't exaggerate it and get on with it. It's just a slice of cake. Metaphorically speaking.

Amy Molloy is a journalist, author and ghost-writer. Her latest book, Diary of a Digital Nomad: How to Run Away with your Responsibilities is available on Amazon and iBooks. Tweet Amy @amy_molloy.

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