Phew, one year has absolutely flown by- Happy birthday, us! I realise that you guys have had A LOT to process, and I thought that the best thing to do at this stage is to do a recap:
The top 5 ways to reduce your waste. Easy steps and switches to make the biggest difference!
1. Buy local
It doesn’t take that much to realise that locally sourced produce is the best. It’s fresher, healthier, has less of a carbon foot print, and can actually be cheaper – especially because you have to buy produce that is in season. I have also found that it’s the best way to avoid unnecessary plastic packaging, it’s just a matter of scoping out the stalls that keep all their produce loose! My two favourite farmer’s markets in Christchurch are the Lyttelton Market on a Saturday, and the smaller Opawa Market on Sunday. I usually take big canvas bags, and a couple of smaller bags for bread or breakfast pastries! You might want to also get some smaller cloth produce bags if you like to separate your apples and oranges.
Of course, buying local isn’t only about food though (even though food is always at the forefront of my mind..). If you can find ethical companies that make a cool product or offer an awesome service, then hit them up!
2. Buy bulk
When I began researching a zero waste lifestyle I started to notice what was making it’s way into my rubbish bin. In the end it seemed to be primarily thin plastic packets that had contained pasta, rice, nuts, cheese, spices, sweet treats… The list could go on. One of the first ways I cut this rubbish out, was through using jars and cloth bags to buy most of my cooking and cleaning supplies in bulk!
3. Avoid food waste
Obviously I have just covered this in my last post, but it bears repeating! Reduce your food waste through organisation and meal planning, making stock, preserves, or fermented foods, freezing extras and composting the rest.
4. Refuse single use plastics
Take a look at this wee info graphic from www.oceanconservancy.org
This is a list of top items found in international beach clean ups. Obviously many of these are things we really don’t need (don’t get me started on cigarettes, I mean REALLY!?), but we can cut down on all these items by using alternatives. Here’s a list of simple swaps to reduce plastic items in our life – especially those which we use for 5 minutes then toss:
- Cigarettes… Just don’t.
- Food wrappers/containers – Buying bulk using your reusable containers, buying or making fresh baking, getting sweets from the bulk bins in your containers!
- Beverage bottles and cans – I admit I’m a bit of a fizzy drink fiend, and I have tried to offset my waste by using soda stream as a reusable fizzy option (though apparently this company is not the most ethical so it’s worth shopping around), and buying aluminium cans or glass bottles instead of plastic and making sure to recycle them. Should probably do my best to just cut back though. As for water – just buy a good ol’ water bottle and go hard on that! Also take your reusable containers for takeaways.
- Plastic bags – reusable canvas ones! Produce bags are also great if you want them. I have forgotten my bags on occasion (this is often people’s excuse for using plastic) but my solution is to either ask for a box to carry stuff, or just pack everything into the trolley/basket and unload stuff individually into your car… you won’t forget again. Here’s a cool song to help you to remember though.
- Caps and lids – if you cut down your plastic bottles this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but if you do find yourself with lids them make sure you are organised and recycle them correctly.
- Plastic cutlery and straws/stirrers– Always carry a set of cutlery, reusable straw, and tea towel around with you! I just take cutlery from home, but some people use camping utensils which might be more portable. It also helps to have a container on hand if you want to get food on the go without a plastic plate! Remember that the main way to avoid them is by USING YOUR WORDS!! Communication is the key, people. Just say clearly “no plastic straw/cutlery/plate/bag please.” Then you can always follow up with “I don’t use single use plastic” if they look confused. I know some people say they are allergic to the chemicals in the plastics as a way of ensuring they don’t get them, but I prefer to just be honest and open about why I avoid these items, and then maybe people can learn about the cause!
- Paper bags- While I still think it’s better to use paper over plastic, we want to avoid killing too many trees so it’s always best to use fabric cloth bags instead.
Coffee cups – reusable keep cups, or just sit at the café for five minutes!
- Cleaning products – Baking soda and vinegar, look into homemade products. You can also switch out your plastic scrubbing brushes with wooden ones where you can change the head of the brush.
- Sponges – reusable cloths and natural sponges
- Bathroom products – Ditch the bottles and use natural and unpackaged products! Ethique is a great company for this, as is Lush because they’ll reuse any containers you return to them.
- Toothpaste and brushes – brush with bamboo! And look into making your own toothpaste if you want.
- Utensils – switch out plastic kitchen utensils, chopping boards, plastic non-stick pans, with bamboo alternatives and cast iron pans!
- Pads and tampons – reusable cloth pads or menstrual cups
5. Buy quality, care for your possessions
We live in a disposable and consumerist society, and one of the biggest changes we can make is by refusing to take part in this culture of stuff.
If you are buying something new then it is important to think clearly about what you really want the item for, how it is made, and what would make the item last. Buying second hand is also a great way to avoid waste! You can give something a whole new life and purpose by buying second hand, and often go pretty easy on your wallet at the same time. I definitely feel a much stronger connection to things that have meaning and are connected to experiences in my life.
Take my black boots for example! My mum bought these boots back in the early 1990s. She wore them consistently until the 14yr old me stole them for myself. They continue to be my favourite boots – going into fashion and out again, but always remaining a solid basic in my wardrobe. I recently had them re-soled and touched up for maybe the 2nd time in the 8 years I have had them. Cost me $75 this time because I went to the expensive guy in the mall. Still feels worth it to pay that price instead of buying cheaper boots I’d have to replace in a year or so. Plus I feel attached to these boots because of the memories I associate with them!
So there it is ☺ A few simple steps and swaps can make a huge difference in the amount of trash you produce. It will take a little mental effort, some forethought and organisation, but it will make such a positive difference to your life. So give it a whirl! I love to hear about your experiences – some of you have lived plastic free for a fortnight, some have enjoyed gardening or foraging, others have created a capsule wardrobe!
Keep the stories coming ya’ll.
header image by Melika Osareh via thinglink.com