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How to reduce your carbon footprint and why it’s important – With Zoe Munday

This week I’m going to be talking to Zoe Monday. 

Zoe has been practicing zero waste for over five years, she’s helped establish a zero waste shop in South Sea, and she hosts workshops on how to make your own toothpaste.  

Zoe is currently a biologist, working for a biology technician for one of the most prestigious schools in the world but has great ambitions to become a sustainability consultant. 

So, we’re going to be talking about how we can reduce our own our own carbon footprint, and why that’s important.  

Rebecca   

Welcome, Zoe, thank you for joining me today. 

Zoe   

Thank you, thank you. 

Rebecca   

So, let’s get talking about this subject, which is a massive subject, the whole like, “do I recycle, don’t I recycle, what I can do, how does that really help the world?” And so much more?  

It’s a huge conversation, right? It’s not a 20 minute, half an hour podcast. I could probably do several shows just on this one subject. But let’s dive in and just start off, tell me a little bit about the background. You did marine biology at school at university. It was just straight biology, right? Biology, okay. But you learnt about marine life. So, what did you learn that sort of sparked your interest and made you think, oh my God, I need to maybe make some changes? 

Zoe   

So, we were learning a lot about plastic pollution and the impacts that marine pollutants have on marine life, and I ended up kind of getting involved in beach cleans as well. And there were a lot of charities around Portsmouth that try and encourage more beach cleans. But yeah, it was just learning through those courses. I think it’s always been at the back of my mind about what we can do to make an impact and make a change. But I think you get more of an appreciation when you understand something more. It’s great when you get to have an insight of the world, but it can be a bit of a double-edged sword as well, because as you learn more that you get sadder, because you realise that there’s a bigger problem than you first realised. But it’s great because it’s empowering. And it’s really good to know that stuff. 

Rebecca 

Okay. So for those of us that might not understand how the two go together, like how did plastics and marine life coincide? I mean, the plastics they go into landfill. So why are we talking about the ocean? 

Zoe 

So they always say that every everything leads into the oceans. Landfills are never really fully contained. There was a documentary that I watched, I can’t remember what it was called, but it showed how there were landfills very close to the ocean, and through the coastal erosion, all of that plastic and all of that rubbish is now getting dragged back into the sea again, but it’s companies that are dumping things in the ocean the marine liners, the kind of oil tankers and companies like that. Things get dumped into the rivers, things on the beaches, when people go and have a picnic, and they leave things it all gets washed into the ocean. And you’ve got this massive Pacific Garbage Patch. I don’t know if you have heard of that.  

In the UK, we know that sewage companies put sewage into the sea which is quite disgusting when you think about it.  

Rebecca 

But that’s often treated water, isn’t it?  

I hope it’s not like literal sewage going into the sea. I don’t know enough about these subjects to know to know that, but obviously, it’s more like China and Asia area that they literally do dump rubbish into the sea. 

 Zoe 

Yeah. And it comes down to education, because a lot of the countries that have these issues, they’re just not aware of the impact that they’re having. Because for them, it’s normal. So ,you go to places like Thailand and Vietnam, and they’re just dumping things in the rivers and they don’t think anything of it. But we as a more economically developed country should know better. You’ll have people dumping rubbish on the street, even though we’ve got bins and people just throw things away and they just don’t think anything of it. But the raw sewage that you mentioned, there was actually a petition recently that managed to stop Thames Water from dumping sewage into the Solent. It’s crazy because it still happens and you just think why would that be happening. You’d think it was illegal or something but yeah, they’re still doing it. So yeah, crazy. 

Rebecca 

So, what have you since learning that and doing Biology units at uni? What have you gone on to do yourself personally? You’ve had that sort of epiphany, that education and probably like it’s a bit of an Aladdin’s cave like you’re opening up this massive “Yeah, gosh, all this stuff I didn’t really realise”. So what have you personally gone on to do and achieve in since then? 

 Zoe 

I’ve just doing a lot of research around it, joining local groups that are also passionate about reducing their carbon footprint and their waste impact. And there was this group that I joined in Portsmouth called Zero Waste Portsmouth and we helped build Portsmouth’s first zero waste supermarket called package free larder. It’s great, and it’s community led, and everything is zero waste, you bring your own containers, you weigh your container, add what you want. And it’s just trying to encourage the community to be more zero waste. I also got involved in beach cleans, and just trying to reduce my own carbon footprint. So, I started making my own toothpaste. I try and research ways of using, you can use foods as makeup. So, you’re going to find cocoa powder in bronzer. And I think you can kind of mix flour and cocoa powder to get the colour that you want. And then you can use that as bronzer. So there’s loads of loads of ways kind of helping and doing your part.

Rebecca 

Amazing. And so just coming back to how you live your life right now. How do you buy things? I mean, I suppose we should take a step back a little bit and talk about more about consumerism. Because this is a subject that I’m quite passionate about, in that we’re trained or taught to consume by financial services professionals. I was even listening to something on the radio the other day, and it almost talked about you need to take this finance out to get this car, because it then means that you will have this lovely life. We’re taught that if we buy loads of things, we’ll have a happy life. And we’re taught that as women, we have massive buying power. As an industry, you know, you’ve mentioned makeup, that is a multi-billion pound industry before you even talk about hair, or clothes, or accessories, shoes and everything else on top of and, and we’re almost encouraged by those industries to spend money with them.  

 Zoe 

Of course, there’s this mass consumerism, and I hear quite a lot in sort of the science circles I work in is like, in a business sense. Once you’ve achieved certain milestones, you celebrate that, and you go and buy something. And it might be a designer handbag for example, and there’s no judgement, like if that’s what makes you happy if that’s what floats your boat; you’ve worked hard, you’ve achieved certain milestones you’ve never thought you dreamt of achieving or affording, of course, then go and buy that handbag, right? Because, you know, that’s, that’s what makes you happy.  

Rebecca 

But where do you draw the line in mass consumerism over the fact that do you really need a 10th or an 11th handbag? There’s actually one particular coach I know, that when she buys a new handbag, she sells the old handbag, at like an auction and gives that money to charity. So it’s like a flip on the consumerism element. She’s still getting a nice handbag, but it’s not like she just collecting wardrobes and wardrobes of more bags and more clothes. Which if that’s what floats your boat again, there’s no judgement, but we have to ask the question. 

I recently had a family member pass away and she actually worked for Harrods buying shoes many, many, many years ago. And this family member had about seven or eight wardrobes of shoes and clothes and jackets and coats. It’s taken my other family member, basically, I probably say all of this year to go through the house. And you know that they had like four skips? What happens to those skips? Stuff can get recycled. I imagine they gave something to a charity; I don’t know. But I imagine a major part of the stuff that’s in there will just go to landfill.  

And we have to ask the question, what are we actually doing, what legacy are we creating? That stuff is not stuff that people can sell and keep and love and adore. That is stuff that people just cannot see any reasonable purpose for and they put in a cupboard. It’s forgotten about and then it’s not used. And that’s about mass consumerism gone wrong, right? 

Zoe 

Yeah, you’ve got so many good points.  

So, society and capitalism kind of feeds off of women’s insecurities because if you’re happy with yourself there’s no money there, but if you’re unhappy in your skin, then look at all this wealth of products that you can use to make yourself feel better. And if you buy this, then you’ll look like this model. It’s ridiculous. And it is, like you said, it’s consumerism gone mad, and we just need to consciously buy things, we need to stop being a sucker for marketing. And there’s so many adverts, and they’re all kind of luring you and dragging you in and saying you need the stuff, but you don’t need that stuff. Because it’s kind of trying to fill a hole to make you sort of feel better about yourself. And that you just bring back your power by choosing where you’re putting your money.  

So that’s the kind of the main thing, you need to do your research about where you’re putting your money and where you’re, buying your things. Because like you said, when you have all of these things, where does it go afterwards? You kind of have to think of the whole chain of lifecycle of a product. So, I kept on putting off buying shoes. I’m in my parents’ house at the moment, and I’m helping them get rid of all of these 25 years of stuff, because they’re moving house. And I’m in my old bedroom. And there’s a bag over there that is full of shoes that throughout my life I just refused to throw away because I just thought, “Well, what do I do with them?”. And I ended up trying to research, how to get rid of all these shoes. And there was a place in America that recycles the soles of trainers to then create tennis court flooring, because it’s rubber. But there’s no place in the UK that does that. And right, those recycling bins, they’re just going to be given to another charity, they’re not actually recycled, they’re just reused. 

So yeah, I was trying to think of ways of recreating these shoes. And there’s loads of things; you can make them into plant pots, you can put plants in them, they look really cute. There was also a lady who is this incredible seamstress on Instagram, and I have to remember her name and send it to you, but she creates these garments out of the top bits of converses and creates corsets from them.  

And I just thought I really need to make something like that, because I’ve got a sewing machine myself. It’s about trying to think of the lifecycle of this product. Because you want to make sure that you’re not going to be creating a bigger impact and you’re going to lessen the carbon footprint. And so, you kind of got to think about if this product is biodegradable, or if it can be recycled into something else before you purchase it. So, then it’s not just going to go into the ground afterwards and take 200 years to break down. 

Rebecca 

So, I’ve recently seen, oh, this trainer and it’s been made from recycled other garments or other stuff, I can’t remember exactly what it was made from. Yes. And is that it? Is that just like another way of charity, where you take it to the charity shop, but that’s better than going to landfill, at least it’s the charities benefiting from it, someone else’s gets use of it. But at the end of the day, could the person that buys it could have a consumer purchasing issue? And you know, eventually they have a skip outside their house. They might just hoard lots and lots of stuff. But equally, if it’s made from recycled products, and you’re buying that recycled product, is that any better? 

Zoe 

I think so yeah. Because I think like with a charity shop, it’s better to get something that’s already existing in the sort of consumer chain, because otherwise, you’re just going to buy a new thing that’s just going to get put back into the that cycle. And already so many garments out there that are easily accessible and usable. And like you said, they could be just existing in someone’s wardrobe and then not even being touched. But if you’re recycling something and making it into something else, then that’s still better than it getting thrown away because it would have just not been used otherwise. So, you’re creating a usable garment or a usable product from something that just would have been put into landfill as well. 

Rebecca 

And you know, I don’t know if you know this or not, but do you know the current sort of state of play when it comes to what the UK are doing for landfill because I have heard in the past that they actually have sold our garbage to other countries. 

Zoe 

That’s true, that was a thing I think, a few years ago. And they were selling it. And they were putting them into these big tankers and sending them off to places like China. And they then recycled them or did something over there. But I think China then drew a line and said, “No, we’re not taking any more of your rubbish”. So now we’re sitting here going, what do we do with all of this junk? We’re literally only an island, we can only dig so many holes to put it in.  

But I was speaking to someone the other day and I think that to reduce, as gross as it sounds, to reduce the impact of the landfills, we should go in there, retrieve the usable things from it, and either recycle it or repurpose it because there’s a huge problem with metal leakage and heavy metals in the soil because people just throw away car batteries without recycling properly, and then they leach into the ground. So ,these just become toxic waste dumps because people aren’t recycling them properly. 

Rebecca 

Let’s talk about recycling. Now my husband thinks that there’s no point recycling, I’m not going to set him up here as a bad guy, he’s not. Because he doesn’t believe that they actually really truly recycle everything that you put in the recycling. Now we can get garbage as in like, orange peel, that goes to compost, I think most compost, so most people will get that and think okay, that can happen quite easily. But in our household unless you go put loads of stuff in your car, drive it to the local tip, and you put the cardboard in the cardboard, and the wood with the wood, and the metal with the metal, most people would just end up putting in a black sack and put it with their weekly rubbish. So, he’s saying, let’s just do that, because they don’t actually bother recycling it anyway.  

And then I’m probably have not the best when it comes to what I buy. But what I do buy, I meticulously put into categories of what’s recyclable and what’s not. And I try and massively, we’ve actually got two recycle bins, because that’s how much we recycle. But probably because I buy too much stuff with plastic. which everything is covered in plastic. Right? And I really should, and we can talk about this in a second as a next subject, really should look at how I can start reducing my plastic and consumerism. I really am conscious of it, because we recycle that much of it. But then what is the actual process in the UK as to how they process that plastic? 

Zoe 

Yeah, so I think it’s definitely dependent on what facilities are present in those councils and those local boroughs. And it is impossible, it is like a minefield because you’ve got to think of each plastic. So, the triangles that you get on the recycle packaging, each has a number. Each number is attributed to a different type of plastic. So there’s all these different types of plastics, but it’s dependent on what those recycling facilities are. It is really difficult to finally find out what it is that you can recycle. I know that a lot of recycling plants struggle to recycle the coloured plastic, because they don’t have the right machines to do it. But the biggest thing to just is just to refuse plastic, and just to try and reduce the amount of plastic that you’re putting into recycling because like you said, it’s impossible to find out if it actually does get recycled. A lot of these companies are very, very touchy about people go into their recycling plants and actually seeing what they do in these plants, because they’re probably not fully recycling in it, or they’re just kind of sending it off to another company to do the work for them. 

Rebecca 

And what happens with cardboard, plastic’s a bit more difficult, but what happens with recycling cardboard, 

Zoe 

I think cardboard’s a lot easier because it’s just one source. It’s just wood pulp. So ,it would probably get ground down, rinsed and then sort of be cleaned a lot. And then it would be repressed and then made into something else or shipped off to a company that would make whatever they needed to make with it. But the thing with cardboard and any sort of recycling is you can’t contaminate it, it needs to be clean. So, things like pizza boxes, you can’t recycle because it’s already contaminated with food waste and grease and things. If you don’t really rinse out your tins or your bottles then chances are you could end up contaminating it. My mum actually experienced this with a next door neighbour; they put some food waste into her paper bin and the council refused to take it because they were like it’s been contaminated. 

Rebecca 

So, I have dogs, and they have some tinned food. We’re talking two tins a day and I’m vegetarian. So I wouldn’t buy raw meat or cook raw meat or anything like that. And I’m really uncomfortable with the tins. So, if I didn’t rinse that tin out properly, and it got on to some of the other packaging, would that mean that that tin, and that other packaging would not get recycled? 

Zoe 

It depends on the council probably, if they’re quite vigilant, then very probably, but if not, then they would hope that they’d then rinse it up the plant. But if it’s quite a lot of food waste, then yeah, it probably would render it unviable, unfortunately, and then just go to landfill.  

Rebecca 

So, I guess what was completely wrong in his comment is how can we start to reduce the our plastic and packaging that we have coming in. I do a weekly Sainsbury’s shop, it’s delivered to my door, I hate going shopping, I don’t like going around the shopping aisles, I take the kids, it’s annoying. So, I have a delivery. And I buy apples. And if I buy them loose, they put them in a plastic bag. And they come in a tray, which means there’s no plastic bags, we choose not to have plastic bags, we don’t need all that plastic. But the apples still come in a little bag. Or even if I have bananas, they put them in a little bag. And so, is there is there a website that people can go to that has better options, and you’re not buying in that way? Or you know what other options are there? 

Zoe 

The main ones I recommend is try and find a local Zero Waste shop in your area. Because chances are you probably have one already. And then you just need to bring your containers you can fill as much as you want. And then you just pay for what you weigh. So, a lot of the money that we’re spending on produce is from the packaging. If you’re not eliminating the packaging, then you’re literally just buying the food that you need. And local grocers and markets tend to have things loose and then it literally just comes down to the to you the buyer. You can refuse it and when you go to the till, I always end up saying no, don’t put it in a plastic bag. Or you can get these really lovely turtle bags, which are these knitted mesh bags. And you can just put them in those and then even and sort of everything for you.  

Rebecca 

But what was Googled? What did I Google? I need to go back and find out a Zero Waste shop near me. ‘m in the southeast and looking at the whole of the southeast. I’m not sure if it’s going to search as I scroll out, but there’s a few there’s a couple in Kent, there’s about 10 or so in London by the looks of things. There’s one in Essex and there’s one in Sevenoaks and some couple going down into Surrey. Last time I looked at this there was there was far less than that. So that’s good, right?  

So, the more we use these kinds of shops, the more profitable it is, the more it becomes a thing. So I found one that’s nearest to me. And I don’t mind mentioning it. It’s in Rochester and their website is called www.nakedproducts.co.uk. They’ve got soaps and gift boxes and shampoo bars and pads and dishes deodorant and toothpaste. Yeah, shaving foam, beard oil, deodorants, washing up, something called ocean saver all-purpose floor cleaner, brushes, and eco egg.  

But it’s not like it’s okay, it’s lots of products like soaps, and but it’s not necessarily your favourite shampoo. And those are things that have come in lots of bottles like in my shower I must have about seven or eight plastic bottles.  

I have a hand wash that you have as a refill that you fill up the smaller little bottles, but that hand wash comes in a massive plastic bag. Aren’t they like they’re trying to reduce their plastic by not having the plastic bottle but at the end of the day? It’s still coming in a big plastic bag. So, we we end up having to make compromises on the products we want because they’re not selling L’Oreal or whatever.  

So, you’ve obviously gone through this. How have you experienced it? Obviously, we can make small steps and try different things, I guess. Right? So just trying different products? 

Zoe 

I think I end up enjoying more products when I know that they’ve got a lower environmental impact. So, Faith in Nature is a massive one.  

The shop that I helped set up in Portsmouth have these massive refillable tubs kind of things of these different shampoos, different shower gels, conditioners, and things and it’s lovely. And t some of them are really good. But you do need to sort of try around and find one that works for you. But it’s, like you said, a compromise. Because I think if you can’t find the shampoo that you want, but you want to be zero waste, then you go for whichever one kind of fulfils that need.  

Rebecca 

And I’ve just checked out their websites, they do conditioner, body wash shampoo, makeup, but like there’s, I can see plastic bottles. 

Zoe 

Yeah, the shop that we had, they offered a refillable option. But I think they are quite ethical in the sense that you use less chemicals. So, it’s less damaging to the environment. Plastic is amazing in the sense that it allows us to do a lot of things. So as bad as plastic can be, it offers this sort of waterproof container, and it’s just easy to transport. So, we’re trying to get away from that, because we have such a reliance on it. But it is difficult to completely avoid. 

Rebecca 

Yeah, sure. To a degree right. So , what can parents do when it comes to their children and such, because we have plastic toys and they’re growing all the time, you can’t necessarily make do with trainers because they don’t fit anymore. What really simple, quick solutions would you suggest? 

Zoe 

Secondhand. Secondhand, is great, because if I had kids, I would definitely just buy charity shop things and hand-me-downs. As much as your kids are going to hate you for having hand me down stuff, you’ll feel better for it. And they will probably appreciate that you were trying to make more of an environmental improvement.  

Rebecca 

I am my I’m lucky; a lot of my friends buy really nice stuff and they then always offer me and bare in mind, I am in a financial position where I can go and buy a brand new. This is not about hand me downs in the sense of you can’t afford it. When I was growing up, I was a tomboy and my brother was three years older than me. I had hand me downs of everything. I literally wore all of my brothers stuff. And I didn’t really think much of it because I was a tomboy anyway. But it did come a point where I did feel like oh, can I not have my own stuff?  

So, I do get that to a degree but there’s so much more choice I think these days. It wasn’t so much of a popular thing to do to go into a charity shop while now it’s trendy and it’s quite a good thing to do. But my point was is that now I take the things for my friends, and I outwardly say to my friends, “Yeah, great. Give me whatever you’ve got”. I’d rather reuse something, get rips in it, get it dirty, and then throw it away.  

Is there a way to recycle fabrics like easily because the recycling local council don’t collect those fabrics, right? Yeah, is there is there an easy way to recycle fabrics? 

Zoe 

Let me actually show you something that I made because I’m quite in to textiles. So just repurposing what you have already. So, this is a top. I cut this the other day, but I made it into a vest top and this was literally a t shirt, it was like a long sleeve t shirt that I made into a crop and this was the off cut. And then I literally just put holes in for the sleeves and it’s perfect. The easiest thing I’ve ever made, so literally just repurposing the clothes that you already have is the number one advice that I could give with recycling. Because I always find that when you have things like socks, socks, they always end up getting holes in the toes or the heel, but the rest of the fabric is fine. I ended up making reusable makeup wipes from the top part of the socks. And they’re super soft, really nice, really comfy, they get off all your makeup.  You’ve just given this fabric a new lease of life, because fabric itself is quite difficult to recycle because it’s all been made into fibres already. The recycling banks that you see, like I mentioned, they literally just take the clothes to a charity shop for them to reuse. But if it’s ripped, then you can make it into the makeup wipes. There was something that my friend sent me that it was amazing. It showed this video where this person cut up all these tiny little bits of fabric, and then stuck it onto a kind of backing and created a bikini top from it. It was incredible. And all of these ways of doing things are on Instagram. YouTube is my saviour, when it comes to trying to find out new things of making things. I keep on seeing adverts on Instagram for repurposing clothes, and there’s courses out there and everything, but yet there’s the information is there. 

Rebecca 

I mean, I’m a busy mom, I’ve got two horses, two dogs, a cat, you know, you end up just rushing, I literally am rushing from one thing to the next. I probably could use a sewing machine, my nan taught me when I was tiny, but part of me is that we’re sort of taught as business owners to outsource everything.  

The idea of sitting and sewing or remaking something, I think it’s got to be something that you enjoy doing otherwise, you wouldn’t naturally do it. So, my head’s like, okay, who’s in my local area that enjoys doing that, that wants some extra money? Because surely that’s a business in its own right. And I can really see, you know, in terms of investing, as a society as a community, I think that’s where we need to start investing in in our local areas and pulling together more, because then that way we learn more about it know what more opportunities are, and therefore, potentially new businesses will be created, and new opportunities will be created. And then we’re creating a culture and a legacy for our children. That’s hopefully better, right? Yeah, I know, there’s a lot that I need to be doing. And thank you for the inspiration in joining today. I’m going to scratch my head and figure out how to stop having so much plastic in my house. Every every little bit step by step, right?  

Zoe 

Literally starting small and just taking one thing at a time and just trying to change one thing, and then you’ve made a start, and that’s great. 

Rebecca 

Great, and you never know, you might inspire somebody else right to do this thing. And that, like, I think you described it previously, maybe we didn’t record that first little chat, but I liked like the way you described. You know, it’s like if you’ve got a particular charity event, and you know, like, let’s say Cancer Research is a massive, massive issue in the in the world. And your extra £500 that you raised towards that cancer research is costing billions of pounds, you wouldn’t not go and do that £500 of charity work, because every little bit counts. And I think that’s really a really powerful message in when it comes to the environment and how we can do good to the planet. Any parting words before we go? 

Zoe 

So, the things that you think, before you reduce, reuse, recycle is refuse! So, refuse is the first thing. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Try and make do with what you have. Don’t throw things away because you think that it’s not zero waste and it’s not eco, try and use what you have. But then when you buy new stuff, just think about where it comes from and do your research.

Rebecca 

Fabulous. Thank you for joining us today. I’m sure lots of people are going to be really inspired, as well. If anyone wants to sort of catch up with you connect with you. Where’s the best place to do that? 

Zoe 

I have a Science website on Instagram, called Little Ecozones Science. So, you can catch me on there. And our I’ve got LinkedIn as well; Zoe Monday. And yeah, so connect with me on any of those platforms. 

Rebecca 

Fabulous. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. And looking forward to seeing what else you get up to in the next month or so. 

I absolutely loved that chat with Zoe today. And I’m certainly going to get thinking about what I could be doing for the future and what I should be encouraging my children to be doing as well.  

I’d love to hear back from you. What has inspired you? What would get you going and thinking about ethical consumption? What are you going to go and look for? Thank you for joining us and do go and check out my next webinar that’s up and coming. likely to be around ethical investing or something around your finances. Go and check it out. And I’d love to hear from you soon. Take care 

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