When starting out with zero waste, a great place to start is the 5 R’s – everything should fit into one of these and they’re super easy to remember!
Zero waste means learning to say no!
We need to say no to plastic packaged vegetables.
We need to say no to gimmicks and cheap plastic toys.
We need to say no to disposable options.
We need to say no to extra “stuff” that we don’t actually need.
We need to say no to the cycle of destruction and waste.
The majority of disposable, cheap and low-quality products are produced using harmful chemicals and materials from unsustainable sources, involve inhumane working conditions and exploitation of people (including children), are shipped or air-freighted around the world from manufacturer to shop to user and ultimately end up in landfill.
We put this inconvenient truth aside as we are told that the products will make our lives easier, provide entertainment or because they are the current “must-have” item, but the truth is we don’t need most of the stuff we accumulate, and if we do need something, we’re better off purchasing something made sustainably and to a high standard that will last. Not only is this better for the environment but for your wallet too – Constantly replacing low-quality items will cost you more than purchasing something once, even if it is a little more expensive to start with!
What can you start refusing? What can you say no to?
In 2019, as a global community we used up one year’s worth of the planet’s resources by 29thJuly. That means every day from 30thJuly to 31stDecember, we will be depleting the Earth’s resources, stealing from future generations and contributing to the death and destruction of our beautiful home. We consume too much and it needs to stop.
Reducing our consumption is the only option – but what does that mean?
Reducing the number of clothes we own, the toys we have, the books sitting unread, will all help. All the stuff we aren’t using amounts to wasted resources that are just collecting dust – why not donate or sell or lend them to others who can use them instead of buying new products?
Reducing the number of packaged products we buy or the amount of food we waste, the amount we drive or the number of exotic holidays we take is super important too. It’s not just about reducing the amount of “stuff” in our lives, but also about reducing our overall impact on resources and our personal carbon footprints. www.carbonfootprint.com is a great way to get an idea of how much your lifestyle is contributing to the climate crisis and may give you an idea of where to start reducing? In Marlow, we’re particularly blessed to have the Carbon Coach (Dave Hampton) who I’m sure would love to help you reduce your carbon footprint! You can contact him via www.carboncoach.com
What can you look to reduce today? This week? This month?
As I mentioned earlier, disposables aren’t great – you’re basically throwing your money away, but with added resource strain and pollution. It wasn’t until recently that disposables became a thing! Yes they might make your life a little easier in that moment, but you’re spending money over and over again and the harm they are causing to the environment simply isn’t worth it. We’re selling lots of things that can be reused, but don’t rush out and buy every reusable item you can see, first take a look at what you already have and don’t rush to replace it! I’ve got some amazing Tupperware (with a capital T!) that is older than me, but it’s great and it works brilliantly, so although they look great, I don’t need to go and buy a whole load of new food containers (as tempting as some of them are!)
If things break, try to repair them, or upcycle them into something else that you can use. Learn to darn your socks or patch your jumpers, investigate uses for old plastic flower pots or bricks, make cleaning cloths out of old bed sheets or t-shirts that can no longer be repaired or turn your old car tyres into planters for your garden. Be inventive! (and if you’re stuck for upcycling ideas, Pinterest is a great place for inspiration!)
What do you have already that can be reused? What can be repaired? What can be upcycled?
If you can’t refuse it, you can’t reduce it and you can’t reuse it, then try to recycle it. Granted, if you’ve nailed the first three, there shouldn’t be much left, but taking the time to separate it into the right containers for your local recycling is really important in the fight against waste.
If you’re unsure about what goes where, your local council should have some really simple guides. For those of you in Marlow, WDC have a few pages on their website with all the detail you’ll need: https://www.wycombe.gov.uk/pages/Recycling-and-waste/Recycling-and-waste-directory/Mixed-recycling.aspx
Do you know what goes in which bin for your household collection? Are their sufficient recycling facilities at your work? What can you do to improve recycling in your home / office?
This is the fun bit! Food waste makes great compost! You can either fill up your curb-side caddy for collection, or if you have the time and space, create your own compost pile in the garden!
I’m new to this, so I’m not going to pretend I have much of a clue what I’m talking about, so I’ll definitely get an expert to add some advice to this blog sometime soon. However I have recently set up my compost bin next to an unused patch of garden (which I’m now excitedly calling my vegetable patch, although no vegetables have actually been planted yet) and I’m adding in my garden cuttings and fruit / vegetable waste from the kitchen (I am told that you must not add meat / dairy products to your compost). I haven’t produced any compost yet but I’m already super excited to see what happens and if I can grow my own vegetables with it!
Can you set up a compost pile / bin at home? What could you do with the compost you make?
Those are the 5 R’s – Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. What are you going to try first?