An academic research nerd from the University of Cambridge, Sahar Mansoor’s journey towards a zero waste living started off in one of the 900 libraries where she sat reading about waste and environment. After studying in the Liberal Arts School in USA and spending time with the World Health Organisation in Geneva where she was studying about the global waste problem from a health perspective, Sahar came back to India looking for her roots, and the desire to follow a not-so-outlandish waste-free lifestyle inspired by her grandmother.
From orating TED talks to promoting zero-waste living at flea markets, she has now started her own personal care and home care brand called Bare Necessities which has become a beacon of awareness on zero waste living. Here's a peek into her zero-waste travel and beauty routine.
What is a zero waste lifestyle?
Whether it is carrying your own stainless steel straw or using a compostable bamboo toothbrush every day, zero-waste lifestyle involves using products that care for the environment as much as they care for you. By using non-toxic, non-GMO and cruelty-free items, leading a zero-waste lifestyle makes sure that nothing ends up in a landfill. “I was kind of overwhelmed by our waste problem circling around the environmental damage, health damage and our social justice issue which is primarily what inspired me to lead a zero-waste lifestyle” Sahar says.
What should we keep in mind while starting out on a zero waste lifestyle?
“It is all about the baby steps” continues Sahar, “You do not need to go all in tomorrow. The next time you run out of shower gel that comes in a plastic bottle, try and switch to a soap bar. Or, the next time you're going grocery shopping, ditch the imported peanut butter in the fancy plastic bottle in favour of supporting local economy, and buy it from the lady who makes it in your society. Identifying little ways and slowly incorporating them one step at a time can bring a positive and mindful change to your lifestyle.”
While starting out on a zero waste lifestyle you could:
- Avoid using plastics straws and opt for a more sustainable alternative using steel or paper. “Using the straw for three seconds and it stays in the world for the next 700 years just does not make sense” says Sahar.
- While going out with friends, carry a collapsible box to avoid using plastic containers. It is the best way to avoid generating waste if you want to grab street momos or have pani puri.
- Always carry your personal metal water bottle. Avoid packaged drinking water as one of your early steps into a waste-free living. Carrying your own bottle of filtered water also prevents you from consuming the carcinogens that come in the packaged drinking water.
How do I follow my waste-free lifestyle while travelling?
A lightweight travel kit with all your essentials in it can contribute greatly if you are following a zero-waste lifestyle. “I always carry a little cloth snack bag with my almonds and nuts so I don’t need to buy a packet of chips or something at the airport, and I can just use my own snacks.” Sahar continues. “I also make sure I have my own water bottle, my coffee mug, my cutlery — all of which is pretty lightweight”.
While travelling, look for farmers' markets to shop from so that you can make the best out of the local produce available. “I also carry my own headphones to try and avoid using the plastic ones that are wrapped and need to be washed and cleaned in order to be given to someone else to use” says Sahar.
Is following a zero waste beauty routine this easy as well?
“My routine is pretty no-fuss. It is very minimal.” Sahar revealed. She starts her morning with her compostable bamboo toothbrush and organic toothpaste which contains three ingredients — coconut oil which massages the gum, baking soda which is a natural disinfectant and organic peppermint essential oil which keeps you fresh.
“I have an olive oil soap bar which I use for my body. I like switching soaps according to the season like using an orange cinnamon flavour during Christmas.” Sahar continues “And if I don’t have time after yoga or a run, I use my Desert Dry shampoo which is made out of cocoa powder and cornstarch. After my shower, I moisturise my body again with coconut oil and my make-up remover is also coconut oil. So that’s basically it.”
What about my menstrual waste?
Those pads and tampons lying in your drawer take about 200 years to start decomposing. The plastic ends up going into the soil, leaching toxic chemicals and contaminating the ground water, oceans and rivers. Moreover, do you like the idea of the local municipal cleaner sorting through your menstrual waste? What are our options, you ask? Enter menstrual cups.
- Menstrual cups are made with medicinal grade silicon which is much better than putting plastic inside your body.
- They do not leak chemicals inside your body. Dioxin is a by-product of the bleaching process in the manufacturing of tampons and the synthetic fiber rayon can leave residue in the vaginal wall.
- They do not alter the natural pH level of your vagina. Unlike tampons, menstrual cups do not absorb the natural and necessary vaginal secretions therefore safeguarding the natural chemistry of your vagina.
- Menstrual cups are great for the environment.They save sanitary pads, tampons, plastic sachets and applicators from turning up in dustbins, landfills, seas and rivers.
- They are so economical. A one-time investment of Rs. 700 helps you have waste-free periods for about ten to fifteen years.
Can I dispose my electronic waste in a more mindful manner?
Giving your waste to social enterprises that have directed their efforts towards proper disposal of electronic waste is an important step to take while leading a zero-waste lifestyle. Giving it to the right source can make the entire difference preventing it from going to the landfills where toxic chemicals seep into the soil. Giving it to an e-waste collector is the best thing to do.