The new book A Zero Waste Life in 30 Days written by Anita Vandyke hit the shelves this month and I couldn't resist getting hold of a copy. Here's my review on this book that aims to help reduce your waste by 80% in just 30 days and give you more time and money for the things you love.
This post contains an affiliate link, meaning if you make a purchase, the price is the same to you but I receive a tiny commission that helps keep the site up and running. You'll also support an Aussie author, and I hope she sells truckloads of this book and gets the message out there to the world!
A few years ago, Anita Vandyke was stuck in the corporate world and when she quit her job, made some major life changes including the discovery that consumerism is not all it's cracked up to be and became painfully aware of environmental and personal consequences of accumulating 'stuff'. She began a journey of making many life changes, leading her to a happier and more zero waste life.
The introduction had me torn between 'Yes, you go girl' and 'you must be kidding!'.... Zero waste is easy?? Hmm...I struggle a little with some of the statements in the book.
I would love to say being zero waste is easy, but it's not - if it were, then more people would be zero waste, including me!
If you've ever been bulk shopping and then discovered they fill the bins from 1kg plastic packets, or hide the trash of so called 'unpackaged' products out the back, then you will be well aware that zero waste shopping IS a challenge and what you see is not necessarily what you get. If you consider the waste impact of shops, hospitals and industries for example, that all exist for us to enjoy modern life, then you'll know that zero waste isn't actually possible or easy to achieve if you want to enjoy modern medicine and a host of other things.
I wanted to love this book more, but as I read through the pages I began to feel like perhaps it was another quick fix/self-help type of book, taking me on yet another 30 day 'life changing' journey. Now this is not exactly a bad thing, imagine if zero waste and being kinder to the planet became as popular as decluttering or shopping - this would be amazing AND make a huge environmental impact!
Before I go on too much, I really need to point out that I actually think the author is pretty awesome.
This is truly a useful book for beginners despite my personal dislike of the somewhat generic, superficial tone it seems to take. I've read some mind numbingly boring books on this topic, and I have to congratulate her on making this topic accessible to the average person to dip in and out of while they make ecofriendly swaps and discover how to reduce their waste. I don't doubt a lot of work went into the book and I guess it's always easier for someone like me to sit behind a computer screen and criticise the book than attempt to write my own.
I did find it a little difficult to believe that when she began her zero waste journey, she was throwing her recyclables straight into the bin! Australian's have a pretty good track record of recycling at least some things so did she really miss the memo to recycle bottles?
I also found it surprising that all the shops she frequents love her bringing and reusing containers, even the butcher is happy to help..... And she mentions that fresh produce in supermarkets is always unpackaged...I did not know this and am yet to find a magical supermarket with a plastic free produce section. Is Sydney or Bondi really that different to Adelaide?
Lots of stores have issues with people bringing containers, not to mention trouble figuring out how to tare them, so in my experience unless you're heading to a store that's already onboard with the movement then you should expect to encounter some obstacles along the way. I worry that a newbie will read her take on it and head off to the shops only to come home feeling defeated and disheartened with a pile of plastic trash they tried so hard to avoid.
The 30 Days layout is a nice way to work through various aspects of zero waste, but I thought the daily activities were in a slightly illogical order with the suggestion of a zero waste jar at day 2, before you start using reusable bags and cutlery a few days later.
I think I missed the point of the sections on clothes decluttering and found the whole 'become your own stylist' and create an 'inspiration board' of stylish looks an odd and boring inclusion, along with mental decluttering which seems to have little impact on landfill or waste creation. I'm not saying we don't all need a bit of wardrobe or brain decluttering, but is that helping lead a zero waste life? Maybe, maybe not.
Having never been a big shopper of clothes, shoes and handbags I can rest easy knowing my closet isn't full of designer labels or fast fashion items with tags still on, so I'm not exactly qualified to comment on it.
Anita introduces a 'Noah's Ark Rule' of 2 of everything for each person in the household... Well, at this point I absolutely knew she didn't have slime loving kids or large family gatherings at home.... or a dog that loves to sit in muddy puddles and she probably doesn't need extra towels, cups or a dishwasher because she washes everything immediately after use in her well ordered home (that I can't help feel super envious of!...I am still looking forward to the day my towel doesn't have tiny dirty handprints or boogers appearing randomly).
...BUT the next page revealed the 'Goldilocks Method'...
this means not too much of anything, not too little..... and I knew our 50 teaspoons were in the 'just right' category and we had just enough dog hair on the floor at that moment to create a Hygge style feel (she must have missed the Hygge boat as it didn't get a mention at all, or perhaps she just prefers the sterile white look that is so prevalent these days. I'll probably never get used to that, particularly given that reusing and repurposing doesn't often lead to perfect home décor).
When I visited her website I found it to be a little posed and picture perfect, it reminded me why I started blogging and showing pictures of my average (and often below average) looking life, belongings and activities that really don't fit with a magazine cover image and are probably far from stylish in every way imaginable.
On the other hand, adding style to an unpopular lifestyle is only going to help the cause and it is well worth following her on Instagram @rocket_science where she posts fabulous tips, and her passion and energy really shines through. Perhaps the publishers diluted her message a little in the book. Her personality is definitely in there, but I would love to have seen it more evident in written words.
I feel a little guilty being so critical and it's a bit like picking on a cute fluffy bunny your children love and pointing out all the flaws it has....and perhaps my opinion is tainted by too many plastic free July posts on social media this month that makes me feel like a bit of a Grinch.
I take my hat off to her as writing a book is a BIG thing and I should just be saying positive things about a fellow zero waster and Aussie. I don't hate the book, but I don't love it either.
If I was 20 something, a little naïve, with disposable income, no kids and caught up in consumerism then I would totally love this book and get a lot out of it. To me it feels like a book to give an absolute beginner who really doesn't plan to go completely zero waste, or perhaps a teenager just starting out. I feel the zero waste movement has been almost reduced to fad status by this book but if it convinces people to make a change, then that is a fabulous thing!!
It is relatable, most of us have worked jobs that kept us away from sunlight and in artificial light, air and feeling disconnected from nature, questioning what we are doing with our lives and she makes some great points about getting outdoors and discovering what foods are seasonal and where they come from. Yet the vibe of the book is like looking at the world through a bubble that hides some key realities. The guilt trip regarding how we should all buy organic produce regardless of our budget was annoying, and her regular delivery of organic boxed produce was mentioned far too much. In my reality, most people on a low income really can't actually afford organic produce and aren't torn between that or a new Louis Vuitton handbag (It's certainly a first world problem I've never had to experience).
Exercises in the book include jotting down your reasons for starting, writing your own eulogy (no thanks, still dealing with turning 40 next month), mapping how you spend your time, and on day 30 the reader is encouraged to list challenges and possible solutions (this is helpful!!). I got the impression perhaps she started the book with the plan of making it a workbook, but at some stage changed her mind. It seems popular ideas of minimalism, decluttering, time management and thriftiness were thrown in, but not fully explained as to just why they were so relevant.
The blurb promises a 'can do' approach but in such small book it could only cover the surface and didn't in my opinion provide enough detail of zero waste content to empower people to take significant long-term action. It's more like dipping your toes in the water but not ever jumping in for a swim. I expected a very concise read but found repetitive components and wished they had been replaced with more useful ideas (I know she has tons!!).
Her outlook on donating time and unneeded items is spot on - especially the point she makes that time can be donated by helping family and friends and not necessarily an organisation, a point often missed by people and I get the feeling that she is a really lovely person and very kind-hearted. (I'm so sorry for picking on your book Anita!)
Overall, it was upbeat, sincere, positive, and slightly inaccurate. It was a quick, light read, only a couple of hours to finish in one sitting, but be warned as reading it all at once does highlight some of the disjointed topics.
Despite my critical outlook, there is much more to the book that I haven't covered here, and I would still recommend this book to anyone wanting to begin reducing their waste or starting a journey towards zero waste. If you are already well into your zero waste life, then this book isn't likely to tell you anything new, but you will probably enjoy reading a fresh perspective and it's always interesting to hear other people's story on how they got started and adapted their lifestyle.
You can get a copy her book here
if you aren't following her on social media, you really should be!
Have you read the book yet? Maybe you read it and you did reduce your waste by 80%
I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.
Am I being too harsh and pessimistic? (quite possibly!!)
Tell me what you think in the comments below
…...and now I'm looking for another 'green' book to read - any suggestions?
Head here for tips on living zero waste
or read the latest blog posts here.
If you would like to receive regular updates, hit subscribe below