Thursday, 8 September 2011

Gimme less rubbish!

It's Zero Waste Week everyone!
And I'm awfully late getting around to blogging something for it, forgive me, life seriously took over.

Some time ago I was flabbergasted by the story of the family behind My Zero Waste. They managed to get through a full year with just one tiny bag of rubbish. I was in awe. I mean really, how many bags of rubbish do you put out each week? Well, in my case it's definitely a bit more than one bag a year...

Anyway, I got pushed into thinking a bit about the waste we produce and how to reduce it. After all, each piece of packaging that goes into the bin doesn't just add to the mountains of landfill that will take years, many years to decompose, but it's also a waste. Not just of that wrapper but of resources to produce it. And once you get your head around just how much unneeded stuff is produced to wrap, package and display, and that the resources used that way are effectively taking away resources from our own children in the future, something has to happen. At least in my head.

With the help of the Rubbish Diet blog I looked at ways to reduce my rubbish. Don't get me wrong, I'm not in it for a competition and producing even less rubbish in a year. I know I'm not the My Zero Waste superwoman. But I know I can reduce my rubbish. Everyone can. And then I try to reduce some more. Bit by bit. Little by litte. One step at a time. Until the day comes when your neighbour's bin is overflowing (because we have changed to fortnightly "normal" rubbish collections) while ours, with a larger family, is still not even half full.

My top tips are:
1. buy in bulk.
With everything, consider the larger quantity. It's mostly cheaper, but it means less packaging. So we have 5 kg sacks of rice and pasta, the largest shower cream possible (though soap is even better on the packaging side of things) etc
2. buy loose veg and fruit. We get a net of fruit and veg from an organic box scheme which is recycled, any additional fruit and veg is bought loose if available, and I try to buy any other fruit and veg with packaging in mind (weighing it against food miles though).
3. Consider packaging with every item you buy. So for biscuits I will only buy those in just one item of packaging, rather than triplicate packaging of something like pralines.
4. Focus on one behaviour change at a time. So, one week/month, change over to only using reusable bags for your shopping until it's second nature. Only then do the next. I'm currently focusing on zero waste lunches for the kids and myself though I'm not quite there yet. When I worked with a primary school the other day, I saw 33 children take out a packet of crisps each at their morning break time. Imagine, one class, 33 foil wrappers, every single day. times every single class. Mind boggling. Surely this isn't necessary?

5. One biggie: cloth nappies or EC (elimination communication). I do use disposables occasionally and at night time and even with that occasional use, it makes for one shopping bag full of rubbish. So I tried going all cloth. It worked for a while, but since my return to work, well, something has to give. All I can say though is that a good cloth nappy leaks less than a disposable! EC is not for me I have to admit, as with everything, you have to weigh up if it's doable for you or not.

6. Look at what you can do outside the house. For instance, at work we recycle paper but we don't recycle milk bottles. So I'll be taking them home now for recycling in my recycling bin.

7. Find out if you can get your milk delivered in reusable glass bottles. It will be more expensive but a) you get them conveniently to your door and b) no more bit ugly plastic bottles!

8. Use tap water rather than bottles. Whenever I can't stomach tap water (in some parts it has quite a chlorine taste) I use diluting juice just enough to cover that taste. That way the diluting juice lasts for months and yet I don't get quite such a sweet tooth for drinks.

9. Get a compost bin. Even if you live in flats, there may be a way that you could get together with neighbours and get one for the block of flats? Community composting is doable, there's lots of support out there for it so you don't need a garden to have a composting bin.

10. Grow your own - on windowsills, in community raised beds, in your own garden. Every pea you eat that you grew yourself has no packaging at all, tastes so much better, gives great satisfaction and makes for better health in so many ways. And it's fun too!

11. Opt out of junk mail. You will have to contact various organisations for that and you may still receive some junk, but less than before at least!

12. Reuse: Look at stuff and consider if you can reuse it. Maybe for a craft activity with the kids? Maybe as a plant pot? Maybe you can use that old garment for sewing something else? Kindle that creativity spark!

And last but not least: Embark on the Rubbish Diet Challenge.

That's the stuff I've managed to do. I still have half a bin of rubbish every fortnight, but that's only half of what we used to have. Which is more than a good start in my eyes. Now I only have to drop some hints to the neighbours how they can prevent their bin from overflowing ...


Karen@therubbishdiet said...

Steffi, this is a great piece and brilliant advice to anyone who wants to give it a go. And what wonderful results for you too. I really appreciate the kind plug for the Rubbish Diet Challenge. Thank you. Am now off to a zero waste conference to see how government and industry can make it easier for the country to become zero waste. I never quite expected that's where my life would end up. Hope you have a great weekend. Karen x

TheMadHouse said...

Great post. You are doing amazing, we are attempting to be more green too and I have blogged about it this week



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