Keen to reduce your waste? Let’s have a look at 5 easy ways to start reducing your impact from now
Zero Waste Week is an international initiative that aims to tackle waste by raising awareness amongst the public about the most common waste related issues, challenges and solutions.
In the last few years there’s been a consistent growth of movements and associations keen to improve our general recycling policies and infrastructures and to get people doing their bit in their own homes, offices and communities.
The attention driven on the issue by these initiatives has been huge, lots of goals have been achieved, and everything done looks so far great. But it’s not enough. According to scientists and experts, we are getting closer and closer to a point of no return after which we won’t be able to reverse the environmental problems we are increasingly facing.
It’s from this vital statement that the focus now is to act even BEFORE the waste is actually produced, ideally reducing landfill and recycling related practices whilst increasing conscious behaviour and moderate consumption of goods.
As a ‘developed consumer society’ we’ve grown up with the idea that buying, consuming, using and replacing old things is good for the economy and it’s the easiest way to save money, time and energies. Is that really true? Looking at this idea more closely, we can actually see that this style of living might easily become unsustainable.
The amount of things we produce, consume and get rid of is exaggerated and doesn’t actually match our needs. Clothes, food, mobile phones, mugs, decorations, literally everything is becoming too much. We are consuming more than we can really afford to.
Of course not all of us behave like this, and lots of people are already aware and doing what they can in order to reduce their impact and improve the general well-being of their communities. But lots of people are not, and it might not even be their fault. In a world bombarded by adverts and campaigns designed to make consumers buy more and encourage people to live fast pace busy lives, making the switch to a more sustainable living might not be that automatic.
A sustainable lifestyle shouldn’t be seen as a punishment or a harsh way of living, but should be pictured as the best way we have to carry on our lives. Being healthy, eating good food, reducing our impact, being compassionate, reasonable and supportive, is the way we ought to go in order to maximise happiness and wellbeing. And it doesn’t need to be difficult.
An easy way to start is to set yourself a goal, even a small one, with a deadline and track your progress. In other words, you need to make a pledge. Apparently, it takes just 20 days to form a new habit. You don’t need huge plans and great management skills: you just need to be willing to create and maintain a small sustainable lifestyle change. You won’t believe it, but it will make a big difference. If you are seeking some tips about the little changes you could make, you are in the right place. Let’s have a look at 5 easy ways to start reducing your impact from now.
1. Tackling food waste. Buy the right amount
Food waste is one of the major issues we face in our modern society. Throwing away food doesn’t feel like the right thing to do, especially considering that there are people suffering and dying from hunger. While encouraging change in big corporations might take a while, switching your own habits requires only a minute. When doing your shopping, consider how much of the food you are buying you really need and if you are likely to throw away any of it. There are dedicated groceries and food stores where you can buy package free and loose goods. Lentils, peas, spices, coffee, muesli and sugar: everything can be weighted and you can get home with the exact amount of what you need. Amazing, isn’t it? And it’s not finished yet. Driven by the same purpose, another great innovation that has recently hit the market is Olio, an application connecting neighbours with each other and with local shops so surplus food and other items can be shared, not thrown away. You just need to download the app and start running it.
2. Reducing your plastic waste. Refill your bottles
Plastic waste sits as one of the top ten environmental issues we are facing today. Plastic is a highly pollutant, contaminating and almost indestructible material that represents a big problem for our own health, animal welfare and environment. Whilst recycling companies, environmental engineers, experts and communicators are doing a great job getting plastic recycled and giving it a new life, what we need to do is focus on AVOIDING producing any plastic waste at all. A quick way to cut your plastic waste is to stop purchasing plastic packages, for example by refilling your empty bottles and looking for plastic-free foods. Lots of businesses offer a refilling service that you can access by simply using an empty bottle. Shampoos, shower gels, laundry and dishes detergents: you can refill almost everything saving material and money. Moving onto water, whilst it hasn’t been proven that the quality of bottle water is better than the tap one (actually, for most experts is the other way around), it is clear that using a refillable bottle avoids producing a big chunk of plastic waste. Even if you consume just one plastic bottle a day, using a refillable bottle could help you save up to 30 plastic bottles per month (and the money you need to buy them). This golden rule applies also to take-away coffee and tea. We’ve recently seen a very effective campaign about how many coffee cups are wasted each day in the UK. Drinking one take-away coffee per working day equates to 20 coffee cups a month, which can be avoided by using an eco-friendly and more unique reusable cup.
3. Reducing packaging. Buy loose fruit & veg
Packaging represents a large percentage of our waste. From food tins to parcels, we are surrounded by packaging. Some companies and start-ups started to climb the ladder introducing sustainable and recycling packaging to preserve their goods, but, again, avoid the ‘wasting bit part’ would be a preferable option. And in this case every one of us, as a customer, has the power to make an informed and reasonable choice deciding to switch to loose fruits, vegetables, pasta, legumes and cereals and get rid of paper boxes, plastic containers and bags that, furthermore, are not even entirely recyclable yet. Switching to loose tomatoes to cook your salsa or loose pulses could save you buying loads of metal tins, just to make an example. Furthermore, do you really need to get a salad in a plastic box at the supermarket? It might cost between £2 and £4, and with the same amount of money you could prepare yourself several meals, packing them up in a reusable box to take to work. Once you start doing this you’ll realise how easier, cheaper, and more satisfying it is.
4. Buy less
As simple as that: we need to start buying fewer things. Lots of us are already aware about the importance of not stuffing our houses, wardrobes and hooks with unnecessary items, but the temptation of treating yourself to something new is always round the corner. When in front of a new piece of fashion that really attracts you, think twice if you really need it or if you could do without it without a big deal. If you think you really need it, then think also about how it has been produced and consider visiting your local charity shop instead to give a second life to a pre-loved clothing item that might suit perfectly your needs.
5. Cycle to work!
With just one week to go to the national Ride to Work Day, we couldn’t not mention the importance of reducing cars and private transports usage and move more. Cycling is good for your health, for your pocket and for the environment. Do you really need to take the car? Maybe you would like to share your journey to optimise costs and resources. Bla Bla Car is an international ridesharing service that helps connect drivers with empty seats with travellers going the same way. It could be a good option to meet new people and consume less.
As you can see, reducing your impact and waste doesn’t need to be intimidating. There are lots of different ways you could start from, and none of them requires an enormous sacrifice. As we said, you could start off with a 20 days pledge. See how you get on with it and you might find that forming a greener and healthier habit wasn’t a big deal like it seemed at the beginning. Share your ideas and pledges with your family, friends and colleagues and you might be an inspirational source for them too, getting them joining your beliefs or trying new ways to improve the situation their own way. When things are done together, they are even more fun. You might even find creative and unusual patterns to follow to reduce your impact. These two guys have been sending each other the same birthday card for the last 47 years, saving lots of paper and money. What a great idea!