So far, I’ve been covering where we are, in terms of reducing waste.
Which is fine – I can only really write about what I know, afterall. However, everyone has to start somewhere so I thought I would share some of the first actions I took towards reducing our household waste.
The following is largely taken from a pair of articles I wrote for our local magazine – AB54.
Easy first steps towards Zero Waste are all over the internet, but here’s where we began…
Bottled Water is a major contributor to waste problems worldwide and is possibly one of the easiest issues to address. If you’re at a restaurant, specifically ask for tap water when you’re ordering. When you’re out-and-about, carry a refillable bottle. Even if you only buy water once a week on average, that’s 52 bottles a year you’re saving from landfill or recycling.
Packaged Food is another quick fix – when shopping for vegetables, choose loose ones and lay them directly in your trolley. They’ll be weighed at the counter exactly as they would have been in the little plastic bags and you can pack them in your choice of containers for the ride home. Now that free carrier bags from the supermarket are a thing of the past, it’s only a very small stretch to toss a Tupperware container in with your shopping bags to transport any fragile vegetables (like tomatoes, for example).
Another great way of doing away with food packaging is to take an old-fashioned packed lunch. Plastic Sandwich Cases or Tubs from Pasta Salads soon mount up. On average, a full time employee spends 232 days a year at work – accounting for holidays and weekends – so, imagine just how much rubbish you’d create if you bought a supermarket lunch every day. 232 plastic containers… most of which never see recycling bins as they’re eaten on the go and are tossed into street-corner, unsorted, trash cans. Even if the thought of getting up early to make packed lunch doesn’t appeal, even something as simple as carrying a cutlery set can help to cut down waste – no more plastic stirrers for tea or coffee, no more plastic spoons or forks for the tubs of pasta salad.
The suggestions above are easy and workable into every-day life without much of a sacrifice. If you’re already employing some of these suggestions, why not consider swapping out some of your disposable household products for reusable ones? Kitchen-roll can be replaced with muslin cloths (something many of us have left-over from when our children were babies), tissues can be replaced with handkerchiefs (and these have the added bonus of being much softer on the nose during hayfever season!), whilst swapping just one disposable nappy a day for cloth can save 365 nappies a year from landfill – and with a pack of 35 Pampers costing around £8.50, it’d also save you approximately £85 a year.
After we’d got to grips with the above, we moved onto the following…
One of the easiest ways to cut down on waste is to opt out of unsolicited mail. All you need to do is visit the Mail Preference Service (MPS) website and follow the steps there. Whilst the process of opting out is quick and easy, it can take between 2-4 months for this to take full effect, so keep that in mind if you continue to receive unexpected advertisements after you’ve signed up with MPS.
A huge source of household waste is food packaging, but this too can be reduced – even if you only have access to mainstream supermarkets. Choosing loose fruit and vegetables is an obvious way of doing this, but considering your options in other areas of the store can also lead to reduced waste. For example, if you’re presented with two brands of muesli – one in a cardboard box and one in a plastic bag – your instinct might be to choose the cardboard box, however as the box will inevitably contain a plastic bag of muesli anyway, you’re better in this instance to choose the breakfast without the cardboard. Even though the box is recyclable/compostable, it’s better that it’s not there to begin with. The bag alone is adequate packaging.
It’s also worth trying to embrace the bakery section of the supermarket. By taking your own cloth bags with you, you can eliminate plastic packaging from baked goods. The bakery is an especially good place to bring your own containers as bread isn’t costed according to weight – you pay per item – so your bag isn’t going to add anything to the price of your shop by being heavier than its plastic counterpart.
It might also be worth looking for plastic free packaging in the freezer section. This takes trial and error, of course, but things like frozen breaded fish are often available in cardboard boxes, whilst in the fridge they might be presented in a plastic tray that’s covered in cling film and a cardboard sleeve.
It’s also worth having a look for aqua-faba recipes online. Aqua-faba is the water that canned legumes come in and it’s an amazing substitute for egg whites. I was sceptical when I first read about it but if you drain a can of chick-peas or kidney beans and whisk the fluid, it peaks like egg whites. You can use this to create sweet, nutty meringues or deeply flavoursome chocolate mousses – all from something you’d normally throw away! And if you’re using up a waste product instead of eggs, you’re cutting down on food consumption.
Finally, don’t overlook the borrowing of things you might only use once – for example, books, films and video games. Books and films can be rented from the library service (the later for a small fee) and video games can be rented via a postal subscription. Not only does this mean that more people can use the same resource making it a greener option, but you also stand to save some money too. If getting to the library or a post box is an issue, then using websites like Abandonware or Project Gutenburg might be a better option. The former offers video games on which the copyright has expired, whilst the latter is a library of free eBooks, all available within the public domain.
So, what are your top tips for someone just beginning to reduce their waste?