Simple Ideas For Living With Less Waste
Eleanor Ozich shares 12 easy things to incorporate into your day for a more positive impact
We live in a fast-paced world that has led the majority of us to demand convenience in all aspects of our lives. From the food we eat, the clothes we wear, to the technology we continually update — pretty much everything we consume is packaged unsustainably, in some shape or form.
Recycling plastic, paper and glass might be second nature for most of us, but the truth is, we largely ignore a staggering amount of other waste going to landfill, such as soft plastic packaging, convenience products, clothing, and food. We tell ourselves that as New Zealanders, we're clean and green but, the truth is, our country is creating waste like there's no tomorrow.
It's deeply upsetting to think of what we're doing the environment, and as a result, to our future generations. The good news, however, is that there are plenty simple changes we can all make towards living with less waste.
Here are a few ideas you might be interested in incorporating into your daily rhythms.
Always Clean Your Recyclables
Did you know it's likely that only 50 per cent of what you think is being recycled is actually being recycled? Here in New Zealand, we are currently sending approximately 3 million tons of trash to the landfill each year, a frightful amount to say in the least. Next time you recycle, make sure your paper, plastic and aluminium vessels are well-cleaned, as this will ensure they are actually recycled.
Taking a few minutes to plan before you head to the grocery store can help to make the world of difference. Shopping plastic-free can be easy once you get used it, and before long, it'll feel like second nature. Invest in some reusable shopping bags (I personally love French-style market bags, because well, they look pretty) and cotton or linen produce bags are handy for filling with fresh fruit and vegetables.
You can also take your own glass containers along with you to your local butcher, fishmonger or takeaway shop. You'll find that most are happy to place the food into your own container, we even do this for sushi, too.
Shop in Season
One of the simplest things you can do is buy locally grown, seasonal produce. I usually shop at the farmers market, or order a vegetable box online to minimise the produce being wrapped in plastic — which by the way, seems ridiculous, don't you think? I'll always choose plenty of leafy greens, for salads, summery stews, soups and smoothies, and I'll often freeze any leftover dark greens, to avoid waste.
Buy in Bulk
Purchase dried goods such as baking ingredients, spices, and legumes in bulk to avoid single-use plastic. If you're like me, you might enjoy storing your dried goods in glass jars, as they look tidier in your pantry. You might like to check out GoodFor store, a re-fillery where you can take along your own jars and the like — they also ship nation-wide. Furthermore, most whole foods or bin in stores allow you to do the same.
Ditch the Plastic Coffee Cup
Do you frequent the local cafe or coffee shop? Next time order a coffee, consider using a reusable coffee cup (such as KeepCup, or Joco cups). Or simply take a moment to sit down and enjoy your drink, rather than take it on the go. Why are you in such a rush?
Make Your Own
Consider buying a big bottle of natural Castille soap (I like Dr Bronners) and making your own homemade cleaning and beauty products. Castille soap can be used for almost anything and comes in a range of gorgeous scents. You can find a whole chapter on homemade cleaning and beauty products in my new book, The Art of Simple.
It is estimated that carbon dioxide emissions from clothing manufacturing and waste account for ten per cent of global emissions, and is the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil. Shopping second-hand helps to save perfectly good clothing from a landfill and can reduce the horrifyingly huge demand for clothing production. Plus, you'll some brilliant deals to boot. Check out Designer Wardrobe for beautiful second-hand finds if you're into labels, or read my guide to op-shopping here.
Say No to Bottled Water
Not only is it exorbitantly expensive, take a moment to think about the resources used to collect, bottle, and ship it, let alone the plastic bottle it comes in. Also, you might like to know that often the bottles aren't recycled. I use a lovely Fressko flask, that acts as a tea infuser, and water bottle, and I take it with me everywhere!
Switch to Better Quality
Scrubbing brushes, toothbrushes and dishcloths are only a small handful of the everyday items we use, but replace more often than we should. The good news is that there's plenty of online stores that sell beautiful-looking, re-useable versions. I've shared a few favourites below if you’d like to have a browse.
Recycle Your Soft Plastics
Did you know that most types of soft plastic can be recycled? This includes plastic bags, citrus netting bags, food wrappers, courier packs, bubble wrap and more. Find out more info here, and your nearest participating store for drop-off.
Lastly, next time you're about to toss something in the trash, take a moment to consider whether it can be mended, or re-purposed in some way or another. Turn old clothes into cleaning rags, or if they're still in good condition, drop them off at your local charity shop for the chance of a second life.