As a mindful consumer, chances are you’re looking for ways to reduce your waste and preserve the world’s precious resources. But it’s not just waste we need to be mindful of.
We need to concentrate on buying and consuming less. And for those things that we do buy (because we do need to eat after all) we need to try to reduce our packaging waste.
Today we’re going to unpack the aim of Zero Waste Week by looking at the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Rot.
Avoid buying anything that will lead to waste. Most importantly, this applies to anything single-use. Refuse to buy anything in packaging that will go straight in the bin, or anything that you really don’t need.
- Bottled water or takeaway coffee (carry a refillable bottle/cup instead)
- A newspaper/magazine from the shop (read online instead)
- An Amazon delivery (take your own bag to the local shops instead)
While “refuse” concentrates on the action of saying “no” there are lots of circumstances where you can say “yes”.
Say “yes” as often as you can to anything that is truly sustainable or without packaging. The more times we say “yes” to these types of products and services, the more likely they are to be available.
Unfortunately modern marketing encourages us all to consume, consume, consume. In reality a lot of the stuff we buy we don’t really need. Sure, it’s nice to buy some things, but we all need to start asking ourselves if we genuinely need it. And in cases where we don’t, we should probably leave it on the shelf.
When we do need to buy something it’s best to buy things that have the least amount of waste as possible, and items that are likely to have the longest lifespan. Buy good quality, sustainable items over cheap, poor quality products – as long as your budget allows.
Take a good look around your house, especially at the back of cupboards and in long forgotten boxes. Do you have things you don’t need? Could you pass them on to someone who might need it more? Do you have items that you’ve forgotten about and could you use these instead of buying something new?
If you’re not used something in 12 months, how likely are you to use it in the future?
Reuse (and Repair)
One of the best ways to reduce your waste is to reuse everything as many times as possible.
When something breaks, repair it, and continue to use it again and again for as long as possible. Not only does this prevent waste, it also gives all the resources that went into making the product the longest lifetime possible.
You can also aim to replace all your single-use items with reusable items. We’re not suggesting you go out and buy a whole load of new stuff just for the sake of it. But over time you can build up your arsenal of reusables. These are great items to add to birthday and Christmas wish lists.
Here’s some ideas to get you started:
- Reuse your takeaway/delivery containers for as long as possible
- Swap cotton pads, wet wipes and napkins with reusable cloth ones
- Collect supermarket jars to reuse in your pantry
- Invest in some heavy-duty cloth shopping bags – they’ll be good for years to come
- Learn how to do some basic mending so you can fix socks with holes, buttons that come loose and small holes in clothes.
Once something really has been used to its max and can’t be repaired any longer, recycle it.
Use the great Recycle Now website to find where any item can be recycled. You’d be surprised how many things can be recycled!
For example, most water filters and printer cartridges have a recycling scheme. Medical inhalers can be returned to most pharmacies. Terracycle takes a whole variety of used products including toothbrushes, toothpaste, beauty products, ring binders, contact lenses – the list goes on.
Make sure you also know what your local council collects. Consider curbside recycling collection, but also your council’s physical recycling centers. Most now accept white goods, sports equipment, anything electrical, timber, rubble, again the list goes on. The scope of collection differs from council to council so you’ll need to do your own research.
Fed up with all the plastic?
Rid your food cupboards of single-use plastic with the Plastic Free Pantry Project.
Follow along step by step and transform your kitchen – and your life – in as little as a weekend.
Last but not least, we have rot. If you have anything organic leftover from cooking, make sure to either add it to your own compost bin or find an alternative composting location.
Some councils have a compost collection facility, but not all. Make sure you check out what’s available in your area.
If you don’t have space for a compost bin outside, you could also consider a wormery. Or try a bokashi system – a Japanese system where bacteria break down food waste into compost.
It’s Zero Waste Week, Take Action Now
Zero Waste Week starts today and runs for the first week of September.
Can you watch your waste and send nothing to landfill for an entire week? Are you up for the challenge?
If so, join our Facebook community and join a load of other people challenging themselves during Zero Waste Week!
Here’s some tips to get you started:
- Take a food audit of everything that you throw away – understanding your own habits will reveal where you need to change behaviours
- Say no to BOGOF – while Buy One Get One Free offers feel good on the purse they often lead to additional food thrown in the bin
- Cook the right amount – learn how to control portions so nothing is left over and wasted
- Shop in your cupboards – use up the stockpile of goodies in your freezer and cupboards to stop wasting money on new products
- Menu plan – this will help reduce those unnecessary items creeping into your shopping trolley
- Mind your language – ban the words leftovers and instead use them as ingredients in new meals
- Plant your scraps – create a compost bin for kitchen scraps
- Make crisps – use vegetable peelings to make crunch crisps in the oven
- Reuse your wilting fruit and veg – wrinkly carrots or browning bananas are great in soups and smoothies, not in the bin
- Don’t throw out your eggshells – full of calcium, they can be ground and added to smoothies or porridge
- Reuse your peel – use in potpourri, dry and used to light a fire or used to clean the dishes
- Doing all you can – inspire others, share your tips and tricks on social media.