The messiness and unmessiness of living plastic free and zero waste

Image from
I carry a single cloth bag with me at all times. It is there if I want to collect things like the odd cookie, fresh pasta if I happen to walk by a certain store on my way home or even to simply grab a sandwich if I did not pack my lunch that day. I have many cloth bags and each one roll up small, fitting into my handbag without fuss. Really it makes my zero waste and plastic free life easier.

When I hand my little cloth bag over to be filled with sweets, pasta or a sandwich, the shop keeper meets my request with a concerned comment that my bag will get dirty. I know they mean well but sometimes I have to contain a laugh. They are genuinely concerned that a bit of sauce might spill form the sandwich or crumbs will form in the bag. I let them know that it is okay.

They are right, crumbs do end up in the bag. It does get messy. But I will tip it out and let the birds pick up what crumbs they wish. Sometimes it will get a little greasy. And when it does I will wash it. I have access to a washing machine so its not so bad.

Sometimes living plastic free and zero waste requires getting used to a bit of mess. Yes there will be lots of crumbs accumulating. But the crumbs were there when I bought these items in prepackaged form whether in plastic or paper, it's just that I use to throw them away. I did not have to carry them home to clean out. I never made it my responsibility.

While I got used to this new type mess I came to realise that I was removing another mess from my life. A life with less packaging and what seemingly others would view as less convenience eventually removed many messy choices that I used to let clutter my life without seeing.

The mess I am referring to are the shelves of choices I used to encounter everyday. All neatly packaged in plastic or paper. Sometimes it was the same thing packaged in a different way with a slightly different name. And I was there, umming and ahhing about which to choose. In reality I was lost choosing between what do I want and what do I need, and also what do they have in their trolley.

Now it is so much simpler. Choices are limited. If I don't have my cloth bag or some kind of container to collect what I need, then I simply cannot get it. My choices are not messy anymore. And with that in mind I can handle crumbs in my cloth bag.


  1. I'm trying to figure out a way I can convince the significant other in my life to carry a bag too, I wish there was one I could slip in his wallet!

    1. When you find out, let me know! My man keeps paper bags and reuses them. Maybe i should hang cloth bags off the mirror for him.

  2. Anonymous12/07/2014

    Check these out:

    1. These are great. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi Erin,

    I love the look of your cloth bags. I have a few bags that used to house other things, and are now used for filling with flour and buying sourdough bread. The other day I was at the cafe where they bake the bread and I wanted to get my son a little tart as a treat but we didn't have another bag. The man at the counter kindly agreed to place it directly onto my son's hand so that we didn't have to waste a bag - it pays to ask :)


    PS if you are interested in seasonal eating, I've just discovered the most delightful and inspiring book - Ikaria by Diane Kochilas. It is full of recipes and information about the traditional way of life still lived on this small island in Greece. Talk about self-sufficient and low carbon miles! I've cooked many of the vegetarian recipes from the book (which is mostly plant- based) and it was all utterly delicious. As a result of learning about this little island I've now extended my small orchard to include hazel nut bushes, an extra lemon tree and an olive tree. I now longer buy any herbs for tea or cooking as I'm growing all of them. It makes me so happy!

    1. Ohhhh Ikaria is on my bucket list. I remember reading about it on Sarah Wilson's blog. I will look out for the book. By the looks of it the recipes contain the kind of food I love to eat. Thanks for pointing me towards it.


Hi, leave a comment