It’s easy to forget about the waste we create when it’s out of sight and out of mind. We throw our rubbish in the bin, and it’s taken away every week by a huge rubbish truck with squealing brakes. That’s it, right? Though we may think this is the end of the story, it’s not. With the planet in mind, our waste is getting harder to ignore.
Our current ‘outsourcing’ mindset around waste, isn’t sustainable. As consumers, we have the power and responsibility to reduce our waste and create a demand for consumables and possessions that support a waste-free lifestyle and beautiful planet.
I’ve been on an eco-journey towards a minimal waste lifestyle for over three years now, and it’s not easy. Throughout my journey, I’ve had successes and failures, made compromises and conquests, and sometimes complete catastrophes. Although reducing your waste should be a must, not a choice, society does not make it easy for us to choose waste-free options. Bulk food stores have only recently increased in popularity, and even the vegetable aisle is glistening with plastic, leaving few options for waste-free purchases.
Even though it may not be a piece of (waste free) cake, reducing your waste is totally doable. Whilst “zero-waste” is an admirable lifestyle, minimising your waste is a great place to start (and let’s face it, there’s no such thing as zero-waste, even zero-wasters create waste, just check out pics of their jars!)
Here are the top tips I’ve learnt that will help you reduce your own waste and be kind to the beautiful planet we inhabit.
1. Repair rather than discard
The best way to reduce waste, is to look after and repair what you already have. Giving new life to belongings that could easily be thrown out and replaced, means you divert trash from landfill, and save your money in the process. Learn how to sew simple seams, bust out the super glue, and seek help from friends and local professionals when the job is too big.
Pro tip: Repair is just one of the R’s of sustainable living and conscious consumerism. Check out the other 6 R’s here.
You’re probably already ahead of the compost game, but if you aren’t composting already, I urge you to begin. Throwing your veggie scraps and wilted flowers in landfill means they won’t break down quickly or properly. In landfill, food scraps and other green waste emit methane gas as they decompose; a gas that is highly toxic. A home compost bin is a simple fixture that doesn’t take up too much space, and once the compost is matured, it acts as a great fertiliser for your garden too.
Pro tip: Don’t have a backyard or live in a small apartment? Check out Bokashi Composting, it’s perfect for those living in small spaces.
3. Replace disposables with reusables
Using an item, like a plastic-lined coffee cup, for just 10 minutes which took non-renewable resources and literally hours (from extraction to final product) to manufacture and will take perhaps a thousand years to break down, simply doesn’t add up. New Zealanders consume an estimated 295 million takeaway cups a year; a rate that is not sustainable for our future. Disposables such as coffee cups, shopping bags, cutlery, straws, sanitary products, napkins, takeaway containers, glad wrap, razors, and drink bottles are just a few items you can easily replace with reusable alternatives.
Pro tip: For a more comprehensive list of disposable items you can switch to reusable check out our post: “22 Steps Closer to Zero Waste Living: Disposable Items to Stop Buying Right Now“
4. Buy used over brand new
Second hand is not second best. Use up what already exists by trawling through second hand stores, reaching out to community groups, and shopping at your online second hand stores, like Gumtree and eBay. Second hand shopping can become a fun hobby, and generally means you are intentional about your purchases, resulting in less clutter in your home.
Pro tip: Check out these websites when shopping for used and vintage items, particularly preloved fashion.
5. Prioritise recyclable packaging
When shopping at your local store, choose food that is packaged in glass, tin, or paper material. There are easy alternatives, like choosing glass bottled milk over plastic, or cans of sauce rather than packets. Materials such as glass, tin, and paper, use less energy and resources to be recycled, than plastic.
Pro tip: If you really want to nerd out on the issues surrounding packaging, we recommend you read this article about bio-plastics made from sugar, seaweed and corn.
6. Meal plan
Set a meal plan for the week and create a shopping list to match. Planning your meals not only avoids food waste, but saves you money and time stressing over what to have for dinner. Takeaways are another recipe for more waste, as they come in packaging and plastic bags. Planning your meals for the week, shopping appropriately, and avoiding take out will ensure your rubbish bin stays low, and the planet gets out of dinner time unscathed.
Pro tip: Keen to make your eating habits more sustainable? Check out this post: “10 Ways We Can Make the Food System More Sustainable”
7. Shop at bulk food stores and farmer’s markets
Bulk food stores and farmer’s markets are my personal waste saving favourites. Taking your own containers, jars, and bags to a bulk food store means you’re boycotting packaging all together, and shopping at farmer’s markets supports small local businesses too. Bulk bin stores, like The Source, are popping up everywhere. It’s now easier than ever to find a bulk food store near you (if you live in urban areas that is!)
We are consumers, and we are responsible for our personal footprint on the planet.
Reducing our waste is a sure way to preserve and respect the environment we love. You can start by adapting these tips to fit your lifestyle, and striving not for perfection, but improvement. Being mindful of all purchases and habits is at the core of positive change. It may not be a piece of (waste free) cake, but it’s the least we can do for our planet.
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Cover image by Polina Kovaleva.